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

FlynnsHarp logo 042016

WSU Med School Will Have Incubator

An unusual incubator to nurture new healthcare technology will be the first “classroom” to open for business at Elson Floyd College of Medicine. It will be a key part of the effort by the new Washington State University medical school to make innovation and entrepreneurship key parts of the curriculum.

andrewRichardsThus Andrew Richards, who the unusual title for a medical school of College Technology Incubator Officer, will be attracting increasing attention and interest as he seeks to create what he describes as a “hub of innovation” on the College of Medicine’s Spokane campus.

“The dream is that we will have up to 10 companies at a time being incubated, with the first ones arriving first quarter of 2017,” Richards said. “But realistically, we’ll get six or seven there.”

Richards, 36, is a Spokane native and WSU computer-science graduate who is convinced that bringing enhanced healthcare to underserved communities will require uncovering and nurturing technological innovations specifically focused on medicine and health.

That would be part of fulfilling the promise of the college, referred to for brevity as EFCOM, that it will seek to find ways to address the shortage of doctors in rural parts of the state. And  the promise of of its founding dean, Dr. John Tomkowiak, to foster innovation.

Richards said companies that will be included in the incubator are already being vetted and conversations are under way with what he calls “partner companies,” like Amazon that will make collaborative resources available to nurture the incubating companies.

The incubator will be a two-part endeavor, first hosting entrepreneurial startups that require the standard resources and mentoring but also building a seed fund to bring the companies to maturity and reward WSU with equity.

Richards explained that the strategy is to set up the incubator as a 501c that would separate the incubator from the med school by setting up a nonprofit.

“That would give us a more flexibility as to how we take equity stakes in companies we incubate and/or invest in, and It would also give us more flexibility as it pertains to taking in or spending money for our seed fund,” he added.

He concedes that “culturally, healthcare is a difficult nut to crack in creating an innovative environment in which you have to be willing to try things, knowing there will be failures.”

The incubator won’t be the first for a med school but it will one of a small handful of such facilities in the country, the most notable being at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the Texas Medical Center, both of which have become regular contacts for Richards.

While WSU health care incubator is one of only a handful in the country tied specifically to a medical school, other entrepreneurial hubs, including healthcare start-ups, are an emerging part of the health science infrastructure in this region.

One is Cambia Grove in Seattle, a healthcare focused hub which bills itself as a place “where innovators and entrepreneurs can convene and catalyze new solutions,” adding that it “offers a shared space for the region’s emerging health care economic cluster.”

And the UW CoMotion is an innovation hub to provide “the tools and connections” necessary to speed the development of technology innovations, including health care and life science startups.

 “We’re building a really cool network and we’re already starting to send companies to each other,” Andrews, 36, said in an interview.

EFCOM characterizes itself as a “community based” medical school “training doctors to fill healthcare gaps across the state” and to fulfill that, med students will spend their first two years in Spokane before spending years three and four in Everett, the Tri-Cities and Vancouver, in addition to Spokane.

The first 60 students, to be selected from the hundreds of applicants that have flowed in, will arrive for class on the Spokane campus in the fall.

The key selling point that eventually convinced the legislature to create a second medical school in this state, despite the significant national stature of the University of Washington Medical School, was the dearth of doctors in rural parts of the state, which proponents of the WSU medical school promised to make a focus.

Part of the value of that multi-community presence is pointed up by the comment from Bob Drewel, senior advisor at WSU’s Everett Campus and a former Snohomish County executive and past head of the Puget Sound Regional Council.

“A lot of people think the only shortage of docs is in Eastern Washington, and that’s not true,” Drewel said. “If you look at Snohomish, Island and Skagit counties, the numbers are just as significant in need as anywhere in the state of Washington.

Richards talks about the myriad of companies, including a start-up called ReelDX in the healthcare IT space that he helped co-found, that are developing new technologies that give patients more options for accessing health care. He notes that some patients are using smart phone apps for video appointments with their doctors; sometimes those doctors are in other cities —or other countries.

In addition to co-founding and serving as CTO for ReelDX, described on its website as providing “an easy to use, secure, HIPAA-compliant platform for medical videos” with the Medvid.io platform he developed, Richards’ experience includes software and API development and other healthcare techonology.

In one presentation he showed a photo of Mercy Virtual Hospital, a new, first-of-its-kind hospital in suburban St. Louis that cost $54 million but has no beds. It is a telemedicine hub where doctors and nurses sit in call centers with video screens. They see and talk to their patients, have access to their medical records and can monitor vital signs. In many cases, the providers are able to diagnose problems and prescribe remedies. In others, they make referrals to other providers.

Richards is quick to express his view that the WSU medical school won’t be seeking to compete with UW School of Medicine, which he says does what it does with success that merits the national recognition it has.

“But UW medical school doesn’t do everything and what we need to do is focus on doing well what we do that they don’t do,” Richards said.

His philosophy is that to fulfill its mission. EFCOM must seek to “build the medical school of 30 years from now, not 30 years ago.”

Continue reading

Alaska Airlines' 'magical' Spokane Fantasy Flight

When 67 Spokane area orphans and homeless kids and their elves take off Saturday from Spokane International Airport for a "flight" to the North Pole to meet Santa, it will be proof of both the "impossible things" that head elf Steve Paul believes in as well as evidence of "The Magic Dust of Caring" that seems to settle on those involved.

This year's Fantasy Flight is aboard an Alaska Airlines 737-900. This trip to the North Pole has been an annual event in Spokane, with little visibility, for almost 20 years. But it wasn't until Alaska got involved in 2008 at the request of Paul, president and CEO of the 501c3 that
  
Steve Paul and Santa-bound child

oversees details of the event, that the real magic arrived as well.

Paul, president of Northwest North Pole Adventures (NNPA), has guided details of the yearly event since 2000. The senior IT Project Manager at Ecova, an energy management company based in Spokane, spends much of the year preparing for the flight. He works with social agencies that select the children, gathers sponsors and oversees details like elf selection, all on a $200,000 budget that includes in-kind, like the Alaska flight.
Alaska pilot and happy child 
Originally United was the airline partner and provided the little organization that was then called North Pole Adventure with a plane that, once loaded with the children, taxied around the airport before coming to a stop at Santa's place.

But when United was unable to provide a plane in 2007, Paul recalls: "we threw together the 'magic buses' to get from the Terminal to the North Pole."

ThenPaul approached Alaska, which not only agreed to provide the plane but executives asked the event-changing question: "is there any reason why we don't take them up the air for the trip to the North Pole?"

Since then Alaska's employees have not only been enthusiastic participants, but often compete to be part of the crew.

"It's fair to say that Spokane Fantasy Flight...has as much of an effect on Alaska and Horizon employees as on the children who are treated like kings and queens for a night," said Alaska Airlines Chairman and CEO Brad Tilden.

To ensure the selection process for these children is reaching the most deserving, NNPA works only with the area's social agencies, which use their selection and screening processes to pull the children who desperately need to create positive Christmas holiday memories. Each child may only attend once in their lifetime.

So Saturday afternoon the children, age 4-10, are brought to the airport where each meets his or her "buddy elf." Then, with the help of the TSA workers, who look the other way as metal jingle bells on the kids' and elves' clothing set off alarms, they all pass through security and board the Alaska flight.

I first learned of the event a half dozen years ago from my friend, Blythe Thimsen, then editor of a Spokane magazine who was to be an elf that year, an experience she subsequently wrote about and sent me a copy of the article.

Retelling and updating the story has been my holiday gift to readers of The Harp since then because it's a story of human caring and compassion that won't get old.
I asked Paul, who puts on the uniform and becomes Elf Bernie for the day, for some details of preparation of the volunteer elves.

As evidence that nothing is left to chance, he told me the elves are advised on how to play their roles convincingly, being told to choose an elf name and "make certain your elf character fits you and get comfortable in your new identity."
The elves' prepping includes knowing how to answer questions from the children. For example, if asked what their jobs is, they say "I fix broken toys, using toy tools," and if asked how old they are, to say "I am 438 this year which is still young for an Elf."

As the flight nears its conclusion, the passengers are told to pull the window shades down and chant the magic words that will allow them to land at the North Pole. As the kids pull down their shades and do a chant, each waves a magic light wand they were given as they boarded.

The North Pole, where Santa and Mrs. Clause, real reindeer and a full complement of elves await, is actually a hanger on the other side of the airport. The ownership of the hanger has changed three times but each new owner has quickly joined the event. 
"Honestly, Spokane is the North Pole and we have an airline that is passionate about serving this adventure," said Paul, with his perpetual enthusiasm on display.
"You know, Mike, it feels like this is what I am supposed to do," he said. "It's not like I must force myself or convince myself to work on this. There's no regret of other things I could be doing. I'm both proud and very humbled. The donors fund and support us to ensure we have an amazing event each year. The volunteers literally crawl over each other to get selected to do their duty."

