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BoxFlex founder Wheeler planning app 'Time Capsule' for cancer patients

Sandy Wheeler's 40 years as an entrepreneur focused on health and wellness businesses has brought him the thrill of victory, building fitness giant Nautilus, and the agony of defeat with the loss of a promising cancer-treatment company to a hurricane. Add to that the frustration of finding a bureaucratic roadblock preventing large-scale use of a device to treat peripheral neuropathy.
 
 
Now Wheeler, 68, is about to unveil what he is confident will be an important addition to the success list. It's an initiative to build a non-profit enterprise around an app, called "Life's Journey of Hope," that will provide a LinkedIn-like communication "Time Capsule" for those who have cancer.
Wheeler explained his sense that while there are medical efforts going on to impact cancer itself and organizations seeking to help with logistics for cancer patients and their families, what's missing is "a tool to help patients share their thoughts and feelings with loved ones and those close to them."
Wheeler says the app is designed to "provide encouragement and hope to the patients and those closest to them throughout their struggle with the disease and to save the documentation of the journey, in voice, pictures and thoughts, for future generations."

While Wheeler's entrepreneurial efforts have involved a range of businesses, he likes to say that the one thing they have all had in common is the potential to improve lives.
And the Vietnam veteran's creation of the cancer-related app, and a 501c3 called Life's Journey of Hope.org.to get it into the market, may prove to be a dramatic example of that.
"The intent of creating this as a non-profit is that people won't have to pay a dime for it but will merely need a letter from their doctors certifying that they have cancer," explained Wheeler, who shared that his father in law had died of pancreatic cancer and that his sister has aggressive breast cancer.
"These Time Capsules will allow the chronicling of the journey with words, pictures and voice, and each family member will have access to create his or her own Time Capsule to capture and share their feelings with the cancer patient throughout the journey," Wheeler added. 
"This app will be able to capture text, video, photos with context, music, snapshots and other items with various privacy settings managed by the owner."
 
"The patient will be encouraged to immediately create videos or voice communication for their spouse, their children, grandchildren and anyone else they desire to share with," Wheeler added.
"This is a highly vetted and private app and the patient and the respective family members select those they are closest to for participation in this challenging journey through the cancer ordeal," he explained.
Wheeler's goal is the 501c3 will be funded through tax-deductible donations and be headquartered in Wenatchee, where Wheeler grew up and spent most of his adult life, when he wasn't off starting businesses, and where he and his wife raised their two sons.
The app won't be Wheeler's first involvement with a business designed to address cancer issues.
The first time had to do with a company he founded more than 15 years ago that was producing a trial treatment for breast cancer in which initial samples were administered to Stage 4 patients to extend their lives with what he describes now as "remarkable results."

"The technology had so much promise that it seemed we were right on target," he says, still evidencing the impact the tragic natural disaster that wiped out the company had on him.

It was 2001 and the samples, all stored on the first floor of the MD Anderson Cancer center in Houston, were destroyed when Tropical Storm Allison swept over Texas the Gulf region, hit Houston and flooded the main floor of the cancer research facility.

"I can't even describe the despair since it wasn't something that could just be started over, as it involved years of collecting and then growing the natural protein from healthy breasts," Wheeler said. "It was devastating,"

Despite his many successes, Wheeler notes that one of the most important lessons he has learned is how to deal with failures.

"When you fail, you can sulk or you can pick your chin up and get going."

And that's what he is doing coming back from what he views as a bureaucratic excess in the form of an unexplained pushback from Medicare on reimbursement for his device that he describes as "a quantum leap forward in the field of neuro-muscular stimulation."

He's referring to device that delivers electrical signal therapy to treat peripheral neuropathy. It was approved by the FDA almost 20 years ago and marketed by his Wenatchee-based VCare Health Systems to treat an array of lreg, back and joint pains.

But when it became clear that it successfully addressed peripheral neuropathy, he and other investors envisioned a series of clinics around the country. Then came the Medicare decision that would have required an individual therapist working with each patient, the costs could no longer pencil out. 

But the Medicare debacle, when he learned that there is no appeal from its decisions and that even Congress has indicated it can't address the problems, deserves its own future column.

But thanks to three men in Arizona whose use of the electrical stimulation device made them believers and who have the resources to partner with him, they are now seeking to determine if the device can be rolled out with enough cash users (those who can afford a price reduced to the minimum possible) to be a viable business.

Wheeler is best known for guiding the success of BowFlex from its first product in 1986 6o become the leading company in the field of home fitness cardio and strength products.

BowFlex, as it grew and went public on the Toronto exchange, purchased Nautilus, Stairmaster and Schwinn Fitness, and changed the corporate name to the Nautilus Group Inc.. Now located in Vancouver, the company produced sales in excess of $500 million per year.

He'd be pleased to become equally well known as the creator of the cancer-assist app.
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Success of Men's Squash world event facing challenge of dollar support

When Shabana Khan won the rights to put on the 2015 Men's World Squash Championship in Bellevue in November, she hoped it would provide the community an opportunity to promote its role as host of a world-championship sports events, foster a sense of community involvement and support empowering a woman entrepreneur.

But Khan, an athletic 47 year old who is part of what's been described as Seattle's First Family of Professional Squash and was once ranked number one among the nation's women squash players, hasn't yet been able to muster the local financial support necessary to ensure the success of the event 
 
 
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At this point, Bellevue City Councilman Conrad Lee has become her advocate in the quest to have the City of Bellevue participate, something that would be a given in other communities that had the opportunity to grab the brass ring of a sports-event world championship. 
Lee, who as the only Chinese local elected official in the state may be more attuned than most elected officials to the importance of understanding the attitudes and interests of those foreign residents, is convinced after meeting with Shabana Khan that the city must support the event.

Kahn had ambitious goals in outbidding other cities to be able to put on the first men's squash world championship event ever held in this country, which takes place November 13-22 at Meydenbauer Center and has attracted 112 of the world's top squash players.

She was emboldened to go after the most prestigious event in the squash world and bring it to Bellevue after she had successfully partnered with her father, Yusuf, who was responsible for turning the Seattle area into a center for squash, to put on the Women's World Championship in 1999.

"After hosting the Women's World Championships, I felt very confident in being able to bring the world's major squash event to this area," she said.

"Additionally as a former player I wanted to take the sport to a new level and treat these amazing athletes how they truly should be treated," she said. "I had set out to create a new standard for the sport and expectation of the most prestigious event on the Professional tour."

Most important, she wanted to thank her ailing father for his role in building the Seattle area into the center of squash in the Western U.S., after the 10-time India squash champion brought his family to Seattle in 1968.

The senior Khan started his own racquet club but soon merged it into the Seattle Athletic Club, which he then helped build into one of the most successful squash clubs in the country. In addition, four of his eight children have been professional squash players, including Shabana who in 2001 beat her younger sister, Latasha, the reigning national champion, to claim the title "best in the family," which is the case of the Khans, meant best in the country.

Lack of a commitment for a major sponsor for the 2015 men's event and the reluctance of some seemingly logical major local companies to step up with financial support for the men's championships have left Khan facing the prospect of a financial shortfall of perhaps $150,000. Her original budget was $1.1 million but she has already pared that to about $800,000.

A negative image for Bellevue corporate and community support may be unfair, as Bellevue Chamber of Commerce President Betty Capistany suggests.   

Putting some perspective on the lack of major financial support, Capistani made the point that "a new event that it not on people's radar needs significant lead time to get in the event budgets of major corporations."
"And the financial involvement of major corporations is much smaller than before 2008," she added.
Khan says advance ticket sales have accounted for $130,000 of the revenue and hopes that the ticket sales can be boosted with sufficient social media focus. 
The irony of the lack of sufficient support was framed in a Seattle Times article early this summer. "The world championships will be a coming-out party for what will be a $12.5 million renovation of Bellevue's convention center as well as a ramped-up effort by the city and its tourism marketing organization, Visit Bellevue Washington, to showcase the city and attract leisure and convention visitors".

Her largest financial supporter at this point is Pacific Marketing International (PMI), an early pioneer with contract manufacturing in China and Southeast Asia that has become a product development and manufacturing organization with offices in eight countries. Rob Harris, PMI CEO, has committed $80,000 to the event and, as an avid quash player, is a longtime fan of the Khan family.

"I didn't hesitate to jump in and I have no idea why she isn't getting the support she needs," Harris said. "My word! This is a huge opportunity. The world championships of a sport played all over the world."
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Chad Mitchell trio: reminder of passage of youth's icons

Perhaps the most compelling reminder of time's passage is the passage of the icons of youth. So it was when I learned recently of the death more than a year ago of Joe Frazier, part of the Chad Mitchell Trio, the Spokane-spawned folk group that I had followed closely since they were in college at Gonzaga University.

So if the Chad Mitchell Trio isn't a name that rings a bell for you, this would be a good time to leave this column and go on to other things. If the Chad Mitchell Trio is familiar, read on.

Chad, Mike Kobluk and Mike Pugh (soon replaced by Frazier) were three years older than me when they headed for New York in the summer of 1959 to, as the Jesuit priest who guided the university singing group of which they were a part advised them, find out if they had the talent to make it.

They did, thanks in part to being picked up by Harry Belafonte, who oversaw development of several groups of young entertainers. I watched the group in numerous TV entertainment programs, ranging from frequent stops on the Ed Sullivan Show and the Bell Telephone Hour to Johnny Carson's Tonight Show, the Steve Allen Show, Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin, Hootenany and listened to their records that often waxed irreverent in ways that eluded other folk groups.

There was a sense of a personal bond at first because Chad had run the 440 in high school and I broke his record in the state high school meet.

But it became a more personal bond a decade ago when, learning that Chad had returned to Spokane, I searched his telephone number in the hope of doing an interview with him. But what to say when I called his number?

When I called, young woman, who turned out to be his teenage daughter, answered. I asked "is Chad there?"

When he came on the line, I explained who I was, but knowing he'd be little impressed to be talking to the publisher of a business newspaper in Seattle, I quickly said: "I broke your 440 record in high school."

"Oh, what was your time?"

"I ran 50.6," I said.

"Cool, what was mine?"

"You ran 51 flat."

"Crummy time, but that was my junior year. When I was a senior, I was getting beaten regularly by another guy on the team and the coach said 'I don't need two quarter milers, so Chad, you're going to run then 880.'"

"Good thing for me. I won the state championship in the 880 that year," he said.

At that point we had bonded, so we set up an interview on my next Spokane visit.

During our interview at the Davenport Hotel in Spokane, Chad shared the recollection that the Chad Mitchell Trio had been offered first rights to do Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" as a single. But their producer turned it down with the explanation that "no song with 'death' in it has ever made it into the top 50," Mitchell told me. They soon parted company with that producer after the song became a major hit for Peter, Paul and Mary. It was the closest the trio came to a number-one hit.

