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Four reporters who challenged WMD justification for Iraq War to be honored

Shock Wave Movie Shock Wave Movie: A 'fake news' tale to justify a war

Editor's note: Although “fake news” has, for some, become a way to disparage the accuracy of news reports, support for two of the nation’s most disastrous conflicts was built on “fake news” fashioned by no less than the men who were presidents.

I was reminded of that with word of an event this week to honor four reporters whose continuous challenge to the President George Bush administration’s claim of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to justify the preparations for the March 2003, invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein brought them to ridicule from journalistic peers and public criticism.\\

Perhaps second only to Lyndon Johnson’s creation of what became known as the Gulf of Tonkin incident to get the backing of Congress to wage the Vietnam war as he saw fit was George W. Bush’s masterful creation of the need to deal with Hussein’s alleged stockpile of WMD.

But this column is not to focus on the public manipulation by presidents but on the importance of journalistic courage to counter such efforts as a pillar of Democracy.

Rather the occasion is that the four reporters, including my friend Joe Galloway, who were covering the preparation for war from the Washington bureau of Knight-Ridder Newspapers, will receive the Defenders of Liberty Awards from an organization called the Committee for the Republic. Also honored will be the 2017 movie about the four called Shock and Awe, a drama conceived and directed by Rob Reiner, who also co-starred as John Walcott, the newspaper chain’s Washington bureau chief.

I am using the occasion of the honor to reprise a column I did when the movie came out three years ago, again because journalistic integrity and courage need to be shared to be appreciated. Encouraged. And sustained.

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As I wrote in that March 2017, column, it's perhaps appropriate that a degree of attention has focused on a movie about four professional journalists who were certain, in the face of all the forces arrayed against them, that President George Bush and his administration had concocted a "fake news" tale to justify a war in Iraq.

The movie is Shock and Awe, the title drawn from the campaign of that name created by the leaders of the Bush Administration in preparation for the invasion of Iraq in 2003, a plan built on the premise that Saddam Hussein had stockpiled weapons of mass destruction. Of course, the term "fake news" wasn't part of our culture then, especially being applied to a president.

The movie, conceived and directed by Rob Reiner, has been described as "the politically charged story" about the four reporters from the Washington, D.C., bureau of the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain who first looked into the Bush Administration's attempts to tie Saddam to the 9-11 terror attack. Thereafter their some 80 stories followed a theme that the allegations of WMDs were intentionally inaccurate.
 
The understandable support for Bush and his build-up for the war from the general public and others was the nation’s need for some cathartic revenge against someone for 9/11, thus the focus on Hussein in the year following that disaster toward the attack on Iraq in March of 2003.

One of the four reporters was iconic Vietnam correspondent Joseph L. Galloway, then more than 35 years into his career covering wars and those who fight them and thus the voice of experience that the two younger reporters, Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel, turned to for help in finding their way through the fabrications formed to keep the nation focused on the need for war with Iraq.

It is because of my friendship with Galloway, both of us alums of the news service UPI, and because many in the Seattle area came to know him during his two visits to do Vietnam veterans interviews and several interviews he and I did, including the Seattle Rotary, that I decided to do a Harp about the movie.
 
JoeGalloway aJoe GallowayRegular readers of the Harp will recall that Joe Galloway has been the subject of a half-dozen Harps in recent years (Google Flynn's Harp: Joe Galloway).
 
Eventually, the four including Knight-Ridder bureau chief John Walcott, played by Reiner himself, came to be described as "the only ones who got it right," but before that, they had to weather immense pressure and scorn, not only from the White House but also from peer publications and some editors of their own newspapers. 
 
For example, there is the story of the editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer saying bluntly that the tone of their stories doesn't "fit in." And Galloway recalled "There is a scene in the movie where Walcott confronts the Philadelphia editor for choosing to run ‘New York Times b.s. over our story.’ He taunts the editor with 'will you be running the Times correction and apology when that comes out?'"
 
It was after watching a Bill Moyers’ interview with the reporters that Reiner decided to produce a movie dramatizing Knight Ridder’s lonely work. Released in 2017, Reiner ends “Shock and Awe” with a news clip of New York Times reporter Judith Miller, a constant journalistic supporter of the Bush WMD campaign, admitting the media got WMD wrong – “except for Knight-Ridder.”

The movie includes Miller’s comments, as well as Sen. Robert Byrd’s moving speech drawing parallels between the lies that drew America into its Vietnam debacle and the falsehoods that would destroy many American and Iraqi lives in Iraq.

There is a perhaps ironic juxtaposition of the timing of the release of the critically acclaimed The Post, whose storyline about the Washington Post's publisher, Kathrine Graham deciding to confront the Nixon White House by publishing the Pentagon Papers, and Shock and Awe detailing a confrontation with a different president and more recent time. And a reluctance of the newspaper to be part of the confrontation.
 
In fact, Reiner suggests that the struggle he had to secure U.S. distribution for the movie might relate to his belief that "American audiences might not be ready to confront the subject."
 
I didn't think anybody in America could stomach it," Reiner said. "I don't think they can stomach it now, to be honest with you."

The start of the Iraq War and how its continuation has unfolded in the years since then may be viewed as too near to current political realities for close scrutiny of the legitimacy of the Bush Administration's campaign to go to war. In fact, the allegation that the WMD case built by key members of the Bush team was fabricated still draws outrage from some conservatives.
 
It's obviously much easier to take a critical look at Richard Nixon, or with Reiner's LBJ, released last year bringing a critical look at another former president, Lyndon Baines Johnson.
 
In fact, Reiner's LBJ screenwriter, Joey Hartstone, also wrote Shock and Awe, and actor Woody Harrelson, who played LBJ. Plays one of the reporters in Shock and Awe.
 
The fact Reiner was greeted with two separate standing ovations last September (2017) at the Zurich International Film Festival for the world premiere of Shock and Awe may have contributed to the firming up of presentation in this country.
 
The movie was the second time that Galloway will have the opportunity to watch an actor on the screen playing him. Tommy Lee Jones in this case.
 
The other was the movie We Were Soldiers, which was released ironically in the year prior to the Iraq invasion, as the film version of Galloway's book, We Were Soldiers Once...and Young, co-authored by Hal Moore, the commanding officer of U.S. troops in the battle of Ia Drang. Later events, including Galloway’s subsequent reporting, made clear that in November 1965, la Drang battle, the first between U.S. forces and North Vietnam regular army troops were the losses on both sides convinced Ho Chi Minh that the U.S. could not win, was the defining battle of a war that would drag on for another decade and claim 55,000 American lives.
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National Women's History Month: recalling women reporters in Viet Nam

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It seems appropriate for National Women’s History Month to reflect on a group of women who have never gotten their due, even though they eagerly went where all but the bravest men feared to tread?

I’m referring, of course, to the Vietnam War and the group of brave women reporters who decided this was their war too, in fact, their first war, and that they were going to a place where shared peril would be the equalizing factor.

In fact, Dickey Chapelle, a writer for the National Observer, became the first female war correspondent to be killed in Vietnam, as well as the first American female reporter to be killed in action.

That was on November 4, 1965, mere months after the first wave of U.S. forces had arrived in Vietnam when she was struck in the neck by shrapnel from an exploding land mine while on patrol with a marine platoon.Tracy WoodTracy Wood

A handful of those women journalists of that era were fortunate to work for a news organization, United Press International, whose top management recognized that talent and competitiveness were all that mattered. If women reporters could fight to be the best in UPI’s on-going battle with the AP for journalistic preeminence, why should they be denied the opportunity?

But sometimes the women needed to evidence a bit more ingenuity to get the Vietnam assignment.

So it was with my late friend Tracy Wood, who was a reporter in UPI’s Sacramento bureau in the late ‘60s, early ‘70s while I was running UPI’s Olympia bureau. So we knew each other’s names though we didn’t meet and become friends until a decade ago.

As Tracy once explained to me, "Of the more than 2,200 journalists who were accredited by the U.S. military to cover Vietnam between 1965 and 1975, only 70 of them were women and most of those went in only for a short time to cover specific stories, such as someone from their town."

"It was hard for women to cover the Vietnam War," said Wood, who was an investigative reporter for Voice of Orange County at the time of her death from cancer in late 2019, after years in the investigative reporter role with the LA Times.

"The military would give you credentials, but the leaders of the top news organizations were opposed to sending women reporters to cover combat. Magazines would use women reporters, but not the wires or big news organizations like The NY Times or WA Post."

Wood didn't get to Vietnam until 1972 when she was 24 and it took careful planning for a young woman who was a political writer for UPI in Sacramento to get to the New York bureau where her lobbying would be closer to the decision-makers.

Her immediate boss on the UPI cables desk didn't think a woman should cover wars. But Wood had the good fortune to work for UPI, whose top editors Roger Tatarian and H. L. Stevenson believed in the ability of women to report just as well as men, and dispatched several high-visibility female correspondents to the war zone. So it was soon Wood's turn.

One of the best-known correspondents of that war, male or female, was Kate Webb, a New Zealand-born Australian who began as a freelancer in Vietnam at 24 and so, as Wood explained to me of Webb, “her credentials were so strong UPI couldn't fail to hire her."
 
Kate WebbKate WebbThat was in 1967 when she was 25. Webb quickly proved her mettle, becoming the first wire service reporter at the U.S. Embassy on the morning the Tet offensive was launched in January 1968.

That spring she survived an American rocket attack on a Saigon military building that killed everyone around her, including the South Vietnamese police chief. She brushed herself off, ran back into the rubble to aid the wounded, then wrote a stirring account of the incident.

And Kate made news herself when in 1971 she was captured by North Vietnamese troops operating in Cambodia. Premature official reports that a body discovered was Webb's prompted a New York Times obituary, but she emerged from captivity 23 days after she was captured, having endured forced marches, interrogations, and malaria.  Of Wood’s getting to Vietnam, she explained to me: "I had to go over my boss' head to get sent to Vietnam and, once there, covered combat only after colleagues quietly showed me what I needed to do.”
 
Wood played a significant role involving coverage of the first public release of prisoners of war.  "I was able to cover the end of combat and was the only U.S. reporter to cover the first public release of the POWs from Hanoi," Wood recalled for me for one of my columns on her.

Perhaps it took a woman to figure out the quickest way to get approval to go to Hanoi at a time when every news agency and reporter was trying to figure out a way to get there. She merely sent a request to the North Vietnam government asking permission.
 
"Later, I was able to negotiate with the North Vietnamese for UPI to lease a plane and bring in about 30 reporters, photographers, and TV crews to cover the final POW release." Those POWs included John McCain.
 
Both Webb, who died of cancer in 2007, and Wood have chapters in "War Torn, Stories of War From the Women Reporters Who Covered Vietnam." It's a book whose contents are touted as "nine women who made journalism history talk candidly about their profession in deeply personal experiences as young reporters who lived, worked and loved surrounded by war."

A year after her death, Australia issued a postage stamp to commemorate Webb.  In reflecting on the conversations with Wood, and recalling the book in which both she and Webb had chapters of their recollections, it occurred to me they would have provided an interesting segment of Ken Burns’ Viet Nam documentary. Too bad.

When I asked my friend and one-time UPI colleague, Joe Galloway, one of the most respected Vietnam correspondents over his several tours there for UPI, about the women reporters, he summed it up thusly:

“Met and worked with Tracy Wood on my subsequent tours in Vietnam. Worked closely with Kate Webb and Betsy Halstead. Also knew Francis FitzGerald and Cathy Leroy,” Joe said.

“I had the greatest respect for the women who came to cover the war. They had different eyes and covered different stories...and that broadened everyone’s coverage of the war,” Galloway added.