Paul added: "I know I can't fix the situations in life that have brought these children to the place we find them. But I can give them a brain full of amazingly magical memories of a day when they took their first airplane ride, when they touched their first reindeer and had their own elf as best friend, and met Santa in his North Pole home."
"I always believe in amazing and impossible things," he added.
Continue reading

Hutch Award merits broader support, including MLB

15.00

Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE

The award honoring the memory of the Major League Baseball star and manager for whom the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is named has been presented for more than half century, but it has yet to gain the visibility traction that would put it on the prestige pedestal that it’s supporters think it merits.

To students of baseball lore, the name Fred Hutchinson brings to mind a Seattle kid who became a star pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, went on to manage three big league teams, including guiding the Cincinnati Reds to the 1961 World Series, but succumbed to cancer in 1964 at the age of 45.

But to those afflicted by the disease that claimed his life, his name on the renowned Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, created in 1975 by his brother, Dr. William Hutchinson, to honor his memory, has conveyed hope.

A year after Hutch’s death, three Midwest sports media admirers who saw him in action created an award to honor his memory, and ever since then The Hutch Award has been presented to a Major League Baseball player who exemplified the fighting spirit and competitive desire of Fred Hutchinson.

For years the award was given out annually in New York, starting with a flourish as the first honorees were New York Yankee legend Mickey Mantle and Dodger pitching great Sandy Koufax. But it was an event far from Seattle and wasn’t a fund raiser until, in 1999, it was brought back to Seattle and was moved to Safeco Field a year later.

But despite the fact the Seattle Mariners are a sponsor and, for the past 16 years, have hosted the annual luncheon where the award is presented at Safeco Field, attracting about 1,000 attendees and raising about a half-million dollars a year for The Hutch, it has not yet achieved the success its supporters think it could and should.

The missing link to bring the award to a visibility level equal to the prestige of The Hutch itself is viewed as active support from Major League Baseball.

And a new push to achieve higher visibility and broader support, including from Major League Baseball, is under way by officials of The Hutch as well as those who have long been involved in this event.

“We hope to take this prestigious award onto a national stage to increase the support and awareness around our world-class science at the Fred Hutch,” said Justin R. Marquart Deputy Director of Development at The Hutch. He was quick to note that local sponsors like the Mariners and Alaska Airlines have provided key support but that what direct involvement from Major League Baseball would mean is national sponsors.

Organized effort to gain visibility for what it is and what it does has not been part of the strategy for The Hutch as an institution until the last year or so, which is part of the explanation for the fact that this event hasn’t received a lot of media visibility, even locally.

Certainly the achievements of The Hutch’s “stars” have gained attention over the years. Those range from the Nobel Prizes in physiology or medicine that have gone to Donnall Thomas in 1990, Dr. Lee Hartwell in 2001 and Dr. Linda Buck in 2004, as well as the major awards across the medical industry to individual researchers. Perhaps the most compelling of advances for which The Hutch is known is the life-changing research of Thomas into bone marrow transplantation.

But research into cancer and related diseases has come to require huge amounts of money and the quest to attract those dollars from grants, individuals and events has come to require a visibility strategy and focus matching the research itself at the institutions where research and treatment are carried on.

“It is our goal to eliminate cancer as a cause of human suffering and death through prevention and curative treatments accessible to all patients,” as Marquart put it. And that “accessibility to all” is a major cost driver. Among those is the Hutch School, where patients and family members of those living temporarily in Seattle while being treated at The Hutch have classes, from kindergarten through high school.

The success the award has achieved since returning to Seattle is due to a large extent to the involvement of Jody Lentz, regional sales manager for Mass Mutual, who set up and chaired a committee to oversee planning for the event.

“We had about 25 to 30 people at the event at the hotel the first year and I thought ‘we should make this a fund raiser,’” she recalls.

Her plan included getting a hall of fame player as keynoter each year, and the event has generated attendance of between 1,000 and 1,400 and about $500,000 a year for The Hutch.

Her commitment to the event has stemmed from the fact that both cancer and baseball are part of her life. Husband, Mike, was the highest pick in the baseball draft ever from this state, being the second overall pick as the first choice of the San Diego Padres in 1975.

Her sons Ryan, Richie and Andy were all baseball All-Americans at the University of Washington and Ryan and Richie had careers that included high minor league play and time on the roster of the Major League teams that drafted them.

And she has suffered two cancers, the latest, thyroid, hit her in 2008, as that year’s event was in planning, after she had chaired and overseen the event the previous eight years.

“I just never got involved again,” she told me as we talked about her sense of frustration over the fact “I guess I figured it was time for others to have a chance to guide this event. But I do believe this event could be so much more as a source of funding for The Hutch.”

It was that 2008 event where John Lester, a native of Puyallup and most recently on the mound for the Chicago Cubs in this year’s World Series, was honored after being successfully treated at The Hutch for anaplastic large cell lymphoma.

Lentz is convinced that a lack of local visibility for the event is a reason that major local sponsors have not stepped up in major fashion to add value to the funds raised for The Hutch.

The 2017 event, an 11:30 to 1:30 luncheon, will be January 25 at Safeco with Boston Red Sox star Jim Rice as the Hall of Fame keynote speaker. The honoree for 2017 will be announced in the next few days.

Honorees are chosen by a vote of each Major League team to determine which player on the team meets the criteria and those chosen represent the finalists from which the winner is selected. Jamie Moyer is the only Mariner to be selected.

Last year’s honoree was Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals as the event raised just under $550,000, which The Hutch put toward faculty fellowships.

 

 

 

Continue reading

Story of Granger shows caring can pay dividends

 

The tiny nonprofit that over the past 13 years has enhanced the lives of families, particularly the children, in the mostly Hispanic Yakima Valley Community of Granger has provided growing evidence that caring can pay dividends.

Sharing the story of the launch and growth of the little nonprofit, born spontaneously at a Thanksgiving table in 2003 as Bellevue businesswoman Joan Wallace and her sister in law Janet Wheaton fretted about the Granger children going hungry during the holidays, has become my Thanksgiving offering for the past half-dozen years.

It's the kind of story that deserves being shared anew, particularly since each year brings new successes and new chapters of the story for the small 501c3 called Families of Granger.

But the visibility Granger’s schools and the community’s families have gained over the past year could not have been imagined by its most committed supporters. What’s happened in Granger has become a success story that deserves replicating in other communities where need abounds.

The dividends for the community and those who have supported the annual plea from Wallace to her email friends and, for the past couple of years, including the letter signed by Wheaton, were the Granger middle school establishing the best attendance record in the state. And following that, Granger schools being honored with the first Innovations in Education award.

From a mediocre attendance record typical of the schools down the length of the Yakima Valley and in most of rural Washington, schools in the Granger district for the 2014-2015 school year recorded a chronic absenteeism rate of 3.6 percent, more than four times better than the statewide average of 16 percent.

Results for attendance marks for last year have not yet been announced by the office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction in Olympia, and unfortunately no plaque or certificate has been presented to the school for its attendance performance in the 2014-2015 year.

That seems like a sadly missed opportunity to recognize a dramatic accomplishment for a district in a community that is 85 percent Hispanic or Latino and where nearly a third of the families live below the poverty level.

To become the school with the state’s lowest incidence of chronic absenteeism (defined as missing 18 or more school days during the year), Granger middle school, had an average that was more than twice as good as the rates in Bellevue, Mercer Island and Lake Washington districts.

The quest for perfect attendance at Granger middle school was keyed to "Every Child, Every Seat, Every Day," which became a mantra for students, teachers and parents that allowed the district to achieve the best attendance in the state last year.

The program was created by Alma Sanchez, a mother of three turned student at Heritage University, turned education entrepreneur working at the Granger schools. She conceived and, with Wheaton’s help, “sold” to the students and parents as a “we can do it” belief in the full-attendance program,

While there is no display of the top-attendance mark, the Innovations in Education Award “is proudly displayed in the trophy case at the entrance of the Granger Middle School,” Wheaton said. Wallace, Wheaton and Sanchez were also honored in the Innovations in Education Award for their roles in the attendance program.

The award, presented by the Discovery Institute and sponsored by Bellevue developer Kemper Freeman, the Seattle law firm of Patterson Buchanan, KCPQ Television and Sound Publishing, is intended to become an annual award, which will enhance the Granger School District’s visibility as the first recipient.

And Wheaton noted, in an email to me, that the state has “put a very big focus on attendance this year,” adding her sense that the recognition given to Granger for its remarkable accomplishment has had much to do with that state effort. She noted that a panel from Granger was invited to share their success and the program’s specific strategies at a regional forum held in Yakima this fall.

