Log in
updated 2:54 PM UTC, Jul 28, 2018

FlynnsHarp logo 042016

Rewarding patient Mariner fans with a winner is the goal of first-year president Kevin Mather

If the Seattle Mariners are successful in their effort to land their first post-season role in more than a decade, it will fulfill a key wish of Kevin Mather, the team's first-year president and COO, who says "we'd sure like to reward our fans with a playoff opportunity."

Kevin Mather

(Photo Ben Van Houten, Seattle Mariners)

Mather came to his new role, when named last February to replace long-time president and COO Chuck Armstrong, with a conviction on how the Mariners would build a winner and of the need to reward the fans who he said "have been outstanding, patient and loyal" over all the down years.

But while the playoff hopes remain yet unresolved, most of the developments for the Mariners during Mather's first year, some things under his control and some beyond, have come up as positives rather than the negatives that have dogged the team for a dozen years.

In fact, if the Mariners make it to the post season, it will be the first such appearance since 2001, a draught that drained the support of fans who, during the season of that last playoff run outdrew every major-league team with a per-game attendance averaging 43,302.

Mather reviewed the year and fielded questions during a breakfast interview we had last week at the Columbia Tower Club, the same day that the Mariners were singled out, with an article in the New York Times, to be acknowledged broadly for the club's pre-eminent role in an area more important than on-field performance.

As the cries of anger echoed across the NFL and beyond over the assault recorded on video by Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice as he punched his wife senseless in an elevator, the Mariners were singled out for their 17-year partnership with the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WSCADV).

It was in 1997 that the Mariners started a public education campaign, "Refuse to Abuse," after the WSCADV reached out to team executives in the hope of engaging and educating the team's fans through media advertising in an annual campaign to foster more safe and healthy relationships.

The relationship, noteworthy among all pro sports teams, has continued since then, with the highlight of the annual fund-raising campaign for the coalition being a 5k run carried out entirely in, out and around Safeco Field.

"The coalition has been a great partner for us," Mather said of the domestic-violence awareness group, then added, "baseball is frankly held to a higher standard. We have zero tolerance for domestic violence."

That partnership began a year after Mather joined the Mariners as the Vice President of Finance and Administration. He was promoted to Executive Vice President of Finance and Ballpark Operations in 1999.

Prior to the Mariners, Mather, a CPA by profession, worked for the Minnesota Twins from 1989 to 1996 as director and vice president of finance.

It was in his role with the Twins that he first came to the attention of the Mariners when he was selected to represent baseball's small market in the landmark revenue-sharing plan. It was a process in which markets self-selected themselves as small, medium or large markets,

As Mather recalls it: "Baseball had become a sport in which 25 teams had no chance to win, so the goal was to make every team competitive."

So in 1992, the then-new baseball commissioner Bud Selig began negotiations to create a sharing of revenue that would involve taking money away from some teams that made a lot of money and give it to teams that didn't make a lot.

It was Mather's job to represent the small-market teams, which included the Mariners, then just being saved for Seattle by a new ownership team headed by John Ellis, CEO of the new Mariners. Mather smiled as he recalled that the small-market group he represented began with five teams and others kept opting in as they liked the way he was negotiating, until the commissioner called as halt at about a dozen small markets

Mather remembers an example of not every team with a lot of money wanting to share.

"George Steinbrenner (the late owner of the New York Yankees) said to Ellis, 'you mean I am going to spend millions of dollars for this sad-case baseball team in the Northwest? We should buy you and put you out of your misery.'"

"John looked at me for a response and I didn't have one," Mather joked to the breakfast audience.

I asked him how the Mariners had done, assuming that some years they had been on the receiving end of the sharing, but he said the team has basically been a payer, to the tune of $20 million to $22 million a year ever, ever since the plan went into effect in 1995.

So when the Mariners needed to go looking for a CFO, they knew where to look, and while thereafter Mather was in Seattle through the glory days when the Mariners were virtually among the best teams in baseball, he's suffered with the fans through the down years as attendance slipped the past three years to 500,000 below the MLB average attendance.

Mather takes pleasure in noting that attendance this year will be above two million after three years below that mark.

And he freely attributes part of the return of the fans to another of those areas beyond his control. That's the impact the Super Bowl Champion Seahawks have had on Seattle sports fans, saying "there's no doubt that the Seahawks have had a positive impact on fan support for all professional sports, including the Mariners."

But within Mather's control is his conviction that the long-term view will guide decisions on players and building the roster, convinced that the position players now in development in the minors represent stars of the future for the Mariners. "They are the key to our winning 95 games a year in a few years"
And he credits General Manager Jack Zduriencik, who last month got a long-term contract extension, with positioning the franchise "to be a contender for many years to come."

Jack has never been a short-term thinker," says Mather, whose philosophy is "it's easier to fill a hole in free agency than with trades, because you just give up money in free-agency deals but trades require you to give up players."

Mather says that one goal he outlined when he met with the ownership team for the first time after assuming the new post, was "to still be playing meaningful games into September." That goal has been achieved, and "meaningful games" may still include the post-season.

Continue reading

State crowdfunding legislation moves toward the implementation date despite SEC uncertainties

As criticism of the Securities and Exchange Commission's dawdling with its charge from Congress to implement crowdfunding through the federal JOBS Act grows to a chorus, there's now criticism emerging that the agency is seeking to disrupt the process for states like Washington that are creating intrastate crowdfunding.

The SEC critics, with increasing plausibility, contend that the agency has done its best to ensure that the federal JOBS Act won't come about as Congress intended.

And now that some states have given up waiting for SEC action, it seems that the federal agency is trying to put roadblocks in the way of frustrated state legislatures that have sought to find ways to have crowdfunding for startups work at the state level through selling shares to large numbers of people, typically via the Internet.

Washington is one of a dozen states that have decided nothing meaningful will come out of SEC machinations, prompting the Legislature last spring, after a year of preparation, to pass a bill that will permit entrepreneurs who are state residents to raise up to $1 million a year in small amounts from in-state investors.

The Legislature gave the State Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) until October 1 to put in place the rules and the process under which crowdfunding can be carried out and Bill Beatty, Director of Securities for DFI, says the agency "remains on track" to meet that deadline.


The department will have a hearing Thursday on the proposed rules and "will proceed to adopt the rules shortly after that unless we determine we need to make significant changes to the rules as currently proposed," Beatty said.


Joe Wallin, an attorney for Seattle-based law firm Davis Wright, predicts that entrepreneurs who are state residents will be able to begin selling shares to large numbers of Washington resident by the end of the year.


The legislation in this state and others was in reaction to what has transpired, or failed to transpire, at the federal level after Congress,

with an election-year flourish in the spring of 2012, passed the so-called JOBS Act, officially the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act.


Then Congress turned it over to the SEC to enact rules to implement the law and gave the agency 180 days to put together the process for how entrepreneurs could fund their start-up companies, primarily via the internet, by selling equity to large numbers of average investors.



It soon became obvious to all but the most myopic, with one delay following another, that SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro had little interest in seeing the law come about, possibly because she was more concerned about protecting average investors than following the law's guidance toward funding entrepreneurs.


Now the SEC has a new chairman but there is a growing sense that the details of compliance, if and when the SEC finally acts, will be so onerous on entrepreneurs that the costs of starting to raise capital on the Internet will deter many if not most would-be entrepreneurs. Indeed the latest deadline for the rules to be established has passed and the regulators have not provided a new timeframe, now almost two years after the launch date Congress intended.

And now there is also a sense on the part of many crowdfunding supporters, including Wallin, that Congress, unless it has lost interest, may have to intervene to keep the SEC from removing or changing a number of securities rules that stand to burden in-state entrepreneurs who hope to raise funds in their states to launch businesses.

Wallin, who proposed the wording of the original state legislation and whose blog is viewed by many as the final word on what's happening with federal as well as state crowdfunding, worries that the SEC is trying to make it harder for states to do what Congress intended the federal government to do.



An example is in the fact that the state laws are not subject to the federal crowdfunding law because the companies raising the money are incorporated in those states and raising money solely from investors in those states. Congress created that specific exemption from federal law for intrastate offerings when it enacted the Securities Act of 1933.

However, the SEC has recently issued interpretive guidance on the intrastate exemption that says that if the company uses the internet to promote or discuss its offering then the offering is not an intrastate offering even if a company is incorporated in a particular state and all investors are in that state.

"This is nonsense and it needs to be corrected," says Wallin, who is seeking to stir an outcry from start-up supporters to demand that Congress get involved. "It's nearly impossible not 

 to use the internet to communicate any fundraising or community organizing event that involves these start-up businesses."

"Section 201 of the JOBS Act was a big help to entrepreneurs in that it allowed startups to talk publicly about their efforts to raise money, a process known as General Solicitation," Wallin notes."Unfortunately, the SEC put rules in place that discourage most companies from taking advantage of this new opportunity and Congress needs to restore the intent of its own legislation."

Wallin offers the following suggestion that can be forwarded to members of Congress by those seeking to use the Internet for crowdfunding of their startup:

"Please either pass a simple piece of legislation to fix this or direct the SEC to clarify or fix its intrastate crowdfunding decisions. Otherwise, by prohibiting the use of the internet in intrastate crowdfunding, the SEC is tamping down a nascent but important opportunity to cultivate local funding and entrepreneurship ecosystems before they even have an opportunity to develop."

It may well be time, in these final weeks of an election season in which most members of Congress are on the November ballot, to send a message that indifference and ineptitude on the issues of innovation and job creation won't be taken well by those who understand the role entrepreneurs play in economic health.

Continue reading

Deteriorating U.S.-Russia relationship sparks memories of strong Seattle ties built in late '80s

As the Soviet Union was dying and Russia re-emerging back in the late 1980s, the Seattle area was fashioning perhaps the closest ties of any city in America to that one-time Cold War foe.

Now those who were among the visionary leaders in Seattle who understood the value to their area of détente with a former enemy express disappointment and concern about the obvious deterioration of relations between Russia and the United States and its European allies over current events.

But there's more of a sense of sympathy than likely in other regions for the Russian leadership in the current situation, albeit disappointment that the post-Cold War ties that they helped engender are being undone.

And regardless of other thoughts on the souring relationship, most would agree with Carol Vipperman, who created the Foundation for Russian American Economic Cooperation (FRAEC) in April of 1989, even before the Soviet Union's death rattle had become its demise:"I never in my life thought we would be where we are today."

Referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Vipperman said in an interview "he's always been threatened by the kind of opposition that is scattered across Russia, and what's happening now, beginning with the end of free elections for governors of the states, is an indication of his long desire to have control."

Derek Norberg, executive director of the Council for U.S.-Russian Relations, says "the State Department and White House paint a rather clean picture of 'white hats and black hats' in the Ukraine crisis, when in fact the hats are far more grey on both sides and fault in the conflict in Eastern Ukraine (and the degree to which it escalated) lies on all sides."

This is why achieving a lasting cease fire and peace is so difficult," said Norberg, who spent a number of years with Vipperman's organization,"There are parties on both sides whose interests are served by perpetuating the conflict."

"The policies on both sides (US and Russian) are suffering for it.  In my experience, working with the Russians closely is always more productive than is isolating them. For unclear reasons, we are pursuing a policy of isolating the Russians rather than engaging them, Norberg said.

Bob Walsh, who has been the Seattle link to virtually every initiative designed to enhance relations between the U.S. and Russia since the late 1980s, agrees relations are "going down the tube," but is more sympathetic to the Russian actions that have stirred the ire of the U.S. and its allies.

Referring to Putin's decision, in the face of bitter international opposition, to retake Crimea as a part of Russia," Walsh said "I have no problem with that. Ninety percent of the people there wanted to go back to Russia and most citizens of Crimea are happy that they are again part of Russia."

Walsh has not only remain involved with Russia and its citizens, including putting two Russian students through Seattle University, he is now engaged in as-yet unannounced campaign to create a memorial display at the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma to the long relationship between the two nations that he helped foster.

Given the current issues straining ties between the two nations, it may be worth reflecting on the role this region took in helping build relations between the two leading nations as the Cold War came to an end and trust needed to be built to replace hostility.

Perhaps the most visible of those initiatives was the 1990 Goodwill Games, which brought the attention of the world to the Olympic-like athletic games between Russia and the United States.

I asked Walsh to recall for me how those came about and he explained that Ted Turner had been unhappy with the boycotts of the 1980 and 1984 Olympics and "wanted to bring people together so he went to see Mikhail Gorbachev and got him to agree to do the Goodwill Games in Russia in 1986."

"Turner called me and asked if we could do a similar event in Seattle in 1990," Walsh recalled. "Frankly we expressed the most interest and I don't recall other cities wanting it."

"Don't forget we were still in the middle of the Cold War and President Reagan had just referred to the Soviet Union as the 'Evil Empire,'" Walsh said. "Mayor Wes Uhlman had already begun a sister city relationship and it seemed we were more open to relations with people in other parts of the world."

Walsh went on to build relationships beyond Russia, creating strong personal ties in Georgia, where he guided the first western investment in the capital of Tiblisi, "all Seattle money with which we built two Marriott Hotels and changed the face of the city."

The focus on opening doors and creating relationships was broad based in the Seattle area, extending to everything from airline connections to Junior Achievement.