“The ones I knew were fearless in combat and determined to get the story. I raise my Stetson in salute "
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Maybe Seahawks could start a new 'Wilson era,' with Zach — not Russell

Zach-Wilson_BYU-Quarterback

As sports media types toss around ideas about possible outcomes for the apparent growing gulf in the relations between the Seattle Seahawks and star quarterback Russell Wilson, none has offered, or likely considered, the idea of just starting a new “Wilson Era.” Not with Russell but with Zach.

Zach Wilson is the BYU quarterback who has risen dramatically since he entered BYU as the top Utah high school quarterback. He capped his freshman year earning MVP honors in the Potato Bowl in which his passing (including an 18 for 18 perfect day in the air) and running guided BYU to victory over Western Michigan.

So in the 2020 season, his junior year after which he decided to turn pro, Zach Wilson was number one in the nation in pass attempts (336), completions (247), total yards (3,692), and touchdowns (33). Incidentally, 10 of those TD’s were on runs. Zach ran 70 times for 254 yards, evidencing a penchant and talent to put it in the air or run for it with equal confidence, similar to Russell Wilson.

Zach WilsonZach WilsonNow a top NFL draft expert has declared that Zach Wilson, assumed to be one of the top quarterback picks in the forthcoming draft, is not only better than Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence but more polished for the NFL than any quarterback in the 2021 draft.

Some of those media types are theorizing on what backup quarterbacks are out there whom the Seahawks could look to trade for if Russell Wilson presses to be and is traded.

Interestingly, Zach, at 6-3 and 210-pounds, has four inches on the 5-11 Russell to get a better look past oncoming pass rushers.

And he would be most likely of any prospective successor to Russell Wilson to emulate the good-guy image that Russell evidenced prior to the finger-pointing between him and the Seahawks now being played out.

In fact, the final sales pitch to Zach three years ago by BYU coach Kilani Sitaki may be without precedent in the annals of college recruiting.

Wilson was already committed to Boise State from among nearly 20 offers from schools around the country but decided, at the end of a four-hour conversation he and his mom, Lisa, and dad, Mike, had with head coach Sitaki to change his mind.  As the four-hour meeting ended, coach Sitake, a one-time starting fullback at BYU, made one final pitch.

“Zach, you can drive home every Sunday night and have dinner with your family.” Offered Sitaki, knowing Wilson’s home was in Draper, about 18 miles from BYU in Provo.
Zach is just a home kid,” explained Lisa. “He wanted to be home for Sunday dinners. He wanted to be home for Tuesday night dinners when his beloved grandparents have a standing invitation. He wanted his family to be able to see him play.”

I have written about Zach before he was known to any but local Utah writers because his “beloved” grandpa, Gary Neeleman, is my closest longtime friend from our days as colleagues as western executives with United Press International.

Gary began sending me emails about Zach from the point at which he was judged the best high school quarterback in Utah.

Zach hasn’t made any comments about where he’d like to play and when I asked Gary if I could maybe talk with Zach about that he said: “he’d have to get his agent’s ok and he’s a shy kid who wouldn’t press his agent about doing an interview, or indicating whether he might like to come to Seattle.”

My hope was that a week after getting an unlikely interview with Gonzaga basketball coach Mark Few I might have a chance to talk with the 21-year old who (were he to be Russell’s successor) might soon make Seattle fans happy with the outcome.
Gary relayed the word from Zach yesterday. “I talked to my agency and they said no to the article, unfortunately. Tell your friend I am sorry.”

Much would have to occur in terms of a deal for a Russell Wilson trade and successful dealing by Zach’s agent for there to be a new Wilson leading the Seahawks into the future.

But should that come about, Seattle could be like a second hometown to the young Wilson. Gary told me Zach’s teenage cousin, one of three daughters of his prominent Seattle attorney uncle, John Neeleman, “was glued to the TV for every play of every game.”

“She keeps pleading with him, ‘please come to the Seahawks,” Gary chuckled.

And another uncle, David Neeleman, founder of Jet Blue and Brazil’s Azul, will have a fleet of jetliners for his new Salt Lake-based airline and could presumably borrow one to fill with the dozens of relatives to fly to Seattle home games. As when 50 family members were in the stands in Boise for that 2019 Potato Bowl.

 
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Gonzaga's Mark Few's focus on 'Family First' as key to winning way

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There are a number of ways to describe the ingredients in the secret sauce that Mark Few has brewed at Gonzaga to create one of college basketball’s most remarkable success stories. But perhaps Few’s own description of “Family First” may best explain the string of 20 consecutive appearances in the NCAA tournament under his leadership.

And this season of year-long undefeated number 1 ranking may be the pinnacle of the two decades of the 58-year-old Few’s leadership with possibly an NCAA title in the offing.

The key ingredient for Few’s formulae isn’t the model of other major schools to find and recruit the best basketball players available.

Thus this column, based on an interview I had with Few early this week, isn’t about the basketball prowess he has created but about the man whose focus is first on the players, coaches, and fans as family and the culture he has created around that focus.

“We need to have the shared feeling of like a mom-and-pop store rather than a supermarket,” Few offered. “We need to keep the mom-and-pop feel and charm and the Spokane component and the Jesuit component are parts of that.”

But it’s also interesting to hear the comments of those close to Few, including 20-year assistant Tommy Lloyd, who has guided Gonzaga’s global recruiting that has created a leading-edge for Gonzaga and is a story in its own right, and two-year assistant Roger Powell, 37.

“Mark really presses the issue of spending family time and I’ve learned a lot about coaching in my two years,” said Powell, a 2005 graduate of the University of Illinois where he was a Big-Ten all-star. “Mark is demanding but he gives people the freedom to fulfill. He demands excellence but I’ve had the freedom to grow.”Mark FewMark Few

The focus on international as a key part of Gonzaga’s recruiting horizon has been an area where Gonzaga has been hugely successful over the years since Lloyd, a Whitman grad who played several seasons in Germany and Australia, began convincing international standouts to come to GU.

Gonzaga has been credited with establishing an overseas foothold that few, if any, competitors have been able to match

“I think it’s an area where a lot of people don’t know how to navigate,” said Lloyd, who keeps in touch with scouts and keeps his eye on various national team rosters.

“In some cases, the players from overseas have been the most endearing and in some ways, their capacity to learn is way better,” said Few. “I think it’s partly that they learn multiple languages.”

“They’ve had no problem integrating into the program or the family atmosphere,” Few added.

Lloyd helped steer international past standouts Ronny Turiaf, Elias Harris, Kelly Olynyk, Kevin Pangos, Przemek Karnowski, Domantas Sabonis, Rui Hachimura, Juan Batista, Rob Sacre, and Kyle Wiltjer to Gonzaga. Five of the players on this year’s roster are from other countries.

Ironically, Gonzaga, 63 years ago when it was an unknown little school in a small town in Eastern Washington, suddenly found itself with national attention because of a 7-foot-3 Frenchman named Jean Claude Lefebvre who had enrolled at Gonzaga to play basketball.

Lefebvre made a brief splash but returned home midway through his sophomore season. But a
Sports Illustrated article summed up his importance to Gonzaga basketball history saying his time there "may well have given birth to a new dimension in basketball recruiting and brought an end to isolationist thinking among domestic proselyters.”

So in terms of that “birth of a new dimension in basketball recruiting,” Gonzaga in the Few era, having Lloyd with attention to the international prospects, has brought that new dimension.

So I have to explain how a writer whose claim to fame since retiring is writing Flynn’s Harp managed to get an interview with the most sought-after coach in America, one who routinely turns down interviews because he doesn’t have high regard for personal visibility opportunities.

Thank a mutual friend named John Rudolf, who has a home on Hayden Lake in Northern Idaho where Few also has a home, allowing coaches and families to hang out together through the summer. In addition Rudolf and Few regularly play pickleball with coaches and friends with such competitive intensity that Few refers to those matches as “Bangerball,” Rudolf told me with a laugh.

“So what did you say to Mark to get him to let me have an interview?” I asked Rudolf, “I said you had the best credentials of anyone as a grad of St. Aloysius (the grade school where his sister-in-law is principal and his four kids have attended), Gonzaga Prep, and GU.”

Rudolf, a longtime successful investment advisor who now entertains himself (and those who accompany him) with long hikes and bike rides, racquet sports, and what he jokingly refers to as “occasional special challenges like climbing Kilimanjaro and Denali,” donated The Rudolf Fitness Center to the students. Named for his father, Kermit, the center provides cardio and weight equipment as well as an indoor track and basketball and volleyball courts and a pool.

I asked Rudolf for his thoughts about Few, who was an assistant coach for a decade before succeeding Don Monson, who was hired away by Minnesota after the 1999 season which ended with the Zags making a spectacular run from virtually nowhere to the Final Eight in the NCAA tournament. Thereafter, the NCAA tournament became a routine under Few.

“Few has a special talent of being able every year to build a new team-oriented to a ‘we first’ bond and attitude from a new group of disparate, strong individuals, each with his own personal career hopes and goals,” Rudolf said. “Under Mark’s leadership, these exceptional student-athletes develop from a focus on individual success to a primary focus on team first.“

So are there some targeted prospects who don't get to Gonzaga, I asked Few. And he said, "a prospect who expects a lot of recruiting attention or numerous visits isn't our kind of kid."

I asked Few about what I was told are frequent phone conversations with other coaches and he said: “I enjoy hearing other coaches' experiences because I’m continually trying to grow as a coach, as well as a parent and a leader.” As a parent, Few and his wife, Marcy, have three sons and a daughter.

Another friend of mine who knows Few told me that he thinks the remarkable thing about Few as a coach “is a unique ability to get every player into a zone, not just one or two players.”

I asked Few about that and he described a “zone.” “There is a perfect point where confidence is at an all-time high. It’s not arrogance it’s that your anxiety is at just the right level, pushing peak performance but not being nervous or questioning yourself.”

I can think of others besides basketball players who could benefit from learning how to enter that zone.

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Virtual event to celebrate 20 who rose to COVID challenge in innovative ways

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The 20 of 2020 Awards Ceremony takes place virtually Thursday to celebrate a select group of business and non-profit leaders who rose to the COVID-19 challenge in innovative ways to support the community’s needs while sustaining their businesses.

Much well-deserved attention has been given to medical personnel, first responders, and other essential workers who have formed the frontline of this state’s response to the pandemic. And the selection of these 20 should in no way diminish the recognition of the pervasive importance of the contributions of all those essential workers.

But the intent of the creators of the 20 of 2020 was to celebrate those in business who recognized they suddenly had to assume a community responsibility along with their continued business challenges.

During my 24 years as publisher of the Business Journal, I had the good fortune to launch many of the events that annually celebrate segments of the business community. Thus 40 Under 40, Women of Influence, 100 Fastest-Growing Private Companies, and Minority Business Awards ensure that new groups meriting recognition will emerge each year.

But when it occurred to me that a special group of individuals would emerge from 2020 and that they should be sought out for special honor, it was clear there was no intent for this to be an annual award. Rather the hope was that the passing of the pandemic would ensure this would be a one-time honor.

But the likely long-term impact of the COVID on business and the economy could produce a new breed of business outliers, in essence helping create a new definition of business success.
And the measure of their model going forward could well become, in relation to their roles as community leaders, “how much did you care and how did you show it?"

And the best indication that the 20 we are honoring are the only representative of a wide array of business and non-profit leaders who could be equally honored was a comment made to me by one of the honorees.

Joan Wallace, longtime Bellevue business leader, and philanthropist explained to me her view of what has gone on across her community and the region is “loving and caring people intersecting at the crossroads of need.”

Stories on each of the honorees are contained in a special print publication and a digital version that is being produced by marketingnw.com, a creator and partner in the event.