The Friends of Granger 501c3 was instrumental in the district being awarded a $15,000 grant from the Yakima Valley Community Foundation, which has been renewed again last year and this year with the grant helping pay the costs of the attendance-incentive program.

Granger’s children are attracting broader attention as the women in Wallace’s Bellevue Presbyterian Church knitted hats, mittens and scarves and the importance of that was explained in a letter to the church women from a developmental preschool teacher in Granger.

“My children have not come to school with any sort of winter wear to cover their heads, necks, and hands.  I have noticed that these little hands and ears are very cold as our weather has been changing to colder temperatures.  My young students really appreciate your kind hearts,” she wrote.

“Melts your heart,” emailed Wallace as she sent me the picture of the youngsters in their hats.

“I never thought, when we started this, we would still be doing it and seeing how much has happened,” Wallace emailed me.

Then she shared, with obvious amusement: “(Husband) Bob looked at me at the outset and said: ‘you know if you start this, it won’t end. When you are working with a poor community, the needs never end. There’ll always be kids that need a new coat or their families are a little short.’”

And so it has been, to her obvious satisfaction.

Continue reading

Washington GOP's record gubernatorial drought

15.00

Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE

There was surprisingly little fanfare or discussion over the fact that Gov. Jay Inslee’s re-election extended his party’s record hold on the governor’s mansion so that when his term ends in 2020, it will have been four decades since a Republican was elected governor in Washington.

But both John Spellman, elected to what turned out to be a single term in 1980 as the state’s last Republican chief executive, and Dan Evans, who left office in 1976 after a record three terms, are convinced it’s more than running in an increasingly blue state that has denied the GOP the statehouse for a longer period than any other state.

Inslee defeated Republican challenger Bill Bryant, 55 per cent to 45 percent, with the GOP lamenting that there wasn’t much bad that could be said about a governor who hadn’t done a lot.

And as Evans quipped, when I asked him about what it would take for Republicans to win the governorship again, ”what we need is someone with Inslee’s looks and Bryant’s brains.”

In fact, although Washington is far more blue now than it was in either Evans’ or Spellman’s time, both had as much appeal to Democrats as to Republicans and that could help indicate the challenge for a rightward drifting state GOP.

Both Evans and Spellman were strong protectors of the environment. The State Department of Ecology was created during Evans’ term, as well as legislation to protect shorelines. And Spellman became the darling of environmentalists while raising the ire of everyone in his party, from the president’s energy secretary to members of Congress and legislators, over his decision to prevent construction of the Northern Tier Pipeline project.

And neither shied away from taxes. Spellman told me, during an interview in 2011 on the 30th anniversary of his inauguration, we passed more taxes in my four years than they have before or since. One of the challenges in seeking to get re-elected was that I said I would raise taxes only as a last resort and some people took that to mean I wouldn’t raise taxes.”

Spellman paid the price for raising taxes and defying special interests in a tumultuous term marked by a serious recession and a hard-right Republican Party, losing in 1984 to moderate Democratic businessman Booth Gardner.

I asked Spellman, who turns 90 next month, what kind of governor he had been and with a twinkle in his Irish eyes, he replied “I was a darn good governor.” And beyond the tumult of his times, including what he’d suggest may have been the worst economic period the state has experienced, there’s much to suggest in retrospect that may be an accurate assessment.

For his part, Evans, who just had his 91st birthday last month, was and remains a fan of a state income tax, as long as it’s part of “tax reform,” saying in an interview “I killed the income tax for two generation by getting a vote on it.  After that, the no-tax pledge became required in campaigns.”

“If we had prevailed with tax reform and the income tax component, we would be $4.5 billion better off in this state,” Evans added.

The governing philosophies of those two may indicate how close to ideologically blue a GOP gubernatorial candidate might have to be to break the Democratic hold on the state’s chief executive job.

Of course the Republican candidates have been competitive in some recent elections, with Dino Rossi losing to Christine Gregoire in 2004 only after a recount confirmed her victory, and Rob McKenna seen as losing to Inslee four years ago primarily because of some campaign missteps.

Spellman, handsome and personable with a winning smile, was an attorney, graduate of Seattle University then Georgetown Law School, whose ever-present pipe would be lit and relit during lengthy discussion sessions.

Because one of his legal clients was the United Steelworkers Union local, he had support from a lot of labor-union members as he successfully campaigned to become the first King County Executive. In fact,  my first meeting with Spellman in 1967 was when my steelworker uncle introduced me to him at a cocktail party in downtown Seattle after explaining to me what a fair and fine man this was who I was about to meet.

The passage of years has dimmed the remarkable courage Spellman evidenced in holding firm to his decision not to permit a pipeline to be constructed under Puget Sound despite pressure from a Republican administration, his own congressional delegation and the legislature.

That conviction brought him national attention in the form of a People magazine April 1982 profile of the little-known elected official who was “bucking president and party to turn an oil pipeline into a pipe dream.”

The profile went on to discuss how “one of the nation’s mightiest public-works projects, the $2.7 billion, 1,490-mile Northern Tier Pipeline designed to carry Alaskan crude oil from Puget Sound to Midwestern refineries, is being blocked by a single man, Governor John Spellman of Washington.”

And given the current political controversy about what attitude should guide this country’s view of international trade, Spellman’s thoughts on its importance would put him in the thick of any discussion on the topic today.

Spellman was an early believer in the importance of establishing relations with foreign nations and is proud of initiating relationships with Schewan Province in China and furthering relations with Japan during his term.

“Both world trade and world peace were in play then, as now, and relationships are very important in international affairs,” said Spellman in our interview. “The relationships we have are extremely important to the world in terms of peace and tranquility and trade, but trade is third among those in importance.”

I asked Spellman during our telephone interview for that 2011 column how it felt to lose his re-election bid.  “It wasn’t devastating. Maybe to some of my kids it was, but not to me,” Spellman replied. “I knew I had done a lot of things that weren’t calculated to make getting re-elected easy.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continue reading

Munro offers Rotarians path to political healing

As a deeply divided nation ponders the painful post-election path to healing, former secretary of state Ralph Munro, one of the state's most respected elected officials for two decades, offered the thought that the past outreach to other nations needs to become an outreach within our nation.

 
Ralph Munro
"Here in Seattle, a thriving world-trade community, we have rightly developed sister-cities, sister ports and friendly relations with places like Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai," offered Munro, who in five terms as secretary of state espoused close ties to those places, as well as Russia and even North Korea.

But in comments the day after election to Seattle Rotary, Munro noted. "Those are all well and good, but perhaps it's time we reached out to places like Gary, Indiana, flint , Michigan and Youngstown, Ohio, places where people haven't had decent jobs in the last decade."

"Those are places that have been totally left behind in our quest for cheaper manufacturing and world trade," he added. "What can we do to help them find their place in this new economy."

"There is no question that if our country is going to prosper and grow, we must build friendships and relationships across the aisle, across the bridge, across the lake, across the mountains and across the county," Munro offered. "Isolating ourselves in a cacoon of similar beliefs will only make matters worse."

As an aside, I have to interject that Munro obviously agrees with my belief that communities that are entirely red or entirely blue do indeed represent ideological cacoons where "true believers" despise discourse.

Munro, a moderate Republican who said he "did not vote for either of the leading candidates,"
told the Rotarians: "As the old saying goes, to the victor go the spoils. But I am not sure what spoils will be left when we still have a deeply divided country and two major political parties that are each split down the middle in philosophy and belief."

But he added: "in 72 days we will inaugurate the ultimate unconventional candidate. We pray for his success."

Munro, in closing his comments to the Rotarians, posed the question: "So what can we do as Rotarians as we move into the next era of American politics? We need to serve as the forum for civil discourse in every community across the land...we must remain totally nonpartisan but our microphones should be open to public debate on the issues se face as a nation."

A commitment to the same future step needs to be made by every organization that hopes healing replaces discord in the political process.

Continue reading

Scott Jarvis recalls Great Recession ups, downs

15.00

 Few people had a more important role than Scott Jarvis in overseeing how Washington’s financial institutions weathered the twists and turns of the disruptions the Great Recession brought to the economy and the financial industry.

As director of the state Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) from 2005 until his retirement this week, it was the role of Jarvis and his team to closely monitor the financial health of the state’s banks and thrifts during that economic crisis. And on 20 or more occasions, they had to pull the plug when critically inadequate capital or severe loan losses threatened continued solvency.

Jarvis, appointed by Gov. Christine Gregoire to the DFI director role in 2005 and reappointed in 2013 by Gov. Jay Inslee, reflected on that crisis during an interview that amounted to a revisiting of the bumpy ride on which the financial downturn took financial institutions in this state, and the role his agency had in each of the “bumps.”