It had been exactly 40 years, at the time of our interview, since Chad had departed his eponymous trio in 1965, and in the interview he discussed that departure with remarkable candor. "I left the group because it was time. A trio, three, is the worst possible number. It's always two against one. And there eventually came to be the question of 'why are we the Chad Mitchell Trio?' In fact the name Chad Mitchell Trio turned out to be a mistake. The last couple of albums we were just the Mitchell Trio."

"But we're adults now. And we're close friends," he said. In fact, he then lived near Kobluk, the deep-voiced member of the group who did many of the solos, including Four Strong Winds and the group's perhaps-best-remembered Marvelous Toy.

The search for Mitchell's replacement when he left the trio turned up a young singer named John Deutschendorf, who was later to become John Denver.

"Denver was a charmer," Mitchell recalled. "We had a lot of integrity in what we tried to do and Denver learned being meaningful from the trio."

The Chad Mitchell Trio never had a million-selling record, but over the first half of a decade that became the turbulent '60s, the trio used national-television appearances and college-campus performances to become among that era's best-known folk singers.

Several years after our 2005 interview, the group decided to return to the performance circuit, giving me an opportunity to do a column on them focused on the fact that they were helping redefine the meaning of encore.

I wrote: "For the trio members, encore means performing again, years later. In fact, a half-century on since that summer of 1959 when they headed by car for New York to seek their fortune. The trio is slated for a performance what will mark the 50th anniversary celebration in the city where they got their start as collegians."

The trio found themselves before audiences a half dozen or more times in each of the next several years, and as Chad explained: "Our producers are the ones who wanted us to do the one in Spokane again because the first time, they figured people wouldn't think we were any good after all these years. But it turned out we were all pleased with the reception."

The fact was that to the audience, they were excellent. Since they had all turned 70, they had clearly aged, but not unappealingly. Their voices had lost a little, but not a lot. And their enthusiasm was every bit as charged as when many in the audience of their era saw them lo those 50 years earlier.

One of their last perfomances was a Los Angeles fund raiser a few years ago for the Big Bear Lake Episcopal church where Frazier had been vicar for years.

Poignantly, the trio had scheduled a performance last November and, despite Frazier's death a few months earlier at age 77, they went ahead with the final performance with Ron Greenstein, who had played bass for the trio since 2009 and had been filling in for Joe on vocals since 2011, joining Chad and Mike for the last concert.

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New University of Washington and Nevada Las Vegas presidents face very different challenges

Len Jessup, who honed his higher-education administrative leadership skills at Washington State University, was ready when the right opportunity for a university presidency came knocking a year ago for University of Nevada, Las Vegas. For new University of Washington President Ana Marie Cauce, the knock came after 29 years of preparation at the same university.

Len Jessup 
Ana Mari Cauce 




  

 
 
 
    I returned from a personal visit with Jessup in Las Vegas, where he assumed the presidency of UNLV on January 5 of this year, to learn that Cauce, 59, who had since February been interim president of UW, where she arrived in 1986 as a faculty member and rose to become provost then executive vice president, had been named president. 

Thus Jessup and Cauce wind up sharing the focus of this column to highlight the very different challenges faced by the West's two newest major-university presidents, one just settling in and the other just named. 

Jessup's challenge is to grow the impact and image of a university whose major claim to fame when he arrived was that it was the nation's second most diverse university, although that it would soon add a medical school, no longer leaving Las Vegas as the largest population center in the country without one. Cauce's challenge is to ensure that the global high rankings coming UW's way in an array of academic areas continue to grow and expand. 
Jessup, on whose national advisory board I served when he was dean of the WSU College of Business before he stepped up to be vice president of development and then president of the WSU Foundation prior to moving to the University of Arizona to be dean of the Eller College of Management, was chosen a year ago to guide UNLV.

We sat down last week on the UNLV campus to visit about the pace he's been maintaining since then, moving forward with the planned launch of UNLV's new medical school and overseeing planning for the last presidential debate a year from now at his university, enjoying the fact he was able to engineer that coup in his first months on the job.

Intriguingly, Jessup and Cauce share similar humble backgrounds. She is originally from Havana, which her family fled to come to the U.S. in 1959 after the revolution. Her parents had to start over from working in Cuba's government to sweeping floors and making shoes in this country.

Jessup was born and raised in San Francisco with both parents of Italian descent. His father was a fireman. He was the first member of his family to graduate from college. He says he has "devoted my life to service in higher ed because of the opportunities it has given me and also to pay back my ancestors for the sacrifices they made in coming to America to make a better life possible."

Jessup's selection was the result of a national search by the board of UNLV. So was Cauce's selection, except that the search committee decided, in part because of the support she had generated on the board of regents and the campus, that it didn't need to follow prior presidential searches that inevitably tapped someone afar.

Cauce takes the reins at a university that is one of the oldest in the West and academically at the top of its game, ranked this month by U.S. News & World Report as now number 11 (third among public universities) in the Global University Rankings, while Reuters last month named UW the most innovative public university in the world.

UNLV, only four years old when UW celebrated its Centennial in 1961, tapped Jessup, who is 54 but looks more like he's 34, to bring growth in quality and visibility to the campus located less than two miles from the Las Vegas Strip.

"The regents understood that UNLV needed to evolve and grow into being a top tier research university so that it could be a driver of the Valley's, and thus the State of Nevada's, growth and evolution," Jessup said.

He has fervently sought ways to bring the public spotlight onto UNLV and he has already achieved that in a couple of ways.

The first was a news conference, an hour prior to our coffee visit at the campus Starbucks, at which details of a partnership with Tesla Motors were unveiled. The pact will allow for UNLV to help Tesla develop and implement battery-manufacturing technologies for the Gigafactory near Reno where the car company hopes to produce a mass-market electric car.

"The neat thing about the Tesla partnership is that it opens the door for further work with them, but also with other innovative companies," said Jessup.

"Just in the past few months we've launched several other powerful partnerships, including an $11 million grant from the National Institutes of Health together with the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas to tackle Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases," Jessup added. The grant will fund a Center for Biomedical Research, the first ever such grant in Southern Nevada.

But perhaps most flashy, and pretty much Jessup's own coup, was landing the final presidential debate at the end of next October, days before the 2016 general election.

I asked Jessup to explain how that came about and he shared that he was approved some months ago by the Commission on Presidential Debates with an inquiry that had also gone to other universities, seeking interest.

Jessup was advised that the entry fee to land the debate was $2 million in cash directly to the debates commission upon selection of the university where the final debate would be held. So he quickly huddled with the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority and other business leaders to put together a partnership that involved the LVCVA board approving sending the $2 million and agreeing to help UNLV with the estimated additional $2 million in out-of-pocket costs to prepare Las Vegas to hold the event.

Thus next October, the nation will be looking in on UNLV's Thomas & Mack Center, and likely the rest of the campus and the lights of Vegas when the two candidates for president appear in the final debate.

The business community of The Entertainment Capital of the World is already giving Jessup high marks for his ability to market his university. To come will be the challenges of advancing it academically among research universities.
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This Book of Mormon has two real-life heroes who impacted me, and society

You might call this column my personal version of the Book of Mormon, a tale with two heroes, like the musical satire of that name making the rounds of theaters across the country. But this is the story of two real-life heroes whose separate impacts on society, driven in large part by their Mormon faith, should make them each the subject for their own book or movie.

Jon Huntsman Sr. and Karen 
And both have left an impact on me. One, Gary Neeleman, is a lifelong friend who received unique recognition last week in his beloved Brazil for his life of focus on that nation and its citizens.

The other, Jon Huntsman Sr., whom I have never met but who has touched me for more than a decade, has again this year drawn me to the gathering of senior athletes that was his vision 
29 years ago when he began 
Gary and Rose Neeleman 
the World Senior Games as the globe's most impressive annual gathering of senior athletes. It will be my third trip to St. George, UT, to compete in the 100 meters.

I have previously written about both Neeleman and Huntsman, both longtime residents of Salt Lake City, who know each other, with Neeleman actually a close friend of Huntsman's son, Jon, who was Utah governor and for a brief time a GOP presidental hopeful.

So this column is somewhat a revisting of people long-time readers have met before. But I never apologize for repeat sharing of special people who have done special things.

Both men made major contributions to society, Neeleman to inter-American relations and Huntsman to medical science. 

It was as a result of his experience covering the 1963 Pan American Games and watching U.S. athletes play the role of "ugly Americans" in their treatment of Latin American teams they defeated, that he promised himself to someday do something about that. So when UPI sent him back home, he worked with Utah's coaches to create a college all-stars post-season tour of Latin America.
That tour, with Neeleman acting as scheduler, accommodations arranger and bag-boy for the basketball stars who relished the chance to participate, became an NCAA post-season fixture and Neeleman became a regular luncheon speaker at the NCAA tournament for years.

And for Huntsman, it was after his surgery for prostate cancer almost 20 years ago that prompted him to establish a world-class cancer research and treatment center, a dream realized with the Huntsman Cancer Institute and Hospital in Salt Lake City.

The Huntsman family continues to serve as principal benefactors and fundraisers for the Huntsman Cancer Institute with what he describes as "the ultimate goal" of eradicating the most challenging forms of cancer.
So now to their roles in this column. First regarding Neeleman, who was honored last week at the main hall of the City of Sao Paulo as the fourth recipient of the Sao Paulo Citizen award, following the Pope, the Dalai Lahma and the founder of the Mormon Church in Brazil as the only other recipients of the honor. 
Neeleman's wife, Rose, and sons, David and Mark and a total of 14 family members including wives, grandkids and great grandkids were among those on hand for the ceremony. Neeleman recalled stories of his 61-year relationship with Brazil, more like a love affair with a nation and its people, beginning in 1954 when he arrived as a 20-year-old Mormon missionary.

It resumed in the early '60s when he brought his then new bride, Rose, with him as he arrived to be Brazil's manager for United Press International and has continued since then, including his three books that chronicle previously little-known aspects of the relations between what he refers to as "the two giants of the western hemisphere."

Three of his seven children were born in Brazil, including David, founder of Jet Blue now the founder and CEO of Azul, Brazil's second largest and fastest growing airline. Neeleman told the assembly that all of his children, 35 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren "were either born here, or are Brazilians at heart and are all proud to have Brazilian passports."

Gary and Rose travel to Brazil about three times a year and when they're not traveling on personal or client business, or traveling to the Brazilian back country as part of their research for his books, he's doing Brazil's business as honorary counsel in Salt Lake City.
My friendship with Neeleman, 81, extends back more than 40 years, beginning with our more than a decade as executives at UPI. And my children still recall his dramatic reading of "Horton the Elephant" one evening years ago as they were tucking into bed.
Now to Huntsman, 78, about whom I will be having good thoughts next week and would love to meet, when he and Karen will be on hand for the opening of the two-week gathering where nearly 10,000 seniors will compete in everything from track and field to badminton, pickleball, lawn bowling, volleyball, square dancing and even bridge. Some of the participants are in their 90s.

