Monthly Archives: September 2008

Elitist? Moi?

More Onion editorial cartoons

Here is a story on a poll that found Kitsap residents want access to higher ed classes, but aren’t interested in a traditional college experience here.

This brings up a few questions I have about alternative educational facilities, “university centers” or branch campuses, which are gaining in popularity and enrollment.

But beware, what you are about to read has earned me accusations of elitism. So, get your tomatoes ready.

To me, it seems like it’s lowering the bar. It sounds condescending, like a second tier system, and I would point the same accusations of elitism right back at my accusers.

I went to Seattle Central Community College. At Central, as we called it, I had many classmates from Bremerton, Bainbridge and North Kitsap. One, a friend of mine, a Running Start student, would hitchhike everyday from Suquamish to the Bainbridge ferry terminal to ride to Seattle.

So, why would so many students double or triple their commute time to attend what ostensibly are the same classes?

Could it possibly have to do with the diversity of the student body at an urban campus?

Could that mean there is more to an education than a building, a teacher and a book?

At the time, I assumed there wasn’t a community college in that green land that appears on the other side of the Puget Sound.

There is, of course, Olympic College.

When I started at UW under the direct transfer agreement, I had a lot of catching up to do. The papers that earned A’s at Seattle Central barely registered C’s in 200 level literature classes. It had a tinge of embarrassment to it, considering all the people in my classes were younger, smarter, prettier and richer than me.

And that leads to my second question.

I had quite a few outstanding teachers. But the occasions that I had my mind blown, the times where the sky opened up and suddenly the dense text made sense, was not from something I read in a book or something a teacher said during a lecture, but what another student said during a class discussion.

This seems counterintuitive, I know. We’re led to think that it is the quality of the teacher or the curriculum that determines our success in the classroom. What about the quality of our fellow students?

Third, isn’t a university education supposed to be horribly difficult and monstrously inconvenient? Isn’t that the point, that it isn’t easy? Isn’t that what gives even the lowliest bachelor’s degree in underwater basket weaving some prestige, because going through the ringer sucks so consistently?

I won’t regale you with the hardships of my educational experience, but they weren’t unique. I had classmates who endured more. Some were single parents, military vets, disabled people, older people, younger people, people from different ethnicities, from households that didn’t speak English and some people who were wrestling with horrible addictions and mental health issues.

At UW and the real universities we got ourselves admitted to, many of us stuck out like sore thumbs. We were older, fatter and harrier than the spry kids.

It was hard, very hard, and I had many occasions for exasperation and despair.

Some of my classmates didn’t make it. Most went on and did amazing things, and when I think about them, and what they’ve achieved, I get a little misty eyed.

And my final question, do our leaders think those of us without a silver spoon in our mouths aren’t capable of competing with their sons and daughters? Are we so sorry and in need of pity that instead of (1) reforming public schools so that high school graduates are prepared for jobs, (2) funding higher education at the level it was subsidized when our leaders went to college so that taking out a college loan isn’t tantamount to indentured servitude and (3) allowing financially independent young people to be evaluated on their own incomes, it is preferable for Olympia to just lower the bar, keep jacking up tuitions and continue to say it believes in higher education?

I’d also like to know how many of our leaders who support these feel good education alternatives would support their children going to a community college for four years.

If it’s just as good, then Harvard and MIT, watch out.

The View From Bremerton

Moving Forward

There is an argument that carries some water, I believe, that Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, is the most powerful man in Washington state.

As speaker of the state House of Representatives and representing a district that includes the formerly cool neighborhood of Fremont, he commands one half of the Legislature and has a fondness for saying, “Moving forward.”

In other words, he’s safe, whereas the Senate has shown more partisan volatility, and the governor’s office is up for a statewide vote every four years.

He’s also a Bremerton lad.

One issue facing the state, and has been facing the state for years, is what to do with the crumbling Alaska Way Viaduct that wraps around the Seattle waterfront like a wool scarf inherited from grandma.

As a state highway, Chopp has a say in the future of the project.

One argument for replacing the viaduct are the spectacular views that every person can see, as long as they can catch a ride.

Some discount this point of view. For one thing, it doesn’t make any money for condo developers. On the other hand, condos would be placed on the tax rolls, which is good considering the city of Seattle wants to move business out of the city and create a bedroom community for Microsoft retirees. That is, businesses that don’t serve rich retirees.

However, not Chopp. He likes the view, and he has his own idea for the viaduct.

And that is the subject of this post, which includes Chopp’s strange vision.

Here is the quote from the post.

“I’ve had a couple long sessions with Chopp, hearing his passionate
commitment to his idea. He recalls growing up in Bremerton, looking out his
bedroom window at the Olympics, and wanting all citizens to have that
inspiring view.”