But the most high-visibility failure, the seizure of Washington Mutual in September of 2008 by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the sale of the assets of what was by then one of the nation’s largest banks to J.P. Morgan Chase, was without consultation with the state regulators.

And the closure that was perhaps the most painful for Jarvis and his staff, that of Frontier Financial Corp. in April of 2010, was unavoidable after the feds turned down what both the bank board and state regulators viewed as a satisfactory buyout plan.

“If I had to name a ‘down’ moment, it was the circumstances associated with the closing of Frontier Bank,” Jarvis said. “Willing and adequate capital was available for infusion but the Fed was unwilling to sanction the transaction.”

A key bright spot for the regulators was the successful emergence of Sterling Savings Bank from under threat of closure. The once high-flying Spokane-based institution had been placed under a cease and desist order in early October of 2009 and its chairman-founder and the CEO ousted.

Agreements Sterling secured to raise $730 million in new capital under new CEO Greg Seibly and a reconstituted board allowed both DFI and the FDIC to terminate the order and allow Sterling to proceed back on the road to healthy operation and growth, and eventual acquisition by Umpqua Bank.

In fact, Jarvis said of Sterling’s re-emergence: “Sterling’s success is proof that a cease and desist order is not a death-knell for Washington’s banks, but rather a call to action. When a financial institution’s leaders take aggressive, well-planned, corrective action, success can be found at the end in safe and sound business practices – and in strong community and employee support.”

The financial crisis had actually paved the way for Oregon-based Umpqua to move into Washington since the Bank of Clark County, closed by DFI in January of 2009 as the first closure in this state, reopened under Umpqua ownership. And a year later, when DFI took action against Seattle-based Evergreen Bank and Rainier Pacific Savings Bank, they wound under the Umpqua banner.

And Jarvis may well have had Umpqua, among others, in mind when he said: No matter how dark the financial or investment environment might seem at any given moment, there are always individuals and organizations who see opportunities for success that benefit our economy and move us forward.”  

Of the circumstances that forced DFI to close the 18 banks and at least two thrifts that the department had to act on, Jarvis observed: “as a pituitary giant will tell you, sometimes there is a problem with too much growth.”

Jarvis, a New York native who graduated from Allegheny College and got his law degree from University of Puget Sound (now Seattle University), first joined DFI in 1997 after serving as an insurance regulator for the state Insurance Commissioner and General Counsel to the State Treasurer.  

In discussing the relations between state financial regulators and their big-brother counterparts at the federal level, Jarvis admitted that “overall, state regulators are concerned with the feds pre-empting powers of state regulators,” evidencing an unsaid sense that in some areas, the local regulators have a better sense of market needs.

A key area where that is important, he feels, is in failure of the feds to understand the need to right-size regulations for small institutions, where “the risk and exposure are dramatically different for small banks.”

“I think the number of small commercial banks will shrink further and small towns need these kinds of institutions,” Jarvis said.

Of the WAMU takeover by the Fed, Jarvis’ banking chief, Rick Riccobono, has been outspoken in his view that the Fed’s action and its sale of assets to J.P. Morgan Chase for what many viewed as a bargain-basement price didn’t need to have happened. Jarvis has routinely scolded Riccobono for making those statements to various groups, but intriguingly, hasn’t said he disagreed with the comments.

Under his leadership, DFI became a nationally-recognized leader in state financial regulation, which helped move the state from 17th in the nation to 10th on Washington's Corporation for Enterprise Development Scorecard Ranking in "Financial Assets & Income.” In 2012-13 he chaired the legislative committee for the Conference of State Bank Supervisors.

An area where Jarvis was obviously pleased to see the states step in when a void was being left at the federal level was in creation of local legislation to make it easier for start-up entrepreneurs to raise capital from local investors, basically a state version of the JOBS Act passed by Congress in April of 2012.

It was clear after Congress passed the legislation and told the Securities & Exchange Commission to enact rules to put the law into effect, that the SEC’s then chair, Mary Shapiro, didn’t think easing investor protections to enhance entrepreneurial opportunities was a good idea, so she foot dragged for several years.

Eventually a number of states, including Washington, decided they could do it better locally anyway, so they enacted JOBS Act-like crowd-funding legislation, strongly supported by Jarvis and his agency. He told me once that his role was to balance protection for investors with opportunity for entrepreneurial startups and that the balance wasn’t that difficult a challenge.

He was careful how the process of putting the crowd-funding into effect was carried out, with hearings, testimony and staff evalutions, though there have only been four companies that have filed to raise money under the state legislation.

In thanking Jarvis for his years of contribution, the governor named Gloria Papiez, who had served as Jarvis’ deputy for more than a decade, to replace him.

Continue reading

Why preclude future voter revisit for ST-3?

When American poet John Greenleaf Whittier penned his memorable couplet "For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: 'It might have been!'" it was an ode to the maiden in the field and the nobleman who rode by, noticed her, but decided not to stop. It was an ode to lost love but has become a reference point to remind individuals or groups about lost opportunity.
 
Thus ever since Puget Sound voters, almost a half century ago, briefly met at the ballot a light rail package from which they turned away, the "might have been" has been dangled like a badge of shame whenever a new rail-based transportation package is discussed.

After all, Atlanta got our federal funds and built a light-rail system.

 

 

The might-have-been lament is being played again this year in the Puget Sound area, among other arguments put forth by proponents of $54 billion ST-3, a proposal that would provide a 25-year basically blank check to Sound Transit to create a system that will connect an array of communities across three counties.

 

As posed at the start of his op-ed piece in the Seattle Times, my friend Charles Collins, whose background as a civic leader and transportation expert provide impeccable credentials for the integrity of his comments: "$54 billion. Really? The sheer size of Sound Transit 3 staggers the imagination. A Google search yields nothing remotely comparable ever asked of local voters...anywhere."

 

Collins went on to point out that Sound Transit's own statistics show it won't reduce congestion, despite its election-season claims. "Buried in Sound Transit's original Environmental Impact Statement is a very different story: their own analysis indicated that there would be no difference in congestion whether the rail system were built or not built."

 

One story for an environmental impact statement and another for the voters might seem dishonest. But the fact is, I and most citizens have a respect for the integrity of individual members of the board, each a local elected official in one of three counties.

 

But I'm equally convinced that as a board, the members' candor tends to give way to the group reality that commitment of major public dollars means major income to an array of contractors, architects, professional firms, and so on. And each makes campaign contributions to those board members when they run for re-election to their local offices, which is obviously the main function of each of those elected officials, with Sound Transit board membership a secondary, or supportive, duty.

 

That's why there should be no surprise in the story this week in the Seattle Times that 62 percent of the money for the campaign on behalf of ST-3 has come from contractors, engineers, suppliers, unions and others for whom the $54 billion would be an income and jobs windfall.

 

There are many who have made the points Collins made but I quote him primarily because his views were so cogently stated in his Times' op-ed piece and because, while others may be assailed for having vested interested in opposing ST-3, even proponents of the plan would concede there's not much way to try to question his credentials.

 

Collins, incidentally, was being a little generous in saying nothing similar has been asked of local voters. The fact is that the amount local voters here are being asked to approve with ST-3 is 25 percent greater than voters in the entire state of California approved in 1968 so 800 miles of high-speed rail lines connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco could be built. So the three-county proposal is greater than even the pricetag on the most costly plan put forward in the nation's largest state.

 

The California plan, naturally described to voters in 2008 as "visionary," is to whoosh riders from Southern California to San Fran in an unheard-of two hours and 40 minutes. The trains would reduce air pollution and ease congestion on the state's famously clogged freeways and construction would create tens of thousands of new jobs. So the voters approved $9.95 billion in bonds of the $43 billion plan to usher in a new era of transit for the Golden State.

 

But times have changed, and the recent past has been a rough time for the project. The latest poll shows that 59 percent of Californians would vote against the bonds if they could do it again. Cost estimates have grown from $43 billion to at least $98 billion, and the completion date of the first phase has been pushed back 13 years.

 

If ST-3 is approved and in a few years it becomes obvious that $54 billion and 25 years are dramatic underestimates, which would parallel what is happening in California, the same inability of the voters in this region to rethink what would have become a very bad idea will amount to the same unfulfillable wish to do it over.

 

In fact, there's a double down on the logic of a voter review somewhere, ideally as stages of the project are completed, and that's what Collins and others point to as it being obvious "that we are at the threshold of the most fundamental transportation revolution since the combustion engine."

 

Autonomous, or self-driving, vehicles may provide a chuckle to some, but to companies ranging from Ford to Google, there's full speed ahead with the knowledge that autonomous vehicles will be here with a prominent if not dominant transportation role.