Alaska Airlines tied the Seattle area (and the state of Alaska) to the Russian Far East in the '90 as only regular air service can do. Before the breakup of the Soviet Union had been completed in December of 1991, the Seattle-based carrier had launched what would become service to five cities in the far eastern part of Russia with flights that helped thaw relations between the U.S. and the Russian Far East region

The Seattle-based carrier, which said it made money on the Russia runs until the economic downturn in Russia in the late '90s prompted Alaska to discontinue service, even instituted a program of allowing Americans who held multiple-entry visas to city hop within Russia on Alaska Airlines.

In 1993, to facilitate trans-Pacific tourism and trade, Russia opened a consulate in Seattle and the United States opened a consulate in Vladivostok, to which Alaska began year-round flights in 1994.

In fact, Alaska Airlines' ties to what was then the Soviet Union began in 1971 with charter service to Siberia, the outcome of more than three years of what were described as "secret negotiations" between Alaska and Soviet authorities that a reluctant U.S. State Department, once learning of the agreement, gave permission for more than two dozen flights in 1970, '71 and '72.

And Seattle's Junior Achievement board members were instrumental in establishing JA in Russia. That was 1991, as part of a Rotary International program initiated Washington's then Secretary of State Ralph Munro, when several Rotarians went to Moscow and a JA student from Seattle was invited to speak before the Presidium.

"We also had JA USA kids compete with Russian JA kids in the management and economic simulation exercise simulation where the Russian students won," recalls David Moore, JA president for Washington."

"It was obvious that there was higher level of interest in private enterprise among the Russian students," he added, of what has become the second largest JA program in the world.

Focusing solely on the economic cost, and economic ties were clearly the impetus for the initial post-Cold War overtures from leaders in this area, Norberg observed: "Compromising long-term and hard won U.S. business interests in Russia over the principals of Ukraine's sovereignty fails the fundamental test of economic pragmatism. "

"Economically, our policy is doing U.S. businesses a real disservice," he said. "The opportunities lost for the U.S., EU, Russian and global economies are hard to estimate, but are significant.

Continue reading

Reflections on a time when Cold War fears and strange characters they spawned stirred nation

(Editor's Note: The following reflections of secret nuclear-strategy meetings in Seattle in the 1970s at a time when "Dr. Strangelove" characters held a respected behind-the-scenes prominence as a collective Cold War fear beset this nation seem appropriate to share as a hostile Russia seems to be re-emerging. The shared recollections were prompted by last week's Harp about the days of Seattle's growing ties with Russia two decades-plus ago).


Earl Sedlik detected early on that he was likely out of place as a Boeing-assigned member of a team of long-range planners who, in the mid-1970s, were assisting the CIA and Defense Department in strategic planning for future military hardware and nuclear-related strategies.

Sedlik had been hired in 1974 as Director of New Product Development at Boeing's Aerospace Division in Seattle, but a year later as Boeing disassembled the unit he found himself as the assigned macroeconomics expert from Boeing on a 10-member secret-team think tank for military armament planning.

It was there that he learned what it meant to plan for a future by strategizing to destroy it. And it was there that he was introduced to his new boss, whom we'll call TK, who was returning to Boeing after a stint as part of the SALT talks, his second tour at SALT and he had also spent time with the CIA after a Washington, DC - based Boeing assignment.

"TK became my new boss without much fanfare - but it was a revelation to work with him," Sedlik said. "He wore a full length black leather winter coat that nearly swept the floor. He hung a picture of an explosion on his wall which caught my eye.  It was, he said, a photo of a lab experiment to show a controlled dispersal of a nuclear reaction so that the power could be focused and not wasted on a spherical blast."

"He was an advocate for the Neutron bomb which would only kill people and not destroy property,' Sedlik remembered. 

"TK was Dr. Strangelove in real life," Sedlik said. "I learned later that his passion in the SALT talks was best describes as: 'what will we do after the nuclear exchange when we have 20 million people left and they have 10?'"

Dr. Strangelove was a reference to the key character in the movie "Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb."

Peter Sellers' mad-scientist character in the Stanley Kubrick movie has become an almost archetypal figure of the death-and-destruction focus of the Cold War planning and the film, released 50 years ago this year, became an icon of the genre of movies themed to nuclear fear.

Sedlik described the scene when his group was called to meet with "a hjghly respected climatologist" to discuss the possibility that a Russian drought and resulting food shortages could prompt the Russians to strike first.

The team had gathered for that meeting because of what Sedlik describes as a need to develop a narrative for the Department of Defense to use to convince Congress to support development of an Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM) system, replacing the existing Strategic Air Command with "the world's first flying instant-response nuclear attack capability."

Sedlik remembers TK suggesting that if the drought hit the Soviets hard enough, the Communist leaders would order a first strike against the U.S. to quell possible revolt "by diverting everyone's attention toward fighting against the Americans."

Thus the logic in favor of the ALCM's capacity to strike back "even before the first bombs land."

Sedlik said he then questioned the climatologist on whether "we would know about the drought as it developed and before it got too severe and was assured that secret satellite data would keep us aware of how serious the drought was.

That prompted what Sedlik recalls as his rebuttal that day: "if they are hungry, we will feed them. It's a biblical reality that you want your enemy to be healthy so that they make logical decisions and if we know that they might strike first because they are hungry, we will send them food."

"The response was quick and clear," Sedlik said. "TK looked directly at me and sternly said, 'Sedlik, you Eastern Liberal Bastard, you can leave the room!'"

Sedlik, whose Jewish heritage traces to small towns in Moldovia and Belarus, told me he compiled this report of what he referred to as "my oft-repeated story" after a summer trip with his family to Russia a year ago.

He explained that he finally compiled details of the story because "when recast through the reflection of time and direct Russian heritage experience, I wanted Molly and Adam (his children) to share a record of those days and my direct experience with the vagaries of the cold war."

It's Sedlik's reflections on "the vagaries" of the cold war in the context of some of pressures toward a new nuclear arms initiative in this country that prompt me to share his recollections here.

His story brought to mind an op-ed piece in the Washington Post last winter by former U.S. Secretary of State George Schultz and former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn, now co-chairman and CEO of the nonprofit Nuclear Threat Initiative, on the question of whether the re-emergence of full-fledged Cold War psychology could be avoided. Return to such a state of mind, they wrote, might be encouraged by Russia developing an "I can get away with it" mentality.

Their key point in the piece was that "Although current circumstances make it difficult, we should not lose sight of areas of common interest where cooperation remains crucial to the security of Russia, Europe and the United States."

And it might also be important to keep in mind philosopher George Santayana's admonition: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

Continue reading

Newspapers a growing, not dying, industry for Sound Publishing and parent Black Press

Don't tell Gloria Fletcher, who as president of Sound Publishing guides what has become Washington's largest and fastest-growing newspaper company, that print media is a dying industry.

Bellevue-based Sound, which owns 38 daily, weekly, community and monthly newspapers in this state, assumed ownership this month of its latest acquisitions, the Daily World of Aberdeen and three weekly newspapers in Grays Harbor County for an undisclosed amount of money.

Gloria Fletcher
Gloria Fletcher

"We don't believe this is a dying industry," Fletcher said "We believe in print but understand the value of the digital component as well."

Sound, as the U.S. subsidiary of Canada's largest independent newspaper company, has become more visible since Fletcher's arrival in April of 2012 with the purchase of the Daily Herald in Everett and the Seattle Weekly and Fletcher has, without a lot of fanfare, quietly become one of the state's most influential business women.

"Influential business woman" is a designation that would be uncomfortable for the low-key Oklahoma native, a 1984 honors graduate at the University of Oklahoma, who became publisher of her hometown Woodward, OK a year later.

Within three years, she had become an executive of American Publishing Co., overseeing a group of the company's newspapers. By the time American Publishing was acquired in 1999 by Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. and she was made vice president to oversee 38 newspapers in Oklahoma and the Central Midwest, Fletcher had a 4 year old and a one year old.

In her roles as a key executive of four publishing companies, she has carved out increasingly key roles and has thus helped break the mold of what traditionally had been, with a few nationally notable exceptions like Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, an industry dominated by men.

Fletcher's belief in the future of newspapers fits well with the philosophy of Canadian parent Black Press, the Victoria-based company founded by David Black, who ran the company and grew it to dominance across British Columbia and Alberta before elevating president and COO Rick O'Connor to succeed him as CEO of the company.

Fletcher's philosophy mirrors O'Connor's as well, as he made clear in a telephone interview we had this week in which he said "the value of print is being undersold and the value of digital is being overhyped."

"I'm not saying we don't embrace digital," O'Connor said. "But print is still king, representing 90 percent of our revenue."

He notes that the newspaper industry is beset by a "lot of uncertainty and where there is a lot of uncertainty people tend not to invest," but notes that "when you look at Warren Buffet and other non-newspaper people investing, it's a sign of how smart people are viewing the prospects of the industry."

Among those non-newspaper people getting into print is, of course, Seattle's Jeff Bezos. founder and CEO of Amazon. His purchase of the Washington Post in the summer of 2013 created conversation and conjecture across the traditional media industry.

Bezos' Post purchase created an interesting convergence with Sound in that it was about four months before the Post-Bezos announcement that Sound purchased the Everett Herald from the Washington Post Co., providing the opportunity for m to joke to the Herald's new publisher, Josh O'Connor, that he might now be sitting in the chair Bezos had hoped to be sitting in.

The fact that a move into newspapers by non-newspaper people isn't always going to be a winning proposition was emphasized by word this week that Boston financier Aaron Kushner and his 2100 Trust LLC holding company, which was formed specifically for the purpose of buying and growing major newspapers, may be having serious growing pains. Perhaps even survival pains.

This week Kushner either stepped aside or was stepped on and forced out by investors from his role as publisher of the Orange County Register a week after the Los Angeles Register folded six months into Kushner's experiment to create a daily LA to compete with the Los Angeles Times. Kushner had purchased the OC Register a year before Bezos' acquisition of the Post.

Perhaps in keeping with the premise of his Trust, for which he remains CEO, he was replaced as publisher by former casino executive Richard Mirman, who has no newspaper experience.

And naturally Kushner's travails have been greeted with great glee by traditional newspaper people, as evidenced by a column in USA Today headlined "Kushner's bold bet on print ends up as a farce."

But Black Press' O'Connor and Sound's Fletcher are not worried about the problems of those who are newspaper believers but may lack the experience to deal with the challenges.

Black Press touts itself as "home to some of the oldest, most trusted community newspapers in North America."

In fact, Black Press itself has grown in size and prestige as a newspaper company by grabbing off once-marquee titles of once-dominant but now sinking media companies, as with Honolulu Star-Advertiser, which once carried the Gannett flag, the Akron Beacon-Journal, formerly a McClatchy newspaper, in addition to The Herald from the Washington Post.

The Black, and thus the Sound, business strategy is based on newspaper clusters, as with the importance of "cluster" in the Grays Harbor acquisitions. It is clusters that mark Sounds presence in East King County with its Reporter Newspapers, in Kitsap County and on the Olympic Peninsula, where it owns the daily Port Angeles Evening News.

The cluster concept is also in place for Black in Hawaii where, as a result of acquisitions that include two dailies related to the Aberdeen purchase, it owns all the English-language dailies on the islands.

In fact O'Connor makes it clear that he is enough of a believer in the importance of clusters that he says "where we are already operating is where we intend to invest," saying in response to one of my questions that expansion in the Western U.S. outside of Washington is unlikely.

Continue reading

As Dan Evans turns 89, fascination with waiting for his nearly complete autobiography grows

It's been just over a quarter of a century since Daniel J. Evans stepped down from the U. S. Senate, ending a political career that included three terms as Washington governor, and setting off a wait for the expected autobiography of the man described as "one of the 10 outstanding governors of the 20th Century."

His story is the stuff of political legend: state's youngest governor when first elected in 1964 at the age of 39. The state's first and only governor elected for three consecutive terms (and might well have won a fourth had he tried for it). Created the nation's first state Department of Ecology, which became the model for Richard Nixon's environmental protection agency. Keynote speaker for the 1968 Republican National Convention, where he was talked of a possible vice presidential accompaniment for nominee and eventual president Nixon (but he refused to endorse Nixon, favoring the moderate Nelson Rockefeller). The only person ever to serve the state as governor and then senator (he was appointed in 1983 to replace Henry M. Jackson, who died on a heart attack).

But those are historical facts. What's missing are the details and personal recollections from the memory of the man who lived and shaped the events for what was likely the state's most tumultuous time. That's why the fascination with waiting for the autobiography of the man who turned 89 last week, although he retains an acuity and physical fitness of someone years younger.

Almost from the January day in 1989 when he retired from the Senate he complained of as beset by "bickering and protracted paralysis, he's been asked when his autobiography would be forthcoming.

Thus it's with some excitement of anticipation that many will be gathering at mid-day Thursday at the Rainier Club, plus a TVW audience, as Evans will be offering some observations and reflections that are being seen as a hoped-for preview of the autobiography.

Evans told me it won't be a preview, just some thoughts on "politics then and now, some history and discussing a couple of issues going on today."   As to the autobiography: "It's almost done," he said. "I have to finish a couple of things then the manuscript will be ready for an editor."

Regardless, the fact that a retired politician's thoughts about his life and times are as awaited as those from Evans perhaps says as much about the current state of politics and politicians and about the yearning for honesty and integrity as about the memories and recollections of the man himself.

Evans' 12 years as governor, from when he took office in January of 1965 through the end of his 12 years in January of 1977, were marked by the same political protests and racial unrest in Washington that were sweeping across the rest of the country but also by a Boeing bust that rocked the state's economy.