Bremerton Hates Privacy, But So Does Kitsap County and Port Orchard

Comes now, a cartoon from the Sept. 20 Port Orchard Independent, er, I mean, the Bremerton Patriot, criticizing a decision by the Bremerton City Council to allow the police department to start the process of buying a license plate recognition system with $30,000 from the state.

The vote on the first step of authorizing the system’s use in Bremerton – the council will have to take another vote to finalize the deal – was 7-1, with other council members beside the dissenting vote voicing concerns about privacy, i.e., storing the data that accumulates from a digital camera system that can automatically run thousands of license plates a day.

Read the story here.

The cartoon, of course, doesn’t say “Bremerton City Council” or “Bremerton Police Department.” It just says “Bremerton.”

It also doesn’t take into account the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office received the same grant, said spokesman Deputy Scott Wilson.

Wilson also said the sheriff’s office is working with BPD to share storage for the data, for however long they will keep it (TBD) and if the Bremerton council ultimately approves the system.

It also doesn’t take into account Port Orchard applied for the same grant, but was turned down, said Port Orchard Police Chief Al Townsend. Townsend said the system would help recover stolen cars. He also said the city would likely apply again if given the chance.

I know it would alter the symmetry of this cartoon, but I think the next cartoon about this issue should include Abraham Lincoln riding a goat labeled “The Panama Canal” along side a greedy pig, “Bremerton,” wearing a first-place sash that reads “Mid-West Agribusiness,” eating a golden halo called “Port Orchard.”

Bozeman’s Letter To City Workers In Light Of Budget Woes

Here is Mayor Cary Bozeman’s letter to city employees. I received it Thursday.

Message to Employees Regarding 2009 Budget Challenges

Bremerton is facing a series of financial challenges in 2008 and these challenges are projected to continue and worsen in 2009 – and likely some period thereafter.

The City is not alone in this situation. The National League of Cities recently released its annual report on city fiscal conditions and found that this most recent economic downturn is having a much greater negative impact on local governments than the last significant economic downturn in 2001.   The primary difference is that in 2001 property tax revenue and real estate related revenues were able to help buffer the effects of declining sales tax receipts.   Obviously revenue downturns poses a budgetary problem –  but worsening the situation is the substantial inflationary pressure on key expenses  – energy and fuel, paving and building materials, public safety/justice requirements, and employee-related costs for wages, healthcare, and pensions.   It was noted in the National League of Cities report that “Even if economic conditions improved immediately, the nation’s cities are likely to be realizing the effects of this current downturn through 2010”.

Bremerton has worked hard to live within our financial “means” as provided by commerce related taxes, property tax revenues (subject to 1% increase limit) and various permits, service fees and charges.   Our track record of seeking and obtaining grant funding to pay for redevelopment efforts, parks renovation, and needed equipment for law enforcement and fire fighting/EMS has been exceptional.   Our efforts to grow our economy through our revitalization program has been combined with several years of  limiting supplies and services expense in the General Fund budget – holding to the prior year amounts as far as possible unless new revenues were specifically provided to cover the new cost.   The cumulative impact of going many years in this manner – means that the inflationary impacts have been building and our budget dollars are already stretched extremely thin.  There are always efficiencies to be gained and we should challenge ourselves to keep seeking them – but it is unlikely that reductions in supplies and services expenditures will yield “the answer” to our current budgetary challenges.

Our City has been enjoying good economic growth over the last several years due in part to our revitalization efforts and due in part to the economy (up until recently) growing at a steady pace.  Care has been taken to keep ongoing expenditures matched to anticipated ongoing revenues.  However, the recently adopted mid-year budget adjustment reflected changing conditions in both revenues and expenditures resulting in a net reduction now expected in the General Funds operating cash reserves – down below our target level by approximately $400,000.   And… unfortunately, the picture shaping up for 2009 continues to reflect this divergence and in fact shows it worsening.  Anticipated revenue growth is considerably less than anticipated expenditure growth due mostly to a serious downtown in the national and regional economy and an almost complete shutdown of the real estate market.  Almost half of our budget comes from sales tax and we don’t believe in this financial market people will be spending as much as they have in the past. We anticipate commerce and retail sales will drop off in the next 24 months.  Without preemptive corrective action – the trend would be for the City to rapidly exhaust its General Fund operating reserves in 2009.   In addition, the Street Fund is also on a track to be in a deficit cash position in 2009 – absent corrective actions being taken.

In order to balance the 2009 budget so that the operating capital is not further deteriorated – either revenues must be increased, expenditures decreased, or a combination thereof – to produce a positive impact of $4.443 million over the preliminary 2009 budget as submitted by staff.   This is the adjustment required in order to keep the cash reserves from further deteriorating and realign ongoing expenditures with ongoing revenues.