And, as Collins notes in his op-ed piece, "Opinions vary on when self-driving (autonomous) vehicles will arrive in large numbers on American streets, some say in as little as five years, some say as many as 15. No one says 2040, the year ST3 is complete."

 

"What public policies and investments will be required to take advantage of self-driving technology?" Collins questions. "New lanes? Publicly owned fleets? Contracted services with the Googles, Fords and Ubers? But whatever makes sense, it is clear that approval of ST3 rail system will commandeer all reasonably available local transportation funds for a generation and preclude any chance to advance new technology."

 

That's why I find it intriguing, in a most troubling way, to have people I basically respect being absolutely adamant in insisting there's no reason that voters should have an opportunity to review the progress of a $54 billion quarter-century plan at various intervals.

Never mind that it might be an outdated transportation mode in a quarter century.

 

To echo the most compelling of Collins' comments: "Really?"
Continue reading

Shabana Kahn's efforts capturing squash-world attention

Shabana KahnShabana Khan, perhaps the most recognized women in the world in the fast-growing sport of squash, was honored last week in Philadelphia with the sport's most prestigious national award in recognition of her success in putting on the 2015 Men's World Squash Championship in Bellevue last November.

But despite her growing national, and international, recognition in bringing the world men's event to the this country for the first time, and for the series of squash events being scheduled in Bellevue over the next year, she is still struggling for recognition and support in the city she is seeking to turn into a global squash capital.

Khan, a lithe and athletic 48 year old who is former national women's squash champion and ranked among the world's best in her playing prime in the early 2000s, was honored in Philadelphia during the national squash championships with the 2016 W. Stewart Brauns, Jr. Award for major administrative contributions to the sport.
This season, under Khan's leadership working with PRO Squash Club in Bellevue, what the official publication of US squash describes as "an unprecedented skein of events" is planned for Bellevue, including four junior tournaments as well as a college showcase. To follow is a $200,000, sixteen-man pro tournament, described as "possibly the most lucrative event in tour history."

One of the prize events that will take place in Bellevue will be the first Bellevue Squash Classic in May, squash's equivalent of a PGA golf tour stop. The event, which will bring the world's best squash players to the Pacific Northwest, will showcase the four-wall glass court inside the Hidden Valley Boys and Girls Club, a location that Khan enthuses about.

When I first met and wrote about Khan a year ago, it was as she was struggling to make sure the men's event would come off as planned to fulfill her goals of providing Bellevue 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 as soon as Khan's challenges with dollars and event support came to light, developer Kemper Freeman provided her some financial support on the spot and Bellevue City Councilman Conrad Lee became her advocate in the quest to have the City of Bellevue participate. It was too late for that to happen, in part because it was too close to the time the world event was to take place.

But it's not too late for the city to get involved now for the coming year. That's something that would be a given in other communities that had the opportunity to have the brass ring as emerging center of what is becoming an increasingly popular sport in many places around the world.

As the men's world event quietly but successfully came about last fall, despite challenges with the Meydenbauer Center location, the leading world figures in squash, both players and presenters, began pressing Khan to create additional involvements. And those are coming to pass as she fulfills a request from Hong Kong to put on a squash event there, and in Los Angeles, where she will be guiding a major new event focused on young people.
In most places where it is played on a highly competitive level, squash is thriving. What was once known as a sport that was primarily for the wealthy could afford to is now more accessible to people of all income levels.

And with the growth of the sport and the accessibility to new squash players, the U.S., along with England and Egypt, are the three countries where the squash game is thriving most.

Khan founded YSK Events three years ago to bring the men's world event to the U.S. and has served as CEO since then as she and her brother Murad, as president, and sister Latasha as vice president for business development have turned it into what she hopes will be a full-service events company. Murad has played professional squash and it was Latasha who was national women's champion when Shabana defeated her to win the crown, providing me an opportunity to note in my column last year that "best in the family is best in the nation."

"Y" in YSK stands for both her 10-year-old daughter, Yasmine, who is always in her conversations, and her father, Yusuf, who was nine-time India champion when the Seattle Tennis Club hired him in 1968 to come to Seattle to be head tennis pro. Shabana was 2 ½ years old at the time. The "S" and "K" are for her initials.

It was her father who turned the Seattle area into a center for squash and it was he she partnered with to put on the Women's World Championship in 1999, the first time that event had ever been staged in the U.S.

"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 told me, referring to last year's men's event.
"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."
But she noted that the most important consideration for getting the men's world event was that 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.
A laudable aspect of Khan's events is that they are focused on young people, from ages 11 to 19, giving them the opportunity to interact via Skype with the top squash pros in the world.
"In all the events, we offer free clinics for kids to work with the pros, who are amazing because they realize what we are trying to do and are working hard for them so they take the time with the young people," Khan said.
A key event will be the West Coast College showcase the second week of May, where high school squash players will be competing in what amounts to a recruiting show for college coaches, mostly from Ivy League schools but also a few western schools like Stanford.
Khan is looking for a major sponsor, as well as event sponsors, for her array of events since Wells Fargo, which had the $25,000 sponsorship and wound up with its name carried around the squash world as all the matches were streamed worldwide, has for various reasons not renewed.
"Bellevue is being recognized around the country and around the world so it seems fair to hope we begin getting some recognition in Bellevue," she said.

 
Continue reading

CTI's Bianco: Controversial and complex CEO

Dr. James (Jim) Bianco, M.D., was an up-from-poverty son of Italian immigrants, just out of medical school in New York, when he was recruited by E. Donnall Thomas to come to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to join its pioneering bone marrow transplantation team. The work of the team would bring Thomas a Nobel Prize for Medicine and launch some team members, including Bianco, on careers pursuing cures for cancer. Bianco has resigned suddenly from the company he founded in 1991 to find a cure for blood-related cancers. During more than a quarter century as chairman and CEO of what is now CTI Biopharma, he became one of the area's most intriguing CEOs, a complex and controversial leader praised by those who experienced his moral and philanthropic support and criticized by others who focused on his high-spending ways. Bianco has just turned 60 and whether he or his board decided it was time for him to leave isn't certain, and really doesn't matter except as fodder for cocktail conversation for those who knew of him, or knew him. Among the latter there's a conviction, summed up by one mutual friend: "He'll be doing something interesting within a year and his interests are so broad, it won't necessarily be in medicine." Bianco's challenges in seeking to find new cancer-fighting innovations and his confrontations with regulators over those drug-focused efforts were well documented over time by local media and wrapped up in a Seattle Times article following his sudden departure on October 2. The headline over The Times' story, "CEO Bianco retires after 25 years running profitless CTI Biopharma," was, for those aware of the long adversarial relationship that existed between him and the media, an amusing final putdown. But the person behind the controversies is always more intriguing to me. So it has been with Bianco, with whom I visited frequently over the years, usually while planning for columns exploring various aspects of Bianco and his involvements, including but beyond his company's business performance. Bianco, who received his B.S. in biology and physics from New York University and his M.D. from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, was high visibility in his business and also highly visible in fund-raising efforts for his special causes, though not in a way to designed to attract personal credit. Those personal causes included the Hope Heart Institute, where he and his wife, Sue, won the Wings of Hope award in 2002 and where he's helped revamp the key fund-raising event, and Gilda's Club, the cancer-support organization whose continued existence was largely due to Bianco's personal support. In addition he was long closely involved in the annual Celebrity Waiter event during the years that the Leukemia Society was the beneficiary of the most successful event of its kind in the country. He was long involved with Gilda's Club, named for the late comedian Gilda Radner, and when I once asked him about that involvement, he explained "Gilda's provides that other kind of Medicine, the kind you can't get in hospitals or clinics but that place where family, kids, friends etc have support. It's a great cause, but because they don't do research they're not sexy so funding in these times is tough. That's why I stay involved. It's in our (CTI's) DNA." Bianco's struggles with media coverage, usually over some aspect of the fact that CTI raised and went through about $1.8 billion without turning a profit in its quest for a successful cancer drug undoubtedly played a role in the wild ride investors went on. The stock price peaked in the mid $80s but spent most of the past decade bouncing between a few dollars a share and a few dimes. As one Bianco supporter put it, "let's just say the media and Jim Bianco don't like each other very much," the tension possibly due in part to the fact Bianco enjoys the perks go with the CEO role and is a competitive kind of guy who doesn't shrink from a fight. The latter isn't surprising given his Bronx upbringing as a second-generation Italian kid in a household shared by up to 20 relatives at a time in an environment where "you were okay as long as you didn't leave the few square blocks of our neighborhood." Then he smiled as he recalled that his bus to high school made its closest stop 10 blocks from his home. "Every day I sprinted to the bus because if you couldn't get there faster than anyone else, you were a statistic." He admits he didn't do very well academically in high school, but by the time he found himself at NYU, he recalls that a major disappointment was the lone "B" he received among his "A's." Bianco had a love of the arts from a young age, an involvement that actually brought him into life-saving contact with his most famous patient and ultimately one of his closest friends. As I wrote in a column a few years ago, the first meeting between Jose Carreras and the young physician who would have a key role in the life-saving treatment for his rare form of leukemia turned out to be a bonding moment for the opera singer and a fan "blown away" at being his doctor. "I was a fellow at The Hutch working with Doctor Thomas when they told me a singer from West Side Story, the opera, was coming in for a transplant and since I was from New York, they thought I might know him," recalled Bianco. "Since I had been a season ticket holder at the Met, I immediately identified him and was blown away that I was going to have the privilege of being his doc," said Bianco. "When he met me he observed 'you're not from here, you dress different!' When I told him I saw him at the Met and I loved his performance of Carmen, we hit it off." That first meeting almost 30 years ago was likely on the minds of both Bianco and Carreras when the famed creator of "The Three Tenors" came to Seattle for a special event at Benaroya Hall. The event, billed as "A celebration of life and friendship," was to celebrate both the 25th anniversary of Carrera's victory over cancer and the 90th birthday of Dottie Thomas, wife of the Nobel-prize-winning doctor. The "private performance" recital for about 500 invitees who paid $250 each to support a research fellowship benefiting the Jose Carreras Research Institute and The Hutch, was sponsored by Bianco's company. "When I learned Dottie was turning 90, coupled with the fact that September, 1987, was the month I admitted Jose to the Hutch for his transplant, there was no better tribute to both of these milestones than to bring Jose back to the U.S. for a celebration," Bianco said.
Continue reading