Huntsman's vision back in 1987 was that an event called the World Senior Games, even if held in a then-remote corner of Southwest Utah, would eventually draw thousands of what some might dismiss as "the elderly" who come for the chance for recreation and to compete with their peers.

While the Huntsmans' close ties to the games remain, he turned over the CEO role a few years ago to Kyle Case, whose career involvement with the Senior Games extends back to when he served as an intern while a student at Southern Utah University.

I've been drawn to the games because of the "world" name since I first heard of them in 2003 and made up my mind to compete in the 100 and 200 meters in my age group once I learned that they weren't really games that required world-class talent. That means some competitors really were world class while others like me, who weren't, could still compete, and that's always been the magic draw.

In that 2003 event, as a 63 year old competing in the 60-64 age group, I managed to finish sixth in both the 100 and 200 out of fields of 24 in each event. But the reality was that those at the front of the pack in both events were, in fact, world class and thus it was satisfying just to be in the same race in which I could see them in the distance.

I returned in 2011 to prove to myself I could come back from the surgery for colon cancer that I underwent in late May that year.
The goal wasn't merely to prove that a 71-year-old guy can come back from major surgery and resume normal activity, even if the "normal" activity seems like a stretch to the sedentary of any age. It was also to acknowledge successful recovery from cancer while various friends are battling the Big-C, or have lost their battles.
Performing well at those 2011 anniversary games had become a single-minded focus that August and September following a required two-month recovery period without strenuous exercise. And so I proudly displayed, on my return, the Bronze medal I won for finishing third in my race.
So having turned 75, the appeal to return to St. George again to see how I can fare in the 75-79 group won out.

I closed a column three years ago on that 2011 experience thusly: Life is a race to be appreciated for the joy of participation, and whether world class, or a bit slower, making in to the finish line while leaving behind cancer, or any other physical or mental obstacle, is really the sweetest race to win.
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O'Toole turnaround of Seattle police community interaction drawing attention

 

As the president of China departs Thursday morning after a visit that represented a high-visibility recognition for the Seattle area's growing role on the global economic stage, U.S. Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch arrives for a less visible visit to discuss Seattle's progress on police reforms that are drawing attention on the law enforcement stage.

Kathleen O'Toole 
In fact, part of the discussion will be about Seattle's progress in implementing reforms mandated by the Justice Department and may touch on Seattle's growing role as a trend-setter, under Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole, in implementing new procedures for police-community relations.

Lynch's visit is part of a multi-city community policing tour and, while she is here, she will get a close-up look at how Seattle's police chief has done in leading a turnaround of the department where she took the reins 18 months ago in the face of a Justice Department-ordered revamping of policing procedures.

O'Toole was sworn in as Chief of the Seattle Police Department on June 23rd, 2014, selected after a highly visible national search for the person who could turn around a challenged department in which the Seattle community had largely lost trust.

Coincidental with this week's visit by Lynch, along with Vanita Gupta, Principal Deputy Assistant Atty. Gen. for Civil Rights and COPS Director Ronald L. Davis, was a breakfast-audience conversations last Friday at the Columbia Tower Club.

O'Toole, a career police officer as well as a lawyer, had earned an international reputation for her leadership and ability to shape reform strategy, including a six-year term as chief inspector of the Irish oversight body responsible for bringing reforms to the 17,000 member Irish national police service.

At the Tower Club interview, she remarked that when she first got to Ireland, she was asked if among other changes she would introduce the use of weapons, since police officers in Ireland, England and the United Kingdom don't carry weapons. She said she had no intention of doing that.

In fact, O'Toole told the breakfast audience, "many people get their impressions of policing from the gun fights and car chases they see on television.  They think it's all about enforcement.  In reality, most police work involves service."

"The department is actually doing more service-oriented business than law enforcement," she said, and noted as an example that the department "is on track to assist 10,000 people a year in crisis," meaning people on the street in activity that prompts a call to police.

What she sees as the positive impact about the real nature of police work that comes about from getting a close inside look is pointed up by a recent experience of a group of inner-city young people the department hired for summer jobs as part of Mayor Ed Murray's effort to increase city hiring of young people.

O'Toole chuckled that when the youngsters first learned they were being offered jobs with the police department, there was general reluctance.

She explained that her department hired 20 inner-city youth, "mostly young people of color" and after the summer employment ended, she said she met with them.

"They spoke very fondly of their experience and noted that police work was very different than they expected," she said. "They established friendships with many officers, and some are now considering careers with the SPD - something they never imagined doing prior to this experience." 

O'Toole, who before her stint in Ireland served in key police management roles in Massachusetts and Boston, first in 1994 as Massachusetts Secretary of Public Safety and 10 years later as Boston Police Commissioner, says the changing nature of police work is going to require recruitment changes.

She specifically referred to targeting more minorities and immigrants for policing careers.

She thinks some of the changes are occurring as a result of the events in Ferguson, MO, and elsewhere that "have created a ripple effect around the country."

Ferguson and similar events generated vigorous debate about the relationship between law enforcement and African-Americans, and the concept of use of force in policing.

"When I assumed this role in June of 2014, I knew it would be a challenging job, but never anticipated the series of national events that have deeply affected relations between police and community, incidents that have caused many police agencies to contemplate reform," O'Toole said.

"Fortunately, the Seattle Police Department was moving full speed ahead with reform prior to these developments," she added. " We still have work to do, but I'm pleased we can share our early experience with others, since in recent months, many police departments have visited us to learn about our new policies and training related to important issues, including Use of Force, Crisis Intervention and de-escalation."

She listed police departments in New York, Baltimore, Dallas, Milwaukee and, Portland among the visitor and said more departments are scheduled to visit in the coming months.

It would be Pollyannaish to think that all members of a police force singled out by the Justice Department for court-ordered turnaround are all in lockstep with the changes O'Toole is guiding. Some refer in conversation about the changes, particularly the rules on the use of force, to "rules of engagement being written by a Justice Department attorney."

  On a current local topic, O'Toole was asked whether any challenges have emerged for police since the legalization of marijuana in this state.

"It's fairly early for any trends to have emerged," she replied. "Except for the competing drug dealers who set up business across the street from the legal shops and sell it for less illegally."
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Sanjay Kumar waging campaign to expand acceptance of reusable water

Sanjay Kumar, who learned growing up in Mumbai how a lack of sufficient access to clean water can impact lives, has become an evangelical messenger about the importance of developing alternative sources of water in anticipation of the water-availability crisis that the former tech executive sees looming ahead.

Sanjay Kumar 
And Kumar, 49, who quietly made a mark as one of the Seattle area's most successful tech entrepreneurs, is likely to bring an increasingly visible presence to his current undertaking of spreading the message about the importance that recycled water will have in helping address future water shortages.

Kumar, who had key roles at Microsoft, and Teledesic before founding his own telecom services company after coming to the U.S. from his native India in 1983, points to an agreement this month between Kirkland and King County's Wastewater Treatment Division as a model that cities everywhere will eventually need to pursue.

The first-of-its-kind agreement between a city and the county will bring a drought-proof source of water to the Eastside city in the form of high-quality recycled water from the county's Brightwater Treatment Plant.

But Kumar, who pressed for the landmark arrangement, laments that "no other city is contemplating anything like this, largely due to King County being in no hurry and realizing it is a heavy lift so they want to wait and see with Kirkland. "

Kumar makes no apology for being the doomsayer about the water crisis he sees awaiting not just the water-starved regions of the west, but areas like the seemingly water-plentiful Northwest as well. The current efforts in the Puget Sound area to curtail water use suggest that Kumar is right on.

His advocacy, research and consulting organization, reuseH20, promotes the use of recycled/reclaimed water (which is known as "purple pipe" because it is delivered through a system of purple pipes) and has a goal of helping municipalities, industry, developers and communities "de-risk" their access to water.

"We help organizations understand the current and future cost of water, explore the available options to recycle water on site or access reclaimed water from a municipal or 3rd party source and ensure that each solution has long term financial and sustainability benefits," is the way he explains it.

He points to the water crisis playing out in California as "really a microcosm of all the problems." That state's reliance on its two water sources of mountains snow melt and groundwater, with both depleting, "is not sustainable for more than a couple of decades."

In fact, he makes the attention-grabbing comment that "the time will come when it will be less expensive to relocate a California resident to somewhere else in the country than to pay for them to continue getting water."
Kumar suggests: "It will be a different country when the water situation reaches the point where people are told 'no you can't move to that part of the country. Pick somewhere else.'"

His Twitter and LinkedIn sites carry regular messages on the topic, like "Reuse is a necessary and scalable concept including rainwater harvesting, stormwater capture and municipal reclamation." And he offers updates on developments, like reporting that a residential recycling water fill station had been opened in Sonoma by the area's sanitation district for residents to use to water their lawns, gardens and landscape areas.

A key part of Kumar's campaign is to paint municipal utilities as not just a key part of the problem, but as committed to a course contrary to what's best for the desired long-term outcome.

He makes the point, for which general awareness has not yet emerged, that the revenue model of utilities in Seattle and elsewhere is based on their ability to sell water and thus there is a built-in reluctance to embrace any program focused on reusable water, which as a less-expensive alternative would negatively impact the revenue model.

"Reclaimed water is the only workable answer since, if done with the right technology, it produces both clean water and energy," Kumar says.

Kumar came to the U.S. in 1983 at the age of 17 to study computer engineering at Carnegie Melon University and joined Microsoft in 1991 after getting his PhD at the University of Pennsylvania. At Microsoft he worked first in the multimedia group helping develop video for Windows, then in the Advanced Technology group alongside Intellectual Ventures co-founder Nathan Myhrvold.

Then Kumar founded and grew VCustomer into one of the nation's fastest-growing private companies before three years ago selling the telecom outsourcing company, which had grown to more than 4,000 employees with call centers in India and three other countries.

Kumar first learned of the potential for reclaimed water when he invested in a water-cleaning technology company.

Now he is seeking investment opportunities in water reuse as a member of Element8, originally the Northwest Energy Angels, the first angel group in the nation to focus exclusively on clean technology and sustainability.
Kumar points to the restrictions on reclaimed water, and perhaps more absurd on rainwater as examples of the hold municipal entities have in protecting the revenue they derive from water sales.

"Those seeking to ban the collection of rainwater say it js a potential health hazard or that it's needed in their watershed," Kumar notes, then adds with an amused look "I need an exemption or a permit to collect rainwater and, most absurdly, you even need a special permit to use rainwater in your toilet."

But in what he views as an upside, there is ever-increasing pressure from the Environmental Protection Agency on urban communities to make their water cleaner before dumping it, "creating standards so high that it could well be reusable water."

"In this state, no matter how clean it has become, reclaimed water is not legally potable but in many states, there is no such absolute restriction," Kumar notes.
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Voters, rather than the High Court or lawmakers, should decide school funding

What the Washington State Supreme Court seems to have done, with its ruling last week that charter schools violate the state constitution, is to reinforce its message to the governor and the legislature: "you are not in charge in this state. We are."