The digital publication for the event is available without charge. So view the honoree's stories

The print version of Marketing, under publisher Larry Coffman, was for decades the information source for the marcomm industry of Advertising, Public Relations, Creative Arts, Direct Marketing, Out-Of-Home Media, and Digital Media.

Prominent local broadcast personality Pat Cashman, best known for Almost Live!, the long-running television comedy program and his Pat Cashman radio show, will emcee the 20 of 2020 Thursday.

Cashman is presenting each honoree a plaque commemorating his or her selection to this esteemed and diverse group. They also will be feted at a reception in the Columbia Tower
Club when the COVID restriction on in-person gatherings has been lifted.

This event was originally scheduled as a live event at the Columbia Tower Club and thus the club is a sponsor of the virtual event and is providing the virtual platform.

Katrina Eileen Romatowski of Katrina Eileen Real Estate brokerage in Seattle chairs the Columbia Tower Club events committee and in that role helped create the concept for this event, for which her firm is also a co-sponsor.
 
"The 20 for 2020 will recognize leaders and innovators who have demonstrated an uncanny ability to tap into what the human spirit truly needs in these most challenging of times," she said.

 
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Suzi LeVine, who oversaw the state's jobless pay disaster, takes Biden post

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Suzi LeVine, who oversaw this state’s unemployment-payments disaster last year, apparently is assuming a key role in the Biden Administration overseeing the agency that helps all 50 states manage unemployment benefits.

A Bloomberg news report Friday that she is assuming the key post as of today was the first word of the position she is taking although LeVine said when she resigned from her state post that she was taking a spot in the Biden Administration. But conservative media and commentators have already begun to howl.

Suzi LevineSuzi LevineSome may know that LeVine raised $400,000 for Biden’s election campaign and is said to have raised more than $2 billion for Barack Obama in his presidential campaign. And she plays a key role as Vice-Chair of the Democratic National Fundraising Committee.

Now there’s nothing unusual about presidents rewarding important friends as they fill out their administration and ambassador roles and Donald Trump did that to a major degree, in essence filling a swamp he promised to drain.

But with Biden, some of us came to expect a new order and LeVine’s appointment to a key position, rather than the ambassadorship to Switzerland and Lichtenstein that Obama gave her, seems to smell more like the old swamp.

The new job, interim assistant secretary of the Employment and Training Administration, would put LeVine at the forefront of the Biden administration’s economic response to the pandemic, which has cost the United States nearly 10 million jobs since February.

How much responsibility LeVine actually bears for this state’s unemployment disaster and the pain the department’s ineptitude cost those who lost their jobs might be determined by just examining the records.

Well, guess what. That’s precisely what respected Seattle Times reporter Jim Brunner, my friend Lynn Brewer, who built a national reputation as a whistleblower for the Enron disaster 20 years ago, and the state auditor have been rebuffed in trying to do.

Brunner last week released a string of his Twitter messages, dating back seven months, detailing his unsuccessful effort to see LeVine emails to and from Gov. Jay Inslee. His frustration prompted him to observe in one such Twitter message that she was either incompetent or hiding something.

That’s basically the same conclusion reached by Brewer in her similar months-long effort, including now going to court, to get emails between LeVine and Inslee.

And while State Auditor Pat McCarthy, a respected Democratic state elected official, might agree with Brunner’s assessment after her battle to get records from LeVine’s office, she still has several ESD audits to complete before we get her analysis.

Lynn BrewerLynn BrewerBrewer is an interesting addition to this intriguing mix since she knows a few things about financial shenanigans and malfeasance from her days as an executive at Enron, which she departed a few months before the 2001 bankruptcy of what had been hailed as "America's most innovative company."
 
Thus when Brewer and her husband's unemployment checks were caught up in the ESD scheme and the resulting scandal, she expressed a sense of "I've been here before," with strong indignation in her voice
 
In her book, " Confessions of an Enron Executive: A Whistleblower’s Story," after her 2001 departure from Enron, she detailed what happened inside the company. And for several years, she was a sought-after national speaker on the topic of corporate integrity.
 
"This is a governance failure of Enron proportions," Brewer said.

"From my experience at Enron, I believe there are underlying issues with ESD that have not been revealed to the public or to the media," she added.

It would be a shame if those issues were brought out by Republican Senators at whatever point LeVine faces Senate approval to fill her role on a full-time basis. In fact, Democratic Senators should begin asking to have her come before the Senate for approval or rejection, for the sake of Biden’s integrity image. Or merely end her "interim" job with a departure.

As it stands, having LaVine carry the title of “interim” with no explanation from the Administration of why will soon become the target of any Republicans or conservative media seeking dirt on Biden. They are likely to ask “what are they hiding by not seeking her confirmation before the Senate?”

Fox News has proven adept at taking a molehill of Democratic dirt and turning it into a mountain. So what happens when Fox is handed a mountain to make something out of? A political volcano? If so who gets buried in the political ash that falls?

 
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COVID's work-from-home dynamic may fuel a boom in "ZoomTowns"

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The concept of Zoom Towns is the recently emerging phenomenon that has resulted from the COVID-19 impact as workers have adapted dramatically to working from home and “zooming” to work and thus relating to fellow employees in a new way.

The reality that is dawning on employees, particularly tech employees and professionals, is that if you can plan to work long term from home, then home can be distant from company headquarters and in virtually any appealing community they might like. And a lot of employers are coming to support that trend.

It’s becoming clear to leaders of large cities, particularly San Francisco but also Seattle, whose office core emptied out that those who were free to work remotely, or were instructed to do so by their employers, had found an option that may well transcend the eventual end of the pandemic. And that may change the future of those tall-building cores.

So welcome to Zoom Towns, scenic communities that are experiencing a surge of house hunters among those workers freed by COVID to work from home long term.

Some early-innovator communities experiencing the spurt in home and condo sales are coming to realize that a marketing campaign to let potential “zoomers” know what they have to offer could generate a boom in zoomers. And it’s a realization that will soon come to a growing number of appealing smaller communities, and even not so small.

Topeka, Kan., started Choose Topeka, which will reimburse new workers $10,000 for the first year of rent or $15,000 if they buy a home. Tulsa, Okla. will pay you $10,000 to move there.

Zoom Town isn’t yet a designation with broad familiarity. But I am betting it soon will be as early learners are realizing that the term “Zoom Towns” is new enough that it can be captured in the names of businesses emerging to provide services to those who wish to become part of the trend.

 I am actually working with friends and colleagues in several states to seize on that opportunity, including Seattle realtor Katrina Eileen Romatowski who has captured the name ZoomTownRealty with virtually every domain name extension that anyone might think of.

The man who chronicled the growth aspirations of small towns across America then became the evangelist for those communities that he called Boomtowns isn’t surprised at the emergence of Zoom Towns.

John M. (Jack) Schultz, who became the national guru of rural economic development in the 2000s decade for his research on thousands of small towns and his book, Boomtown USA: 7 ½ keys to Big Success in Small Towns, thinks Zoom Towns are a natural evolution for small towns. Except he agrees the post-pandemic role for them may be to supplant rather than just supplement the core of major cities as places to live and work.

The way he puts it is a community, whether urban center or smaller towns (which he notes can also be appealing suburbs of those major cities, like Bellevue or Kirkland), “need to have a sense of place, something that major cities have lost in the year of protests, loss of safe living areas and need for social distancing.”

 Schultz is the founder and CEO of Agracel Inc, which he began as a small farmland investment company in his hometown of Effingham, IL, in 1986. In 1993, Jack took a gigantic leap of faith with his first industrial development project and has never looked back.  

Schultz’s book was published in early 2004. The Boomtown USA project took more than three years of intense research beginning with 15,800 small towns across the country, he told me. The list was narrowed to an outstanding group of 397 towns, that Jack affectionately named AGURBS. He told me with a chuckle, as we visited on the phone a couple of weeks ago about the ZoomTown phenomenon, that he didn’t coin the phrase Boomtowns, merely made them known.

“But the term AGURBS is mine,” said Schultz, whom I met on the Internet when I began this column 13 years ago and discovered his blog and we became each other’s readers and sometimes quoted each other and I’ve done several columns on him.

Are there any boomtowns that could be likely ZoomTowns?

Likely one in this state, Schultz suggests, noting that Leavenworth was featured prominently in his book.

“Seven women who were a junior women’s club who didn’t have a clue to what they were doing made up their minds to turn around a town that was dying,” he recalled. “They had 11 families that had moved to Leavenworth from Bavaria because of the surrounding mountains and they became keys to the campaign to create a Bavarian Village.”

Today the Bavarian Village of Leavenworth, a two-hour drive from Seattle, is one of the state’s top tourist attractions and my bet is they will soon begin an effort to attract Zoomers as full-time residents.

Another place in this state, maybe less known than resort communities, that I'm betting will become a Zoom Town is Seabrook on the Washington coast but on the inland side of Highway 109 on an otherwise remote section of the oceanfront.

Seabrook, which creator Casey Roloff says he and his wife sought to create Mayberry when they set out to build their planned community, was already seeing dramatic growth before COVID. But the post-COVID work-from-home phenomenon may well make Seabrook like Zoom Town on steroids.

Referring to findings from his visits to hundreds of small towns to gather information for his book, Schultz told me in an email: "Embracing entrepreneurism in communities was a key factor that differentiated great communities from also-rans.”

So a question ZoomTown advocates will likely ask is “does remote work really work?”

A survey in August by the Boston Consulting Group found that 79 percent of the 12,000 employees questioned on remote work indicated they are satisfied or doing better on the four factors of social connectivity, mental health, physical health, and workplace tools. And they said they have been able to maintain or improve productivity on collaborative tasks.

 
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Neil Sheehan's book on Vietnam told of a far greater lie than Trump's finale

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It was ironic that the death at age 84 of prominent journalist Neil Sheehan, who chronicled the Bright Shiny Lie of President Lyndon Johnson’s conduct of the Vietnam War, should occur as the lie of the final chapter of the administration of Donald Trump was unraveling with the disastrous rampage by his followers at the Nation’s Capitol.

The riot through the Capitol last Wednesday was the response of Trump’s angry followers, convinced that the lie was that Trump had lost the election. And the rioters were only the criminal element of a legion of trump believers across the country.

For most of the country, the lie is Trump’s contending he won “by millions of votes,” despite the rejection of that idea by every judge, including many Trump had appointed, every governor of both parties called on to evaluate possible abuse in their state elections, every state election official who investigated allegations and found them false.

Many Republican members of Congress who had wished for Trump to win kept repeating their version of the lie as if somehow repetition could make it become true. Or at least confirm their loyalty to him.

In Lyndon Johnson’s case, the political professionalism with which the lie was carried out allowed the truth to come out only gradually and over years, It cost the lives of 55,000 American fighting men and untold pain, suffering, and destruction in the U.S. and in the nation’s of Southeast Asia.

Sheehan was one of a group of young men, and women, who covered the Vietnam War during the mid and late 1960s, first as bureau manager for United Press International and later for the New York Times, where he won a Pulitzer Prize for his 1971 disclosure of the Pentagon Papers that revealed how U.S. government officials had lied to the American people about the Vietnam War.

The Nixon Administration tried unsuccessfully to keep the Times from publishing the Pentagon Papers. Nixon hadn’t created the massive lie but his administration had inherited it and, as the nation was being torn apart over the war, felt the need to continue it so that peace talks that had gotten underway in spring of 1968 soon after Johnson announced he would not seek re-election might eventually lead to an honorable exit for the U.S. But the Washington Post joined in the publishing, basically ignoring a court order, and the Supreme Court upheld the right of both newspapers to publish those documents.

The lie actually began three months before Johnson’s runaway victory over Barry Goldwater in 1964 and may have been motivated to rally voters behind a “wartime president,” although that has never been discussed As far as I can find.