Forman's quarter-century focus on rural development

 

 

Washington has been more attuned than most states to the reality that creating successful economies in rural communities results from helping them grow and nurture what they have rather than merely trying to attract businesses from elsewhere to relocate.

    Maury Forman
Now as Maury Forman, the man who built this state's image of focusing on rural economic development for nearly 26 years, passes the baton, a new program aimed at attracting successful urban entrepreneurs to mentor rural business people is seen by his successor as a "priority program" for the future.

Recruitment and retention, generally in that order, have been the key words that guided the programs of economic development organizations in smaller communities across the country for years, usually with marginal success. But retention has been a generally amorphous patchwork.

But for a quarter century as senior manager in the Washington State Department of Commerce and head of the Office of Economic Development and Competitiveness, Forman has kept his focus on enhancing the success of rural communities by emphasizing the words nurture and growth.
Forman, who has served under five governors, a similar number of department heads and in an agency that has occasionally changed names to connote sometimes different emphasis, is retiring from the role he stepped into in 1991 and soon thereafter began crafting a rural-support image for the state.

And his vision for rural enhancement has grown over the years, coming to emphasize the importance of entrepreneurs and more recently the importance of young people to their communities.
He once shared with me the view that if programs are to enhance local economic development they "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 told me in an interview last year.
Anne Nelson      
Now Forman is turning over the role of guiding rural communities on successful economic development paths to Anne Nelson, who has started several businesses and worked as a community and economic developer before becoming an instructor at Walla Walla Community College in business, entrepreneurship and marketing.
In an example of Forman's typical sense of humor, he says "she will essentially be serving those rural areas as Executive Innovator and Enlightener of Ideas Officer (or EIEIO as we say on the farm)."
In fact, Nelson shared with me an incident in the Eastern Washington community of Dayton that she thinks may serve as a model for what she hopes will emerge as urban-rural mentoring.

Seems a much-loved bakery in Dayton was closing because the owner was retiring. Nelson heard discussion about it at a local restaurant, was aware of a young woman who was hoping to someday own a restaurant and created a contact with retired Seattle restaurant owner Paul MacKay. The founder of El Gaucho and a chain of other restaurants had retired with his wife a few years ago to Walla Walla to a 100-acre spread to grow wheat and grapes.

But once he learned of the Dayton bakery situation, MacKay soon got the young woman set up as owner manager of the bakery.
"I see the support for that young, aspiring bakery owner from Paul MacKay as a model we can see more and more of across this state," Nelson said. "The key is that rural entrepreneurs are clear about their sense that mentoring is even more important than capital."

The program, called Startup365, has been running for about a year under the management of Greater Spokane Inc., the region's chamber of commerce, aimed at connecting Spokane area business people as mentors for entrepreneurs and small businesses in Asotin and Whitman counties.

But Nelson says Startup 365, created by the legislature, is aimed at retaining the intellectual wealth and economic vitality of rural areas by focusing on entrepreneurship and small business growth. "That will help communities flourish organically and will be a priority program that I can spend more time on, functioning a large part of my time in Walla Walla."

"I do believe that urban-rural mentorship will be a key piece in building rural businesses, especially as I see the urban entrepreneurs being more in touch with the technologies and tools that help businesses be successful," said Nelson.

One of those technology tools, Skype, she hopes will be employed at least once a week in connecting rural entrepreneurs with their urban mentors. The Spokane program is being supported by Avista, the Spokane-based utility that has a long track record of supporting business development in the region.

But before Nelson gets to focus on developing the urban-rural mentorship idea, her first order of business will be overseeing in November the fifth annual Global Entrepreneurship Week activities in all 39 counties.

Although in Washington, the annual celebration of innovators and job creators involving 88 countries last year became Global Entrepreneurship Month. Nowhere is GEW, or GEM in this state, treated as a bigger deal than what Forman put in place in Washington, which is the only state with events in all counties.

Jack Schultz, whose focus on assisting rural economic growth helped him come to be known as the guru of rural economic development as keynoter at more than 400 conferences around the country and author of "Boomtown USA: The 7 ½ Keys to Big Success in Small Towns," credits entrepreneurial support as a key to rural success.

Schultz, of Effingham, IL., whose Agracel Inc. is the largest industrial development company focused on developing projects and creating jobs in rural towns, told me he had not heard of a mentorship program like Startup 365.

But Schultz, who said he has long been an admirer of Forman's, said "I think it makes a lot of sense and is something very innovative."

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

'Tipping point' pledge for planned Bellevue arts center

A "tipping point" matching pledge of $20 million, half from the Arakawa Foundation, for the planned Tateuchi performing arts center in downtown Bellevue was announced Wednesday evening at a festive gathering of supporters at the Hyatt Regency Bellevue next to the site for the planned $200 million facility.

The $10 million pledged by Yoko and Minoru Arakawa, to name the 2,000-seat centerpiece of the center the Arakawa Concert Hall, puts the facility $122 million in cash and pledges on the way to the spring of 2018 groundbreaking of the $200 million facility, which is increasingly viewed as serving the region rather than just the Eastside.

Cathi Hatch, chair of the campaign, said the Arakawa gift, matched by $5 million each from the Freeman Family and Microsoft Challenge Matches, means "we need another $58 million to go to groundbreaking." Arakawa is founder and former president of Ninetendo.

While the facility will be the venue for many Eastside performing arts groups, the collection of Seattle arts leadership on the Tateuchi advisory board is evidence that the Center is coming to be viewed by Seattle arts organizations as an asset rather than the threat it was viewed as when it was first announced a few years ago.

The center, when completed, is viewed as complementing Seattle arts venues like McCaw Hall, Benaroya Hall, the 5th Avenue and Paramount theaters while filling a regional need by providing a more convenient venue for Eastside residents while offering an Eastside platform for Seattle arts groups.

Other significant donors were also honored at the Wednesday evening event, including the Tateuchi Foundation, for whose donation the center is named. Tateuchi board chair Alex Smith acknowledged tbe role the Bellevue City Council played with its unanimous vote in May of 2015 to provide $20 million toward construction.

The initial boost, when the center was first envisioned, came from the Kemper Freeman family committed the land where the center will be built.

" Between now And groundbreaking in the spring of 2018, our campaign committee will continue to focus on recruiting Founders Society-level donors," said Hatch, who added that donors at all levels will soon be sought, "including children with their penny jars."

The changing attitude of Seattle performing arts leaders toward a Bellevue concert center is in response to an increasing reluctancd of Eastsiders, who account for more than 50 percent of Seattle arts subscribes and Seattle ticketholders, to face the twin traffic challenges of Lake Washington bridges to Seattle and traffic tie-ups in downtown Seattle.

The strategy of Seattle arts organizations is to use the 2,000-seat center for the double benefit of attracting new audience while helping retain existing ticketholders and supporters.

The way it might work, for example, is a ticketholder for a season of 10 performances of a Seattle play, symphony or opera might wind up with seven of those in Seattle and three on the Eastside.

As I noted in a column last fall, the center isn't being done on the cheap, but its supporters like to talk about how the $200 million pricetag compares with projects like the recently opened Las Vegas center, the same eize, that had a pricetag of $400 million.
 