And anyone who agrees with the assessment that the state highest court's two education-funding cases amount to unsettling steps into the separation-of-powers arena could also agree that the constitutional question the court is thus raising is one that merits a focused public discussion.

The question of whether the Supreme Court has embarked on an undesirable drift away from the principal of three equal branches of government can be put into discussion by conversation on social media and analysis and commentary from traditional media.

But closure to that question in the form of "a ruling" by the state's citizens, the ultimate court to which all three branches of government answer, can only come in a meaningful way with the kind of debate that occurs during election season when the judges actually have to face public scrutiny.

Meaning the three Supreme Court judges up for re-election a year from now, three of whom were in the majority in the 6-3 ruling, including Chief Justice Barbara Madsen who wrote the majority opinion, should face opponents who feel the court has encroached inappropriately on the essential separation of powers.

The value of competition in next year's election for those three justices, Charles Wiggins and James Johnson in addition to Madsen, isn't to seek to punish them for their views but rather to ensure a sufficient airing of public attitudes on the issue of whether they are endangering the proper separation of powers.

Certainly the role of the Supreme Court is to have the last word, passing judgement on laws passed by the legislature and signed by the governor. But what troubles concerned legal observers is that in the two education-funding decisions, the court has assumed for itself the first word, telling the governor and the legislature what they WILL do rather than passing judgment on what they did.

If the sitting judges are voted out, it will amount to an affirmation of the view that the court has gone too far and the remaining six judges can then ignore that at their peril.

Now for a review of the court decisions that lead to the questions about limitation of the powers of the court and the possible abandonment of the tradition that the high court imposes those constraints on itself.

The court's most recent ruling held that charter schools are unconstitutional, ultimately because they are governed by appointed rather than elected boards and that the constitution requires that the boards that oversee common schools must be elected.

The state constitution merely requires adequate support for common schools. So in decreeing that elected boards must govern common schools, the court has basically usurped the legislative and gubernatorial right to decide in the future the manner in which the constitutional funding requirement can be best carried out. That means the lawmakers might want to decide whether funding oversight is best served by elected or appointed boards, perhaps at the state level.

Budget leaders in both houses and both parties have suggested that the state take a larger role in oversight, as in setting pay, for example. And some lawmakers are even convinced that they have to do that, since the lawmakers, just as they are answerable to students to provide a good education, are answerable to state taxpayers to ensure that those school dollars the court has ordered them to increase are being spent as wisely as possible.

They realize they need to step into the management role in ways that could elude locally elected school boards.

In the first education-funding decision, known as the "McCleary decision," the court ordered the legislature to spend more money on education, then followed up by holding the lawmakers in contempt for failing to provide enough additional funding. And in the past few weeks the court actually imposed a $100,000-a-day fine on the lawmakers to failing to "sufficiently" fund education.

In that McCleary ruling, the court said common schools funding needed to be 'ample" but also "uniform" and "stable."

Now the court's sole position is spend more money, focusing only on "ample" while saying it has "no opinion" on the "stable" or "uniform" points.

Some court observers have described as curious the fact that the high court backed off from two of the three central points on education funding, leaving only the edict of spend more money.

And since in the constitution, common schools specifically excluded high schools and "normal schools," (which became the state's Eastern, Central and Western state universities) the court may have cast doubt on the constitutionality other programs not overseen by elected boards, like Running Start, a program by which high school students can gain college credit.

All represent more than enough reason for deliberation beyond the legislators, governor and the courts to include the public in decisions about where the state should go with education funding and the process by which that should occur. 
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Rural economic development and young people

 

If Global Entrepreneurship Week, the annual worldwide celebration of innovators and job creators, had been a competition among nations, states and regions, Washington State could have laid claim to being the hands-down winner. And that would be appropriate recognition for the man who has guided much of this state's effort to advance entrepreneurship, particularly in rural areas and particularly with young people, for 25 years.

https://mlsvc01-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/f9d31d49001/30a3ef8d-4001-4795-971c-0da1ede61b9e.jpg

Maury Forman

Maury Forman, senior manager for the Washington State Department of Commerce, is proud of the fact that in this state, GEW 2015 was actually Global Entrepreneurship Month and extended to every corner of the state with activities in all 39 counties. Four years ago, when Forman plugged the state into GEW activities, three counties participated.

Forman says "we are changing the way communities look at economic development." That's an outgrowth of his effort, over much of his quarter century overseeing key economic-development sectors, to develop a culture of entrepreneurism in rural areas.

Global Entrepreneurship week was founded in 2008 by the Kauffman Foundation, the Kansas City-based 501c3 that is the nation's pre-eminent entrepreneur-focused organization, to create an annual celebration of innovators and job creators who launch the start-ups that drive economic growth.

Forman, who joined what was then the Department of Trade and Economic Development in 1991 in a career transition from healthcare at the age of 40, says "No other state can claim that every part of the state had at least one event that celebrated entrepreneurship."

"One of the exciting aspects of this year's celebration of entrepreneurship was the number of high school programs being held throughout the state," Forman said. "In many cases, college isn't the natural next step it was once for high school students so these programs expose them to the idea of starting their own business once they graduate. Or if they do go on to college, they can focus their education on skills that will allow them to start a business in the years to come."

Forman says he has kept his primary focus on rural economies because "they need the assistance much more than urban communities," as well as because he has become convinced that the strategies for growth of many rural areas that has been focused on recruiting companies from out of state is outdated.

"That has to change if rural communities are to survive," Forman said. "Communities have to be shingle ready and not just shovel ready."  

In a recent article in Governing, a national magazine covering state and local government news, Forman wrote about Washington's three-year-old program called Startup Washington that focuses on building local economies "organically" by serving the needs of local startups and entrepreneurs.  

Forman is likely among the national leaders in the conviction that programs to enhance local economic development "must nurture the belief that young people who grow up in rural communities can be guided to start businesses in their own community rather than moving to urban centers."

"Just as young people are looking at new ways to enter the work force other than working for someone else, so too are communities looking for ways other than recruitment of businesses from elsewhere to grow their economies," Forman said.

One of the ways he is seeking to do that "is by matching those students that are serious about being entrepreneurs with mentors, especially in rural communities."

Indeed matching students who hope to be entrepreneurs with mentors is becoming the model for successful communities, particularly rural ones, to pursue.

Some communities have long been employing that model, as chronicled in the oft-quoted book written by Jack Schultz, founder and CEO of Agracel, a firm based in Effingham, IL, that specializes in industrial development in small towns.

It was in pondering why some small towns succeed where others fail that Schultz set out on the backroads to rural America to find out as he became the nation's guru of rural economic development and wrote of his travels in Boomtown USA: the 7 ½ keys to Big Success in Small Towns.

I emailed Schultz about entrepreneurism's role in small town success and a possibly emerging role for mentor programs.

"Embracing entrepreneurism in communities has been a key factor that differentiated great communities from also-rans," he emailed back. "Increasingly, we are seeing those great communities taking it a step up by tying their local entrepreneurs up with their young people, educating them on both entrepreneurship and also the great things happening in the private sector of their towns."

Schultz' successes in believing in small-town entrepreneurs and small-business lending is partly responsible for the fact the Effingham-based bank he helped found and now chairs the board, has grown eight fold to $2.9 billion in assets and gone public.

"At Midland States Bank, we have very much focused on small business lending and it has been a major factor in our growth over the last several years," Schultz said.

In an unusual and innovative commitment to the dozens of communities it serves, the bank has funded a not-for-profit institute to expand an entrepreneurship class that was started in Effingham eight years ago and has now expanded to 27 other towns.

Forman seemed intrigued by the details Schultz provided:  The class meets each day during the school year from 7:30 to 9 am; meets in local businesses; is totally funded by local businesses with a maximum contribution of $1,000 per business or individual.  Each class has a business and each student must also start a business.  

Meanwhile, Forman approaches his 25th anniversary with the department on January 1 having collected numerous regional and national awards for his work and successes. Those include last year winning the international Economic Development Leadership Award and recognitionby the Teens in Public Service Foundation with the Unsung Hero Award for his work with at risk kids.   

He has authored 14 books related to economic development, and has also designed and developed creative "game show' learning tools, including Economic Development Jeopardy, Economic Development Feud and two board games for the profession.

Forman credits the directors who have guided the department over his time there for allowing him "to be intrapreneurial," meaning behaving like an entrepreneur while working in a large organization, noting "not many government agencies allow the freedom to take risks in an effort to solve a given problem."

 

 

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Rural economic development and young people

 

If Global Entrepreneurship Week, the annual worldwide celebration of innovators and job creators, had been a competition among nations, states and regions, Washington State could have laid claim to being the hands-down winner. And that would be appropriate recognition for the man who has guided much of this state's effort to advance entrepreneurship, particularly in rural areas and particularly with young people, for 25 years.


Maury Forman 

Maury Forman, senior manager for the Washington State Department of Commerce, is proud of the fact that in this state, GEW 2015 was actually Global Entrepreneurship Month and extended to every corner of the state with activities in all 39 counties. Four years ago, when Forman plugged the state into GEW activities, three counties participated.

Forman says "we are changing the way communities look at economic development." That's an outgrowth of his effort, over much of his quarter century overseeing key economic-development sectors, to develop a culture of entrepreneurism in rural areas.

Global Entrepreneurship week was founded in 2008 by the Kauffman Foundation, the Kansas City-based 501c3 that is the nation's pre-eminent entrepreneur-focused organization, to create an annual celebration of innovators and job creators who launch the start-ups that drive economic growth.

Forman, who joined what was then the Department of Trade and Economic Development in 1991 in a career transition from healthcare at the age of 40, says "No other state can claim that every part of the state had at least one event that celebrated entrepreneurship."

"One of the exciting aspects of this year's celebration of entrepreneurship was the number of high school programs being held throughout the state," Forman said. "In many cases, college isn't the natural next step it was once for high school students so these programs expose them to the idea of starting their own business once they graduate. Or if they do go on to college, they can focus their education on skills that will allow them to start a business in the years to come."

Forman says he has kept his primary focus on rural economies because "they need the assistance much more than urban communities," as well as because he has become convinced that the strategies for growth of many rural areas that has been focused on recruiting companies from out of state is outdated.

"That has to change if rural communities are to survive," Forman said. "Communities have to be shingle ready and not just shovel ready."  

In a recent article in Governing, a national magazine covering state and local government news, Forman wrote about Washington's three-year-old program called Startup Washington that focuses on building local economies "organically" by serving the needs of local startups and entrepreneurs.  

Forman is likely among the national leaders in the conviction that programs to enhance local economic development "must nurture the belief that young people who grow up in rural communities can be guided to start businesses in their own community rather than moving to urban centers."

"Just as young people are looking at new ways to enter the work force other than working for someone else, so too are communities looking for ways other than recruitment of businesses from elsewhere to grow their economies," Forman said.

One of the ways he is seeking to do that "is by matching those students that are serious about being entrepreneurs with mentors, especially in rural communities."