It was August 2, 1964, that North Vietnam, which wasn’t yet the actual enemy at the time since the U.S. had not actually introduced combat troops into the effort to help South Vietnam’s war against the Viet Cong, handed Johnson the script for the lie. Two of its patrol torpedo (PT) boats fired shots at a U.S. destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin in international waters off the coast of the two Vietnams.

The incident wasn’t serious enough to merit a defense department response. But when a similar incident was reported two days later, it almost instantly led to Johnson asking Congress on August 7, with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, to give him the power to do whatever necessary, including the use of Armed Forces, to basically assist the South. The Johnson administration subsequently relied upon the resolution to begin its rapid escalation of U.S. military involvement in South Vietnam and open warfare between the North and the United States.

Robert S. McNamara, LBJ’s defense secretary, in a 2003 documentary titled The Fog of War admitted that the August 2 incident hadn’t been significant enough to concern the Defense Department and that the August 4 incident “never happened.”

The U.S, Senate approved the resolution with little debate and with only Sens. Wayne Morse of Oregon and Ernest Gruening of Alaska, both respected Democrats, voting “no.” Gruening, in 1968, wrote his own book on Vietnam, titled Vietnam Folly. But the vast majority of senators, who represented a Democrat super-majority, had no interest in clashing with LBJ.

The late Ray Herndon, who had been a UPI correspondent in Vietnam from 1962 to 1967, was 26 and already a veteran of covering the war when the event occurred. Herndon was one of several former UPI Vietnam correspondents with whom I became friends following my retirement from the Business Journal because we had all worked for the wire service at the same time. And all who worked at UPI shared the need to recall their time there as the best of our times, despite the fact we went on to successful careers in newspapers and even though our roles were entirely different, they made names for themselves in the combat zone and I a political writer in Olympia.

A couple of years before his 2015 death from cancer at the age of 77and I asked Herndon, for a column I was writing, how news of the incident was greeted by the then-small press corps.

“there was a great deal of skepticism among the press corps in Saigon about the incident,”: Herndon told me. “We all thought ‘that’s pretty unlikely,’ but we had no way to actually question it.”

Before long, U.S, forces began to grow and the military propaganda machine cranked up. Sheehan and the Associated Press correspondent, Malcolm Browne, served an unrecognized vital role for U.S. media of handling the releases spewing from the propaganda machine judiciously.

Another of those UPI correspondents who became a friend was Joe Galloway, who was the only journalist who participated in and wrote about the first actual battle between U.S. and North Vietnamese forces in the Ia Drang Valley in November of 1965. His book on the battle, We Were Soldiers Once..and Young, and the movie made from it, We Were Soldiers made it one of the best-known battles of the war. It was the battle that may have provided fodder to make the lie one that would last forever in this nation’s history.

As Galloway later wrote, It was defining because it "convinced Ho(Chi Minh), (General) Giap and (Defense Secretary Robert S.) McNamara the U.S. could never win." The realization of both sides was that the American citizenry would not accept for a long period the pace of casualties that the companion battles in the Ia Drang Valley produced.

 
Although President Johnson, having listened to McNamara's sense that we couldn't win in Viet Nam, no matter how many men we sent there, huddled with his key advisors and they determined: "send the soldiers anyway," said Galloway, who only speaks of LBJ’s memory in four-letter words.

Before long, as U.S. forces went into battle against the Viet Cong and sometimes with units from the north, “body count” became the way to keep track of how the U.S, forces were doing, with no one to verify the count and growing pressure to just boost the numbers.

Sheehan and Browne dug out details about battlefield casualties and wrote dispatches that challenged upbeat reports from the daily press briefings that came to be ridiculed as “Five O’Clock Follies.”

Generals labeled Sheehan a liar and politicians called him unpatriotic and claimed that his reports were even detrimental to national security.
 
When he received the Drew Pearson prize for excellence in investigative reporting in 1971, Sheehan said: “Some would have us believe that in publishing the Pentagon Papers we committed theft and treason. I believe that in publishing this history of the Vietnam War, we gave to the American people … a small accounting of a debt that can never be repaid.”

It took Sheehan 16 years to finally complete Bright Shiney Lie to tell the whole story.
 
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Retired secretaries of state Munro, Reed: Raffensperger merits national honor

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Two retired Washington State secretaries of state, both Republican and both among the nation’s most respected during their tenures, both think Georgia Secretary of state Brad Raffensperger deserves some sort of national honor for political courage for the manner in which he resisted pressure from President Donald Trump to alter the presidential election outcome in his state.

“Never has this sort of pressure been put on a local elected official,” said Ralph Munro, who served five terms as secretary of state, the elected role in Washington as well as most states, including Georgia, occupied by the state’s top elected official.

RalphMunro 1Ralph Munro“The secretary of state is elected to protect the voters and their ballots and to make sure the votes are honestly counted,” said Munro. “To have the president demand that Raffensperger find the votes to give him the election is unbelievable.”

“Raffensperger deserves national recognition for his political courage,” echoed Sam Reed, whose three terms in the top state election post followed Munro’s tenure and immediately preceded the election of Kim Wyman, the current Republican secretary of state, in 2012. “It’s outrageous that the president would ask him to fix the election.”

“Everyone should admire Raffensperger’s political courage,” added Reed, who experienced his own challenge where integrity clashed with politics, and for sometime after he paid the price in his relations with some state Republicans.

Reed’s challenge was in 2004 in the close gubernatorial race between eventual winner Christine Gregoire and the GOP challenger, Dino Rossi, a prominent ex-state senator. Rossi was declared the winner by Reed on election night with a 120-vote victory margin, which had shrunk to 42 votes on the automatic recount.

Gregoire then paid for another recount, which she was entitled by law to do, but was challenged by Republicans who expected Reed to support them. Gregoire won that second recount by 230 votes, after a State Supreme Court ruling that upheld Reed’s decision that she had a right to pay for a recount.

Reed told me he sent Raffensperger an email after the visibility uproar following the Saturday Trump call and expressed his empathy with the Georgian.

Reed said he also shared with Raffensperber that cries that the Democrats had stolen the 2004 election echoed from Republicans across the state and that he was told by irate Republicans for weeks after the election that had no chance to be re-elected.

Sam ReedSam Reed“I told Raffensperger that two years later I was re-elected with 60 percent of the vote,” Reed said. “I told him I thought most voters, including Republicans after things cooled down, appreciated that I had upheld the integrity of the election process.”

So what kind of recognition could Raffensperger get? Munro suggested the Margaret Chase Smith American Democracy Award that the National Association of Secretaries of States bestows to recognize individual acts of political courage, uncommon character, and selfless action in the realm of public service.

The award was created by the secretaries of state, including Munro, in 1992 and named for the former U.S. Senator from Maine, who jeopardized her career by speaking out against the red-baiting tactics of Senator Joseph P. McCarthy in the 1950s.

Munro and former Governor and U.S, Senator Dan Evans received that award several years ago for their leadership in welcoming Vietnamese refugees to Washington as the first state to reach out to those refugees after the 1975 fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War.

In any event, if other elected officials around the country follow the lead of Munro and Reed, Raffensberger’s actions will come to be recognized for a display of integrity in the face of political pressure that merits the thanks of all who realize that Democracy depends on that kind of courage.

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Greetings in Christmas art from long years ago

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Dear Friends and readers:
 
 In this strangest of holiday seasons coming in the midst of the darkness of COVID-19, the temptation is to focus on Christmas past or Christmas future and somehow bypass 2020. But there are memories for today that bring light in the darkness.

And those thoughts for today include sharing again, as I have shared each Holiday season for most of the 13 years of Flynn's Harp, the below re-creation of the art delivered long ago via wire-service teletype machines to media newsrooms around the nation during the quiet hours of Christmas Eve,

While friends of all of ours have come to reflect a varied array of religions and national origins beyond those for whom Christmas is a time of religious significance, the values that Christmas embodies transcend different beliefs and should be shared and cherished by all.

 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 early hours in years past, in the offices of AP and United Press International, and those newspapers and broadcast stations around the nation, the teletype paper coming from the AP and UPI teletype printers would be graced with holiday art.
 
 For those like me 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 composed on their keyboards is one of the special memories of working for that once-proud company.  
 
The uniqueness of the tree below, a Christmas greeting delivered in nearly 50 languages, is that it is not in computer art but created by hand on a teletype keyboard, as with the wreath.
 
Happy Holidays!
-----------------

                                             "X"
                                            "XXX"
                                          "XXXXX"
                                        "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"
                   "EEN GELUKKIG NIEUWJAAR-SRETAN BOSIC"
                  "KRIHSTLINDJA GEZUAR-KALA CHRISTOUGENA"
                   SELAMAT HARI NATAL - LAHNINGU NAJU METU"
                  """""""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"
                    FELICES PASUAS - EIN GLUCKICHES NEUJAHR"
                PRIECIGUS ZIEMAN SVETKUS SARBATORI VESLLE"
            BONNE ANNEBLWYDDYN NEWYDD DDADRFELIZ NATAL"
                      """""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""
                                                  XXXXX
                                                  XXXXX
                                                  XXXXX
                                          XXXXXXXXXXXXX
 
 
 

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               .K$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$,    P.>e'!f !~ ed$$P".!!!!!!!!`.d"
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             -*". . "??$$$$$$$$$$$$      ~ `z$$$F".`!!!!!!!!!!',dP"
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      .ueeeu.J`-^.!h <- ~`.. ??$$'      ,$$ !!`e$$$$e `,e$F'
   e$$$$$$$$$$$$$eeiC ")?-<%'^?       ?$f !!! ?$$$$",F"
  P"....```""?$$$$$$$$$euL^.!..` .        "Tu._.,``""
  $ !!!!!!!!!!.""??$$$$$$eJ~^=.           ````
  ?$.`!!!!!!!!!!!!!!."??$$$$$c'.
   "?b.`!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!>."?$$$$c
     ^?$c`'!!!!!!!!!!!',eeb, "$$$k
        "?$e.`'!!!!!!! $$$$$ ;.?$$
           "?$ee,``''!."?$P`i!! 3P
               ""??$bec,,.,ceeeP"
                      `""""""

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The saving of NatureBridge was one of the hero stories of 2020

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Thanks to the commitment by Bellevue business leader Robert J. Holmes to helping kids experience the outdoors and to leaders of the Dean Witter Foundation and its support of environmental education programs, the survival of NatureBridge is one of the hero stories of 2020.

Throughout 2019, as in previous years, the NatureBridge campuses in various national parks were alive with activity with up to 35,000 students spending their days exploring the parks, engaging in scientific inquiry, and discovering their connection with nature.

Then came the pandemic and, like so many organizations and businesses, NatureBridge had to make the difficult decision to suspend in-person programming, threatening its ability to deliver on its mission and even threatening its survival after 49 years.

Robert HolmesRobert HolmesHolmes, CEO of The Holmes Group (THG) and a NatureBridge board member for whom the call of the wild has been a lifetime personal counterpoint to his role as a developer of both real estate and resort projects across North America, saw the closure as a "crisis."

So Holmes, who was president and CEO of Intrawest USA and president and CEO of Harbor Properties in Seattle before shifting to Bellevue where his projects have included Kemper Freeman's Bellevue Collection and whose resort projects have included the development of the Village at Mammoth, Schweitzer Mountain Resort and the Village at Whistler, was convinced he could guide a NatureBridge survival.

Beyond merely surviving, NatureBridge, with its goal of providing environmental education in national parks, has now launched distance learning programs in classrooms across the country to reach kids who may never visit a national park. So NatureBridge has been able to innovate and grow and is well-positioned now to weather the pandemic.