It was as a 26-year-old political writer arriving to cover Evans and the political scene a year after Evans took office that I got my ringside seat over the next five years to cover the history he would be making. He was the young governor to whose front door national political writers were beating a path that helped guide his selection to be keynote speaker at the 1968 Republican national convention.

Gov. Dan Evans and young political writer visit in 1969

The course of Evans' political fortunes was actually determined by Democrats as he became the beneficiary in 1963, as a young legislator, of the occasional internecine warfare called coalitions that Evans once told me are unique to Washington legislatures when disgruntled Democrats partner with Republicans to create a majority.

I've heard the story firsthand from Evans but students of state history and fans of politics deserve to learn the details of what will clearly be an intriguing retelling by Evans of the dark-of-night December meeting at a cabin in the woods near Olympia where the unusual political alliance was consummated.

The coalition, driven by a battle within Democrat ranks over public power vs. Spokane Democrats' desire to protect their investor-owned Washington Water Power thrust Evans, as the 1963 Legislature's House majority leader, into a spotlight he never otherwise would have occupied.

And when a year later Evans defeated Democrat Al Rosellini, who was seeking a third term, as Republicans nationally were undergoing political disaster as the presidential debacle of Barry Goldwater's overwhelming defeat by Lyndon Johnson washed across the landscape, he was destined to attract national attention.

It was at the end of the century when a survey of history and political science professors around the country, conducted by the University of Michigan selected Evans as one of the top 10 governors of the 20th Century.

Because Evans, a leader in a cadre of moderate Republicans whose views once dominated GOP leadership ranks, has evidenced his dissatisfaction with the rightward drift of his party, his autobiography is sure to provide the platform for his thoughts and thus attract interest from pundits and political observers nationally.

In fairness Evans hasn't sat around with writer's block waiting for his book to emerge, devoting his time to public and non-profit boards and an array of University of Washington involvements ranging from board of regents, the UW Foundation and what has become the Evans School of Public Affairs and numerous state and national causes.

So even if his 20 minutes in the limelight Thursday, with a TV audience looking on, doesn't turn out to be the unveiling of his autobiography, it may well serve to emphasize to Evans the broad desire to have him complete the work that will detail the events and people of what may well be the state's most important period of growth and change.

Continue reading

Hara takes taxpayer anger over property taxes as opportunity to deliver several messages

Meetings with property owners angry about their taxes might usually be viewed as an intimidating experience for the elected official responsible for determining the taxes, but King County Assessor Lloyd Hara sees such contacts as merely an opportunity to educate his "customers."  

Hara, who will be running for re-election next November though he hasn't formally announced, says he generally finds that the taxpayer anger or apprehension is the result of misunderstanding of how property taxes are determined. So in addition to correcting misperceptions, he looks forward to such sessions as an opportunity for him to offer a couple of key messages that he's been delivering for years.

Lloyd Hara 

The first of those messages for such audiences is an attention getter: if you think your property taxes are too high it may be your own fault.  

Hara doesn't actually tell taxpayers that if they think their property taxes are too high they may have themselves to blame. But he does routinely tell groups he speaks before that a third to a half of property taxes are from special levies, taxes approved by voters to impose additional taxes on themselves to pay for everything from parks to schools to emergency medical services.

"People have more control over their tax bill than they often realize," says Hara.

Hara, who was first elected assessor in 2009 to fill the unexpired term of the previous assessor, has held more appointive and elective offices locally over a longer period of time than likely anyone. He was first appointed King County Auditor in 1969 at the age of 29, youngest person ever to hold that post. In that role he achieved national recognition for his work on performance auditing of government agencies.

He was elected four times between 1980 and 1992 as Seattle City Treasurer, honored with national awards for his performance in that role.  

Then he was appointed head of the regional office of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and, in 2005, was elected a commissioner of the Port of Seattle.

In his assessor role, Hara's department appraises all property in the county then places a value on each parcel and determines a tax per thousand dollars of value.

The information is then passed to the county treasurer, who proceeds to send out the tax bills to each property owner for the coming year.

Hara this month had a typical meeting with Bellevue residents who were upset because the values of their property had gone up dramatically and they were concerned about taxes going up in relation to value.

Hara explained that wasn't going to happen, noting that under state law, the total tax take in the county can't increase by more than 1 percent, although some individual property owners may, for several reasons, see their taxes go up more than others. And one of those reasons is special levies.

The average impact of special levies in Seattle is about 30 percent, Hara said, while in Bellevue special levies account for about 50 percent of the average residential property-tax tab. It's clear at some of Hara's taxpayer "customer" gatherings that the levy total is a shock to some listeners.

"Proposition 1, the ballot measure on parks, was a good example," Hara said. "Everyone loves parks. So do I. But they need to be looked at in terms of relative priority, as compared, for example, with public safety."

"Unfortunately, the capacity isn't there to do all things and if we just put up a single issue that's a high-visibility one, it can get approved by a big margin, as happened with the parks measure this summer," he added. "But if the voters had a package to choose from, that single issue might suddenly be less logical when viewed holistically."

"It' possible for something to be a good thing but yet not pass muster when looked at holistically," he said, praising the League of Women Voters for taking the broader view in opposing the parks measure, which will add as much as $148 per year for the average home in the county.

The second message Hara takes the opportunity to discuss with audiences, that government consolidation may reduce your tax bill, sparks little more than a yawn. But government reorganization needs to attract more attention from elected officials, and Hara's focus on the topic by discussing the issue with taxpayer audiences may help lead toward that greater legislative interest.

Hara has been a proponent of reorganizing government to create efficiency for taxpayers since, while working in the state budget office in the late 60s, he was involved in the effort to reorganize state government into what were characterized as "super agencies" that tried to consolidate agencies by program functions.

He's been a constant advocate since then of consolidating taxing districts, taking the view that regionalization, consolidating functions of various elective offices across local or even county boundaries, may be a way that taxpayers in smaller districts or counties may be better served.

Hara wonders "how many jurisdictions should there be that taxpayers are helping support? Could some services be merged into regional units? Can some be privatized?"

It's out of such discussions that new ways of doing things at the local-government level may emerge as lawmakers and policymakers cope with new funding realities.

The website for the Assessor's office has received recognition and it may include an unusual addition next year, for which Hara has passed the first hurdle, the funds being included King County executive Dow Constantine's budget. Now the King County Council must go along.

Hara, who says Chicago was the first city to put advertising on its property tax website, admits "certain officials thought it might look a bit cheesy," but he says "it doesn't make sense to overlook possible new sources of money," which he is initially estimating at a conservative $35,000 a year.

He's also seeking legislative approval again this coming session for the right to impose a fee on appeals of assessments by commercial property tax payers, which would help defray appeal costs for other taxpayers, who must foot the bill if they wish commence a challenge to their taxes.

Continue reading

Seattle may have role in Galloway's Vietnam 50th commemorative interviews with Viet vets

Editor's Note:
This is the first of two columns related to the Vietnam War 50thAnniversary Commemorative project, the interviews with Viet vets being conducted by prominent war correspondent Joe Galloway and the effort to make Seattle-area vets part of those Commemorative oral-history interviews. The second column next week will deal with the battle that Galloway's book and subsequent movie made famous and, as President Lynden Johnson's life is being featured in a pair of plays by Seattle dramatist Robert Schenkkan, the role that battle played in LBJ's tragically avoidable decisions about Vietnam.)



Joe Galloway, a self-described country boy from Texas who became the only decorated correspondent of the Vietnam war and earned praise from those whose battles he covered as "the soldiers' reporter," saves special profanity for both the politicians who sent soldiers to die and the protesters who refused to welcome them home.

Galloway's book, "We Were Soldiers Once...and Young" and the movie made from it served to make famous the November, 1965, battle of Ia Drang Valley, which history proved to be the defining battle of Vietnam a decade before politicians finally ended the war.

And while his war-correspondent role continued in Iraq and Afghanistan, it was the battle of Ia Drang that forever marked him as more than a correspondent. It was there in that first major conflict between U.S. troops and North Vietnam regulars that he repeatedly disregarded his own safety to rescue wounded soldiers under fire.

Joe Galloway

He eventually was decorated with the bronze star with V (for valor), the only time the award was made by the army to a civilian for actions in Vietnam.

Now Galloway has a key role in the Vietnam War 50th Anniversary Commemorative project, serving as a special consultant to the project run out of the office of the Secretary of Defense, doing oral history interviews with Vietnam veterans.

"I have 65 two-hour interviews in the can now, beginning with Colin Powell and working outward," he told me.

It may be that the Seattle area and interviews with veterans from this state, as well as helping mark one or more commemorative local events, will be on Galloway's early 2015 schedule.

With Galloway's permission and that of retired Army Lt. Gen. Claude M. "Mick" Kicklighter, who is charged with overseeing all aspects of the Vietnam War 50th Anniversary Commemoration, several of us are cooperating in an effort to line up the Vietnam vet interviews and ideally one or more Commemorative events.


I've written a couple of Flynn's Harp columns on Galloway, a one-time colleague at United Press International, the wire service for which he covered the Vietnam War, and he's now among those who receive this column and we exchange emails occasionally.

The email exchange that led to the effort on behalf of a Seattle visit early next year began when I emailed Galloway to ask about his views of the controversy starting to emerge in reaction to the 50th commemorative project.


Noted Vietnam protestor Tom Hayden and others have gathered petitions objecting to the Defense Department website relating to the 50th anniversary commemorative, describing it as a "whitewash."

"I suppose it is only natural and normal that the (expletive) protesters crawl out of the woodwork to p--- on something decent one last time," Galloway replied, noting "I am not speaking for the Commemoration. That isn't my job. But surely these (expletive) can't argue with letting Vietnam veterans tell their own stories in their own words."

Galloway explained that the anniversary commemoration "is really about saying thanks to those who served and urging all the cities and towns across this country to hold their own events honoring those veterans, giving them the welcome that was denied to them half a century ago.


Joint Base-Lewis-McChord (JBLM) last month had an event to recognize the 50thanniversary commemoration where about 2,500 veterans and their families showed up at the largest military base on the West Coast for the ceremony, apparently the first at any military base.

Although not related directly to the 50th, the State of Washington, on Memorial Day of 2012, marked the 25thanniversary of completion of the state's Vietnam wall to honor the 1,116 state residents killed or missing in Vietnam.

This area has a particular attraction for Galloway because among the interviewees here would be Bruce Crandall, the helicopter pilot who was a hero of both Galloway's book and the movie for the heroism demonstrated in repeat trips to the Ia Drang battlefield to deliver supplies and evacuate wounded.

Crandall, an Olympia native who attended University of Washington before being drafted, and his wing man, Ed "Too Tall" Freeman, who died a year ago, were both awarded the Medal of Honor for their bravery at Ia Drang. Together they flew nearly two dozen missions during both daylight and darkness into the landing zone, bringing essential ammunition and supplies and carrying out 70 wounded, after a med evac unit had decided it was too deadly to fly into the battle zone.

Dick Merchant 

Other interviewees will likely include Richard Merchant, the retired lieutenant colonel who was awarded a Bronze Star with V, a purple heart and other awards, who was the keynote speaker at the 2012 Memorial Day event at the wall in Olympia.

It was during Merchant's first of two tours in Vietnam that he found himself in the battle of the Ia Drang Valley.

In his keynote, Merchant made reference to "those who hated the war but weren't able to differentiate between the war and those who were sent to fight it."

"The soldier above all people prays for peace because he has suffered the deepest wounds of war," he added.

Others I have touched base with on this project thus far include Perkins Coie attorney Karl Ege, who for more than a decade served as chief legal officer for Russell Investments Group, and was a forward observer for a U.S. Marines artillery unit in 1966 and 1967. He has returned to Vietnam on several occasions.

"What is astonishing to me is the high regard the people of Vietnam have for the United States, we are welcomed there with open arms," Ege emailed me.  "The average age of the Vietnamese is less than 30 and the 'American War' (as it is known there) is unknown to the young. It is their 'grandparents war'"

For Galloway, the oral-history interviews with Vietnam veterans bring back memories, and many are not easy ones.


In Kentucky, where he was speaker along with the Kentucky governor, himself a Vietnam vet, Galloway recalled for me wandering around the sundial-based memorial. "I stopped at November 1965 and, sure enough, there were the names of two Kentuckians killed in the Ia Drang Valley. I was stopped in my tracks and quietly wept for those boys and all the boys who died in that war."

Continue reading

Ironic convergence in Seattle of LBJ-focused plays, probable Galloway Vietnam interviews

(This second of two columns deals with an ironic convergence in Seattle as a play depicting Lynden Johnson's failure in Vietnam has its world premiere at the Seattle Rep while a series of special interviews with veterans of that war will likely be conducted in Seattle by the correspondent who made famous the defining battle of the war.)


As The Great Society, a look at Lyndon B. Johnson's failure in Vietnam, has its world premiere in Seattle, the war correspondent who chronicled the battle that foretold the outcome of that war may well be conducting filmed oral-history interviews with Seattle-area vets for the Vietnam War 50th Anniversary Commemorative.

The world premiere of Robert Schenkkan's play, a co-commission between the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Seattle Repertory Theater, will open at the Rep on December 5 as a companion to the Tony-award winning All the Way, detailing LBJ's initial successes, which opens at the Rep this week.

That first Schenkkan play ironically opens at the Rep on November 14, the 49th anniversary of the start of the four-day battle of the Ia Drang Valley that Joe Galloway's writings made famous.