Indeed matching students who hope to be entrepreneurs with mentors is becoming the model for successful communities, particularly rural ones, to pursue.

Some communities have long been employing that model, as chronicled in the oft-quoted book written by Jack Schultz, founder and CEO of Agracel, a firm based in Effingham, IL, that specializes in industrial development in small towns.

It was in pondering why some small towns succeed where others fail that Schultz set out on the backroads to rural America to find out as he became the nation's guru of rural economic development and wrote of his travels in Boomtown USA: the 7 ½ keys to Big Success in Small Towns.

 

I emailed Schultz about entrepreneurism's role in small town success and a possibly emerging role for mentor programs.

"Embracing entrepreneurism in communities has been a key factor that differentiated great communities from also-rans," he emailed back. "Increasingly, we are seeing those great communities taking it a step up by tying their local entrepreneurs up with their young people, educating them on both entrepreneurship and also the great things happening in the private sector of their towns."

Schultz' successes in believing in small-town entrepreneurs and small-business lending is partly responsible for the fact the Effingham-based bank he helped found and now chairs the board, has grown eight fold to $2.9 billion in assets and gone public.

"At Midland States Bank, we have very much focused on small business lending and it has been a major factor in our growth over the last several years," Schultz said.

In an unusual and innovative commitment to the dozens of communities it serves, the bank has funded a not-for-profit institute to expand an entrepreneurship class that was started in Effingham eight years ago and has now expanded to 27 other towns.

Forman seemed intrigued by the details Schultz provided:  The class meets each day during the school year from 7:30 to 9 am; meets in local businesses; is totally funded by local businesses with a maximum contribution of $1,000 per business or individual.  Each class has a business and each student must also start a business.  

Meanwhile, Forman approaches his 25th anniversary with the department on January 1 having collected numerous regional and national awards for his work and successes. Those include last year winning the international Economic Development Leadership Award and recognitionby the Teens in Public Service Foundation with the Unsung Hero Award for his work with at risk kids.   

 

He has authored 14 books related to economic development, and has also designed and developed creative "game show' learning tools, including Economic Development Jeopardy, Economic Development Feud and two board games for the profession.

Forman credits the directors who have guided the department over his time there for allowing him "to be intrapreneurial," meaning behaving like an entrepreneur while working in a large organization, noting "not many government agencies allow the freedom to take risks in an effort to solve a given problem."

 

 

 

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Chelan wildfires devastation prompts mother-daughter fund-raising response

"When millennials join with boomers, better results happen," is how Deanna Oppenheimer sums up the success she and her daughter, 27-year-old Jenifer, had when, as part-time residents of Chelan, they were moved by the devastation they witnessed from the wildfires in the area to launch a local fund-raising effort for victims.

Oppenheimer, a leader in international finance while working in London from 2005 to 2012 as one of Barclay's key executives before returning to Seattle, and Jeni, who is heading off to get her MBA in the UK after three years with Global Impact in Washington, D.C., launched the fund the weekend after lightning strikes on August 13 started what became massive fires.

Deanna and Jeni Oppenheimer 

As of this week, the fires, which started, then converged into one around Lake Chelan and are now referred to as "the Chelan fire complex," have burned more than 92,000 acres and destroyed 21 residences and has actually been dramatically surpassed in impact by fires in Okanogan County.

"The passion came when Jeni and I went to Chelan to check on things. Seeing cabins burned to the ground in our favorite ski cove, seeing the ducks slick with oil from the burned boats, walking down empty streets and talking with the farmers at the Wednesday market that had lost everything, moved us to tears....and then action," Deanna said.

Deanna explained that they set a modest initial goal of $5,000 with the funds to go to a local effort focused solely on fire relief, meaning small-scale capability to allocate the funds and thus they didn't want to set a large goal that would raise significantly more than the local organization could raise on its own.

Jeni interviewed the head of the local organization called Give Naked, a giving organization that operates under the umbrella of the 501c3 Chelan Valley Hope while Deanna spoke with community leaders in Chelan and Manson before unveiling their campaign.

The plea for support went out to family and friends by way of a site called Crowdrise, a for-profit website that uses crowdsourcing to raise charitable donations for things like medical bills, volunteer trips and what it promotes as 1.5 million charities, touting the ability to create a site in 42 seconds.

The original goal of $5,000 quickly became $10,000, noted Jeni, who chose the Crowdrise approach to the fundraising.

And of course among the first to make donations were Jeni's brother, James, 23, and John Oppenheimer, Columbia Hospitality founder and CEO, who merely looked on with presumed satisfaction while his wife and daughter went about their fund raising.

Having known John and Deanna for a long time, the focus and zeal that Deanna and Jeni brought to their cause was no surprise.

"Now we are just under $20,000 and not even halfway to our target date of September 14," Jeni advised me this morning.

"What overwhelmed us was the incredible generosity of those we asked and the power of the social media network," said Deanna, who founded the consumer-focused boutique advisory firm CameoWorks after returning to Seattle. "We raised the $5,000 in 25 HOURS not days, and decided to double the goal to $10,000."

 

Deanna, who has had a social media hand in publicizing their effort with a lengthy post on LinkedIn, sums up their success as "old school networking meets new school technology in the area of charitable fundraising."

"The combination of a passionate cause, crowdfunding technology and good old personal networking taught me a lot about the new way to raise awareness," she added.

 

"The campaign has been a lot of fun to work on together but it's been exactly that....a lot of work," Deanna said. "As a result, we are not planning on broadening to support other geographic areas.  However, our campaign is a great model for someone connected to those areas to follow if they are interested."

And the model is one that could spur groups in other smaller communities that have been dramatically impacted by the wildfires, particularly those in Okanogan CountyGo to link  

.

Deanna describes the model for their success:  "Multi-generational teams that combine disruptive thinking and youthful energy with seasoned expertise and lessons-learned experience are more successful than monolithic group think."


But Jeni puts it in a more personal vein. "This is something we wanted to do together." 
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How new state cancer-research fund came about in the 2015 Legislature

 

The tale of how Sen. Andy Hill, a near-miraculous survivor of lung cancer and the powerful Republican overseer of writing the Senate's budget, helped guide funding to create a new state cancer-research fund might have been the story of a legislator's personal cause and vision brought to reality.

Instead, what has begun to emerge is a tale of more typical legislative ineptitude, because most observers aren't really sure what the Hill-guided budget inclusion of a Cancer Research Endowment Fund brought about or why it was carried out with the intrigue and confrontational politics that occurred.

One certainty is that Hill was a key architect of a Republican conviction that funding needed to end for the decade-old Life Science Discovery Fund, which provided grants to an array of emerging life science and biopharma companies and some viewed as a logical administrator of a new cancer-research fund.

So in the end the Legislature's 2015 final budget compromise killed funding for LSDF but did not put the organization itself out of business.

Meanwhile, the legislation creating the new cancer fund, referred to as CARE, was approved with a $5 million matching grant this year and a $10 million matching grant next fiscal year and thereafter to fund cancer research in this state. Maybe.

But before any of the grants can be made, there must first be "proof of non-state match," meaning there is no certainty that any of those state dollars will actually be spent without the emergence of entities seeking to match the grants.

For reasons many outside of the political arena couldn't quite understand, Republicans, with Hill as a leader of the viewpoint, didn't like the concept of funding startups while Democrats were strong supporters of LSDF and the potential jobs grant-recipient companies might create.

But Hill apparently, on more than one occasion, suggested that the administrative structure and staff of LSDF, including its well-regarded Executive Director John DesRosier, could become the overseeing entity for the new cancer-research fund. So perhaps Hill will explore that possibility.

Someone might have explained to Hill, a former Microsoft manager, that cancer research is a life science discovery activity and that rather than forcing the elimination of LSDF's funding in a bitter and controversial battle with Democrats who supported LSDF, he could have forced cancer research to be its new focus.

In fact, a proposed initiative, backed by organizations like the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, that failed to gain enough signatures to make the ballot last year would have created a large pool of dollars, funded by tobacco-tax increases, a fund that would have been administrated by LSDF as an added responsibility.

And Rep. Ross Hunter, the Democrat who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee and also a cancer survivor, had led an effort in the 2015 session on behalf of a bill with a similar goal of establishing a cancer-research fund with dollars from an increase in the tobacco tax, but the bill never got through the committee challenges.

Hill's 2009 conquest of stage 3 lung cancer, including a pronouncement at one point that it was terminal before his treatment with a new targeted therapy left him cancer free in a matter of weeks, is a remarkable story that would have made his support for a meaningful step to fund cancer research laudable and a cause for broad support.

Hill made it clear that one of the reasons he ran for office in the fall of 2010 was to "advocate for continued scientific research and development of life saving and life altering therapies."

In the end the relatively small amount that the CARE fund provides isn't in the same ball game that commitments like the $200 million lawmakers in neighboring Oregon approved to support a $1 billion public-private effort to bring the nation's top cancer researchers to Oregon.

And Oregon is only one of the states that have made such major commitments to cancer research.

One of my friends long involved in watching legislative machinations offered an analysis of what occurred: "You kill LSDF which uses OPM (other people's money, i.e., the tobacco settlement), and then appropriate precious few taxpayer dollars and create a new entity to do close to the same thing LSDF does, or did. 

"Why not have kept LSDF and directed that $5 million or $10 million of its existing funds be focused on cancer research specifically?" 

The kind of money the Legislature approved is a relative pin prick being thrown at cancer research at random, to be run by an entity that doesn't even exist yet, but will require some overhead to become operational.

What the Legislature created may have been the only potential state expenditure that could have gotten through a group of lawmakers whose Republican members were adamant about not spending anything that would mean new taxes, and that would presumably include funding cancer research.

Thus what Hill was able to get support for winds up as a pale shadow of the potential $1 billion that Initiative 1356, which failed to gain the signatures needed to make the 2014 ballot, would have raised for cancer research through a dramatic increase in the tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products, as well as marijuana.

If what really is only a gesture toward cancer research by the state at this point proves successful by any measure, it's possible that future legislative sessions may find the courage to step up to greater commitment in legislative support for the world-class cancer research and care that has developed in this state.
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Supreme Court's school-funding fine brings collective confusion to the issue

 

Washington isn't the only state where the struggle over education funding has reached the courts. But it's the only state in which the threat of punishment for legislative failure to act has actually become "a bomb" that was dropped, meaning the court's threat of punitive action for its finding that the Legislature was in contempt became action in the form of $100,000 per day fine for legislative failure to sufficiently fund basic education.

Additionally intriguing is the fact the court's six women and three men, each of whose civic and legal credentials make them an extremely impressive collection of jurists, would wind up, in their unanimous agreement, producing not collective wisdom but collective confusion.

The court stirred concern about violating separation of powers for stepping into the legislature's funding role when it first told the lawmakers they were not meeting the state constitution's requirement for adequate funding of basic education. But there has also been the suggestion that if the court was going to step into the legislature's constitutional territory by ordering them to spend more money, it should logically have told them take control of how the money was spent.