This all came about because Holmes, buoyed by his confidence in NatureBridge’s history of excellence and its strong leadership, called on his community to match his own contribution of up to $25,000. Not only did he get over $25,000 in donations but attracted the attention of Malcolm (Max) Witter, board member of the Dean Witter Foundation. a former Seattleite who now lives in the Coachella Valley.

For background, The Dean Witter Foundation supports specific wildlife conservation projects and seminal opportunities to improve and extend environmental education. The Foundation makes additional grants to launch and expand innovative K-12 public education initiatives and seeks to practice imaginative grantmaking in the fields of education and conservation.

So comes the personally satisfying aspects of this NatureBridge story, one that exemplifies that sometimes the writer gets to be more than an observer.

In April I did a column on Holmes, NatureBridge’s plight, and his personal call for a match to his $25,000.

I saw that Witter, who gets The Harp, had opened it so I emailed him to see if he would like to connect with Holmes.
He did and then discussed with fellow director Allison Witter Frey, a Seattlite and, like Malcolm, grandchild of Dean Witter.

they notified the remaining directors at The Dean Witter Foundation of the opportunity to help NatureBridge and Holmes’ two-for-one match. Between Holmes, Witter, and over 700 donors, NatureBridge raised $1.1 million in a few months.

Designed to support teachers and connect kids to nature, NatureBridge has been able to not only reach many of the students who were supposed to come to their in-person programs but also students who live hundreds of miles from a national park and might not ever be able to make the trip. Its leadership now sees the scale of impact as tremendous with this new online component.

And NatureBridge came to be able to conduct family camps in Yosemite, one of the four national parks where it looks to fully restore in-park programs once the pandemic permits. The others are Olympic, Golden Gate and Prince William Forest in Virginia.

So now as NatureBridge approaches its 50th year, it continues to make advancements in Distance Learning education. Its leaders know the pandemic will change the way they teach kids with quality distance learning experiences increasingly a part of high-quality education.

 
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Snowflake celebration sets the stage for Bellevue Square 75th year

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Bellevue developer Kemper Freeman Jr. is seeking to cap a year of COVID tragedy and accompanying economic devastation with a memorable Holiday Season event to set the stage for the 75th anniversary of his Bellevue Square Mall.

It was clear that in this virus-impacted Holiday season Snowflake Lane, which annually has turned downtown Bellevue into a month-long enchanted scene, had to be reimagined if it was to be held at all in 2020.

“I thought about not doing it this year,” said Freeman, the Bellevue developer whose Bellevue Collection of retailers, restaurants, and hotels forms the core of Downtown Bellevue.

Kemper FreemanKemper Freeman“But with all things that have fouled up people’s lives this year, we didn’t think it would be right to also take away something as symbolically important as Snowflake Lane,” he added. “So while we can’t have the parade and performance with dancers and drummers, every night there will be twinkling lights and holiday music.”

“And while we can’t do Santa,’ Freeman noted, “we have the best display of Christmas lights ever in our 14 years, stretching a mile all around Bellevue Square.

Freeman’s pleasure with the holiday display is clearly a way for him to close a disastrous year of the pandemic as well as economic distress it caused and that likely played a role in the social unrest that occurred.

All had a dramatic impact on his business and his city, particularly the severe damage suffered by many of the mall’s retailers at the hands of rioters who embedded in the ranks of peaceful protesters then hurried away from the crowds to break into the mall.

It was at a cost that he hasn’t yet fully calculated that he helped restore the retail life of the 230 merchants and shops in the mall.

Now Freeman is looking forward to the year of celebration for Bellevue Square, launched 75 years and two generations ago by Freeman’s grandfather, Miller Freeman, and father Kemper Sr.

Plans for the 75th-anniversary celebration are just being finalized by his staff, Freeman said.

Freeman, now 79, chuckled as he shared the story of how his grandfather stirred comments across the business community, which labeled as “Freeman’s Folly” his decision to buy 10 acres in 1944 for $40,000, land that became the start of Bellevue Square. Two years later he assisted his son, Kemper Sr., to launch the shopping center.

Now in addition to an upbeat focus on 2021 for the 75th, Freeman is also welcoming the renaissance of the campaign to raise the funds necessary to complete the Performing Arts Center Eastside (PACE), a campaign that has basically been in limbo for the past year and a half.

Cathi Hatch, the Vice-Chair of the PACE board and leader of the fundraising effort, noted that what was once planned as a $200 million facility to fulfill the arts and cultural needs of the Eastside has gone up substantially in cost but the final figures aren’t complete.

But she did note that a search for major naming rights will be underway in full in the new year. The center has been part of Freeman’s vision since he and his wife, Betty, donated the land on the northeast corner of Bellevue downtown’s central core, on the same block as the Bellevue Hyatt.

Completion of PACE after fundraising is finished, will be several years further out.
 
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Lengthy effort to get documents in jobless-payment snafu leads to suit

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If the suit against the state Employment Security Department by a woman best described as a professional whistleblower is successful, it will be fair to say, objectively rather than as a political comment, that Gov. Jay Inslee is a slow learner. Only this time the failure to learn may cost the taxpayers millions of dollars.

Four years ago the recalcitrance of one of his department heads in dealing with a public disclosure request from the Seattle Times brought a court rebuke and a fine. Now a delayed public disclosure response related to the state’s unemployment disaster could bring the court down harder.

The failure of the governor to learn relates to the months-long effort by Lynn Brewer to get access to emails between Inslee and his now embattled Employment Security Department (ESD) Commissioner Suzie LeVine. Brewer gained prominence after leaving a budding career as an executive at energy giant Enron before its 2001 bankruptcy to become a high-visibility whistleblower.

Brewer has been seeking to determine the extent of responsibility by LeVine, and what Inslee knew, of the employment security disaster that rocked the state after COVID-19 struck. First thieves pirated $650-million in unemployment insurance from the state as people started losing their jobs by the thousands, then thousands didn’t get their unemployment checks, or got them dramatically late, as ESD tried to figure out how to avoid further fraud.

Now that State Auditor Pat McCarthy’s criticism of LeVine for imposing “significant constraints” on audit staff, including seeking to limit interviews and delaying access to documents, have become public, the media has come to be all over this. And that media scrutiny is bound to move upward toward Inslee.

In June Brewer was told that her public disclosure request for the emails between Inslee and LeVine and between the ESD director and her staff, because of the mountain of documents involved, couldn’t be honored until December 31, almost seven months later. Some might chuckle at the point that would be after the November election, perhaps ensuring that Inslee’s quest for a third term couldn’t be hindered by anything in the emails.

In her lawsuit filed a couple of weeks ago in Thurston County Superior Court, Brewer asks for a court order that ESD “has violated the Public Records Act” and asks for “an award of statutory penalties, fees and costs against the Department.”

I asked Brewer why she filed the suit given the promised delivery date ESD and she said first, that the delay was illegal and, second, there was only the ESD statement that she couldn’t get the emails before December 31, not that she would get them then.

The lesson unlearned relates to the fact that Inslee has been here before, four years ago with a different department, Labor and Industries, in a public disclosure request by the Seattle Times, in which it took The Times months to get the documents it sought.

In that 2016 decision, the state high court upheld a $546,509 superior court judgment against L&I, finding that it repeatedly delayed the release of records related to lead exposure at Wade’s Eastside Gun Shop.

The department, meaning the state, was ordered to pay the money to The Times, plus attorney fees because monetary penalties are possible under state law for the failure of agencies to respond to public disclosure requests in a timely manner.

The Times was moved to muse editorially after that 2016 victory: “The remaining questions are whether Gov. Jay Inslee will hold anyone accountable for this costly violation of state law and how the state will prevent this from happening again.”

For a longtime reporter, there’s a disappointment that this story has eluded the media for months, except for a drip here and a drop there, until McCarthy’s statements brought the media attention on LeVine and her agency, but not yet on the governor, into full force.

So now perhaps some reporter will ask Inslee: “Governor, when did you know about the auditor’s concerns and when you learned, why didn’t you say to your ESD commissioner, ‘get your act together, Suzie or you are gone?’”

It’s important to keep in mind that we are talking here about a prominent Democratic fundraiser since LeVine raised millions for every Democratic presidential candidate starting with Obama and extending through the candidates who ran in 2020.
And in fairness to the media, both print and broadcast, the coverage requirements of 2020 from the virus to the marches and riots to the economy to the tragic stories of the jobless left little space or time available for an investigative look at why the jobless disaster was unfolding.

I may benefit from having known Brewer for more than a decade, first as she gained prominence in the wake of the collapse of Enron. Her book Confessions of an Enron Executive: A Whistleblower’s Story chronicled her experiences and observations during her two-and-a-half years as a mid-level executive. Her duties included providing key personal briefings on new investments for Enron's now-infamous duo, CEO Ken Lay and President Jeff Skilling.

So she reached out to me after her husband’s and her request for unemployment got caught up in the ESD tangled web and I did a column in the spring and waited for other media to get on the story.

Lynn BrewerLynn BrewerAnd it’s important to note that, as is sometimes, unfortunately, the case these days, Brewer is not some rightwing agitator trying to get Inslee, whom she says she voted for twice, "but not this time because he's responsible for what happened to the unemployed."

In fact, she’s spent her years since leaving Enron after she became aware of the malfeasance of its leadership, speaking to groups and organizations around the world. Brewer was called upon not only to recount the lessons of her Enron experience but more importantly to her, is to share her vision of a way that provides the equivalent of a "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval" on the integrity of public companies.

And it’s with a combination of amusement and anger that Brewer notes the irony of last week’s anniversary of the 2001 fall of Enron when it went out of business as its financial illegalities were disclosed.

“This is a bigger disaster than Enron,” she told me. “Enron was a $600-million fraud on its shareholders. This is a $650-million fraud on taxpayers.”

“If the court decides there will be a per-page, per day, fine and ESD indicates there are tens of thousands of pages that had to be processed, you do the math,” said Brewer. “The state could be liable for millions of dollars because no one was in charge of this.”

 
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BYU star quarterback Zach Wilson's family as important as his stardom

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This began as a story of a young football star from Utah named Zach Wilson who, because his intense love of family matches his intense love of competition, decided that the scholarship he would accept of 18 offered was one that would allow him to come home for dinner most Sundays.

But as the story of the BYU quarterback star’s rise toward the top rung of national collegiate football fame begins to make its way across the country, it will hopefully bring with it the equally special story of his team of young men who understand their place in society extends well beyond the football field.

Wilson was already committed to Boise State from among offers from schools around the country before he decided, at the end of a four-hour conversation he and his mom, Lisa, and dad, Mike, had with head coach Kilani Sitaki to accept a scholarship to Brigham Young University.

As the four-hour meeting ended, coach Sitake, a one-time starting fullback at BYU and the first Tongan to become a college head coach (likely another good story!) made one final pitch.

“Zach, you can drive home every Sunday night and have dinner with your family.” Offered Sitaki, knowing Wilson’s home was in Draper, about 18 miles from BYU in Provo.

Zach is just a home kid,” explained Lisa. “He wanted to be home for Sunday dinners. He wanted to be home for Tuesday night dinners when his beloved grandparents have a standing invitation. He wanted his family to be able to see him play.”

But part of the shared family love was the acceptance by the broader family, all lifelong University of Utah alumni, fans, ticketholders— Wilson’s parents had seats adjacent to Utah coach Kyle Whittingham’s family on the 50-yard line—of Zach playing for the hated BYU Cougars. Wittingham had been prevented from offering Zach a scholarship because of a promise to his top quarterback choice from Southern California.

And the reason I know of this story is because of that “beloved” grandpa, Lisa’s father, is my longtime UPI colleague as western executives for the wire service and friend for decades, Gary Neeleman, whom I have written about (search Flynn's Harp: Gary Neeleman) because of his own prominence as perhaps Brazil’s most honored American and author of books on that nation’s history.