That Vietnam outcome is the focus of Schenkkan's The Great Society, which depicts LBJ's fall from grace as his major domestic accomplishments are overshadowed by the failure of his conduct of the Vietnam War.

Joe Galloway, a UPI correspondent who made famous the November, 1965, battle of the Ia Drang Valley and the war's outcome that it presaged, now has a special role in the 50thAnniversary Commemorative project that is intended to bring him to Seattle in January or February.

Joe Galloway at Veterans Day in D.C.
(Stars and Stripes photo)


Galloway is serving as a special consultant to the 50thCommemorative project run out of the office of the Secretary of Defense, doing filmed oral history interviews with Vietnam veterans.The interviews are what would guide his effort to get to Seattle in January or February.


Galloway explained that the anniversary commemoration "is really about saying thanks to those who served and urging all the cities and towns across this country to hold their own events honoring those veterans; giving them the welcome that was denied to them half a century ago."    

Galloway had a high-visibility role for this year's Veterans Day celebration at the National World War II Memorial in Washington as keynote speaker and among the hundreds on hand were roughly 20 WWII veterans, who were singled out and thanked repeatedly throughout the ceremony for their service.


Galloway noted in his remarks that though the WWII vets' numbers have "dwindled down to a precious few," their contribution to promoting peace and freedom in the world still looms large.  

With an obvious reference to Vietnam, Galloway told the veterans and others in attendance that despite the tremendous cost in lives lost, "There was not a voice raised against that war because it had to be fought and ... it had to be won."

Galloway has completed 65 two-hour filmed interviews for the oral histories, beginning with Gen. (and later Secretary of Defense) Colin Powell, and now is looking to line up a dozen or so Seattle-area interviews. Ideally, the visit for the interviews would be paired with one or more commemorative events in the Seattle area as states and communities are urged to participate in the 50thcommemorative with events to say belated thanks to the Vietnam veterans.

old galloway
Joe Galloway 

Galloway explains that the unedited interviews will be deposited in the Library of Congress Oral History Archives. An edited version (for length and focus) will be transferred to DVD and eventually packaged and sent to every junior and senior high school in the country.

Galloway's "We Were Soldiers Once and Young" and its sequel, as well as his later writings, made the battle of Ia Drang famous for its import in making clear the inevitable Vietnam outcome a decade before politicians finally ended the war.

Galloway was a 25-year-old UPI correspondent who was already battle tested when he found himself, along with the Seventh Cavalry, in the midst of the first major conflict for U.S. troops vs. North Vietnam regulars in a place called the Ia Drang Valley.

In his book and its sequel, "We Are Soldiers Still: A Journey Back to the Battlefields," both co-authored with Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, then a lieutenant colonel commanding a unit of the 7th Cavalry, Galloway focuses on the battle and the soldiers, of both armies, who suffered and died there.

Galloway himself eventually was decorated with the bronze star with valor for his actions to rescue wounded soldiers under fire, the only time the award was made by the army to a civilian for actions in Vietnam.

"In three days and two nights in Landing Zone X-Ray, and another day and night in a landing zone called Albany two miles away, 234 American soldiers were killed and nearly 300 wounded. The North Vietnamese left behind the bodies of somewhere between 2,000 and 5,000 dead," Galloway wrote in an article for History magazine. "No one in their right mind stakes a claim to victory in the middle of that kind of carnage. Funny but both sides did just that." 

Galloway was typically Galloway at a news conference following the battle, as he recalled a clash with a general who had just returned from assessing the battle zone. "He toldthe dozens of reporters who had assembled that there was no ambush of the Americans at Albany. 'It was a meeting engagement,' he said, and added 'casualties were light to moderate.' I had just returned from Albany myself, and I stood and told the general, 'That's bullshit, sir, and you know it!' The news conference dissolved in a chorus of angry shouting."

The forever indictment of President Johnson and his brain trust for what happened in Vietnam was sealed because of Ia Drang. Following the battle, LBJ dispatched Defense Secretary Robert McNamara to find out what had happened at Ia Drang and what it meant.

Galloway, in an article four years ago in History.net magazine, explained what took place thereafter at the highest levels.

"After meeting with the ambassador and key military people, including Hal Moore, McNamara penned a top-secret memo to LBJ, saying in essence 'We have come to a decision point and it seems we have only two choices: Either we arrange whatever diplomatic cover we can find and get out of Vietnam, or we give General (William C.) Westmoreland the 200,000 additional U.S. troops he is asking for, in which case by early 1967 we will have 500,000 Americans on the ground and they will be dying at the rate of 1,000 a month (American combat deaths would actually top out at over 3,000 a month in 1968).' McNamara wrote that all this would achieve was a military stalemate at a much higher level of violence."


Galloway's article continued: "On December 15, 1965, LBJ's council of 'wise old men,' which in addition to McNamara included the likes of Clark Clifford, Abe Fortas, Averell Harriman, George Ball and Dean Acheson, was assembled at the White House to decide the path ahead in Vietnam. As the president walked into the room, he was holding McNamara's November 30 memo in his hand. Shaking it at the defense secretary, he said, 'You mean to tell me no matter what I do I can't win in Vietnam?' McNamara nodded yes. The wise men talked for two days without seriously considering McNamara's '1'-getting out of Vietnam-and ultimately voted unanimously in favor of further escalation of the war."

The count of the dead would eventually exceed 52,000, including 1,100 from Washington State.

In the columns on military affairs he wrote for McClatchy Newspapers after his retirement, Galloway frequently criticized the political decisionmakers who put his soldiers in harm's way in Iraq and Afghanistan. He told me once, when I asked about the criticisms he received from high levels, "I wore out the 'delete' key on my keyboard every year. I didn't take it personally. Most who wrote such diatribes calling me nine kinds of a Commie rat were people who had never worn a uniform, would not send their children to fight in the wars they championed and really were so unread in history as to be unqualified to say a damn word."

Continue reading

First-ever grant makes this a special year for Hispanic-families focused Friends or Granger

What was born 11 years ago out of a Thanksgiving Day conversation in the small town of Granger between two women concerned that the children there, mostly Hispanic and poverty-level, would go hungry over the Christmas holidays has grown into an effort to also feed the minds of not just the youngsters, but also their families.

This year is a special one for the little non-profit called Friends of Granger, that grew out of that 2003 Thanksgiving conversation between Joan Wallace, then president of Wallace Properties in Bellevue, and her sister in law, Janet Wheaton, then principal of Granger High School in a community that U.S. Census figures indicate is 85 percent Hispanic.  


The specialness is that this year has brought a new and growing relationship with nearby Heritage University and its largely Hispanic student body, as well as the remarkable results of the energy and creativity of Heritage student Alma Sanchez that have brought the tiny non-profit its first grant.


Thus is many respects, this is the most important year since the tiny 501c3 was founded to focus on providing Christmas baskets to the mostly Hispanic families. It subsequently grew to not just feed but also enrich the children with programs ranging from providing warm clothing and school supplies to creation of a month-long summer day camp. In addition, an emergency fund was established to help families in crisis.


In her annual e-mail report and "ask" to "friends" last week, Wallace noted that the little non-profit had received a $15,000 grant from the Yakima Valley Community Foundation (YVCF), due mainly to the involvement of Sanchez, a mother of four who is both a student and an employee at Heritage.

The grant is for the education-focused program Sanchez created to use incentives to keep kids in school. Sanchez, who in addition to being a Heritage student also works in the office of Michael Moore, Heritage's Vice President for University Advancement. It was Moore who first reached out to Wallace to create ties between the university and her programs.

Sanchez' attendance incentive program, promoted with posters visible around the school, attracts attention with the headline "Win One of 5 IPads," with the explanation that five will be raffled at the end of the year. Plus, in a style worthy of an ad agency, the signs read: "every quarter that you are in school every day you will receive fabulous prizes."

The results of Sanchez' efforts are already paying dramatic dividends since the 400-student middle school that last year had six students with perfect attendance already has 100 kids with perfect attendance this year.

Moore explains that Sanchez "has also worked inside the school to create a belief among faculty and staff that full attendance is possible and put encouragement, support and incentives in place for students."

Now Sanchez' program can be expanded as a result of the grant from YVCF, which held a special luncheon last week where Wheaton, now Director of Federal Programs, Assessment, Curriculum & Technology for the Granger School District, received the grant check from Linda Moore, the community foundation president.

Sanchez, whose children range from a 20 year old down to a third grader, decided four years ago she needed to get her degree and so, in her mid-30s, enrolled at Heritage. In her sophomore year she went to work in Moore's office because she needed money to finish school.

She had nurtured the goal of going to college, originally hoping to be an attorney, since growing up in Chicago, the city which has perhaps the largest urban Mexican-American population in the country. She moved her family to Granger when her husband relocated to the Yakima Valley.

After learning about Friends of Granger, she got involved, did some research and learned that lack of attendance was the major problem in the Granger schools.

She says she researched attendance across the country and explored what different schools were doing to address the problem and found what kinds of incentive programs to keep kids in school were working in other districts, then came up with her plan for Granger schools, but needed the funding to implement her ideas. That led to the application for the grant.

Sanchez has also helped put together a series of financial literacy workshops for the Granger families and the first one, last week, exceeded all expectations as at least 500 people, representing 150 different families, showed up.

Here again incentives came into play as each family picked up food baskets, then stayed to listen to the presenters.

"When the grant got approved, I can't tell you how ecstatic I was," Sanchez said. "What I would like to see is for this program to continue because I am confident if it continues that we will see significant increases in attendance, and that thus more students will graduate and more students will go on to college."

She also shared her vision that the project "could become the protocol for other districts elsewhere that are facing attendance problems."


Meanwhile, the Heritage connection will be ratcheted up next year when18 student teachers will be working in Granger with master teachers from the School District for the entire year, five days a week in a program viewed as a national model for how teachers need to be trained.   


The vision for the Heritage program is that by teaching with master teachers in some of the most challenging districts in the state, Heritage-trained teachers emerge with skills and experience no other programs can produce while also substantially moving the needle on performance for the schools and classrooms they touch.


Granger will appropriately be the initial beneficiary of this program.

Continue reading

Cheri Marusa, a four-generation Cle Elum Housewife, has become face of citizen activism

Cheri Marusa describes herself simply as a Cle Elum housewife and mother whose roots in Upper Kittitas County go back four generations. But in reality she has quietly, and those who find themselves on the other side of one her causes would say "not always quietly," come to be the face of citizen activism in Washington State.

It's been 15 years since she emerged from that housewife-and-mother role with a campaign to bring enhanced emergency medical services to the Cle Elum area, founding Life Support, which she has served as president since then and helped guide its dramatic impact on not only emergency medical services but enhanced healthcare as well.

Marusa has, in essence, become the cause of causes, launching programs to address challenges ranging from small-town economic development problems to pressing children's issues.


Cheri Marusa

Her first cause, Life Support, required funds from the legislature and the effort to get the funds launched her on a path that allowed her to become over the years one of the most familiar faces in the legislative halls and offices. Some lawmakers who were at first resistant to her funding requests, particularly in financially challenging times in the legislature, might describe her as an unrelenting force.  

Her success at attracting legislative support would make the most successful lobbyists envious, although she insists she's not a lobbyist. In fact, because she doesn't draw a salary from any of the organizations she advocates for, she has occasionally wound up sleeping in her car when she has had to overnight in Olympia during legislative sessions.

She had to overcome substantial community opposition when she undertook to create Life Support since physicians at the local Cle Elum clinic feared they'd be put out of business if Marusa's efforts to increase the quality of medical care in Upper County proved successful.  

The Life Support initiative culminated with attracting Swedish Medical Center to open a facility in Cle Elum. And her fund-raising efforts resulted in construction of new fire stations and purchase of life-saving tools for the emergency medical responders.

I first met Marusa in 2003 when I was among the Seattle-area business people she convinced to go on the board of her 501c3 Life Support organization.  

She has sought my advise on several occasions for her initiatives since then, and paid little heed to my counsel of "Cheri, that simply isn't going to happen" and went on to make them happen.

The first of those unlikely successes for which I said "not gonna happen" related to Life Support when her campaign on behalf of emergency medical services wound up with a $2.7 million appropriation at a time of severe financial challenge for the lawmakers.

I had the same advise when she went after lawmakers for a $2 million plus grant for a Junior Achievement Center in Yakima to provide financial literacy programs for young people in a new JA World learning center, a facility that the business community in Yakima supported with additional dollars. The local supporters of the facility, when it was completed, boasted that Yakima was the only small community in which JA has built such a facility anywhere in the country.

Marusa has an earthy air about her, a small-town mother of two daughters who can look in the mirror and chuckle as she describes the woman she sees there as "a well-rounded personality."


Her persuasiveness with legislators to support her causes prompted House Speaker Frank Chopp to enlist her support, again as a volunteer, for his One Washington initiative, sending her on the road to visit communities and small towns in the central and eastern parts of the state to learn of issues challenging them. She confided to me that she really hadn't spent much time in other parts of the state until she got involved with One Washington.

And Marusa already has a busy first quarter of 2015 planned. In addition to pressing the Legislature for funding of a couple of projects, since she wants an appropriation to restore an historic building in Roslyn, the small Kittitas County town made famous as the home of the TV series Northern Exposure. She is also tackling an issue opposed by some potent adversaries -- sheriffs and police chiefs from around the state.

She created the Roslyn Renaissance project to guide preservation and renovation of historic commercial buildings and community character, as well as attract business and generate permanent jobs in the old coal-mining community where her husband Rob's father was a miner after bringing his family there from Croatia.