Some court observers this week used the word "curiously" to describe the fact that the high court backed off from two of its original decision's central points on education funding, what has become known as the "McCleary decision."

In the original ruling, the court said K-12 funding needed to be 'ample" but also "uniform" and "stable."

Now the court's sole position is spend more money, focusing only on "ample" while saying it has "no opinion" on the "stable" or "uniform" points.

And though the court told the legislators they should go into special session immediately to begin arriving at the solution to the funding problem, the lawmakers basically replied, in so many words, that they'd decide to go back into session when they felt like their discussions had brought them to a decision.

Could be they decided, now that the court has dropped its punishment "bomb," that the penalty isn't that big a deal since if they are going to increase education funding, the $100,000 daily tab will take more than three months to equal $10 million, all of which will go into a special education fund anyway.

Anyone who thinks the court's decision last September holding the Legislature in contempt for failing to make progress on "full funding" of public education, and imposition of that $100,000 fine was a decision devoid of political considerations will draw an amused smile from those more attuned to political realities.

In its original ruling in 2012 that the state was failing to fully fund basic education and thus violating the state constitution, the court was careful to try to sidestep the full brunt of a constitutional conflict. The court said it didn't intend to "dictate the means by which the Legislature carries out its constitutional responsibility or otherwise directly involve itself in the choices and tradeoffs that are uniquely within the legislature's purview."

There is at least a suspicion that political considerations would account for the fact that, while the high court told the legislature it had to put more money into basic education, it failed to take, or even suggest, the logical accompanying step of telling the legislature to take control of how the money for schools is raised and spent.

Though it's possible the state taking total control of education might have been what the court had in mind when it included "uniform" and "stable" in its original decision, before eliminating them from the latest decision.

Teacher salaries and how they are arrived at around the state, through local negotiations with sometimes friendly or fearful school boards, is a major cost factor. The Washington Education Association likes it that way and the court would have set off an outcry from teachers' union members and their supporters across the state if the legislature had been told to not just provide more money, but to take control so it could create spending efficiencies.

Budget leaders in both houses and both parties have suggested that the state take a larger role in setting pay. And some even realize that they have to do that, since the lawmakers, just as they are answerable to students to provide a good education, are answerable to state taxpayers to ensure that those school dollars are being spent as wisely as possible. They can't delegate that task.

It will be much harder for Democrats in the legislature to confront irate teachers' union members than for Republicans. Thus, perhaps, Republicans who control the state Senate should be allowed to take the lead on funding reform that puts the state in the management role.

As Dick Davis, president of the Washington Research Council, wrote in a column after the court's 2012 decision holding the legislature in contempt for its education funding failure, "As the primary funder and constitutionally responsible party, the state needs to step into the management role. That preserves collective bargaining, but changes the dynamic. And, negotiations could include provisions recognizing regional cost-of-living variation throughout the state."

As indicated earlier, adequate funding for education has reached higher courts in a number of states for a variety of reasons.
Thus the debate about separation of powers and limitation of the powers of the court that the Supreme Court decision set off in this state is a discussion now going on in an array of states.

One is Texas, where that state's Supreme Court will hear oral arguments September 1 on a lower-court ruling sought by dozens of independent school districts in the state.

The Texas case has far more sex appeal than Washington's, since the all-Republican Supreme Court is considered likely to overturn a ruling by District Judge John Dietz, who is identified as "Austin Democrat and State District Court Judge," that the state's 'Robinhood style' funding mechanism is unconstitutional."

That system requires districts with high property tax values or large amounts of tax revenue from oil and natural gas interests to turn over part of their property tax collections to poorer districts.

To bring things full circle from one state to another, one of the things being talked about in Washington to correct the funding disparity among districts more reliant on special levies is a property tax swap whereby some richer districts would send money to poorer districts.

I'm not sure how that would come about legislatively, but it has an amusing ring of "Robinhood style" funding.
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Celebration of Life honors WSU president Elson Floyd's contributions

While Elson Floyd's legacy at Washington State University will likely be the tangible results of his ability to dream big dreams and then guide others to achieve those dreams, his most enduring memory may be the intangible of his remarkable ability to convey a personal connection with all he met.

The WSU family and friends will gather on campus August 26 for a Celebration of Life, honoring the WSU president who lost the private battle he waged with cancer even as he pursued and achieved what may have been his biggest dream, a WSU medical school.

Following the celebration, a more intimate group has been invited by interim WSU President Dan Bernardo to gather to share memories of the man whose eight years guiding the Pullman school transformed its role as Washington's land grant university into something far broader.

There won't be time, at Bernardo's reception, for everyone to share memories but some selected will, and I share a few here.

When the national advisory board of what is now the Carson College of Business (named for former Boeing Commercial President and alum Scott Carson) and of which I was a member welcomed Floyd soon after his arrival on campus in 2007, he impressed most of us with his understanding of the job-creating mission of higher education.

"We need to communicate with the Legislature and policymakers that we understand that we are about creating jobs, about economic development," Floyd said at his first meeting with the advisory board.

Understanding the economic development role for higher education guided Floyd to create the positions of vice president for economic development both at WSU and, before that, at the University of Missouri system. That put him at the national forefront of college leaders in understanding that the role of universities in economic development was destined to become the issue it has become in most states.

Referring to Floyd's gift of connecting, Lisa brown, chancellor of WSU's Spokane campus, said "Elson made everyone he met feel like they had a special relationship with him," adding "He had a command of a room so that everyone wanted to hear what he had to say."

John Gardner, Vice President for Development and CEO of the WSU Foundation whom Floyd brought with him from Missouri when he left the presidency of the University of Missouri system to come to WSU, agreed that Floyd "had the ability to convey a personal connection to all those he met."

But Gardner added that Floyd, who tapped him to be one of the first vice presidents for research and economic development in the country soon after they met on the Columbia, MO, campus in 2002, added that Floyd had not only an ability to befriend others quickly, but also "to size up a situation, a person, a deal very quickly."

"He had, In Malcolm Gladwell's terminology, an ability to take a 'thin slice' and inform himself immediately of his next step," said Gardner, whom Floyd once described to me as "like a brother to me" as we discussed Gardner's departure for a time a couple of years ago for another opportunity.

"He took a thinner slice than anyone I know and was right an unbelievably high percentage of the time," added Gardner. "This intuition served him very well and, as a result, he wasted little time on opportunities that weren't destined for a high yield."

Discussing Floyd's philosophy about WSU's land grant status, Gardner said "he became enamored with the land grant role and scope in discovering its power while at Missouri (also a land grant institution). He immediately embraced its connection to the economy (thus economic development) as well as its commitment to access."

All now know that getting the 2015 Legislature to approve creation of a new medical school at WSU was his crowning achievement as he worked tirelessly, testifying for hours on front of committees and engaging lawmakers in one-on-one meetings, even as he battled cancer that proved terminal.

Less high-visibility than his achieving the medical school, which WSU Regents have said they intend to name the Elson S. Floyd School of Medicine, have been his steps to spread WSU's educational presence across the state. Those include creation of WSU North Puget Sound, on the Everett Community College campus, where classes will be taught not only by resident faculty but also interactively from other WSU campuses, and recent steps toward a similar arrangement with Bellevue College.

And Lawrence Pintak, founding dean of the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, recalled in a message to his faculty, staff and students that Floyd's vision for the Murrow School came even before his selection as president.

"While still a candidate for the presidency, Dr. Floyd asked a member of the presidential search committee (a Murrow alum) why the then-Murrow School was hidden in the then-College of Liberal Arts," Pintak recalled. "'Murrow needs to be a college!' he declared. And he made that happen."

"Dr. Floyd recognized that the Murrow program was, and often said publicly, a 'crown jewel' of Washington State and he understood the value of Edward R. Murrow's legacy in leveraging WSU's influence in the media industry and academia on the national level," Pintak added.

A couple of years ago, after attending a breakfast interview with Floyd, I told him, "I don't know your party, but you should run for governor or senator as your next career stop." He merely smiled.

Bernardo referred to Floyd's ability to teach others how to dream big, then act to realize the dreams, as "transformational for WSU," shifting from the school's long-accepted role as the state's "ag school" to a leadership role in addressing the needs of the whole state.

Bernardo said that Floyd took WSU's "quiet humility" and just kind of stepped up and said we can be something bigger. He led us there. That transformation will be the most important to WSU."

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Life Science Discovery Fund, defunded by Legislature, will exit with last hurrah

 

The Life Science Discovery Fund (LSDF), created a decade ago from the state's share of tobacco-settlement millions to promote the growth and competitiveness of the life science industry in Washington but defunded by the 2015 Legislature, has found a way to go out in style after all.

In what amounts to an unusual but fitting last hurrah, LSDF announced today that it is launching a six-month competition for what might be described as a "legacy" or "ecosystem" grant of almost $2 million to one or more organizations that can stimulate momentum within the life sciences commercialization sector.

The LSDF was established by then-Gov. Christine Gregoire and the legislature with the vision of using Washington's multi-million-dollar share of the Tobacco funds from the 1998 settlement to promote life sciences competitiveness, improve health and healthcare and help shape that industry's future.

But perhaps proving that vision can't be passed on, the 2015 Legislature defunded LSDF, with Democrats in the House and the Statehouse eventually acquiescing to the demand of Senate Republicans that funding for LSDF end.

In writing about that final legislative action, I said that LSDF went out "not with a bang but a whimper," given that strong support for the organization from Gov. Jay Inslee and House Democrats evaporated in the final days of legislative give and take on what would be included in the budget.

Wrong about going out with a whimper! LSDF will be going out with a bang after all, but not one the Legislature intended, or knew was possible.

In defunding LSDF. the Legislature specified that the $11 million in the organization's treasury balance be shifted to the state general fund.  

Except that in Addition to the $11 million that was to be LSDF's operating funds for the next year, and the nearly $12 million in the LSDF treasury to manage the stable of 46 grants already awarded by the fund, there was almost $2 million left in the treasury. Unallocated and not ordered sent to the general fund.

So the LSDF board last week approved the idea of turning that nearly $2 million remainder into what Executive Director John DesRosier refers to as " a life science ecosystem grant" and LSDF took the first step today by announcing the request for proposals with a pre-proposal deadline of September 21.

Full proposals will be due by January 6 with awards (possibly more than one) to be announced February 8 as an appropriate denouement for LSDF, which since it first began making grants in 2007 has awarded nearly $106 million to non-profit and for-profit life science businesses.

DesRosier said the grant o grants could be awarded to either a non-profit or for-profit entity that might already exist or come into existence "to stimulate momentum within the life science commercialization sector."

DesRosier views LSDF's eight years of funding activity, largely to startups for whom the grants often served to allow entrepreneurs to bridge the early funding challenges referred to as "the valley of death" for startups, as "creating a momentum for the life science industry's emerging companies.

And for all the lamenting from those focused on how this state stacks up against competing states and the message they fear that LSDF's demise sends to entrepreneurs in other states, it needs to be remembered that LSDF's legacy is in the life science startups it funded and that are now growing and creating jobs.