But for Wilson’s touching personal story, and the equally touching one of his teammates, to garner national attention there had to first be an attention-getting sports story, as in Wilson’s performance in guiding BYU to an 8-0 record this year, including Friday’s 51-17 blowout of 21st ranked Boise State.

That national attention for Wilson, a junior, is coming to include suggestion from a growing number of observers that he’s a legitimate candidate for the Heisman Trophy, college football’s most cherished honor.

And the manner in which the team runs onto the field with Zach carrying the American flag and brother Josh, a freshman linebacker who chose BYU because he wanted to make sure he played with his brother, carrying the Utah flag is also drawing attention.

Thus to the story of his teammates whose focus beyond sports is deserving national attention as well, a group of young men, many of them, like Zach, Mormons playing for the university-owned and operated by the Mormon church, the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

With the surge of comments and actions from athletes on the field and off in the wake of social unrest and awakening, particularly this past year, the BYU team felt it also needed to send a message.

At a mid-summer meeting, junior wide receiver Dan Milne explained, “We had an open forum about what we thought should be the message. We really tried hard to make it a message that was not controversial at all, and someone mentioned ‘love one another,’” a teaching of Jesus Christ that resonates deeply with members of The Church.”

So for its opening game against Navy, the team unveiled T-shirts that they’ve worn in pre-game warmups all season that say in black letters “We Are One” on the front and “Love One Another” on the back.

Then the players learned of things like licensing of the shirts and have sold them and raised money to go toward scholarships for needy kids. And it could become a most sought-after T-shirt once the story of it spreads across the land.

As to Zach’s leadership of this team, one who knows him remarked: “Inside roils a restless, steely determination to excel at his chosen craft, which often keeps him up late at night studying videos on his iPad instead of sleeping.”

But Wilson may also be driven in part by the Neeleman DNA.

Zach’s uncle David Neeleman earned fame as an airline industry innovator, founding Morris Air, WestJet, JetBlue Airlines, and Azul Brazilian Airlines and being part owner of Portugal’s national airline. He is waiting for COVID to end before launching his new airline, Breeze, that will be based in Salt Lake City.

Uncle Stephen Neeleman, who attended Utah State on a football scholarship and was an Academic All-American and USU Man of the Year, went to medical school and became the head of trauma surgery at American Fork Hospital. But prompted by his dislike of the medical insurance industry, he started HealthEquity, the country’s first and largest health savings account company that is basically a 401(k) for paying health costs.

His aunt Julie manages the family’s 10,000-acre Zion Ponderosa Resort that abuts Zion National Park and is ranked among the best family retreats in the U.S. by U.S. News and World Report.

The patriarch and matriarch of this dynamic Neeleman clan are Gary and Rose Neeleman, who have been married 62 years and preside over seven children, 36 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren. “They are the glue that holds it all together,” says Zach.

They are both 85, as of Rose’s birthday last Saturday, and still working. Brazil, their second homeland, offered Gary a job 20 years ago as an honorary consul for the 20,000 Brazilians who live in the Intermountain West. Gary told me he has just committed to another three-year term for the country he and Rose have visited every year since 1964. Until this coronavirus year,

A couple of notes about Gary’s ties to what he proudly notes is the second-largest nation in the Americas, in both land mass and population, a nation he first got to know in his youth as a Mormon missionary then for a decade as UPI’s manager for Brazil.

He’s written three books on parts of Brazil’s history, the last one several years ago won recognition as the best non-fiction work in Latin America.

After he returned with UPI to Salt Lake City, he set up annual trips for college all-star basketball teams, including 1979 national champion Michigan State and its star, Magic Johnson, to play games around Brazil and offer coaching help to local players. For a decade he was a luncheon speaker at the NCAA Final

In 2015 he received an unusual honor as the fourth recipient of an award whose English translation is Citizen of Sao Paulo. The three other recipients of the honor named for the State of Sao Paulo were the Pope, the Dalai Lama, and the founder of the Mormon Church in Brazil.

But back to Zach, whose family, filled with ardent University of Utah fans, came around to the idea that one of their own would wear the BYU blue and white. They were singing Christmas carols at a Neeleman family party after he had made his decision when suddenly, all of them — Neeleman uncles, aunts, cousins, and grandparents — broke out with the Cougar fight song.

They were telling Zach they were behind him if that was the school he chose. He soon signed with BYU and at a subsequent holiday party with family, he put his arm around his grandfather’s shoulder and, looking at the noisy crowded room, said, “Grandpa, you know why I chose BYU? This is why.”

 
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Quest for 20 to honor for COVID creativity and caring strategies

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It should have come as no surprise that our quest for nominations for The 20 of 2020 Awards to recognize creative and caring contributions by business people to our communities during COVID-19 would make it clear that prominent givers connect with dozens of equally committed individuals to carry out the giving.

One of those I refer to as creative givers that I reached out to is longtime Bellevue business leader Joan Wallace, who explained to me that what has gone on across her community and the region is "loving and caring people intersecting at the crossroads of need."

Sharon BloomeIn fact, Wallace sought to dispel what seems to be a growing sense that darkness is settling over the mood of the country that is due to more than the impact of COVID-19.

"What we see on the news leads us to believe that we have devolved into tribalism, segregating ourselves into silos where we acknowledge only those who look and believe as we do. My experience tells another story," Wallace told me in an email.

Two other friends that I connected with to help me plum the depth of the giving now going on were Katrina Eileen Romatowski, whose Katrina Eileen Real Estate is the only Benefit Corp, or social-purpose corporation, in her industry in this state, and longtime activist and philanthropist Sharon Gantz Bloome.

Interestingly, these three won't have known each other until they meet in this Harp, indicating people who carry a heavy load of giving don't sit around visiting about their giving.

In sharing the three interviews, I'll start with Wallace's admonition to set the stage: "I will share some of our adventures with the caveat that you make it clear to your readers that our efforts are just one small cog in a massive set of interlocking gears silently at work across this community.". We are just one example of thousands of families responding to needs as we become aware of them."

So I'll be back with Wallace but first want to introduce the other two interviewees.

Meet my longtime friend, Sharon Bloome, whom I became aware of decades ago after she moved to the Northwest in 1984 and co-founded Heart of America Northwest, which became the leading citizens' watchdog group for the cleanup of Hanford.

As chairman of the Rotary Club of Seattle's Environmental Committee, she co-produced an environmental guide for the business community entitled "Going Green: A Guide to Becoming An Environmentally Friendly Business Without Going Broke." Because of it, she was nominated for a United Nations Global 500 Award.

She spearheaded the mission of bringing computer skills to Seattle's inner-city children at the Rotary Boys & Girls Club, whose Computer Learning Center is named the Sharon Gantz Bloome Computer Learning Center. It's dedication plaque reads -- "Built by many, but delivered by the vision and tenacity of one."

Because she has Dyslexia, Bloome invested early this year to help create a teacher training program at Heritage University in Toppenish for a master's degree in inclusive education with a focus that includes Dyslexia and is the only program of its kind on the West Coast.

And when the coronavirus hit, and the program had to move online, Bloome says she believed the program "is just too important to go on hiatus even as we turned our attention to the pandemic and I am pleased to have played a part in its continued success." That meant financial support for the students.

Noting her view of the continued support of the degree at Heritage, Bloome said: "we must not completely lose focus on the post-covid-19 world. There are people who suffer across an array of issues great and small that we must continue to fight for."

An ongoing commitment of Bloome's was her personal support for a largely poor and Hispanic catholic parish in South King County, for which she regularly provided parishioners with food, clothing, and furniture.

 "Not Catholic, never was and never will be." chuckled the board member of the American Jewish World Service. "That doesn't matter. What matters is humanity and easing suffering in whatever way possible, wherever possible."

Then came COVID, of which she said, "I can't fix Covid. I wish I could. But I can help ease suffering for some families. The most elemental need is for people to eat. And so that's where I went, making it possible for the church to offer grocery gift cards and boxed assorted groceries to distribute to families in need."

Katrina Eileen is actually one of the creators and sponsors of The 20 of 2020 event, which is to be held February 11 at the Columbia Tower Club if live events return by then, or the evident honoring the 20 will be virtual. So she's not eligible to be among the 20, although her actions exemplify what we're looking for in potential honorees.

Katrina EileenMore than a decade ago, Katrina Eileen began a focus on aiding foster youth, culminating with her creation of a non-profit called Level Up, which is a housing and mentoring program for at-risk youth ages 18 to 24 who have aged out of the foster-care system.

In the face of the early struggles and fears people faced, Katrina Eileen decided to create a safe place for people in a Facebook group she called Real Kindness. It was a place people had a chance to share kind acts that they knew were occurring around the community, and she offered $1,000 a week for the posts with the most likes. One winner went on to be an overnight YouTube sensation, "Dad How Do I," a YouTube channel that soon had 400,000 hits.

Long a believer in the United Nations Global Goals, the first two of which are the end poverty in all its forms and to end hunger, she has partnered with a non-profit called Unify in a campaign that she calls Share the Number Love. It's an initiative to encourage people to pick one of the 17 global goals and share them on social media.

Now back to Joan Wallace, whose involvements accelerated by COVID start with Jubilee REACH, a Bellevue non-profit focused on "building a caring community in and around schools to meet the social and emotional needs of students and their families

"Since last March, individual families all across the greater Eastside have been showing up at Jubilee REACH every single week with a couple of bags of groceries that are immediately placed in the hands of waiting, needy people," Wallace said. "There are 26 Eastside churches involved in this effort where every week one family feeds another."

Then there's Congregation for the Homeless, a shelter for homeless men in downtown Bellevue, which had only been open six months a year until the current need made it clear the need for food and shelter would stretch through the winter,

So the Wallace's son, Kevin, former Bellevue City Council member, reached out to the community and raised the equivalent of $2 million in labor and supplies to get the building up to code in time to get open for the winter.

Meanwhile, Joan and Bob picked up when the previous process of volunteers preparing meals was ended by the virus and had to be replaced, but not totally, by area churches and groups providing food. Joan had to find Maggiano's Restaurant and Costco to fill food need for two nights a week, supported by $5,000 from her and Bob.

Bob and Joan WallaceThe Wallace outreach wasn't limited to the Eastside since a minister friend from an African-American church in the Rainier Valley told her of a low-income apartment building that he had built as one of the church's community enterprises that housed a mostly Muslim community.

Her conversations with the minister "revealed a need for baby diapers, wipes, and toilet tissue. I put out an email request to my neighbors as our daughter, Kim, did in hers. In one week, our collective neighbors donated enough to fill three large SUVs, so our entire family caravaned to the Rainier Valley to deliver the goods."

So as Wallace summed up of her family's involvements: "We are just one example of thousands of families responding to needs as we become aware of them."

It's those examples of creative giving that we are looking for by the deadline of December 1.

Marketingnnw.com, for three decades, the print bible of the Northwest marketing community and the digital format that replaced it on January 1, 2018, will produce a print supplement and online version with stories on the event and each of those selected.

The goal for this event, best summed up by a friend helping me assist in putting a similar focus on a San Diego event, is to seek out "those who combined success and sacrifice in a model that will become the new order. And in doing so, we begin to set a new standard for business people."

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State's last GOP governor 40 years ago once described himself as "darn good governor"

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It’s virtually certain that Gov. Jay Inslee will be re-elected on November 3 to a third term as Washington’s chief executive, which means that by the end of this term it will have been 44 years since a Republican was elected to the state’s highest office.

So the fact that for nine consecutive elections, with number 10 on November 3 all but certain, the state’s voters have opted for the Democratic candidate must give those who care about such things pause to wonder what kind of governor was that last one from the GOP. After all, he set the stage for the nation’s longest gubernatorial losing streak by either party.