She is also chair of the Roslyn Downtown Association and, along the way, launched the Cle Elum Rotary club.

Her current legislative battle with chiefs and sheriffs is over her campaign to require training for reserve police officers similar to that required for regular law enforcement officers.

"It's okay if reserves do traffic control and the like," she explained. "But if they are going to carry a gun and have arresting authority, they should be no less training than regular officers. Chiefs and sheriffs don't want to incur that cost so they are fighting this."    

Plus she is heading to Nicaragua in February with a number of Seattle Seahawks and other NFL players accompanying her to work in impoverished villages in that country as part of an effort to assist Seattle-based GIVE.

The leader of the NFL crew accompanying her is Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, for whom she recently created and chairs the Jermaine Kearse Foundation, focused, as she describes it, on "engaging and inspiring youth by creating real-life relevance through experiential learning and tying learning to living a healthy lifestyle"

So how did she convince a group of NFL stars to accompany her on a trip to assist the poor in Nicaragua?  

"I merely told them, 'come with me. I want you to do something that will be life changing and you will come back a better person.'" she said.  

It's the same message she has carried for most of her involvements over much of her 55 years.

Continue reading

A mission of bringing Magic of Christmas to homeless kids with Alaska North Pole flight

For Steve Paul, bringing the Magic of Christmas to a group of about 60 Spokane-area homeless and foster children in the form of a flight to the North Pole is a year-round focus that he undertook 14 years ago to "use the power of Santa and Christmas to bring an over-the-top memory for kids usually consumed with worry."


But the added factor that ensures success of the annual Fantasy Flight is the Magic Dust of human caring and compassion that spreads over all those involved with the event, starting with Alaska Airlines, which makes a jetliner and crew and employees of both Alaska and Horizon Air availabl

Steve Paul, 'Elf Bernie' 



So late afternoon this Saturday, 65 children, aged 4 to 10, selected by shelters and community programs in Spokane and Coeur d'Alene, will board the Alaska 737-900ER at Spokane International Airport, accompanied by their personal elves, for the approximately half-hour flight to the North Pole. Others on board, in addition to the kids and their elves, will be Dave Campbell, new president of Horizon Air, and other representatives of both Alaska and Horizon.  

This is the eighth year that Alaska has operated the flight for Northwest North Pole Adventures, the 501c3 that Paul, a Senior IT Project Manager at Ecova,created and serves as president and CEO. He spends much of the year preparing for the event by working with organizations, gathering sponsors and overseeing details, all on a $200,000 budget that includes in-kind, like the Alaska flight.

Steve Paul with Spokane Mayor David Condon 

So Saturday the children will show up at the airport, meet their "buddy elf" and, with the help of the TSA workers, pass through security despite alarms set off by the metal jingle bells on their clothing. Then they will board Alaska flight 1225, which upon takeoff becomes Santa 1, guided by Paul who, for the day, becomes Bernie, the head Elf.

As the flight nears its conclusion, the passengers will be told to pull the window shades down and chant the magic words that will allow them to land at the North Pole. Then the plane will land on the other side of the Spokane airport to be greeted by Santa, Mrs. Clause, extra elves and a few live reindeer.

A key moment of magic occurs for each child when they have their personal visit with Santa.

As Paul told me, "When we send out invitations to the kids, we have them tell us what they want for Christmas. We take those lists and buy each of them a toy from that list. So as each child tells Santa what he or she wants, Santa can reach into his bag and pull that present out for them. The looks on their faces as he hands it to them is priceless."

Equally priceless is the reaction of Paul and others involved.

 "I know I can't fix the situations in life that have brought these children to the place we find them" he told me. "But I can give them a brain full of amazingly magical memories of a day when they took their first airplane ride, when they touched their first reindeer and had their own elf as best friend."

kids in plane
Kids aboard Santa 1 

Blythe Thimsen, editor of Spokane Coeur d'Alene Living magazine who first alerted me to this amazing community experience five years ago when she served as an elf on that year's flight, says that"from business leaders, to media, to financial support and those who are elves at heart and want to see this organization succeed, support is ever growing."

"With an outpouring of interest and support from volunteers and the community - to the tune of 30 wannabe elves on the wait list, hoping to be assigned a spot as an elf - it is clear that support for Spokane Fantasy Flight continues to grow in the community," she told me.

United Airlines, which has done these North Pole Fantasy Flights in a number of cities since 1992, launched the Spokane flight in 1997 but the United planes didn't take off, merely taxied around the airport. It was while traveling in and out of Spokane around that time that Paul learned of the flight, which has always been amazingly low visibility, and sought to be involved. He not only became involved but took over responsibility for the event in 2000.


United continued the Spokane flight until 2007 when the airline failed to assign a plane to the event and Paul turned to Alaska, which not only quickly provided the plane but it's employees asked, "why not take them up for a flight?" So Alaska did.

Since then, the Spokane Fantasy Flight has grown in popularity within the business community, despite remaining little known to the general Spokane population, and has become a source of pride and team building for Alaska and Horizon Air.

To the point where, when I asked Paul if he had the same pilots as in previous years, he said that, in fact, there were a couple of Anchorage-based pilots doing the duty this year but that last year's cockpit crew was trying to buy their way back aboard with "payoff" offers to their replacements, who have remained uninterested!

And little wonder since, as Alaska CEO Brad Tilden, who has been involved in the event first in 2011 when he was still president and once since he assumed the CEO role, put it: "Seeing the effect of this in the eyes of the kids is an amazing experience.

For those who might, for any reason, view this as deluding the children, an elf on one of the flights summed it up best. "If you're a little kid on your first plane ride and your ticket says North Pole, and the shades are drawn, and everyone, including the flight attendants and all the elves are saying the magic words, then who's to say you haven't landed at the real North Pole?"


Or as Paul sums it up for the longer-term perspective: "My hope is that the children leave with a stronger sense of belief, not only in the magic of Christmas but in themselves and the possibility of positive things in their future."

Continue reading

Concern among Seattle business people that Delta turning from Alaska partner to predator

There's a growing concern among Seattle-area business leaders that they are seeing a once mutually beneficial partner relationship between Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines changing to one in which Delta seems to be moving from partner to predator.  

There is an obvious agreement within the business leadership that losing Alaska would be a significant blow to the economies of Seattle and the state. And that is leading many toward a conviction that the business community can't merely stand on the sidelines to watch to see what the outcome is of a battle between the world's second largest airline and hometown Alaska.  

Thus if those expressing such concerns are accurate, then Seattle will need to shed its "Seattle Nice" image for a time to forcefully take a position in support of Alaska.

"The business community must take sides in this and do so forcefully and visibly and an important part of its message is that Delta is actually not good for Seattle," suggests Joseph Schocken, president of Broadmark Capital, a successful Seattle boutique merchant bank that focuses on emerging companies.  

"Delta is anti-Boeing, and thus anti-Seattle, with both its dollars and its political clout," Schocken said. "With its dollars, it buys Airbus planes rather than Boeing's and with its political clout it opposes the Ex-Im bank that is important to Boeing's success," he added.

As I talked with various people in the business community, there was an expression of the need to have a pro-Alaska effort, even a forceful one, but not an Anti-Delta one, lest that generate sympathy for the Atlanta-based airline since it is a very successful airline that employs a large number of people and successfully serves parts of the region's air-carrier needs.

Yet as each got into the competitive aspects of the issue, comments frequently turned from support of Alaska to negative on Delta.

As business people discuss this Alaska-Delta struggle, there is a logical defense of free-markets competition but a dark view of competitors who turn predators. And I detected growing sense that predator is what Delta's competition with Alaska has devolved into.

One who best summed up the competition issue was John Fluke, whose family's business leadership, investment focus and philanthropic involvements are widely known and respected, who said: "The notion of free markets and competition are absolutely necessary to the success of our economic system and the effort to gain advantage over competitors, ethically pursued, benefits customers."

But Fluke suggested that the current competitive activities amount to Delta "abusing" the definition of competition, saying "its tactics with everything from current pricing to their philanthropic outreach with nonprofits here are likely to last only as long as it takes to drive Alaska into submission."

"If that happens, then airline tickets will eventually cost more, route structures will become less accommodating and Delta's support of important philanthropic causes will be lower and that would be abusing the real meaning of competition," he added.

Woody Howse, whose Cable & Howse Ventures basically launched the venture-capital industry in this region, exemplified the enthusiasm of Alaska supporters when he said "Alaska Airlines is one of the most community minded, customer serving and socially contributing corporations in our region."

But his comments also quickly turned against Alaska's challenger, noting his view that "Today Alaska Air is being attacked vigorously by the Carpet Bagger Delta Airlines, coming to town with Airbus (not Boeing) airplanes and viciously attacking the Alaska Air routes with competing schedules.  Our Northwest Community must band together and support the company that has so supported us through the good as well as difficult times."


"With Delta's current actions and apparent ulterior motive in Alaska's hometown hub, engaging in a process intended to squeeze Alaska Airlines with the objective of acquiring, we customers need to be very alert to the probable outcome if Delta is successful," Howse added.

Mike Kunath, principal and founder of Kunath, Karren, Rinne & Atkin LLC, a successful Seattle investment advisory firm, summed it up succinctly as: "Alaska has been a true supporter of the region. Delta never will be."

Herb Bridge, longtime Seattle civic leader and philanthropist as well as chairman and CEO of Ben Bridge Jeweler for several decades before guiding the company into acquisition by Warren Buffet, notes that corporate acquisitions themselves are not evil.

"It is possible for an important local company to be acquired in a way that allows it to retain local control and oversight, as happened with our acquisition by warren Buffet," Bridge said. "But when the acquisition is pursued in a predatory rather than a friendly manner, not only the shareholders of the pursued company but the community it serves are losers. There is nothing beneficial about Delta's pursuit of Alaska."

Alaska CEO Brad Tilden, retired CEO Bill Ayer and board members are reluctant to get into any Delta-bashing conversation, preferring to focus on Alaska positives.

Ayer, who as Alaska chairman and CEO for a decade before retiring in early 2012 guided the carrier through some of the industry's most tumultuous times, told me "The question of whether Alaska could remain independent has been raised for decades."   

"Our response was that a locally based, independent airline was better for customers, the community, employees, and investors. While there were no guarantees of remaining independent, all we could control was our own performance, and our chances were much better if we did a great job for each of those stakeholders," he said.


And as Tilden puts it, "The transformation over the last decade has been all about cost. We're trying to balance low fares and lots of service to the destinations (passengers) want, with a strong and successful company that can grow and buy new airplanes and has the capital to add new services."


The financial results are impressive as the parent company for Alaska Airlines and its regional sister carrier Horizon Air made a record $508 million profit in 2013, and the stock continued a steep ascent to five times its value from just five years ago.


What needs to happen is for Delta CEO Richard Anderson to be convinced by those who know him well, and that includes some in Seattle, that he is risking a serious downside in creating the potential for an in-your-face attitude among Seattle business people on behalf of Alaska.

For as Schocken summed it up: "There needs to be a real corporate campaign to encourage flying Alaska, discouraging flying Delta and make it unpleasant, hurting Delta's bottomline so Anderson decides that not only isn't it going to be as he thought, but shareholders and board members are getting unhappy.'"


Evidence that neither Fluke, Howse nor any of those who echo similar sentiments about Delta targeting Alaska are out of line is Delta's own home page where it headlines "Exclusively for Seattle, 2x miles all year long."  

But Delta's sharpest critics could suggest with a smile that what happens when you click on that link on Delta's home page might prophetically point to where Delta would be for Seattle if they were to push Alaska into a merger. The click leads to a page that says "the requested page could not be found."

Continue reading

Holiday Greetings

Dear Friends: 

Sharing this re-creation of the art once delivered via wire-service teletype machines to media newsrooms around the nation during the quiet hours of Christmas Eve has become my annual way of delivering holiday greetings to those who have been kind enough to allow Flynn's Harp into their email 'bag' each week. 
Holiday teletype art: greetings from communications era past In the days before computers, wire service teletype machines clacked away in newspaper and broadcast newsrooms around the nation and the world, bringing the news from all points to local media outlets.

But in the quiet of the Christmas holiday in years past, in the offices of AP and United Press International, the teletype paper coming from the teletype printers would be graced with holiday art. 


For those of us who at an early stage in our careers had a turn with the lonely Christmas Eve or overnight vigil in the UPI offices  as older writers got to spend time with their families, the holiday art created and transmitted by teletype operators is one of the special memories of working for that now-dead company. 

The x's, o's, (or more frequently dollar signs and exclamation marks)  appeared a line at a time on the teletype paper until images of Christmas trees, Santa Claus, holly wreaths, etc., took shape.  

The uniqueness of the tree below is the Christmas greeting delivered in nearly 50 languages. 

Over the years I've been sending this, the art has stirred memories for those among the recipients of this weekly missive who once worked in newspaper or broadcast news rooms and recalled watching those creations emerge onto the rolls of teletype paper.

It also served as a reminder of earlier days for those in other industries who once used teletype machines for transmission of information, including one who recalled the occasional flawed keystrokes that occurred when creation of the art followed holiday parties.


Since each year brings new names to the list of those receiving Flynn's Harp, there are some who haven't previously seen the art. For that reason, and because fond memories are served by repetition, here is a the annual sharing of this Christmas art.


Happy Holidays!