 
Continue reading

Key questions to ponder in education-funding battle

 

As legislators and their paid consultants struggle with how to answer the State Supreme Court’s latest education-funding question about determining “competitive market rates” for educators, a couple of thoughts press themselves to the fore as the drama moves toward a final act.

 

First, there’s an unfortunate sense that, in the press by the justices to make it clear to legislators which branch of government is ultimately in charge, what’s emerged is an effort to ensure that financial support of educators becomes the answer to education quality woes. No consideration is given to support for education in a broader sense.

 

Second, the well-worn phrase “You can’t just throw money at a problem” is one that seems to have eluded the state high court in its on-going education-funding struggle with the legislature over how much is enough.

 

At issue is the court’s January 2012 ruling, in what is now known as the McCleary case, that the legislature violated the state constitution by failing to amply fund basic education. Since then the court has found the lawmakers in contempt for not providing sufficient funding and has even threatened to take over the budgeting process (presenting what would seem to an amazing cartoonists’ opportunity).

 

Now the court has told the lawmakers to determine “competitive market rates” in terms of teacher salaries across the state and a final report on that point is due from a legislative consultant in November.

 

After that, lawmakers will try to find common ground on the sum of money required for salaries and where it is going to come from. The Legislature is supposed to take votes in 2017, or in the view of lawmakers in 2018, to put those final pieces in place in what has come to be known as the McCleary case.

 

Comes now the observation of Donald Nielsen, whom I best describe as an education “change agent,” whose views are dramatically suspect and irritating to those who disagree with him because he has no hidden agenda. He’s merely a business executive who made his fortune and decided nearly a quarter century ago to spend his time and money in the next phase of life seeking to make basic education better.

 

Nielsen is not an educator. But he is someone who is passionate about public education and has focused much of his attention on it since the early ‘90s, first traveling the country in search of education ideas that are working, then serving eight years on the Seattle School Board and a final year as president. His book, “Every School,” has brought his thoughts on education reform to the fore over the past couple of years in radio talk shows and newspaper interviews around the country.

 

“Schools do not have a funding problem, they have a regulatory problem,” Nielsen suggests. “If school administrators could spend their existing money as they believe is needed, they would spend it quite differently, and we would get better results.”   

 

His most in-your-face message is that “teachers are not underpaid, they are underemployed. This is not a compensation issue, it’s an employment issues.”

 

“The average teacher in Seattle, in 2013, was making $70,000 a year, employed  for 1320 hours,” he said. “All normal jobs employ people for 2080 hours a year so If that same teacher were employed for a normal year, his or her compensation would $110,300 a year on that 2080 basis.”

 

“Even beginning teachers who start at $40,000 a year are being paid the equivalent of $63,000 year,” he added. “In both cases, the teacher gets a benefit package that no private employer could afford to replicate.”  

 

Neither of these compensations is low,” Nielsen added.  “They are very competitive, and in rural areas, teachers are already among the best paid people in the community.”   

 

Discussion by the justices has never touched on suggesting the lawmakers focus on how the money is being spent, only how much is being spent, which makes another suggestion from Nielsen the kind of thing that at least might be in the discussion hopper.

 

“We need are variable contracts for teachers:  A nine month contract, a ten month contract and an eleven month contract, meaning the latter would make the $110,000 and the former would make the $70,000,” he said.  “Let the teachers decide what contract they want and let the district decide who gets each type of contract,” suggesting that approach could allow for some education options for different students.  

 

Unfortunately, it’s still uncertain whether the final act in this drama will be played out on the judicial or legislative stages since the nine justices of the state’s highest court have pressed the lawmakers, including with a contempt funding, to spend more dollars on education. At issue is the state’s constitutional mandate for adequate funding of basic education.

 

The justices, as far as I can tell, have never mentioned that lawmakers should also consider how the education dollars are being spent and could better education result from more insightful use of the dollars the lawmakers appropriate.

 

Maybe there’s still time, as the lines for the final act are just now being written in Olympia, for the idea of quality of expenditure rather than just quantity of expenditure to be raised.

 

In a case replete with issues relating to powerful education forces focused only on dollars, it might be worth combatants who finally seem hopeful of averting a real constitutional crisis to be aware of an unsettling statistic that Nielsen has included in his book.

In summing up the details of the chart in his book, Nielsen notes: “We now spend three times as much per child in inflation-adjusted dollars as we did in 1970 and we also have four times as many adults in our schools with only eight percent more children. And we’ve had no measurable improvement in academic achievement.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continue reading

Naturopath eyes ancient Amazon drug as possible depression treatment

 They are called "Ayahuasca Circles." And in with-it places like New York, Washington, Chicago, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles and, yes, Seattle, the in-crowds are being drawn to evening gatherings to share a tea made from a natural drug with ancient Amazon ties that takes them on group "trips" where spiritual revelations occur.

For those old enough to remember the sixties and Timothy Leary's "tune in, turn on and drop out" call to LSD gatherings, or the cocaine parties of the '80s, the tea-sharing at the ayahuasca circles may have a familiar ring.

But Leanna Standish, a Seattle naturopathic physician and prominent medical researcher, is convinced that ayahuasca (aiya was' ka), which she refers to as "a vast, unregulated global experiment," is going to "change the face of western medicine."

And with that conviction guiding her, she has sought and been granted conditional approval by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), pending approval from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), to begin manufacture and distribution for research on potential medical uses for ayahuasca.

DEA approval is needed because the basic ingredient in ayahuasca is DMT (dimethyltryptamine), DMT is illegal in the U.S., classified as a Schedule 1 drug for its likelihood of being abused. Tiny amounts of DMT apparently exist in parts of the brain associated with visual dreaming.

Getting FDA approval for a Phase I trial to pursue medical use of ayahuasca is considered a significant accomplishment and is partly a credit to Standish's reputation, as medical director of the Bastyr Integrative Oncology Research Center and researcher at University of Washington Medical School.

And unlike the LSD "trips" of the '60s, or as one authority described the gatherings two decades later as where "cocaine expressed and amplified the speedy, greedy ethos of the nineteen-eighties," ayahuasca devotees say it reflects our present moment--what some call the Age of Kale." They say "It is a time characterized by wellness cravings, when many Americans are eager for things like mindfulness, detoxification, and organic produce, and we are willing to suffer for our soulfulness."

I learned of Standish's interest in the drug from an article in a September issue of the New Yorker, titled "The Drug of Choice for the Age of Kale," with the headline "How ayahuasca, an ancient Amazonian hallucinogenic brew, became the latest trend in Brooklyn and Silicon Valley." And, I might add, the Seattle area.

Ayahuasca enthusiasts frequently use the language of technology, which may have entered the plant-medicine lexicon because so many people in Silicon Valley are apparently devotees. Thus technology-driven references like "cleansing the mother board," or "wiping the hard drive clean" crop up.
The New Yorker article by a long-time, award-winning writer for the magazine, who included the experience of participating in an ayahausca circle, quoted Standish at some length on the medical-research aspects of the drug.

Standish noted that "many people are going from all over the world to South America, part of a virtual drug-tourism industry, suggesting what I think is a huge need in Western Culture for this type of healing medicine."

The New Yorker article notes that vomiting can follow ayahuasca ingestion. According to the writer "this purging is considered by many shamans and experienced users of ayahuasca to be an essential part of the experience, as it represents the release of negative energy and emotions built up over the course of one's life." 

"Now, a critical mass of L.A.'s urban hippies are gathering in groups and projectile vomiting (and worse) on their way to enlightenment.," the writer says.

But Standish has been drawn to what she perceives as the medicinal potential. 
"I am very interested in bringing this ancient medicine from the Amazon Basin into the light of science," she said.

Her key initial scientific focus is in "creating a new treatment for depression," which she describes as "a pandemic in this country and in Western culture,"

She says she has started her own company, Standish Medicine Inc., as the vehicle to guide the research, once she gets the final okay from DEA and Bastyr's Institutional Review Board, and adds that she has some potential investors "interested in helping me with a new therapy for depression."

 
Continue reading

Thoughts to ponder in recalling 9/11's global grief for us

(As the 15th anniversary of 9/11 nears, a compelling question to ponder is whether the global regard for us that existed then, as evidenced by the outpouring of grief that came that day in our behalf, remains our national treasure or whether it is merely a squandered legacy.

On the 10th anniversary, I shared a piece written a few days after that tragic 2011 September day by a former, now late, United Press International colleague, Al Webb, who did a wrap-up of the grief that citizens of every country shared on our behalf. Webb's article, written then from his post in London, captured that display of shared pain in a way that deserves, or rather requires, remembering. So I share it here again.)