"So now the question is how do we keep this momentum going," he asked. "We think one way is to create programs that support entrepreneurs in their endeavors, not with individual grants but in a less prescriptive way."

It's clear that the LSDF board wants to be flexible in determining what type of organization or groups might best contribute to the life sciences ecosystem they seek to foster. "We want to keep as much flexibility as possible, depending on the scope of the proposals we receive," DesRosier said.

LSDF will be downsizing its staff by the time the board awards the grant, or grants. But DesRosier avoids referring to the end of the organization, saying "we're not using words like dissolving."

It's worth remembering that the legislature only denied LSDF future funding, it didn't strike the organization from existence.

"We're actually downsizing the staff by the end of February and we may or may not be in or current physicial space (LADF has been housed in the headquarters of the Washington Biotech & Biomedical Association)," he said. "But whether or not the organization continues to exists still up in the air, as well as the question of whether we will continue to oversee the existing grants."

"We're still quite flexible if something interesting comes up between now and then," said DesRosier.

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Startup BeneSol hopes to capture Vitamin D fans with new, safer fast-dose kiosks

A Seattle-based start-up guided by a serial entrepreneur and supported by a couple of prominent businessmen with investment-success pedigrees is seeking to capitalize on the growing concern about the health impact of Vitamin D deficiency by producing a sit-down kiosk that would deliver large doses of Vitamin D in a safe manner.

 

The company is BeneSol Inc., which is completing an initial funding round to build and begin putting in place self-service kiosks designed to be a novel approach to address what the company's executive summary characterizes as "a worldwide vitamin D-deficiency epidemic."

 

Rick Hennessey 

BenSol CEO Rick Hennessey is an entrepreneur who has built and successfully exited five companies, including most recently Cequint, a Seattle wireless service provider that he sold to TNS, Inc. for over $100 million in 2010.

 

Hennessey explained that the machines, which will cost about $20,000 each, are not intended to be sold but rather to be placed into clinics and other healthcare facilities and for BeneSol to be paid for their use.

 

His ambitious goal is to put 10,000 of the machines into the marketplace in six years, which he estimates will produce up to $1.5 billion in revenue. His vision is that use of the kiosks, which he says will "take about two minutes and involve no more risk than standing in the sun for 60 seconds," will "become like brushing your teeth."

 

He and BeneSol founder Alex Moffat, whose background is in software development, have attracted a couple of experienced investors in Woody Howse, co-founder of Cable and Howse Ventures, one of Northwest's original venture firms, and Chris Ackerley, a founder of Ackerley Partners.

 

In addition, the latest addition to the company's board is Ralph Pascualy, M.D., CEO of Swedish Medical Services.

 

Although a large majority of people in this sun-starved area are Vitamin D deficient, (Hennessey says estimates are about 80 percent in Canada and about 77 percent in the Northwest), not everyone who might decide to use the kiosks is deficient. So I asked if they are going to suggest users get blood tests to verify deficiency.

 

Hennessey noted that new blood-test machines "are hitting Walgreens and other pharmacies and that will bring blood tests into the consumer space at a very low cost."

 

"We also have developed an algorithm that will predict D level accurately and will incentivize people to take a blood test as part of the process," he added.

 

It was Howse, through a friends and family connection, who met Moffat and began making key introductions and spreading the word about Moffat's personal involvement in working with manufacturers in developing a new light source.

  

Howse noted that the current fund-raising round will allow the company to go through a beta test using the device for treatment of psoriasis, which he described as "the most prevalent immune-deficiency disease in the world."

 

Howse soon went on the board of BeneSol, which was founed in 2009, and became an investor.

 

So BeneSol executives are aware they will be viewed merely as another early technology in a sector where an array of businesses are providing "The Sunshine vitamin" in one form or another in substitute for available sunshine.

 

One competing technology has already basically eliminated itself from the field, tanning devices. A unit of the World Health Organization has added ultraviolet radiation-emitting tanning beds and lamps to the list of the most dangerous forms of cancer-causing radiation.

 

Another competitor, Vitamin D supplements are taken by almost half of older adults. But a little over a year, Fortune Magazine columnist Steve Salzberg zeroed in on Vitamin D supplements in his Fighting Pseudosciencecolumn.

 

He cited two studies that he said "show that most of those people taking Vitamin D supplements are wasting their money."

 

Then there are the UVB light source devices and lamps, including those manufactured by competitors like Philips, which could become an acquirer as BeneSol moves forward, if the startup's growth approximates the investors' hopes.

 

Referring to the light-source competitors, Hennessey said "We have to complete FDA, but our initial testing and the long-established science tells us that we are far safer, require less time and are more effective then their technology."

 

I asked Hennessey about the importance of those using the kiosks maximizing skin exposure, meaning was disrobing an issue that needed to be dealt with.

 

"The more skin exposure the better, but you don't have to get naked," Hennessey replied.

 

"When we run focus groups with women, we ask the question of whether or not they would undress in our unit," he added. "Not a single woman in our focus group had an issue.  They made comments like, 'I change in dressing rooms, and many don't even have locks or often doors.' Our machine is a secure kiosk with door that locks."

 

FDA approval is still on the futures list so that becomes a cautionary note as they explain their expectations.

 

"We anticipate being the first device to go through FDA so that we can claim safe and effective production of vitamin D," he added. "Like most early technologies, there are some alternative options that will compete for the dollar, but, nothing like what we are doing."

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Washington's only local elected official born in China sees major relationship opportunity

 

Bellevue City Councilman Conrad Lee, the only local elected official in Washington State who was born in China, is convinced the U.S. and China are "on the verge of a relationship opportunity that needs to be seized now to create a partnership that will provide long-term benefits for both nations."

And Lee, 76, a member of the Bellevue council since 1994 and mayor from 2012 to 2014, thinks the establishment of the Global Innovation Exchange (GIX) in Bellevue will make the Eastside "a world center for innovation that will enhance the relations between the two countries in a way that will influence the rest of the world."

Conrad Lee

"China and the U.S., with similar geography and populations that have similar personalities, have been friends for 100 years," Lee said. "We are the two biggest economies of the world, the biggest pools of talent and the biggest markets."

He thinks the Global Innovation Exchange (GIX), a partnership between University of Washington and Tsinghua University, which has been described as the MIT of China, with the $40 million funding from Microsoft, will be a key to the relationship he hopes to see emerge between the two nations.

"The GIX, as the beginning of a commitment on the part of the two vitally important universities and a world-leading company, will help provide a deeper relationship and the exchange of ideas between the U.S. and China and spur economic opportunities across the innovation ecosystem," Lee suggests.

But he cautions that it's important for the U.S. to move rapidly to seize the opportunity to create a special relationship while the current leadership of China is in power and open to that possibility.

And he is concerned that " bureaucrats of both sides are running around talking policy and don't know how to get beyond that to real communication," adding "China doesn't yet have a cadre of people who can understand and communicate with us and the same is true from our side."

"But we are both pushing to find the right connections," Lee added.

"If we are friends in the future, the world will benefit, but if we are enemies, the world won't sleep well at night," added Lee, who was born in Kunming in Southwest China into a family in which his father was founder of a bank and his mother was a high school graduate at a time when few women even attended high school.

Lee was eight years old when his father, who was an entrepreneur and the founder of The Bank of Kunming, died when his plane was lost at sea while he was on a flight from Shanghai to Hong Kong. Lee recalls that "two years later, as Communists were heading for our region, we left for Hong Kong where we had connections because of my father's had business there."

Lee was schooled in Hong Kong, came to the U.S. in 1958 to attend school at Seattle Pacific, but transferred to the University of Michigan to get his engineering degree and received his MBA from University of Washington.

He became a U.S. citizen in 1971. He worked at Boeing where, as an engineer, he was on the team that developed the 747, then worked for Seattle Solid Waste Utility as a project manager on the team that transformed garbage disposal to solid waste management to make Seattle one of the first cities to recycle and compost its garbage.

He was appointed Regional Administrator of the SBA by President George W. Bush, then ran for the Bellevue City Council. He is mid-way through his sixth term, a tenure twice as long as any other member of the council.

Lee sums up the potential that sets the stage for a U.S.-China close relationship noting, "We need their money and they want our creativity and innovation. We have a nation with a culture of creativity whereas China is very structured, which is the opposite of fostering innovation."

"But the Global Innovation Exchange may help turn that around," he added.

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Confederate 'stars and bars' remains honored in Brazil where southerns migrated after war

As the battle rages over the future visibility role, if any, for the flag of the confederacy, one place the stars and bars will remain honored and celebrated is in Brazil, where Confederates created colonies after the Civil War at the invitation of the Brazilian emperor and proceeded to make a lasting mark on that nation's culture.  

That little-known Civil War chapter is the subject of a book by one of my closest friends, Gary Neeleman, that is to be published in Brazil in Portuguese before year end and negotiations are proceeding to have it published soon thereafter in English in the United States.

When published in English, the book could be a timely addition to the current discussion, including both the legitimate effort to minimize future display of the Confederate battle flag and the less logical disparagement of Confederate heroes like Robert E. Lee and anything relating to the citizens of the Confederacy.

Neeleman's

Gary and Rose Neeleman

research over the past 40 years through aged documents, old letters and newspaper clips brings him to conclude that history not racial hatred, pride not prejudice, were the driving force for those who migrated to Brazil rather than again become part of the United States.

 

My friendship with Neeleman, 81, extends back more than 40 years, beginning with our more than a decade as executives at United Press International. And I've been struck by his perpetual zeal to evangelize "the spiritual link between the United States and Brazil."

 

While a focus of this column is on Neeleman's book on the Confederate migration, because of its timeliness, the column is really more about the journalist who built a lifelong love affair with Brazil and its people and has left his imprint on the nation, where his contributions will be honored in a few weeks in San Paulo.

But to first finish the story of the Confederates, obviously, no slaves accompanied the some 7,000 "Confederado" families in the 1866 migration, in which they were personally greeted by Emperor Dom Pedro II upon their arrival in their new home. But interestingly, the southerners avoided acquiring slaves in Brazil, a country where slaves were more common at that time than in virtually any country in the world.  

Neeleman notes that when leaders of the more than 20,000 southerners who founded two communities in Brazil were asked about the fact they didn't have slaves, they replied that they no longer wanted to own people but preferred to employ them "so we can fire them if they don't do their job."

The southerners, many of them from the most important and prominent families in the southern part of the United States, established the cities of Americana and Santa Barbara do Este.

And, as Neeleman notes, for 150 years the descendants of those Confederate communities have gathered annually to celebrate their heritage at the Cemetario de Campo, the old cemetery where about 2,000 Confederate soldiers and their families have been buried. And the Stars and Bars that were the Confederate Battle Flag were and have remained highly visible there, some Confederates actually being buried wrapped in the flag. 