1                                               "X"                                       
                                          "GOD JUL"
                                       "BUON ANNO"
                                        "FELIZ NATAL"
                                      "JOYEUX   NOEL"
                                   "VESELE   VANOCE"
                                  "MELE   KALIKIMAKA"
                                "NODLAG  SONA  DHUIT"
                             "BLWYDDYN  NEWYDD  DDA"
                                """""""BOAS FESTAS"""""""
                                       "FELIZ NAVIDAD"
                                  "MERRY CHRISTMAS"
                                " KALA CHRISTOUGENA"
                                 "VROLIJK  KERSTFEEST"
                   "FROHLICHE WEIHNACHTEN"
                              "BUON  NATALE-GODT NYTAR"
                              "HUAN YING SHENG TAN CHIEH" 
                           "WESOLYCH SWIAT-SRETAN BOZIC" 
                         "MOADIM LESIMHA-LINKSMU KALEDU" 
                        "HAUSKAA JOULUA-AID SAID MOUBARK" 
              """""""'N  PRETTIG  KERSTMIS""""""" 
                              "ONNZLLISTA UUTTA VUOTTA" 
                           "Z ROZHDESTYOM  KHRYSTOVYM" 
                          "NADOLIG LLAWEN-GOTT NYTTSAR" 
                         "FELIC NADAL-GOJAN KRISTNASKON" 
                        "S  NOVYM  GODOM-FELIZ ANO NUEVO" 
                        "GLEDILEG JOL-NOELINIZ KUTLU OLSUM" 
                    """""""SARBATORI FERICITE-BUON  ANNO""""""" 
                          "ZORIONEKO GABON-HRISTOS SE RODI" 
                      "BOLDOG KARACSONNY-VESELE  VIANOCE " 
                     "MERRY CHRISTMAS  AND  HAPPY NEW YEAR" 
                      ROOMSAID JOULU PUHI -KUNG HO SHENG TEN" 




         $f  dF   ,
                 .,,,...                            $L ;$  ,dP
             ,!!!!!!!',cd$$$$$e,                 q  4$f,$$,z$"
           ,!!!!!!!',c$$$$$$$$$$$$c              `$o`$$kuC3$$ .zf
         ,!!!!!!!',c$$$$$$P**""**?$c              R$beeF?$$$$$"
        ;!!!!!!! c$$$$$$",eed$$F"?t"               "$$$$bd$$$"
       ;!!!!!!!.d$$$$$F j"j$3$bf""?b?e,             '$$$$$$P"
      !!!!!!  $$$$$$P J,f ,d$$b?$bde`$c          .$k<?????>'$b
      !!!!!!!$$$$F".$$".u$$??P}"""^ ?$$c.       d$$$$$dd$$$$$>
       `!!!!!  ?L e$$ $$$$$P'zee^"$$$$boc"$$,     R$$$$$$$$$$$$
        '!!!   z$$$$$c,"$P'd$$F'zdbeereee$$$$$eu    "??$$$$PF"
Mn      !!   d$$$$$$$$ee z$P",d$$$$$$c?$$$$$$$$C  '!!!!!!>
MMM   ,cec, '^$$$$$$$$$c,",e$$C?$$$$$$bc?$$$$$$$k !!!!!!!!!!!!
MMM'.$$$$$$$, ?$$$$$$$$P$$$$$$$bc?T$$$$$$d$$$$$$$ . -.`!!!!!!!
nMM d$$$$$$$F  $$P???",e4$$$$$$$$bcc?$$$$$$$$$$$$ /~.!!!!!!!!!
n.  "$$$$$$$'   ,"??e,.-.?$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$F.C"m.`!!!!!!!'
M"!`"""""   !!!!!!i."?o. "? ?$$$??$$$"$$F"$P<$$$b/4.`4!!!
  4!!!!h     <!!!!!!!!!!  .CL.F'.zeElu.  ?eb o$$$$$$o(#c'`
   '`~!!~.ud !!````'!''``zd$$$$$`d$$$CuuJ" ! 4$$$$$$$$$$c"$c
." !~`z$$$"!!!~`..i! d$$$$$$$`$$$$FCCJ" !!! ?$$$$$$$$$b $L
$$"z$$$$$"!!! !!!!!'4$$$$$$$$`$$$$$" "" !!!!!`$$$$$$$$$$ "
?o$$$$$$F !!!!!!!!!!! 4$$$$$$$$;?$P" JL \.~!!!!i $$$$P?"l.u-
$$$$$$$$F!!!!!!!!!!!!'R$$$$$$$E.! $.$$c3$%`!!! .l==7Cuec^ <
$$$$$$$$ !!!!!!!!!!!!!i ?$$$$P"<!!! ?$`$$$$N.     Rk`$$$$$$r\
$$$$$$$$L`!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! .!!!''`   $$$$$$      $c"??"7u+? !
$$$$$$$$$ !!!!!!!!!!!'` !!''`         '""        .'?b"l.4d$ !!!
$$$$$$$$$b `!!!'''`.. '''`               ...!!!!!! $$$.?$b'!!!>
$$$$$$$$$$$beee@$$$$$$$$        ..!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 3$$b ?$c`!!!
$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$f .!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! d$$$$`$$b !!!
$$$$$$$$$$$"3$$$$$$$$$"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! $$$$$,$$$k !!!
$$$$$$$$$P,d$$$$$$$$F !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 3$$$$$ $$$i`!!! 3>
$$$$$$F$Fz$$$$$$$$$$ !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! d$$$$$h`$$$,!!! $&
$$$$$FJFx$$$$$$$$$$ !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!'4$$$$$$$ 9$$$.'.$$$L
$$$$$ F.$$$$$$$$F.r !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! $$$$$$$F  ?$$$e$$$$F
$$$$F .$$$$$$$$"d$$bu,,.```''!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!'''''`,d$$$$$$$F.! ?$$$$$$F
$$$$F d$$$$$$$$ $$$$$$$$$$$bc,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,ccd$$$$$$$$$$$$ !!f ?$$$$"
  "$$$e$$$$$$$$&'$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ !! $P"
    `"?$$$$$$$$$e`?$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ !!'
       `?$$$$$$$$$$e `""**???$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$P***""..!!'
          "?$$$$$$$$k`!!!!!!;;;;;;,,,...... ,,,,,;;!!!!!!!!!!
              ""???"" !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
                       !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!'   !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
                        !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.   `!!!!!!!!!'''!!!!'
                      i !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   .``''`.,uu,,.```.
                      !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!~`    d$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$>
                     c.`~~~~~!!!!!..        $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
                     $$$$$eeeeeeeuuuee$      $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$"
                     $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$       """"...........
                     ?$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$P"       '!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
                       .."""""""""".          !!!!!!!!!!!!!
                      !!!!!!!!!!!!!!          `!!!!!!!!!!!'
                     i!!!!!!!!!!!!!'          !!!!!!!!!!!'
                      !!!!!!!!!!!!!           !!!!!!!!!!!!.
                      !!!!!!!!!!'!!!           . `!!!!!!!!!!!!`...
                      `!!!!!!!! -'``           !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
                       !!!!!!!!!i!!!           `~~~~~```~~~~~~~~~~~~`

                          4e r               $$$$$$$. 
                          d$$br            _z$$$$$$$F` 
                           ?$$b._          ^?$$$$$$$ 
                            4$$$"     -eec.  ""JP" ..eee$%.. 
                            -**N #c   -^***.eE  ^z$P$$$$$$$$$r- 
                   .ze$$$$$eu?$eu '$$$$b $=^*$$ .$$$$$$$$$$" 
                --."?$$$$$$$$$c"$$c .""" e$K  =""*?$$$P"""" 
    ueee. ``  $E !!h ?$$$$$$$$b R$N'~!! *$$F J"""C.  ` 
   J  `"$$eu`!h !!!`4!!<?$$$$$$$P ?".eee-z.ee" ~$$e.br 
   'j$$Ne`?$$c`4!~`-e-!`$$$$$$$ $$**"z $^R$P  3 "$$$bJ 
    4$$$F".`?$$c`!! \).!!!`?$$$$F.$$$# $u$% ee*"^ 4`"$"?$q 
     ""`,!!!`$$N.4!!~~.~~4 ?$$F'$$F.@.* -L.e@$$$$ec.      " 
     "Rr`!!!!h ?$$c`h `# !! $F,r4$L***  e$$$$$$$$$$$$hc 
       #e'4!!!!L`$$b'!.!h`~~ .$F'"    d$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$h, 
        ^$.`!!!!h $$b`!. -    $P /'   .$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$c 
          "$c`!!!h`$$.4~      $$$r'   <$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$P""" 
            ^te.`~ $$b        `Fue-   `$$$$$$$$$$$$$$P".  !! "< 
               ^"=4$P"     .,,,. -^.   ?$$$$$$$$$$"?. !! !!~ ,,ec.. 
                     ..z$$$$$$$$$h,    `$$$$$$P"..`!f !f ~)Lze$$$P""""?i 
                   ud$$$$$$$$$$$$$$h    `?$$F <!!'<!>~)ue$$P*"..!!!!! J 
                 .K$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$,     P.>e'!f !~ ed$$P".!!!!!!!!`.d" 
                z$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$      4!!~\e$$$P`!!!!!!!!!!'.eP' 
               -*". . "??$$$$$$$$$$$$       ~ `z$$$F".`!!!!!!!!!!',dP" 
             ." )!!h i`!- ("?$$$$$$f        ,$$P"! ). `'!!!!`,d$F' 
        .ueeeu.J`-^.!h <-  ~`.. ??$$'       ,$$ !!`e$$$$e `,e$F' 
     e$$$$$$$$$$$$$eeiC ")?-<%'^?        ?$f !!! ?$$$$",F" 
    P"....```""?$$$$$$$$$euL^.!..` .         "Tu._.,``"" 
    $ !!!!!!!!!!.""??$$$$$$eJ~^=.            ```` 
       ^?$c`'!!!!!!!!!!!',eeb, "$$$k 
          "?$e.`'!!!!!!! $$$$$ ;.?$$ 
             "?$ee,``''!."?$P`i!! 3P 




            *             ,
                       <     >
      *                 /.-.\         *
               *        `/&\`                   *
                      /_o.I %_\    *
         *           (`'--o(_@;
                    /`;--.,__ `')             *
                   ;@`o % O,*`'`&\
             *    (`'--)_@ ;o %'()\      *
                 /&*,()~o`;-.,_ `""`)
      *          /`,@ ;+& () o*`;-';\
                (`""--.,_0 +% @' &()\
                /-.,_    ``''--....-'`)  *
           *    /@%;o`;'--,.__   __.'\
         ;*,&(); @ % &^^;~`"`o;@();         *
           /(); o^^~; & ().o@*&`;&%O\
       jgs   `"="==""==,,,.,="=="==="`
                  '`         \)_`"""""`
                            .--' ')
                         o(  )_-\


Continue reading

Businessman, education activist Don Nielsen's call for ed overhaul drawing national attention

As the 2015 Legislature looks down the double barrels of a pair of multi-million dollar education-funding challenges, one ordered by the court and the other by the voters, a new book by former Seattle school board president Don Nielsen calling for a major overhaul of the basic structure of education is attracting increasing attention.

Don Nielsen 

Nielsen, a successful businessman who turned his attention to education and began a 20-year role as education activist, including two years traveling the country in search of good ideas and a decade on the Seattle school board, says funding isn't the issue. "It is the system and the people who populate it that need to change."

But the Washington State Supreme Court, in a January 2011 ruling that ordered the legislature to fully fund basic education and last fall held the lawmakers in contempt for failing to comply with that order, says funding IS the answer. Then voters, by a bare majority, in November approved Initiative 1351 to limit class sizes. That brought an additional multi-million-dollar reality to legislative deliberations.

And as the issues relating to education funding come under increasing scrutiny, there is increasing visibility for Nielsen, who seems to be at the epicenter of discussion about the future of basic education in this state, and elsewhere. His book, Every School: One Citizen's Guide to Transforming Education, has become a national focal point in discussions about the future of public education.

The book has led to speeches before a long list of Rotary clubs and other organizations, beginning late last year before the Seattle Rotary Club. Another five rotary talks are scheduled for next month, and radio interviews are occurring on talk shows across the country.  

"Most of what we're hearing is that we need more money and lower class sizes, but we have tried that and it hasn't worked," said Nielsen. "We now spend three times as much per child in inflation-adjusted dollars as we did in 1970 and we also have four times as many adults in our schools with only eight percent more children."  

While Nielsen confides he has little hope that his ideas will ever pass muster before a legislature in this state because of the power of the forces opposed to dramatic change in the public education system, a legislature closely divided politically may decide that a dramatic education-funding change should be accompanied by other dramatic changes.

It's logical that Nielsen would take a businesslike view of analyzing what changes are needed for basic education to work since dramatic success as an entrepreneur over nearly a quarter century preceded his personal commitment to learn about education's needs, and then seek to bring those about.

His business success involved co-founding in 1969 a start-up biological and chemical testing company that he helped grow into the world's largest company in its industry by the time he had taken it public. He then helped guide its acquisition in 1987 by Corning, which kept him on as CEO of the firm, Hazelton Corp., and over the following five years he doubled the company's annual revenue to $165 million.

Newspaper editorialists, policymakers and lawmakers from both parties have begun to suggest that if more money must be spent on education, then perhaps dramatic change in the system itself should be considered.

And the fact that Nielsen is reaching audiences on talk shows in cities across the country suggests that what he describes as an "obsolete" system is facing serious scrutiny in states other than just Washington.