Gov. John D. Spellman(Frmr) Gov. John D. SpellmanSo when thinking of that political oddity, I often reflect on an interview I did with that last Republican, John D. Spellman, 10 years ago on the 30th anniversary of his swearing-in. I asked him: “what kind of a governor were you?”

So Spellman, who died in January 2018 at the age of 91, replied with what I described as a twinkle in his Irish eyes, “I was a darn good governor.”

And there’s much that happened during his single four-year term, a time when the state faced what may have been its worst economic challenge up to that time, to justify that assessment from a historical perspective.

But it would have been difficult for many who were there at the time to agree since during his 1980-84 term as governor he managed to make decisions that irritated almost every segment of the political spectrum.
 
One such decision came about because of his strong commitment to environmental protection when he used his authority to prevent permitting for what he felt was an environmentally risky development project in a sensitive shoreline area of Whatcom County.
 
He made that decision in the face of enormous pressure from business groups and many legislators, but most notably, he turned down a direct request from President Ronald Reagan because, as some who knew Spellman later observed, integrity came before pressure, even from the president. Imagine that in this day and age.
 
I often passed Spellman, then in his early 80s, in the lobby of what was then the Columbia Center Building en route to his office at his Seattle law firm, Carney Badley Spellman, where he was still putting in four days a week and we’d pause to catch up.
 
Spellman, handsome and personable with a winning smile, was a graduate of Seattle University then Georgetown Law School. His ever-present pipe would be lit and relit during lengthy discussion sessions, some of which we had in the lobby of the Columbia Center when pipe smoking was permitted.
 
Among the decisions that he knew would face stiff opposition were those related to taxes.
 
“We passed more taxes in my four years than they have before or since," Spellman recalled in our interview.. "One of the challenges in seeking to get re-elected was that I said I would raise taxes only as a last resort and some people took that to mean I wouldn't raise taxes.”
 
"We had a crisis, as evidenced by the fact we had a 13.6 percent unemployment rate at one point, and in crises, you have to act," he added. "People didn't elect me to do nothing."
 
Spellman practiced politics in a long-gone era when Republican elected officials could be moderate enough to sometimes find Democrats to the right of them.

In fact, those interested in political history might find it intriguing that the Democrat who defeated Spellman after his single term was Booth Gardner, Harvard Business School graduate, a successful businessman and heir to the Weyerhaeuser fortune.

The other intriguing political oddity in this state relates to the office of Secretary of State, where the election drought is for Democrats, and it's two decades longer than the governor post.

A Democrat was last elected to the position that oversees state elections 60 years ago, in 1960.
 
The four men who held the role, leading up to the election eight years ago of current Secretary of State Kim Wyman, treated it as a nonpartisan job, according to prominent researcher and pollster Stuart Elway.
 
“And a lot of voters feel better about themselves if they don’t just vote a straight ticket, all Democrats or all Republicans, so they look for a place they can vote the opposite party,” Elway offered. “And the Republican secretaries of state made voting the ‘opposite’ party easier because they were good custodians of the office.”
 
Many observers from both parties agree that Wyman who, like Inslee, is seeking a third term, has done a commendable job handling the elections that constitute the position’s most important responsibility.

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Kirkland company's plan for rail-car energy-storage concept fuels renewable-energy interest

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The decade-long quest of two Seattle businessmen and the team of prominent investors they have attracted to create a unique new method for generating renewable energy is about to bear fruit in the form of rock-filled rail cars plying a Southern Nevada mountain.

Advanced Rail Energy Storage North America (ARES) is the Kirkland-based company that Spike Anderson, self-described “serial entrepreneur,” and Seattle attorney Art Harrigan created to funnel the millions of dollars they raised over the last 10 years to bring the project to fruition.

Howard TrottThe ARES Nevada project, located near Pahrump, about 60 miles west of Las Vegas, is the first of what they expect will be a series of similar energy-generating projects around the country, to help states meet their increasingly stringent renewable-energy goals.

“Those renewable-energy goals are not merely for the states, but are for the planet,” Anderson offered in a reference to the broader and increasingly pervasive issue of climate change that clean, renewable-energy initiatives are seeking to address.

For example, the broad success of ARES’ concept could eliminate the need for any more hydroelectric projects, and perhaps end the need for some existing hydro projects.

It’s likely the broader global goal is behind the commitment of time and money that Anderson and Harrigan, as well as retired Costco CEO Jim Sinegal and Car Toys founder Dan Bretler have committed.

Add to those names two key executives of a Denver conglomerate, Thermo Companies. Thermo was attracted as a major financial partner because of a business relationship between ARES North America CEO Howard Trott and Jay Monroe, who guides some of the numerous companies under the Thermo corporate umbrella. Another key Thermo executive directly involved in the funding is Kyle Pickens, Thermo vice president for strategy and development.

Trott has more than 25 years of experience developing and operating a wide range of energy projects, real estate investments, and other business ventures, including doing projects for telecommunication pioneer Craig McCaw for two decades.

Among his projects for McCaw was the successful conversion of James Island, a 780-acre island in the gulf of British Columbia to a model of environmental sustainability.

Anderson credits Trott with “getting us headed in the right direction, including reengineering our system, for which we have patents.”

ARES Nevada actually named the Gamebird Pit for the gravel pit from which the rail cars are filled with rock, is an affiliate of ARES North America.

A groundbreaking was held last week for the project, the first of what ARES has branded as GravityLine energy storage facilities. This one will generate up to 50 megawatts of stored electricity for 15 minutes in 30-minute cycles, enough to power 50,000 homes for those minutes.

The construction phase of the GravityLine facility begins in December and will take about a year to bring on line with the power generated into the California energy grid to California Independent System Operator for the purpose of stabilizing the grid.

From afar the railcars arrayed up and down the hillside may look like bugs scurrying around a small hill. But the reality is that each of the approximately 200 cars weighs 720,000 pounds and is 20 feet long, 16-feet wide, and 15 feet deep, making their way up and down a mountain.

ARES GravityLine’s fixed motor, chain-drive system, similar to how a rollercoaster operates, draws electricity from the grid to drive mass cars uphill against the force of gravity. That converts electrical energy into potential mechanical energy and when the grid requires power, this process is reversed and the cars proceed downhill with the electric motors operating as generators, thereby converting the potential mechanical energy back into electricity.

GravityLine’s storage systems are made up of multiple 5MW tracks and can vary in size from 5 MW to 1 GW of power and an equivalent range of energy depending upon weight and number of rail cars, slope, and distance.

This is a small project, what’s called an ancillary services installation, which basically means it will be used to balance the grid, leveling out peaks and valleys of power generated by renewable resources like solar and wind.

but the profits for ARES will flow from long-duration storage, up to 10 hours, and more, at utility-scale projects around the country.

The challenge, of course, for the renewable energy of wind and solar is that the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine. But the gravity that drives ARES’ projects is always there.

A quarter-scale proof-of-concept model of the ARES Nevada project was brought on line at Tehachapi, in the mountains east of Bakersfield, CA, in 2013.

With that model, which attracted interest from utilities around the country, the motors were on the cars’ driving wheels on the track just like a train. But the problem, Anderson explained, was “too much weight or too steep a grade, causing the wheels to lose traction.”

Trott’s re-engineering solved that problem by using chain and sprockets, thus giving positive contact.

Anderson noted that the chain system can go much steeper than the original 7.5 percent, adding “The system is pretty much infinitely scalable.”

Anderson and Harrigan own the technology with both being major shareholders of ARES, Anderson as lead investor and board member, and Harrigan, who first introduced Anderson to the technology in 2010, as chairman.

Despite the fact they’ve been friends for decades, they bring dramatically different business backgrounds to ARES.

Anderson, for years, was a large Kirkland Signature products supplier for Costco and was Costco's largest supplier by the time he sold his company.

Harrigan had key roles in saving both the Seattle Mariners and the Seahawks because Harrigan’s law firm represented King County and the county-owned the Kingdome, which the two professional sports teams were threatening to vacate by leaving town. Harrigan’s legal maneuvers, for which he basically got no visibility until I wrote a column five years ago, forced the two out-of-town owners to sell the team to local buyers (see Flynn’s Harp: Art Harrigan).

In discussing the fact that the ARES projects are based on gravity, Anderson quipped that “gravity is always with us. It’s been important for a long time, going way back to Sisyphus,” referring to the ancient Greek legend of the king condemned by the gods to spend eternity rolling a large boulder up a hill, only to have it roll down the hill and be forced to push it up again.

 
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Seattle identity for business ... once of value, now eroded and maybe gone.

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 When Expedia announced five years ago it was moving its headquarters from Downtown Bellevue to the Seattle waterfront, the company's then-CEO Dara Khosrowshahi explained that a local company that did business nationally should have Seattle in its identity, as in "Seattle-based."

It was a sense proudly shared by many residents and business leaders and did, in fact, serve to attract businesses to relocate, in part to attract employees also drawn to the image Seattle nurtured.

But in the follow-on to this year of coronavirus decimation of the economy and the Seattle riots that brought a response from the city's elected officials of, basically, "let them alone, their cause is right," there's likely to be an effort by many, most importantly the business community, to seek to avoid a Seattle identity. For some, that will even mean relocating their business. to be based elsewhere.

The major example of that is the headlong rush by Amazon to build its Bellevue presence by millions of square feet. The company, with thousands of employees at its Seattle headquarters, doesn't have to announce it is moving. After all, there will be possible executive offices in the Bellevue locations and employee growth at several Eastside Amazon locations.

Smaller but equally meaningful examples abound. A real estate friend of mine who recently sold the home of a family that moved from Seattle to Boise said they contacted her after the move to say they had been treated like refugees by those they met in the Idaho capital. As in, "What was it like there?" "What can we do to make you feel welcome here?"

And a friend who is a member of a national non-profit board said the recent virtual board meeting was filled with questions relating to the image of Seattle that is now extant, as in "is it even half as bad as we read and hear?"

The fact that the vast majority of protesters were peaceful was to the credit of those who organized the marches, mostly to espouse Black Lives Matter.

But the fact that Seattle leaders refused to come down hard on those who were violent, for fear of seeming to be not liberal enough if they cracked down on those bent primarily on destruction, will linger over Seattle's image until the electorate changes the face of the city council. And maybe the mayor who guides the city.

Some say that change isn't likely to happen and point as evidence of that to the re-election of Kashama Sawant last fall despite the fact she is the most incendiary far-left figure on the council. Or in elective office in this state, perhaps ever.

Maybe she is what the Seattle that is emerging wants.
 
John Powers
One of the earliest proponents of the importance of an organization getting the Seattle name to the fore was John Powers, the one-time Spokane mayor who was picked in 2004 to be the new executive director of the Seattle-King County Economic Development Council.

He convinced EDC board members, many from Seattle's suburbs, that the organization should be renamed Enterprise Seattle and for three years guided business recruitment efforts convinced that Seattle in the name had broad appeal.

Powers followed that Enterprise Seattle role with nine years as executive director of the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance before retiring last month and moving back home to Spokane to join in commercial real estate activity in partnership with his son, John Powers III.

Despite the fact that he will now be among those seeking to woo Seattle firms to move elsewhere, like maybe Eastern Washington, he remains a Seattle defender. He is convinced that while Seattle's image afar is now damaged, "I know how the political winds shift and long-term, I'm convinced Seattle's political pendulum will swing back toward the middle."

"Sawant is not the future of Seattle," he said, clearly intending to note the major image problem for Seattle is really a political problem.

"Seattle needs to find a unifier to guide the city back to that appealing image."