I am working with my Department Heads to review all aspects of the budget. Together we will be making recommended changes on both revenues and expenditures in order to adjust course as required by these changing conditions.    Given the significance of the amount of adjustment needed – and the expectation that this downturn will be with us for a while – it will not be possible to achieve that result without impacts on staffing and service levels provided.   There are tough choices to be made and I know this impacts all of us and is cause for concern.   I will keep you updated as the budget process continues and in the meantime, I encourage you to discuss questions and concerns you may have with your Department Head directly.

Mayor Cary Bozeman

Bremerton Bracing For Budget Crunch

The dark skies and rain today was appropriate considering the news from city hall.

With cities dependent on taxes on commerce like a diabetic on insulin, the economic hurricane that is rocking the U.S., and potentially the world, is lashing at Bremerton.

Read the story here, where the city’s budget writer Laura Lyon discusses the challenges facing the city.

Click here for a very informative story from Washington CEO, providing insight into Bremerton’s challenge. (It was link on this story that led me to the sales tax revenue info from the state Department of Revenue.)

Click here for the National League of Cities report on how local governments will sail these foaming seas.

And, finally, click here for a Web site that specializes in happy news and ponder this question:

Did people in 1929 realize at the time that it was 1929?

Bicyclists Beware, Killing You Is Sort Of Illegal

In a previous post, I asserted that Bremerton was not a bike-friendly town, and was trying to kill me with its hills.

Whatever you do, DO NOT go to South Kitsap on a bike. They kill bicyclists down there and let them off with a slap on the wrist

(Of course, South Kitsap and Bremerton are served by the same courts, which must abide by the Legislature’s sentencing guidelines. So it’s not just SK. And bicyclists and motorcyclists are killed everyday by their own negligence and that of motorists. I’m just saying … )

In a sentence that would be light for killing a hamster, a Bremerton woman without a valid license who had been in several crashes because of vision problems killed a cyclist and got nine months in jail. How much of those nine months she actually serves, I don’t know. Whether it would have stirred more outrage and a harsher sentence if she had been drunk, I don’t know. I also don’t know what her sentencing range was, as it wasn’t included in the stories.

A million months wouldn’t bring the man back, nor would it likely serve as an example to the aggressive and incompetent drivers out there. They don’t care about anything except not having to wake up early and catch a bus.

As for me, give me a crazed, gun-wielding robber any day over a distracted driver. At least with the robber I have a fighting chance. And if I were killed, at least my death would be for a drug addict to get high, not so that a person doesn’t have to waste money on a cab.

Plus, our august lawmakers in Olympia have seen fit to provide stiffer penalties for robbery, so my killer would likely go away for longer than a school year.

Craig Hatt is dead. Whether a selfish person did it accidentally or on purpose is of little importance now.

And his killer will soon be free.

I still plan on riding my bike. Maybe I shouldn’t. It’s like the freakin’ wild west out there, and it seems sort of irresponsible. I have family and friends who love me. It feels like maybe I owe to it them to stay behind the wheel.

Showdown At The 7-11

The 7-11 at Park Avenue and Sixth Street becomes a lively town square at night. Sort of a Mardi Gras without the religious overtones.

It could be because there isn’t anything else open for miles in the Omega Man landscape of downtown Bremerton, no where else to buy a bottle of Big Bear malt liquor, a pink Hillary Clinton baseball cap or a grape Swisher Sweet.

But on Friday night, when I stopped in to my favorite mart, I walked in on a loud and violent disagreement between two scruffy-looking men.

That disagreement was captured here, in a CODE 911 item that I didn’t write.

Allow me to set the scene: small, black man with a doo-rag yelling and slapping at a tall white man wearing a South Kitsap High School sweatshirt with the sleeves cut off.

Something about money, “Give me my money,” and the taller guy saying things like, “Why are you trippin’?”

Instead of a violent beating, it was more comical, like the younger brother bullying the older brother with all the pomp and circumstance of a middle-school altercation.

I really didn’t know what to do. I didn’t come to the store for street theater, I was working from home, writing a story, and wanted a pack of cigarettes. So I just stood and watched. Many other people stood and watched as well. I don’t think any of us knew what to do. I had the impulse to tell the smaller man to leave the bigger man alone, but then I thought, maybe he did take his money. What do I know? Do I have to step between every crack head amidst a paranoid delusion? When is it OK to just buy my smokes and go home? I think my fellow shoppers were dealing internally with the same dilemma that conscientious citizens face as the fight dragged on and we did nothing.

In our defense, the pair was fighting like 13-year-old girls. The only thing getting hurt was egos.

