Daybreak 2

Citizen Editorial

Submit your viewpoints on local happenings and current events.

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Citizen Editorials are not corrected for spelling or grammar errors. Citizen Editorial submissions become property of Olympic Broadcast & Media. Once posted, submissions shall remain on for a length of time determined solely by the Staff and Management of Olympic Broadcast & Media. KMAS reserves the right to post or not post any editorials submitted. The views expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the position of the staff, management or owners of KMAS News Radio.

Citizen Editorial: Let's Not Work Against Ourselves

Not too long ago, roughly about the time the announcement that the Simpson Mill was going to shut down, an new turn signal was installed at the intersection of Railroad Avenue and 1st Street. I don't believe this action was very well thought out. Yes, in the past, turning left at this intersection was difficult, if not practically impossible. Now we have left turn signals on Railroad Avenue for traffic westbound to turn southbound onto First. We also have a turn signal for traffic eastbound on Railroad to turn northbound onto First. Now, those of us coming into town from the south wanting to turn left (westbound) onto Railroad can sit in the marked left turn lane on First for several cycles of the traffic light at that intersection because there is no left turn light allowing traffic on First to turn onto Railroad. The traffic on northbound First, cannot easily turn toward the Post Office or downtown businesses. Now, business owners downtown have been trying to survive and revitalize the downtown business core for years.

Granted, those of us who live south of the Highway 101 and Highway 3 interchange have the option of bypassing South First all together by driving up 101 to the Shelton/Matlock interchange. Those of us that live on the south side of Shelton can head south to the Highway 101/Highway 3 interchange as well. But, as long as they've driven that far south, it is much easier to keep going south on 101 to Olympia!

Hmm, see an ugly picture developing? What's happening to the traditional "downtown"?  The only things downtown has that you cannot find on Mountain View  are the Post Office, a movie theater, Funeral Homes, a furniture store, City Hall, the Police Department, the Fire Department, County Offices, and a Liquor Store.

The streets are in bad shape, the infrastructure is crumbling, the mills are shut down and there are a frightening number of commercial properties sitting vacant.  Instead of working together and constantly making steps, small and large, to improve or community, we spent seriously needed money on "studies" to identify problems we are too blind to see and too busy to contemplate.

To our local business men and women I say "Good Luck"! Will the last of you moving out of the downtown area please turn off the lights? I guess I shall have to resign myself to living in a bedroom community for Olympia and prepare to write the final chapter of the history of Shelton.

My ancestors are weeping in their graves.

Richard Barnes, Shelton
November 23, 2015

Citizen Editorial: Another Failure To Communicate

Communication:  1) to give or exchange information;  2) to have a meaningful relationship;  3) to be connected.

Yesterday (Monday, 11/9/15) a Budget Briefing by the Sheriff's Office was scheduled.  The format was defined by the County Budget Manger Frank Pinter as the County Commissioners had defined in July.  The format was to be a simple one page excel spread sheet showing the past 2 years of expenses for salaries and operational costs, with narratives explaining the programs or reasons for decline or increases in spending.  This information and format was meant to simplify the budget process, and allow the information to be built upon in future years.  The final requirement was to submit the information to the commission prior to the scheduled briefing so that there was time to review the numbers and the narrative explaining them.  All departments except the Sheriff’s Office followed the instructions.

The Sheriff, with a budget that consumes over 40% of the county's current expense budget, came prepared with a full blown budget presentation. The amount of information the sheriff felt he had to explain far exceeded the allowable space on the excel spreadsheet, and was not released as requested, to the commission prior to their scheduled briefing.  The sheriff with regard to the size of his budget invited citizens to attend the briefing so they too would be aware of the budget request, the planned spending, and the cost drivers. 

The briefing was not to happen, Commission Chair Randy Neatherlin asked the other commissioners if they wanted to proceed with the sheriff's budget review when even though the commission had not received the budget information from the sheriff's office prior to the scheduled presentation. The vote was unanimous to cancel the briefing.