But the growing conviction that emergence from COVID-19 may include continuing the work-from-home factor is certain to challenge the return of Seattle's downtown to what used to be the normal of crowds of workers converging into the core.

And it's not just the possible appeal of living and working for a Seattle business from a home in Chelan, Ellensburg, Leavenworth, or Spokane; it's the likelihood of businesses themselves relocating.

That becomes a particular threat in the face of intent by the city's elected officials to find taxes that will impose the cost of fixing Seattle's ills on business, which are often pictured by too many of those City Council members as evil, greedy and self-serving.

Bellevue, for example, could do a much better job of marketing itself to those businesses already wondering if they should relocate but uncertain how to go about developing the idea.
But mounting a campaign targeting Seattle businesses obviously couldn't be implemented until a post-COVID time.

But proof that a Bellevue plan should be taking shape was my being told by the CEO of one Seattle-based regional company, "I really think we should move out of Seattle, but I'm not sure how to pursue that."

One possible idea for Bellevue business leaders  would be that all marketing materials should include a reference to "Seattle's premier side, the Eastside."

And pitching the difference by how the two cities have responded to the issue of pillage and destruction accompanying the protests is an emerging opportunity.

As indicated earlier, the idea of allowing law enforcement to enforce the law was greeted in Seattle with a "leave them alone, or we'll appear not liberal enough," accompanied by a willingness to force out with ill-treatment a widely respected black police chief.

In Bellevue, however, a police chief is in charge who understood the difference between peaceful protestors (with whom he actually met and spent time with during the demonstrations) and "an organized criminal network...clocking themselves as peaceful protesters."

Bellevue Police Chief Steve Mylett, in a video report to the community soon after the May 31 night of mayhem, explained that Bellevue experienced "a riot by more than a thousand criminals and opportunists who converged on the downtown core intent on causing destruction."

Mylett said he has ordered Bellevue police detectives "to identify and arrest as many of these offenders as possible" and added that anyone who wished could go to the police homepage to "upload any video or pictures from May 31 that would help us identify suspects."

Mylett said, "we have referred over 63 cases related to the riots and looting in Bellevue for prosecution, to the Prosecuting Attorney's Office."

 
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Deeds of Brien Wygle, like many in retirement, tucked away until his death brought recall

Brien Wygle Brien Wygle - photo by Getty.edu

Brien Wygle was comfortable with risky environments, whether in the air as a test pilot for Boeing and later in life flying aerobatic biplanes or on the water as a hydroplane racer. But after hydroplane legend Bill Muncey ran over the right half of his hull at 200-plus miles an hour to get past him in a race on Lake Washington, Wygle decided the skies were safer.

Wygle’s death on September 15 at the age of 96 at The Bellettini retirement community in Bellevue, where he had moved in 2017, reminded me of the Muncey story he told me one day when we were visiting.

His career as a hydroplane driver had been for a brief two years in 1957 to 1958, although his races on the circuit, driving the Thriftway Too and Hawaii Kai III, included the major ones like the Gold Cup, Diamond Cup, and Sierra Cup.
But it was flying that Wygle loved, from the time the Calgary native was a pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II in Europe, India, and Burma.

He joined Boeing in 1951 in Wichita as a flight test pilot and stayed 39 years, retiring as vice president of Flight Operations in 1990.

So what prompts me to do my column as an obit on Wygle this week? The fact that his story, like those of many people of advanced age, living quietly in retirement communities or remaining cared for in their homes, stay tucked away in their minds or scrapbooks or photo albums until death allows the world to revisit their special moments.

Those like William H, Gates Sr., who died a day earlier, appropriately have their stories and contributions spread across their communities’ awareness right up to the day they die.

So back to Wygle. His love of flying continued into his 80s, retiring when his hearing loss required it at age 84.

And regarding the Muncey incident that made Wygle decide to stick to the challenges of the skies, he recalled he was leading Muncey and as they came out of the turn, he “heard the roar of Muncey’s boat overtaking me and suddenly there he was roaring over the side of my boat.”

“The damn guy didn’t care if he killed me or not as long as he got past me,” Wygle recalled. “I figured the next time might not be one I survived, so I packed it in.”

And regarding the Muncey incident that made Wygle decide to stick to the challenges of the skies, he recalled he was leading Muncey and as they came out of the turn, he “heard the roar of Muncey’s boat overtaking me and suddenly there he was roaring over the side of my boat.”

“The damn guy didn’t care if he killed me or not as long as he got past me,” Wygle recalled. “I figured the next time might not be one I survived, so I packed it in.”

Though less visible than those of the most prominent, his contributions were nonetheless meaningful and important to remember.

He sponsored minority engineering students at the University of Washington and worked to advance women and minority engineers. He volunteered to tutor adults seeking their GED.


More visibly, he was a founder of the Museum of Flight and on its board for several years.

So there you have the story of the contributions that made Brien Wygle special, even if tucked away to be recalled only at his death.
 
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A hope that recalling 9/11 unity can remind us of what unity looks like

911-memorial

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Perhaps nothing can help remind this divided nation what unity looks like more than to recall the manner in which the citizens of this country, supported by the citizens of virtually every nation, came together united in grief over the tragedy of that 2001 September day etched forever in our minds as 9/11.
Toward the goal of providing that reminder, I share again, as I first did in a Harp on the 10th anniversary of that day and again on the 15th anniversary, and each year since then the piece written by a former, now late, United Press International colleague named Al Webb.


From his post in UPI's London bureau, Webb recapped days later the grief that poured out for us from across the globe. It has become my annual reminder of that display of shared pain out of a sense that we deserve to be reminded. Or rather it is required that we be reminded.)

 ------------  
 
By Al Webb
LONDON (UPI) -- A small girl with a Cockney accent shyly waved a tiny American flag, and a queen brushed away a tear. In a Scottish town that has known its own tragedy, a lone church bell tolled. On a German river, foghorns sounded a low moan.
 
Across countries and continents, waves of sympathy for a nation in anguish rolled on. A young woman in a Kenyan park wept over the sad headlines in newspapers spread on the ground. A one-time terrorist donated blood for the victims. Hundreds stood in line in cities from Dublin to Moscow to sign books of condolences.  
 
And over the outpouring of grief and mourning for the lives lost in the boiling flames and rubble of the World Trade Center towers and a wing of the Pentagon, time and again came the strains of "The Star-Spangled Banner," sometimes in places where it had never been sung before.
 
In a gesture reminiscent of John F. Kennedy's "Ich bin ein Berliner," symbolizing his solidarity with another troubled people a half century ago, the Paris newspaper Le Monde perhaps summed it up best: "We are all Americans."
 
In London, where the little girl with the funny accent and her American flag pressed her damp face against the gates, the band performing the traditional Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace suddenly did something it had never done before -- it struck up "The Star-Spangled Banner."
 
 For 45 minutes, the Mall in front of the palace became a little piece of America for hundreds of its citizens who were there because there were no planes to take them home. And the band of the Coldstream Guards played on.
 
As tear-stained faces lifted and sang along, as Americans and British and other nationals waved Old Glory, the marches rolled -- "The Liberty Bell" after the national anthem, followed by "The Washington Post March" and "Semper Fidelis" and finally, heart-rendingly, "When Johnny Comes Marching Home."
 
What the Coldstream Guards had triggered was the greatest mass demonstration of grief in Britain since Princess Diana was killed in a car crash four years ago. And as with Diana's death, a carpet of flowers, children's toys, poems, letters, all illuminated by tiny candles, built up this time at the fortress-like U.S. Embassy in London.
 
Amid the hundreds of bouquets, a single American flag was wrapped around a tree. One woman pressed her tear-dampened lips to its fringe in a soft kiss.  
 
The sweeping tide of mourning reached its crescendo at 11 o'clock Friday morning when Britain, France, Germany, and scores of other countries in Europe, Africa, and Asia went silent for three minutes, in honor of the innocent dead in America.
 
In Paris, the elevator at the Eiffel Tower stopped halfway to the top. Buses, trams, and cars halted in their tracks across the continent.
 
In Spain, more than 650 city and town halls became gathering centers for tens of thousands who bent their heads in silent prayer -- and then, at the end of the three minutes, they lifted their eyes and applauded in that people's traditional tribute to the victims of terrorism.
 
On the River Elbe leading into Hamburg, ships flew their flags at half-mast. The minutes of silence crept by -- and at the end were broken by the sound of a thousand foghorns rolling across the water into the city's very heart.
 
In Lockerbie, Scotland, there was no applause, no singing, no bands, only the ringing of a single church bell, and the flutter of flags at half-mast. This is a town with singular links to America, forged in a terrorist attack in the skies 13 years ago.
 
In all, according to an estimate by The Daily Telegraph newspaper in London, some 800 million people across Europe joined in the three minutes of silence.
 
At Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, once part of a dividing line between freedom and tyranny, a crowd of some 200,000 -- among them Germans whose relatives had died in terrorist attacks -- gathered beneath a black banner bearing the words, "We Mourn With You."
 
In Paris, crowds jammed the Place de la Concorde, itself a symbol of reconciliation, while church bells rang for five minutes before the silence.
 
In the government's Elysee Palace, "The Star-Spangled Banner" rang out, while over the French airwaves, radio stations played John Lennon's "Imagine."
 
The bankers of Switzerland are not noted for their sentimentality, so they dealt in their own currency. At the end of the three minutes of silence, they announced they were donating more than $500,000 to the families of the victims of the atrocities in America.  
 
Lloyd's of London, the insurance market-based in the British capital and one of several insurers of the World Trade Center, rang its Lutine bell and observed a minute of silence in memory of the dead in America -- some of them in the several broker offices Lloyd's has -- had -- in the WTC.  
 
In Belfast, the bullets and bombs of Northern Ireland's own form of terrorism, known as sectarian violence, went silent as tens of thousands from both sides of the divide -- Roman Catholic and Protestant - gathered in front of a makeshift stage at City Hall, to stand in silent tribute.
 
It is a city that knows the heartache of terrorism. "We have suffered for 33 years," said Betty McLearon. "People here have to be admired for the way they can cope with it. It will take the people in New York a long time to get over this."
 
In Moscow, the Russians observed a minute's silence as they laid wreaths and floral tributes outside the U.S. Embassy, once a symbol of the Cold War. Thousands of Muscovites lined up patiently to sign books of condolences.
 
In turbulent Israel, a nurse gently inserted a needle into the right arm of Yasser Arafat, himself a one-time terrorist who is now head of the Palestinian Authority. In a demonstration of support, he was donating blood to help the American injured.
 
Back in London, the minutes of silence were followed by a service of remembrance in the capital's majestic St. Paul's Cathedral, led by Queen Elizabeth II herself. In the audience of 2,400 inside, Americans hoisted the Stars and Stripes for the rest of the world to see via television.
 
Outside the cathedral, the tens of thousands who could not get in waved their own tiny flags and listened over the loudspeakers that carried the words and music for blocks around.  The cathedral's huge organ rumbled into life, to open the service, appropriately, with the American national anthem.
 
Then something happened that has never happened before, certainly not in public and doubtless not even in private. Softly, the queen began to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner."
 
Now, the British monarch does not "sing" national anthems. When they are played, she never even opens her mouth. Until now.
 
 But Queen Elizabeth sang it all, this song whose words were written 187 years ago during Britain's last war with her lost American colonies, through the final words, "O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave." With the last note, the queen gently brushed away a tear.
 
(Al Webb died in January 2015 at the age of 79 after a UPI career that ranged from the civil rights struggles to Vietnam's battlefields to the Houston Space Center. But he might well be best remembered for this piece of moving reportage whose rereading stirs a compelling question about whether the global regard for us that the outpouring of affection evidenced remains our national treasure. Or has it become a squandered legacy.)
 
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