"Basically, my premise is that the system is obsolete and needs radical change," he told me in one of several phone conversations  in recent days. "However, like a failing business, you don't embark on radical change with the people who created the problem in the first place.  So, to fix our schools, we must first fix the people and we must do so at all levels; teaching, leadership and governance."

As a frank and to-the-point kind of a guy who has brought an entrepreneur's focus, innovation and zeal to his pursuit of improving education, Nielsen has stirred critics who were protective of the status quo while attracting respect and support from those who shared his view that the structure of education needed to change.

Interestingly, the latest Elway Poll shows that for the first time in seven years, economic issues are not at the top of the public's wish list for legislative action. Rather it is education.

Stuart Elway, president of Elway Research, says his poll shows that 65 percent of those polled think the Legislature should do as much as possible without cutting other programs or raising taxes, 51 percent think education funding is the first priority and 48 percent says it will be necessary to raise taxes to meet education's funding needs.

Nielsen, a 1960 graduate of the University of Washington, where he was student body president in his senior year, seeks to have education reform seen as an issue that transcends politics.

"Fixing our schools, so they effectively educate every child should not be a partisan issue," he told me.  "I am hopeful that the Republican Party will soon recognize that and take on education as their primary issue.   The Democrats have claimed schools as their issue for the last three decades and our schools have not improved. Time for a change."

The changes that Nielsen espouses boil down to three key steps.

"First, we have to improve the quality of teachers," suggested Nielsen, who says a key first step is eliminating certification laws, which he refers to as "the culprit" because they give "education schools a monopoly over the supply of human capital that can work in our schools."

"Next we must improve leadership," he said. "A quality principal will give you a quality school but certification laws again hinder our ability to hire top leaders for our schools."

We also must address governance, not just leadership. We need high quality, competent people governing our schools.   In urban systems, I would recommend going to appointed school boards or even eliminating them altogether and have the superintendent become part of the mayor's cabinet.  

Nielsen decided, after his decade of schools leadership at the local level, that the necessary changes couldn't be achieved locally. And he suggests the fact No Child Left Behind Act has produced disappointing results, and may be dramatically altered in this Congress, suggests Washington, D.C., isn't the place to drive necessary changes.

"To improve America's schools, we need to do so at the Statehouse," said Nielsen.

Continue reading

State's Business & Occupation tax could get a look from Legislature as new-revenue source

The fact that it will take a two-thirds vote to get any new-tax measure through the state Senate this year could prompt lawmakers to take their first serious look in years at potential new dollars from the business and occupation (B&O) tax, the state's primary source of revenue from business.  

And if that happens, not only might some lawmakers be surprised at the disparity scattered among the nearly 30 categories of the B&O Tax -- Washington's unusual tax on gross receipts -- but it would also emphasize how out of sync the imposition of that tax is with the current-session's legislative mantra of "fairness."

After all, we have House Democratic Leader Ross Hunter, D-Medina, on the record with "when we are done, our tax system should move toward fairness." So lawmakers could decide there's some logical opportunity for new revenue from some of these categories while getting credit for looking to create fairness

Seeking revenue-producing changes in the B&O could be an attraction because

apparently the GOP Senate rule on two-thirds for any new tax allowed continuation of a simple majority for tinkering with existing taxes. 


This column's focus on the B&O tax is a topic that came to mind for me as a consultant who, with attorneys and accountants, pays a B&O tax under the "services" category, of .015 percent, basically $15,000 on $1 million of gross revenue, while our clients pay a tax of maybe $2,500, as the manufacturers' .00275 percent rate would impose. As publisher of Puget Sound Business Journal, I paid $3,500 for each $1 million of revenue.

An honest look at a tax structure where an attorney, accountant or consultant could pay a rate two or three times as high as a client they are advising might well provide additional tax revenue as part of creating tax fairness for all businesses.

But across the state tax spectrum, the fairness issue should also be weighed against the reality of why some tax breaks legitimately came about. Thus lawmakers need to evaluate, and perhaps restore at least some of the 20-year-old high-tech B&O tax credit, a tax break for five categories of tech business that expired as of January 1 this year.

It would be a mistake for the lawmakers to succumb to the temptation to merely pocket the nearly $50 million in revenue that the tax break cost the state, rather than seek to evaluate the changing value of the tax break to some of the five tech sectors to which it applied.

The challenge for legislators in evaluating either the B&O tax disparity or the tax break for high tech is in being able to understand the difference between tax breaks important to the economy and tax breaks that are merely the result of good lobbying.

And the manner in which the tax credit came about for high-tech research and development for advanced computing, advanced materials, biotechnology, electronic device technology, and environmental technology is an example of what was once viewed as an important-to-the-economy tax break.

The tax breaks for high-tech companies, both B&O and sales tax credits, were created by a Democratic legislature responding to the goal of creating jobs that came from a Democratic governor, Mike Lowry.


 "We were coming out of what was, at that time, the state's worst recession and we needed to attract industries that would produce good-paying jobs," Lowry recalled of the proposal he came up with and pressed through the 1994 Legislature as a way to lure new business to Washington.


And for Democratic lawmakers who have since sometimes come to refer to such tax breaks as "tax loopholes," Lowry still responds with his view that they are "incentives" that have permitted high-tech companies to avoid paying state sales tax on new facilities, including equipment.


"We were absolutely correct to come up with policies to lure companies to the state that would create high-paying jobs that were basically the jobs of the future," Lowry said.


And among those "jobs of the future" that still deserve nurturing is the biotech category, an industry that by all rights should be a third-leg of this state's economic stalwarts but that has lagged for several reasons. Removing the tax incentives on new facilities and equipment would be one more reason.


So back to the B&O tax, which actually came into existence in 1933 after the state Supreme Court threw out the income tax that lawmakers had passed in an effort to find new sources of revenue for a financially struggling state. The '33 Legislature adopted the gross receipts tax as a temporary, stop-gap move to balance the state budget.  

But the temporary, as in most legislative "temporary" moves, became permanent, though the rationale for creating B&O special treatment for one industry over another is lost in the antiquity of legislative deal making. But once that bridge was crossed, crafted from some handshake deal between one or more lawmakers and a lobbyist or two, the following special deals were somewhat like kisses: once the first one is bestowed in a relationship, the rest come much more easily.

Now, in a sense, some lawmakers are toying with what would likely be considered a form of tax on income with Democrats expressing an interest in taxing capital gains, saying it would make the state's tax system less regressive, and more fair (that word again).

Sen. Andy Hill, the Republican who chairs the Senate Ways and Means Committee as is thus the upper chamber's chief budget writer, has put down the capital gains idea, branding the phrase "regressive tax code" as a code-word for getting an income tax.


Voters have consistently rejected the idea of a state income tax, but it doesn't take too clever a legislative mind to realize that, even though any tax increase would almost certainly be sent to the voters, there might be a significantly different view of state residents about taxing capital gains than for taxing their own income.


And savvy lawmakers have a sense that a far more liberal State Supreme Court faced today with the question of whether a state income tax was unconstitutional or not, might well have a different answer than the one 82 years ago.

Continue reading

Six-continent survey of board members says women help boards make better decisions

A study involving more than 100 male and female directors on boards around the globe, aimed at determining the relationship between board effectiveness and the contribution of women directors, has concluded that boards make better decisions when a healthy number of women sit at the table.

Cate Goethals, a University of Washington academic leader who conceived and co-authored the Better Boards Project, says there's a growing sense that the financial crisis of 2008 was in part the result of a sort of "group think" of public-company boards, which are inevitably composed mostly of men.

Goethals, who has created three programs at University of Washington's Foster School of Business to connect women leaders and global business, says that this emerging line of thinking has led to a growing focus on the composition of public-company boards, including legislative involvement in board makeup in some countries.

Goethals, who co-authored the Better Boards Project with Susan Bloch, a management consultant and author of books on management, noted as an example that Europe has seen requirements for quotas of female board members, including France where 40 percent of the directors of boards of certain types of public companies must be female.

"Even in countries like the United Kingdom, the U.S. and Canada where there are no legal requirements, more women are being appointed to boards than ever before," said Goethals.

The study sought to answer a series of questions, including do women contribute differently in the board room, how do they contribute to board effectiveness and why are the numbers of women on boards so low.  

Supporters of greater representation for women on boards of public companies do see improvement and cite several reasons for that.  

For instance, a number of interviewees noted that the presence of female directors has come to be increasingly viewed as a marker of a progressive, forward-looking board. What company wouldn't want that image?

And the report noted that generational shifts and the call for different types of experience are also changing the landscape. An example was the need for a more youthful perspective and savvy with social media and new technology becoming a particularly acute need.

What clearly was a knock on the prevalence of all-male boards was the basic agreement among interviewees that "women provide a much-needed safeguard against group think and rubber-stamping of policy, which continue to hinder board effectiveness."

But noting that women are still joining boards at a slow pace, the report suggested the way boards look at themselves is a key factor in that, including the practice of identifying potential new board members on the basis of "who do we know." Men generally know other male prospects.

Neil McReynolds, who has been in board leadership roles and consulted with CEOs and boards and also been involved in helping boards recruit new board members, says he thinks "a combination of factors" will be necessary to make a difference to bring more diversity to boards.

McReynolds says that he frankly finds it surprising the increase in the number of women on corporate boards has come as slowly as it has, "especially for those companies in consumer products and services where women make a large percentage of purchasing decisions.

"It's going to take investor pressure, outspoken CEO's, active support by executives and board members, and improving the pipeline by making it easy to identify qualified women directors," McReynolds said.

When asked about the ways their boards are seeking to improve, most directors said their boards were doing very little and cited "ineffectual board assessment practices and, to our surprise, an almost complete absence of reviews of the performance of individual directors," the report said.

In an area like Seattle where women business leaders and entrepreneurs have been a prominent part of the business community leadership and non-profit board landscape for years, men, and even some emerging women leaders, might find it difficult to accept that women have faced an uphill battle in getting board slots at public companies.

After all, we have Phyllis Campbell, regional head of JPMorgan Chase and former Washington president of U.S. Bank, currently a member of the board of Alaska Airlines who has served on three other major boards. And Judith Runstad and Deanna Oppenheimer come quickly to mind.  

Runstad is former co-managing partner of Seattle law firm Foster Pepper, a member of several public company boards and prominent in business locally since before Rotary permitted women members. And Oppenheimer, who left Seattle to become head of Barclay's operations in England and now back in Seattle. is a member of several boards nationally.

But Cate says it would be an indication of complacency for those in this area, particularly men, to assume we are somehow ahead of the game in terms of board opportunities for women.

"Washington state is pretty good, with about 20 percent of public company board positions being filled by women," she said. "but the technology industry is almost the reverse, with most boards composed entirely of men. Most are boys clubs, because venture capital firms like dealing with men."

And business prominence apparently doesn't necessarily convert to the kind of business networking that leads to being sought out for public-company board roles when mostly male boards sit around and ponder who should join them.

One who is seeking to change the networking challenge is Janis Machala, an entrepreneur, involved early in the formation of the Seattle's women's angel group called the Seraphs, and in recent years in academic efforts relating to entrepreneurism.

She is setting up a women's CEO roundtable in the Seattle area to boost networking opportunities for female top executives. Presumably, one of the goal is to help each other become more generally visible in the business community.

As Machala puts it, "they need to learn to be the external face for the company."

Susan Preston, a Seattle attorney who actually launched the Seraphs as the first female angel group in the country back in 1999 and has been a entrepreneur in residence for the entrepreneur focused Kauffman Foundation, is in the process of creating an angel fund, which would provide women investors networking opportunity with angel peers.

Machala and others have been circulating the Better Boards report, hoping it will start what she calls "more conscious decisions about board composition" adding, "what's needed is advocacy or women and other diverse populations and not just referrals or board member talks about this."

Continue reading

Joe Galloway interviews in Seattle with Vietnam Veterans will help focus on Commemoration

Programs of support for veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq are conscience-manifestations of thanks from a nation. Now there's a growing movement to touch that same national conscience 50 years late to extend a thank you to veterans of the Vietnam War who received a markedly different reception when they returned home. 

The Vietnam War Commemoration, aimed at spurring events and activities in states, cities and towns around the country to recognize Vietnam Veterans and their families for service and sacrifice, has already had one high-visibility event in this state.  

old galloway
Joe Galloway 

But additional local visibility will likely lie ahead as a week-long series of interviews with veterans of the Vietnam War, conducted by Joe Galloway, the Vietnam correspondent whose book and the movie it spawned made him likely the best-known war correspondent of recent times, will take place in April in Seattle. Ideally, other Vietnam Veterans events will emerge to attract additional focus to Galloway's visit and the 50thCommemoration.

The high-visibility event already held was a Commemoration tribute on October 9 that attracted more than 2,500 Vietnam veterans from around the Northwest onto the parade field at JBLM for a salute ceremony, massing of the colors and Keynote speech by retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey.The event, conceived by Lt. Gen. Stephen R. Lanza, I-Corps commanding general, was only the second Vietnam War Commemoration event at one of the nation's military bases.

Lanza, saying that as he noticed that Vietnam Era veterans were among those enthusiastically welcoming soldiers home from deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan, said he realized of the Vietnam veterans: "they had never had that" welcome-home reception so he helped create a thank you opportunity.