The briefing did not happen but the "show" did go on, as there were approximately 25 in attendance (5-8 Citizens, sheriff deputies, the prosecutor's office, and Commissioner Neatherlin).  The 2 hour presentation highlighted the sheriff office's mission, vision, goals and objectives of the various programs within the divisions of the sheriff's office.  Highlighting the increased expenditures and the why.  However, as directed, it was not in the format requested.

Obviously a failure to communicate, or maybe a failure to want to communicate, on both sides is the issue.  This inability to 1) to give or exchange information;  2) to have a meaningful relationship; and  3) to be connected, costs the tax payers and the county officials time and money. 

Jerry Eckenrode, Hoodsport, WA
November 10, 2015

Citizen Editorial: On Behalf of a Grateful Nation

I recently heard a story about Army veteran Justin Norton who had checked himself into Puget Sound VA hospital for suicidal thoughts and PTSD, amongst other things.

He dealt with terrible waiting times, lackluster care, and was sent on his way. Two days later, he took his own life.

The VA paid to bury him in a veteran cemetery and his widow even got a letter signed by President Obama thanking him for his service “on behalf of a grateful nation.” Days later, his widow received a letter from the VA telling Mr. Norton that he was denied coverage. The ultimate slap in the face of a grieving widow, and an epic failure of a system that is too big, slothful, and bureaucratic to get anything right.

A grateful nation? Those words rang in my ears for quite some time. As I sat and thought about what gratitude means, it led me to think of what I thought a grateful nation looks like.

A grateful nation does not leave it’s heroes behind without care, it does not leave them to wait in line, and it certainly does not just check the boxes and file the papers to simply get rid of a veteran. A grateful nation does anything it can to make sure that the people who put their lives on the line for their country receive the highest quality care and in a timely manner. When I was in the military we said never leave a man behind. That’s how this government should treat its veterans, by never leaving them behind.

It would seem that the need to make everything look good on paper has outweighed actually caring for our veterans. Today there are hundreds of thousands of veterans waiting in line, some of them will die waiting for care, some will be denied care based on bad diagnoses or to secretly serve the backlog.

Sure, some veterans are pleased with the VA, and some of those who get care get fantastic care. But in this case the bad simply far outweighs the good. When the VA scandal broke, in classic government style, no one was fired. In fact, some were promoted and given raises while some congressmen, like Rep. Derek Kilmer, decided to side with VA workers unions over veterans. When it came time for simple VA fixes, partisanship leaked into the debate and any hopes for VA fixes were killed. Now those on that side of the debate say that in fact the VA is doing great and there was never a problem.

It saddens me to know that while veterans who served multiple combat tours in the last 15 years of war get the cold shoulder and a blind eye from Congress and the Obama administration. Meanwhile, instead of doing something, they decide to ignore the issue and pretend everything is fine. Because to these people, politics reigns supreme and veterans are second-class citizens.

We need to provide a better, more efficient system where veterans receive the highest quality care in the nation. It's the respect that they earned, and that they deserve. Many vets have to travel far distances for care, spend hours on the phone with robo-receptionists, and file ridiculous amounts of paperwork just to enter the front door.

Reform means admitting that the government doesn’t do anything very well and also denying the socialist style model by moving away from the single payer-like system that is the VA.

It has been failing veterans for a long time. Moving towards a voucher system where veterans can see the doctors of their choice, in the town or city that they actually live, and in a timely manner would be a great start. This would not only boost the private economy but would serve veterans far better.

The best way we can honor veterans this Veterans Day is to hold politicians like Derek Kilmer accountable. He has failed veterans, a constituency that makes up a large amount of his district, to please his masters in congressional leadership and to keep the campaign funds rolling in.

It's shameful that people like Rep. Kilmer wouldn't even vote for minor VA fixes when they had a chance of passing; but to provide himself cover, he authored a meaningless bill that would have fixed nothing significant and never made it to the light of day.