He recalls the year he was asked to help arrange for former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, as well as aide Jody Powell to attend the Confederate picnic at the cemetery and how "they sat at the cemetery, sang Dixie and all three had tears streaming down their faces."

 

"That portion of American history and the stories of the 'Confederadoes' are lost in a linguistic tomb because Portuguese is a barrier to entry for those seeking to explore history," explains Neeleman. who hopes those stories in English will bring a closer look in this country at that history.

 

Neeleman routinely refers to "the two giants of the Western Hemisphere" and his research on Brazil and its people has actually resulted in not just a book on the Confederate but also two other books that emphasize the ties between the two nations.

 

One already published, "Tracks in the Amazon," details the construction of a railroad through the jungle, at a cost of thousands of lives, to bring goods from Bolivia, down the Amazon to the coast. The other book tells the also little-known story of how Brazilian rubber saved the allied war effort in World War II after Japanese victories in the South Pacific captured the Indonesian rubber fields that represented about 98 percent of the world's rubber production at that time. Restoring brazilian rubber production  was vital to the Allied success. 

 

It was in the early '60s that UPI plucked Neeleman, as a young reporter from Salt Lake City, and sent him to Brazil, where he had learned Portuguese as a young Mormon missionary. His regard for Brazil and Brazilians developed quickly and three of his seven children were born there, including David, whose launch of Azul as his third airline, following Morris Air and Jet Blue, has resulted in the fastest-growing carrier in Brazil.

 

During the 1963 Pan American Games in San Paulo, Neeleman recalled being struck by the conduct of U.S. athletes who played what he described as "the Ugly Americans," overwhelmingly defeating their South American opponents and treating them with disdain following the competition.

 

"I made up my mind right there that I would someday do something about that attitude," Neeleman told me. And so he did when, after returning to Salt lake City, he called upon the close-knit Utah coaches to help him put together a college basketball post-season tour of South America.  

 

That tour, with Neeleman acting as scheduler, accommodations arranger and bag-boy, became an NCAA post-season fixture and Neeleman became a regular luncheon speaker each year at the NCAA tournament.

 

Gary and Rose travel to Brazil about three times a year and when they're not traveling on personal or client business, or traveling to the Brazilian back country as part of their research for his books, he's doing Brazil's business as honorary counsel in Salt Lake City.

 

His next trip will be in September, when Neeleman will receive an unusual honor as the fourth recipient of an award whose English translation is Citizen of San Paulo. Others who preceded him as recipients of the honor named for the State of San Paulo were the Pope, the Dalai Lama and the founder of the Mormon Church in Brazil. Add Neeleman to the list.

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Lawmakers bring Life Science Discovery Fund to an end, not with a bang but a whimper

The fund established a decade ago by then-Gov. Christine Gregoire and the legislature with the lofty goal of supporting innovative research in this state to promote life sciences competitiveness, enhance economic vitality and improve health and health care has been terminated by the Legislature. And an oft-quoted line of poetry may best sum up the outcome: "not with a bang but a whimper."

The Life Science Discovery Fund (LSDF) was defunded by the Legislature at the insistence of the Republican Senate and at the eventual acquiescence of both the Democratic House and Democratic governor who had touted its importance to the state's future. In the rush to final budget passage, the fate of LSDF drew little attention except from the disappointingly few who understood its to the future of the state's economy.

Those who recognize the quote in the lead paragraph above as from T.S. Eliot's "The Hollow Men" should be forgiven for a quick sense of how appropriate the description "Hollow men" might be for the members of the Legislature.

And how appropriate also for that body might be the poem's line, "headpiece filled with straw."

The "whimper" is in the still unexplained rollover by both Democrats in the House and the governor himself after they had fought fiercely for LSDF funding and owned the vision space as it related to the importance of biotech and biopharma start-ups to the state's future.

The final budget was passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Jay Inslee last week after a conference committee had hammered out the details of issues in conflict, including the future of LSDF.  

In the end, House Democrats gave in and allowed a GOP-demanded shift of LSDF's treasury balance of $11 million to the state general fund and the stripping it of any revenue from any source over the coming biennium.  

I confidently (and obviously misguidedly) told friends and business associates the governor would use his line-item veto power to eliminate those LSDF death-knell provisions and turn GOP opposition to state support of entrepreneurs and biotech startups into campaign issues for Democrats next year.

Didn't happen. For reasons yet unexplained, the governor failed last week to employ the veto power he used a year ago to save the fund and thus become the political darling of those who saw LSDF as this state's message to the life sciences world about Washington's commitment to its future role in economic development in this state.

But for all the lamenting from those focused on how this state stacks up against competing states and the message LSDF's demise sends to entrepreneurs in other states, it needs to be remembered that LSDF's legacy is in the life science startups it funded and that are now growing and creating jobs.

And appropriately, one of the grant recipients, Seattle-based Omeros Corp., could possibly become a springboard for biopharma startups in the future because of its unusual program funded with a $5 million LSDF grant and, in an leading-edge partnership, $20 million from Paul Allen's Vulcan Capital in 2010.

Those potential spinouts could come from Omeros' G-protein coupled receptor (GPCR) program, a potentially lucrative focus in what is viewed as one of the most valuable families of drug targets.

GPCR's relate to key physiological processes in the body in which molecules bind to the receptors. GPCR relates to drugs that act on brain-cell receptors, unlocking them to drug development with such drugs representing 30 to 40 percent of marketed pharmaceuticals. Examples of the wide range of GPCR-drugs are antihistamines, opioids, alpha and beta blockers, serotonergics and dopaminergics.

 

The Omeros focus is on what are known as orphan GPCRs, those whose brain-cell receptors lack a certain DNA factor. There is a broad range of indications linked to orphan GPCRs, including cardiovascular disease, asthma, diabetes, pain, obesity, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia, learning and cognitive disorders, autism, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and several forms of cancer.

 

A key Vulcan executive said at the time of the partnership announcement that the Omeros GPCR focus could accelerate new pipeline development across a broad range of highly attractive drug targets and can make a significant impact on the pharmaceutical industry.

 

Dr. Greg Demopulos, CEO of publicly traded Omeros, says the GPCR focus of his company is designed to promote the life science industry in this state in a way that is provided by other states that are spending millions to move life science to the fore in their economic development focuses.

 

But if the Omeros effort is successful in turning out startups to focus on various diseases that could relate to and be impacted by the GPCR research, the result would be a private-sector successor to, or funder of life science discovery since Vulcan Capital and LSDF have a right to receive a percentage of net proceeds generated by the GPCR program.

 

Meanwhile, the legislature, in head scratching fashion, didn't strike the Life Science Discovery Fund from existence, merely left it without resources to survivc.

 

But as a friend who has surveyed the legislative process for decades, and been closely involved with the lawmakers, explained: "This is how the legislature operates. They don't outright kill things.  They just turn off the money spigot because that's the way it's handled in the secretive budget process, which is gutless."

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Like Sinatra, Seattle developer Martin Selig's defining song could be 'I did it my way'

Frank Sinatra's defining song "I did it my way" would be equally appropriate for Seattle developer Martin Selig, except that Selig, at the age of 77, continues to do it his way.

 

"His way" includes buying or constructing buildings on his own (meaning no partners) at a relentless pace, taking far-flung solo trips on his Harley Davidson motorcycle (he recently returned from circling Switzerland) and turning out paintings that demand a high price when he donates one to a charity auction.

At a recent question-and-answer session at the Columbia Tower Club as part of the 30th anniversary activities of the club Selig founded atop the 76-story building that is his signature project, which is also marking 30 years, he reflected on his decades impacting the face of Seattle-area development.  

Selig bought his first building and founded Martin Selig real estate in 1958 while still a college student and recalled at the q and a session that he put $2,000 down on what was a $50,000 building on the edge of University Village, which came into existence later on.

That first purchase began a process of acquisition and development which today has Martin Selig Real Estate having developed more than 7.7 million square feet of first-class mid- to high-rise office space, representing about a third of the downtown Seattle office market.

Selig first got involved in shopping centers, building them then bringing in occupants before selling them.

He used the proceeds from sale of the shopping center to buy his first building, a one-story structure in the Lower Queen Anne area that in 1969 led to the development of his first commercial office building, which was a five-story, 60,000-square foot project.  

That began a process in which Selig developed a building a year over the next two decades, including the Columbia Center, which he explained to the audience was "merely like building eight buildings at a one time."

Once part of a group of local CEOs who donned leathers and rode off together on their Harleys to become known as "Hell's Rotarians," Selig has seen the group mostly retire and put away their bikes, leaving his trips to be solo ventures.

He told the audience at the Tower Club interview that he is sending one of his bikes to Rhode Island for the Newport Jazz Festival, after which he plans to travel home across Canada.

Asked what he worries about, Selig replied "I don't worry about anything."  

That despite the fact that as he remade Seattle's skyline, he was no stranger to what others might view as treading on the financial brink during several economic downturns, surviving by selling off some of his key properties including in the late '80s the Columbia Center where we were doing the interview.

 

But as a well-known Seattle real estate broker once joked, "he's been the cat with nine lives."

 

Referring to his riding, painting and other personal activities, Selig summed up "as long as you can do whatever you want to do, it makes what you have to do at work easy."

Asked about his succession plan, Selig said: "I leave the future to Goldman Sachs," noting he has no particular thought of guiding his real estate company into the hands of his kids. The answer was in response to a question about his thoughts on media mogul Rupert Murdoch's unabashed and high-profile effort to put his children into ascendant roles in his company.

"They come and go in the business," Selig said of his three children, noting that Lauren, the oldest of two daughters, is now a producer with several movies at the Venice Film Festival, and that his son, who has been living in Israel, is returning to Seattle to enroll in real estate at the UW.Youngest daughter, Jordan, still in her 20s, has been acquiring, fixing up and leasing residential properties in Germany.

 

Meanwhile, his pace of development activity shows little sign of slowing with planned future buildings sharing space with his paintings on his office walls.

I asked Selig about the total absence of partners in his years in the business and he replied that while partnerships may start out well, inevitably a disagreement will arise and that diverts attention from the business focus.

Selig is a close watcher of politics and at one point in our interview said to me: "I thought you might have some political questions."

"So if I were to ask you a political question, what would it be?" I responded.

"Who is going to win the Republican presidential nomination?' he replied. So I bit and asked that question.

"It will be a brokered Republican convention, with none of the numerous candidates having enough delegates from the primaries to capture the nomination," he predicted. "Then the convention, which won't be able to agree on any of the candidates who have been competing bitterly through the primaries, will settle on Mitt Romney."

Considering that if Selig buildings, past and present, were color coded on a perspective photo of Seattle, they would dominate the picture, he actually is less visible than people might expect, making little effort to grab the limelight.

Thus, as Mike Kunath, founder and principal at the investment advisory firm Kunath, Karne, Rinne and Atkin, and a friend of Selig's for a quarter century or more put it: "Selig's contributions and his legacy are understood or appreciated by maybe 10 percent of people here."

Putting those contributions in perspective may not happen until Selig finally slows down.

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