I'm sure I wasn't alone in having no knowledge of this Vietnam War Commemoration, mandated by Congress in 2008 and launched by presidential order in 2012, until the JBLM event, and even then only as curiosity as I went to the Internet to try to find when the 50th anniversary of Vietnam would be.

Then came an email exchange in November with Galloway, a one-time colleague at United Press International, the wire service for which he covered the Vietnam War. I've written a couple of Flynn's Harp columns on him and he's now among those who receive this column and we exchange emails occasionally.


Galloway Advised me that he has a role in the Vietnam War 50thAnniversary Commemorative project, serving as a special consultant to the project run out of the office of the Secretary of Defense, doing oral-history interviews with Vietnam veterans.

In connection with the 50th Anniversary Commemorative, Galloway has been doing three-a-day, two-hour interviews with Vietnam veterans from across the services spectrum, noting he has "65 two-hour interviews in the can now, beginning with Colin Powell and working outward."

"So you should come to Seattle and do interviews," I told Galloway, a Texas boy who as a correspondent was decorated for heroism on the battlefield and praised by the late Gen. Norman Schwartzkopf as "the soldiers' reporter" because of his caring and regard for those whose battles he covered.  

So I wrote two columns in November, the first related to the interviews he's doing around the country and the second about the Battle of Ia Drang, made famous by his book "We Were Soldiers Once...and Young," and the movie produced from it, "We Were Soldiers."  

I got the word a week or so ago that Galloway will be here for a week of interviews April 12-18 and he may have with him retired Army Lt. Gen. Claude M. "Mick" Kicklighter, who is charged with overseeing all aspects of the Vietnam War 50th Anniversary Commemoration, and sometimes travels to a location with Galloway.

While Galloway covered both Iraq and Afghanistan, it was his coverage of Vietnam which draws his continued and weighs most heavily on his shoulders and in his thoughts.

Galloway's interviews in Seattle may include Bruce Crandall, the helicopter pilot whose heroism in repeated flights into the death zone of the Ia Drang battlefield to bring supplies and evacuate the wounded that brought him the Medal of Honor, as well as prominent visibility in the movie made from Galloway's book. Crandall has retired to Kitsap County.

"We don't have a big budget and so we'd need a university or something like that to provide space and assistance to do the interviews," Galloway told me.

I quickly touched base with Pam Pearson, the vice president and general manager of KCPQ-13 for help and she readily agreed to provide whatever studio space and technical assistance he needed through the week.

"First time we've ever had a television station as our facility," Galloway enthused.  

In addition, Gloria Fletcher, president of Sound Publishing, which owns and publishes daily and weekly newspapers across the state - many in areas of heavy military concentration - has agreed to help promote Galloway's visit as well as events that may be related to it, and thus provide visibility for companies that may wish to participate in some manner.

This coming Memorial Day is the opener of what Kicklighter has described as the "most active phase" of the 50th Commemoration, which will run to Veterans Day 2017. and finally conclude on Veterans Day 2025.

The goal now, and one that may be contributed to with the Seattle visit, is development of Commemorative Partners, a program designed for federal, state and local communities, veterans' organizations and other nongovernmental organizations to assist in thanking and honoring Vietnam Veterans and their families.  

Commemorative Partners are encouraged to participate in the Commemoration of the Vietnam War by planning and conducting at least two events or activities during that will recognize the Vietnam Veterans and their families' service, valor, and sacrifice.  

Commemorative Partners must commit to conduct at least two events each year during the commemorative period of 2015 - 2017 that will recognize, thank and honor our Vietnam Veterans and their families.

Continue reading

Exploring issues of WSU medical school should proceed despite McDermott urging quick end

Washington State's senior congressman has stirred reactions of surprise, disappointment and a bit of irritation for inserting himself, with an op-ed piece in the Seattle Times, into the discussion over a possible new medical school at Washington State University by urging the Legislature to reject the idea.

The University of Washington sits squarely in Rep. Jim McDermott's 7th Congressional District and he has always done an excellent job over his 24 years in Congress of putting the needs of his constituents first. So it's not surprising he would step up to help that important constituent when asked.

But it's unfortunate that McDermott would visibly support UW and his friends there by taking sides on the issue of whether a new WSU medical school should be created, likely to serve large parts of the state whose interests are not McDermott's concern.

There were some in the legislature, including from his own party, who were surprised, and a little miffed, that he would advise them in a high-profile manner on how they should decide an issue that is strictly up to the legislature.  

One staunch UW supporter in the Seattle business community told me "it was inappropriate for McDermott or any member of the state's congressional delegation to turn this into a political issue when it's a state and local issue." He added: "We have an incredible medical school at UW and it will continue to be the mothership, so to speak, whatever develops. A WSU med school won't endanger that and it might make a regional healthcare program stronger."

Really the only question before the 2015 Legislature is whether the lawmakers will set aside a nearly century old law that prevents any state university other than UW from providing a medical education. There is a bill asking the lawmakers to provide some initial funding for WSU's effort, but the major issue to decide is whether or not they clear away the legal impediment that dates to 1917.

In an era when it's become increasingly clear that competition drives innovation and new ways of doing business, it would be difficult to imagine a reason, other than successful lobbying, why the legislature would decline to remove that arcane constraint. That way the discussion about whether or not there should be a second medical school in the state can continue on.

Would competition be damaging to the University of Washington? It's not likely that its status as the 12th best medical school in the nation in U.S. News & World Report's 2013 rankings would be jeopardized with a new WSU medical school in Spokane.

And its ranking as number 8 medical school in the country for receiving grants from the National Institutes of Health at $302 million last year would not likely be seriously impacted. WSU would be going after different grants.

Might UW need to be more attuned to the needs of rural parts of the state for medical care and more doctors? Perhaps, even maybe deciding to turn out more than the 120 graduates a year that has been the limit for a decade.

And as a side note on the issue of competition being potentially damaging, it's worth noting that Stanford University Medical School ranks 4th on that U.S. News list while University of California Medical School in San Francisco a few miles up the freeway is 5th. Now obviously they don't compete for state dollars, since Stanford is private, but they compete strongly for federal dollars and grants.

WSU has been attuned from the outset to seeking to explain how it might address the need throughout Eastern and Central Washington communities for more physicians and has looked for models for community based medical education, and thinks it has found a model in Michigan.

Interestingly, although Michigan's population is nearly 10 million compared to Washington's nearly 7 million, it has five medical schools and enrolled a total of 2,941 medical students to 592 students at UW School of Medicine. That's a difference of 29 students per 100,000 to Nine per 100,000.

And again with respect to the point of competition, it's worth noting that the University of Michigan Medical School was one ahead of UW in the U.S. News ranking, despite, or perhaps because of, its in-state competition.  

And it's competition that stirred the Michigan State University medical school to focus on community-based medical education and become a national leader in that focus. And competitive innovation led MSU to offer degrees in both conventional medicine and osteopathic medicine, making it one of only two medical schools in the nation with that distinction.

McDermott spent much of his op-ed legitimately extolling the virtues of the highly regarded program in which, in the early 1970s, the University of Washington took the bold challenge to train and prepare physicians to care for patients and communities throughout the states of Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho (Wyoming joined in 1996). This regional medical education program known as WWAMI (an acronym representing the states it serves) has been the most innovative of what were a number of similar regional medical education and training programs in the country. It's now the last because the centralized model is not what the future holds.

And there have been discussions in Idaho, now shelved for the time being, and currently in Alaska about creating medical schools in those two WWAMI-partner states.  

And as one proponent of the WSU proposal put it to me, "More of WWAMI, even if it were to continue, would give us more of what we've gotten: concentration of health care resources and talent. How does that help our current problem of access and quality of care away from the population hubs?"

An issue that should attract more attention than it has in this discussion is that virtually all of the emerging biotech startups at UW have come out of the medical school, meaning the medical school is a key to what some hope will be a renaissance of the state's biotech industry.  

It's logical to assume the same would be true of WSU, which already has one of the best regarded of the nation's 26 veterinary schools, which is producing some biotech commercialization and would likely seek some innovative medical school partnerships toward commercialization.

Ultimately the challenge the legislature faces is the looming serious healthcare-workforce shortfall, since it's estimated that Washington will need an additional 1,695 primary care physicians in 15 years.

Currently less than 15 percent of this state's applicants to the UW School of Medicine were admitted in 2012-13 to fill the 120 seats allotted for residents of Washington, which ranked 42nd of the 45 states with medical schools in allowing eligible in-state applicants to attend those in-state programs.

And beginning to address that challenge is the forefront issue before the lawmakers. Thus the underlying factor in any decision regarding a WSU medical school is would it help or hinder dealing with the looming physician availability crisis.

Continue reading

Abe Bergman has mixed pediatrics, 'political medicine,' to benefit kids for half a century

Abraham (Abe) Bergman, M.D., a respected pediatrician and pediatrics professor in Seattle for more than 50 years, had a second practice over all those years that he refers to as "political medicine," which frequently found him twisting arms of state and national lawmakers for kids-related issues. Now he has a new cause that is painfully close to him: to build new community facilities to house the mentally ill.

Bergman, who retired as chief of pediatrics at Seattle's Harborview Medical Center in 2002, is seeking to have the 2015 Legislature clear the way to include construction of facilities for mentally ill housing in the capital construction budget the lawmakers pass each biennium.

Dr. Abraham (Abe) Bergman 

Bergman, who practiced pediatrics at Children's Hospital for 20 years and Harborview for 30 in addition to teaching at the UW Medical School, thinks the time is right for his proposal for several reasons.

An obvious one is a State Supreme Court ruling last year making the practice of warehousing mentally ill patients in hospital emergency rooms due to a lack of available treatment space illegal.

That ruling dramatically complicated the processes in place in the state mental health system and forces the Legislature to confront the question of how to deal with the longstanding dilemma of the impact budget cuts have had on the availability of mental-health treatment space.

But a decision immediately after the ruling by the Medicare and Medicaid Services to allow Washington State to use Medicaid dollars to pay for services in what are officially called Institutes for Mental Diseases may be another boost to Bergman's campaign. That decision would allow qualified non-profits to provide services in the facilities that he would like to see built with state capital construction bonds.

He candidly admits his interest "has been piqued" by having a 19 year old, one of three children from the Russian Far East that he and his wife adopted in the late '90s and early 2000s, "who has been at the intersection of the criminal justice and mental health systems for the past two years."

"The problem is visible everywhere in society," Bergman said. "People who are psychotic are walking around on the streets. Jails are full of people with mental illness and there is no place, no supportive housing, where these people who are a danger to themselves and others can go."


Bergman points as a possible model to a long-standing program in Maryland that provides for capital grants to non-profits or county or municipal corporations for from $100,000 to $2 million per project to construct buildings to provide services to individuals with development disabilities, mental illness or addiction.

"I feel there's a glimmer of hope now for the Legislature to consider this because, after talking with several legislators, it seems possible partisan swords will be sheathed, partly because there are certain issues, like child welfare, that have always been exempt from partisanship and this may well be one," Bergman said.

"The neat thing about my proposal is that most construction costs can be covered by the sale of bonds (in the capital budget) and funds to operate the programs can come mostly from Medicaid," he added. "So it's not a budget breaker."

Bergman notes that his plan, now being considered by the House budget committee, doesn't necessarily need passage of a bill to implement, but rather could merely be inserted directly into the capital budget itself.

I've been watching Bergman, now 82, practice his "political medicine" for more than 40 years, since we first connected in 1973 after the death of our infant, Sarah, who was a victim of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Bergman and another young physician, Bruce Beckwith, were, for nearly a decade, the first contacts for Seattle-area parents whose infants had died unexpectedly and unexplainedly from what was long referred to as "crib death."

It was on behalf of those lost infants and their grieving parents that Bergman had already successfully guided a national campaign that led to research efforts to explain the sudden deaths and changed thoughtless and heartless medical and law enforcement practices. And their national efforts gave what had merely been "crib death" an actual medical name.

It was about the same time, in the mid-'60s, that Bergman also provided a key assist to Washington's Sen. Warren Magnuson in getting Congress to amend the Flammable Fabrics Act to expand its coverage to include foam and other materials used in children's clothing.

But Bergman's activities on behalf of kids extend way beyond mere political activism. He has been engaged for more than a decade leading efforts to improve healthcare for foster children, a campaign that he says is beginning to bring results.

He's been an outspoken advocate of adoptions by retirees, particularly of special-needs children. He became an advocate of retiree adoptions after he and his wife adopted their three youngsters from the Russian Far East.

And another successful campaign of Bergman's on behalf of children with special needs was creation of the Seattle Children's PlayGarden, which he proudly points to as "the only facility of its kind in the country located in a public park."

Bergman was the founding board chair and a key advocate for the PlayGarden when it became a 501c3 in 2003 and the Seattle Parks Department offered the south end of Coleman Playfield as the site for a public-private development. He calls it "the most gratifying project I have ever been involved with."

The annual luncheon on behalf of the PlayGarden, which is described as "improving the lives of chldren with physical or mental disabilities by providing them with full access to a safe indoor/outdoor recreation space and offering programs that improve their potential," is March 27 at the Four Seasons at 12p. 

Bergman once described the rewards of his half century as a pediatrician as satisfying "the passions of my bleeding heart by practicing 'political medicine' on behalf of underserved kids." It's a passion that hasn't abated in his retirement years.  

Continue reading



Mostly Cloudy

Humidity: 63%

Wind: 14 mph

  • 24 Mar 2016 52°F 42°F
  • 25 Mar 2016 54°F 40°F
Banner 468 x 60 px