It is said that if you want something done right you have to do it yourself. Now it’s our turn. We must stand for veterans like they have stood for us so many times and lead the fight to reform the VA so that it serves every single veteran.

As a Navy veteran myself, I will fight harder than ever to make sure my fellow brothers and sisters of the military are a top priority, and that when they receive a letter from our government on behalf of a grateful nation, that they can actually believe it.

Thank you to every veteran who served and is serving this great nation.

Travis Couture, Allyn, WA.
November 9, 2015

Citizen Editorial: New Format for Commenting Silences Trolls

I like the new format for commenting on KMAS' page, requiring each person who wishes to comment to identifiy themself seems reasonable.

This could result in a civil conversation among citizens.

I suspect this may be the actual reason behind KMAS providing the new

format:  It still allows free expression on this page, while letting everyone know who is expressing.

I think the new format will elevate the conversation while eliminating trolls.

It was fun having the Wild-West conversation for a bit, but it is likely to be more effective as a community tool if folks know who they are chatting with.

Kudos to KMAS (again).

Katherine A. Price, Shelton, WA
November 9, 2015

Citizen Editorial: Rep Schmick Still Closing State Wide Trail?

What will Representative Joe Schmick now do with Washington’s only state wide trail? Will he close it forever? Will he repair it for all? Or will he simply do nothing?

By Ted Blaszak, member of the Tekoa City Council and President of the Tekoa Trail and Trestle Association  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  on Face book at the Tekoa Trail & Trestle Association

“Schmick is noncommittal about whether he will try again to close the trail. “We’ll hear from everyone at the meetings,” Capital Press  Nov 4th 2015.

During the final budget conferences of the 2015 legislative session, behind closed doors, Representative Schmick (9th Colfax) placed into the capitol budget a proviso that took 135 miles of the John Wayne Trail, 6,000 acres of park land, and gave it away, at no cost, to 200 adjacent property owners.  It was a land grab done without any public announcement or input.  

When asked later why he made such a definitive move as to close the state wide trail forever in the shadows of secrecy rather than the openness of democracy, he said he did not want to waste his fellow legislators’ time by having a hearing for such a trivial matter. And when asked why he did not bother to inform his own constituents, of which many are trail users, he said that we could go look it up on line if we wanted to.  You may find it on line if you read the Capitol Budget very carefully, it is in section 3121(3) on page 118 of the 280 page document.

It is the fundamental basic duty of any legislator to both inform and listen their constituents; all of them not just a particular group of supporters.  They are to be our ears and voice in Olympia. Rep. Schmick has failed to fulfil this basic duty of his office, but there may still be time to repair the damage.

Despite his best efforts to decimate the trail, Rep. Schmick met a road block, in the form of a simple typo.  The proviso incorrectly named the points of the trail to be closed, thus nullifying the law enacted when the budget passed. For now, the trail remains open.

If you have never visited the John Wayne Trail, please do, you’ll enjoy it.  It is the largest rail to trail conversion in the nation, one of only two cross state trails in America, it’s over 280 miles long.  Starting just south east of Seattle, you can bike, ride a horse, or hike all the way to the Idaho border on an isolated path shut to motorized vehicles.  It begins in thick wood lands rich with lakes and rivers, then through the dramatic and harsh terrain of the scab lands, and ends in some of the most peaceful pastoral settings our state has to offer. Every mile is solemnly tranquil and offers dramatic vistas.

It is used by thousands annually, including horse riders, hikers, cross country bicyclists, the Boy Scouts of America, The John Wayne Pioneer Trail Riders, and many more.

It is also one of the very few places where you can see the scab lands, a terrain so rare geologically it exist only by the John Wayne Trail and on the planet Mars. Young Washington geologists travel to the trail every year for their training. And rich with the cultural heritage of our state. Just this past weekend the Ralston Grange restored an old rail way station that is on the trail.