And to our credit, nobody whipped out a camera phone.

The smaller man chased the larger man around the store, shoving the clerk who tried to break it up, and kicked at the larger man. The larger man had a greater reach, and perchance could have leveled the smaller man, but didn’t. He seemed honestly stunned that the smaller man wanted to beat him up.

Of course, the men were using the kind of course language not allowed in the Bremerton School District or a family newspaper. Very unprofessional. Maybe us customers should have surrounded the combatants and chanted, “Dare not to swear!”

However, I can say the black man – the smaller of the two – was calling the white man a derogatory name for black people, which gave the whole experience an added surreal touch.

“Why are you tripping?” the larger man kept asking to no avail.

The clerk called the police, explaining calmly to the 911 dispatcher, “Yes, they are fighting in the store.”

The smaller man yelled at the larger man that he didn’t care if the police were coming. I’ve heard people say this before. It usually means they DO care the police are coming, they just don’t know what to do next.

As I stood there, wondering what was going to happen, a guy brushed past me with a few cans of beer. The clerk rang him up. Business as usual.

Finally, the smaller man left the store and went and sat in the larger man’s car to pout. This obviously befuddled the larger man, who explained to the clerk he wasn’t leaving to safety of the store.

The larger man threw up his hands.

“I don’t even know him,” he said. “I was just giving him a ride to the ferry and he freaked out.”

The police arrived. I went home. That’s life in the big city, as the old man says.

Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved, Bremerton

Dozens of Bremerton residents discovered Thursday night that they have a city council and can attend the meetings for free.

Although, I should warn you, most meetings aren’t as interesting as last night’s.

The issue to be considered was whether the city should forcibly buy 40 feet of First Street, which probably meant knocking down the existing buildings.

Which probably meant the South Pacific Bar and Grill would come down. The owners fought the idea, and won.

Read the story here.

In doing so, they enlisted the help of fellow residents who showed up and exercised their rights to address their government.

There was the heckling of Mayor Cary Bozeman and there was even cake.

The heckling wasn’t bad, but heckling is never good. Bremerton police officers showed up to make sure the crowd of about 60 remained peaceful. The cake looked delicious.

The end of the meeting got a little tense, and Councilman Mike Shepherd looked exasperated at the parliamentary maneuvers the minority was attempting. The moves would have prevented the council from taking a vote on the measure when it became clear that the majority was siding with the South Pacific.

Some members of the audience also got a little exasperated by the process. I’ve spent the last six years going to meetings like this, be them city council or state Legislature, so I forget how odd it can appear at first.

For those who would like to learn more about their city, and perhaps attend some meetings to watch those who govern you, here are a few links that might be helpful:

This is the link to the council’s Web page. On it you will not only find meeting dates and times, but agendas and packets. A good idea is to review the agenda and read through the packet each week and decide if the council is going to consider something of importance to you.

Council meetings are also shown on public access television. Here is the link to the BKAT schedule. The bad part about watching the meetings on television is you can’t talk to the council. The good part is that you can scream at your television and use swear words.

Council meetings run according to the rules, Robert’s Rules of Order. It’s a powerfully boring book, but vital for a functioning democracy. It may seem tedious, and overly formal in 2008, but it ensures fairness.

As James Brown said, “Get up, get into it, get involved.”

If you do, I’ll see you there.

What Would You Ask Gregoire & Rossi?

On Saturday night, while the rest of you are enjoying life, I’ll be going the other direction, covering a gubernatorial debate between foes Chris Gregoire and Dino Rossi.

Not that you can’t find something better to do with your Saturday night, but if by chance you want to watch, the debate will be aired live at 9 p.m. on KOMO channel 4.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s an honor, just like it’s an honor for members of some tribes to receive facial tattoos. Or for some young women to be murdered for the honor of their families.

I’m not sure if I’ll get any time with the candidates, or the chance to ask them any questions.

But I was wondering, if you had the chance to ask the candidates a question, what would you ask them?

As for me, I want to ask KOMO and the Seattle P-I who thought it would be a good idea to schedule a gubernatorial debate on a Saturday night, thus guaranteeing as few people as possible will watch.

Maybe we should reschedule election day for Superbowl Sunday?

Longview Asks Bremerton To Clear The Air

The Longview Daily News weighed in on a Bremerton American Legion Post’s challenge to the state’s smoking ban Sunday, asking the legion to drop the issue like a bad habit.

Read their editorial here.

The ban, approved by Washington voters in 2005, is one of the most restrictive in the country. Read the Kitsap Sun story here.

The TDN also includes reader comments. The one about the “golden thread” of freedom is really boring. Don’t let all the talk about golden threads fool you.