Most importantly to me, it ends in my small town of Tekoa WA (pop. 843). You pass a large sign as you enter Tekoa “Welcome to the End of the John Wayne Trail”. It’s important to our identity and our economy. Rep. Schmick must have past that sign on his way to be in our town parade this July.

It’s hard for a small town to stand up to a powerful state legislator but that’s what we did.

We learned about this tragedy in September. While attending the Palouse Empire Fair, where my daughter was showing her 4H sheep “Spot”, I stopped by Rep. Schmick’s booth and asked him if he got the trestle cookies my wife Debra baked and mailed him. I wanted to thank him for his support for our efforts to get funding for the Tekoa Trestle. He said he would support that end of the trail, but planned to reintroduce legislation to close the trail from the Columbia River to Malden.  This of course was quite shocking news. Until this moment that information was known only to a handful of people.

Two days later, and after our Mayor John Jaeger spoke with Rep. Schmick, our city council passed a resolution asking that the trail be kept open and better funded instead. Since then there has been something of an uproar in the Palouse. Lots of news articles, emergency town meetings, and a supporting resolution from the City of Spokane.

In all fairness, during my conversation with Rep. Schmick, he made some very good points regarding his motivations for closing the trail. Adjacent land owners have had to endure some real problems. For example, the State has neglected fence lines, noxious weed control, and have recently imposed upon farmers a fee for using the trail to transport equipment.

Recently we met with Rep. Schmick and he agreed to hold with the Tekoa Trail and Trestle Association three meetings along the trail to solicit public comment. The meetings will all take place in November so that at their conclusion there is time available for Rep. Schmick to introduce legislation for the 2016 session to address the needs of the trail.

Public Comment Meetings for the John Wayne Trail
Rosalia        Tuesday November 10th  12pm  
          Community Center (7th St. and Whitman Ave.)
Lind            Monday November 16th   12pm
         Union Elevator Conference Room (201 S street)   
Ellensburg   Monday November 23rd     6pm            
Hal Holmes Center (209 N Ruby St.)    

Those unable to attend may email in their concerns to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

At these meeting the TTTA will be advocating for 11 key points as the basis for a bill to solve the problems of the John Wayne trail for landowners and trail users alike:

1. improve spraying for noxious weeds
2. reinstate ranger service
3. repair the cow creek trestle
4. remove permit requirements for recreationalists
5. remove fees for farmers moving equipment on the trail
6. restore the Tekoa trestle
7. start a citizen litter patrol “adopt the trail program”
8. repair the Columbia River Crossing
9. improve rock slide removal and gravel grading
10.  proper fences installed and maintained
11. additional trail heads, water stations and bathrooms installed

We hope that at the conclusion of these meetings Rep Schmcik will not introduce legislation to close the trail but will instead seek the sufficient funding necessary to repair it and protect land owners.

To close the trail would be a tragic permeant loss to our state and our small town. To do nothing at all will only exasperate the sufferings of adjacent landowners. The best path forward is to repair the trail.

There are many who will object to the expenditure of any money spent on such projects. I ask they not allow their well-placed conservative values to relegate Eastern WA to second class citizenry. West of the Columbia River the trail is in pristine condition, trail heads, weeds sprayed, maintained fences, finished trestles and ranger patrols. There are no complaints from nearby landowners there. It is only here in Eastern WA that the trail needs to be refurbished. We seek no new taxes but the same type of support for our end of the state wide trail.

The future of our state’s trail is now in the hands of one man. What will our Representive do? I don’t have any idea. But I wish our town was not so dependent upon the good will of one man who has not demonstrated a history of support for the trail.

If you are a Washington citizen in support of our trail please come to our meetings, we need you. If you are a city councilor please help us by passing a similar resolution to Tekoa and Spokane’s. And if you are member of the Washington State legislature please do whatever you can to help us save the trail.

Ted Blaszak, Tekoa WA
November 6, 2015