-0-

By Al Webb

LONDON (UPI) -- A small girl with a Cockney accent shyly waved a tiny American flag, and a queen brushed away a tear. In a Scottish town that has known its own tragedy, a lone church bell tolled. On a German river, foghorns sounded a low moan.

Across countries and continents, waves of sympathy for a nation in anguish rolled on. A young woman in a Kenyan park wept over the sad headlines in newspapers spread on the ground. A one-time terrorist donated blood for the victims. Hundreds stood in line in cities from Dublin to Moscow to sign books of condolences. 

And over the outpouring of grief and mourning for the lives lost in the boiling flames and rubble of the World Trade Center towers and a wing of the Pentagon, time and again came the strains of "The Star-Spangled Banner," sometimes in places where it had never been sung before.

In a gesture reminiscent of John F. Kennedy's "Ich bin ein Berliner," symbolizing his solidarity with another troubled people a half century ago, the Paris newspaper Le Monde perhaps summed it up best: "We are all Americans."

In London, where the little girl with the funny accent and her American flag pressed her damp face against the gates, the band performing the traditional Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace suddenly did something it had never done before -- it struck up "The Star-Spangled Banner."

For 45 minutes, the Mall in front of the palace became a little piece of America for hundreds of its citizens who were there because there were no planes to take them home. And the band of the Coldstream Guards played on.

As tear-stained faces lifted and sang along, as Americans and British and other nationals waved Old Glory, the marches rolled -- "The Liberty Bell" after the national anthem, followed by "The Washington Post March" and "Semper Fidelis" and finally, heart-rendingly, "When Johnny Comes Marching Home."

What the Coldstream Guards had triggered was the greatest mass demonstration of grief in Britain since Princess Diana was killed in a car crash four years ago. And as with Diana's death, a carpet of flowers, children's toys, poems, letters, all illuminated by tiny candles, built up this time at the fortress-like U.S. Embassy in London.

Amid the hundreds of bouquets, a single American flag was wrapped around a tree. One woman pressed her tear-dampened lips to its fringe in a soft kiss. 

The sweeping tide of mourning reached its crescendo at 11 o'clock Friday morning when Britain, France, Germany and scores of other countries in Europe, Africa and Asia went silent for three minutes, in honor of the innocent dead in America.

In Paris, the elevator at the Eiffel Tower stopped halfway to the top. Buses, trams and cars halted in their tracks across the continent.

In Spain, more than 650 city and town halls became gathering centers for tens of thousands who bent their heads in silent prayer -- and then, at the end of the three minutes, they lifted their eyes and applauded in that people's traditional tribute to the victims of terrorism.

On the River Elbe leading into Hamburg, ships flew their flags at half-mast. The minutes of silence crept by -- and at the end were broken by the sound of a thousand foghorns rolling across the water into the city's very heart.

In Lockerbie, Scotland, there was no applause, no singing, no bands, only the ringing of a single church bell and the flutter of flags at half-mast. This is a town with singular links to America, forged in a terrorist attack in the skies 13 years ago.

In all, according to an estimate by The Daily Telegraph newspaper in London, some 800 million people across Europe joined in the three minutes of silence.

At Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, once part of a dividing line between freedom and tyranny, a crowd of some 200,000 -- among them Germans whose relatives had died in terrorist attacks -- gathered beneath a black banner bearing the words, "We Mourn With You."

In Paris, crowds jammed the Place de la Concorde, itself a symbol of reconciliation, while church bells rang for five minutes before the silence.

In the government's Elysee Palace, "The Star-Spangled Banner" rang out, while over the French air waves, radio stations played John Lennon's "Imagine."

The bankers of Switzerland are not noted for their sentimentality, so they dealt in their own currency. At the end of the three minutes of silence, they announced they were donating more than $500,000 to the families of the victims of the atrocities in America. 

Lloyd's of London, the insurance market based in the British capital and one of several insurers of the World Trade Center, rang its Lutine bell and observed a minute of silence in memory of the dead in America -- some of them in the several broker offices Lloyd's has -- had -- in the WTC. 

In Belfast, the bullets and bombs of Northern Ireland's own form of terrorism, known as sectarian violence, went silent as tens of thousands from both sides of the divide -- Roman Catholic and Protestant - gathered in front of a makeshift stage at City Hall, to stand in silent tribute.

It is a city that knows the heartache of terrorism. "We have suffered for 33 years," said Betty McLearon. "People here have to be admired for the way they can cope with it. It will take the people in New York a long time to get over this."

In Moscow, the Russians observed a minute's silence as they laid wreaths and floral tributes outside the U.S. Embassy, once a symbol of the Cold War. Thousands of Muscovites lined up patiently to sign books of condolences.

In turbulent Israel, a nurse gently inserted a needle into the right arm of Yasser Arafat, himself a one-time terrorist who is now head of the Palestinian Authority. In a demonstration of support, he was donating blood to help the American injured.

Back in London, the minutes of silence were followed by a service of remembrance in the capital's majestic St. Paul's Cathedral, led by Queen Elizabeth II herself. In the audience of 2,400 inside, Americans hoisted the Stars and Stripes for the rest of the world to see via television.

Outside the cathedral, the tens of thousands who could not get in waved their own tiny flags and listened over the loudspeakers that carried the words and music for blocks around.  The cathedral's huge organ rumbled into life, to open the service, appropriately, with the American national anthem.

Then something happened that has never happened before, certainly not in public and doubtless not even in private. Softly, the queen began to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Now, the British monarch does not "sing" national anthems. When they are played, she never even opens her mouth. Until now.

 But Queen Elizabeth sang it all, this song whose words were written 187 years ago during Britain's last war with her lost American colonies, through the final words, "O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave." With the last note, the queen gently brushed away a tear. 

That said it all. 

-------

(Note: Al Webb, who died in February of 2015 at the age of 79, spent most of his career -- 28 years -- with UPI, separated by a few years in the 1980s for a stint with U.S. News and World Report. His reporting ranged from the civil rights struggles to the battlefields of Vietnam to the Houston Space Center covering the conquest of space.

Webb, along with Joseph L. Galloway, another UPI colleague, were two of only four civilian journalists who were decorated for their battlefield heroism, in Webb’s case for evacuating under fire a wounded marine during the Tet Offensive in 1968.)

 

Continue reading

Sound Transit ballot plan faces emerging challenge

As Sound Transit marks its 20th birthday, it faces the biggest-ever threat to its future in the form of an emerging transportation alternative that may well cause voters in the three Central Puget Sound counties to reject the agency's $54 billion transportation package to allow the alternative time to develop.

Not even in their darkest nightmare would Sound Transit's board and the proponents of its megabillion-dollar ballot measure likely have envisioned the emergence of a growing fervor over a new transportation innovation just as the time for a November voter decision on dramatically extending the rail-based package nears.

The transportation innovation that's attracting increasing attention is autonomous vehicles, previously referred to as self-driving cars, with both automobile and truck manufacturers projecting emergence of fully autonomous vehicles within five years. And the Seattle area is being talked up as the nation's launch region for this development because companies like Google, Car2Go and ReachNow have committed to bring that about.

The challenge facing Sound Transit is that its proposal would put a lock on the region's transportation future for the next quarter century, tying it to a system for which rail is the keystone. By then autonomous vehicles and the congestion-easing result of their emergence might well render rail the transportation innovation of yesterday.

And the uncertainty surrounding the transportation future has created a growing sense, expressed not just by Sound Transit critics but also some longtime supporters, that rather than a full-blown package committing the region to a 25-year plan, a series of packages should be placed before the voters. The most recent example of growing concern over the measure called ST-3 was the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce board's decision Tuesday to oppose it.

Those pressing the idea of sending Sound Transit back to the drawing board would seek ballot proposals in staged packages, with a vote to provide funding for one segment, which would be followed by another vote when that project was completed, and so on. Then at any point, the voters could decide times have indeed changed and no more Sound Transit rail construction is desired.

As one of those longtime supporter put it when I called to get his candid thoughts: "If you are saying the voters should be offered segments of the total plan over a period of years as each prior segment is completed, of course that's logical."

But Sound Transit, officially the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority, formed in 1996 by the county councils of King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties, is looking to corral all 25 years' worth of funding from voters. There is a clear Sound Transit reluctance to even contemplate going back to the drawing board.

As longtime Sound Transit critic, Bellevue developer and business leader Kemper Freeman Jr., sees it, Sound Transit realizes that ST-3 is likely the last time voters might be willing to consider a mega transportation package with taxes that will hit every property owner in the three counties. Too many things, including transportation alternatives and other uses for that massive property tax amount, are certain to emerge in future years.

Intriguingly, this is the second time in its 20 years that an alternative to Sound Transit's rail focus has been offered. Despite the business and political credentials of the five people who teamed up, a year after Sound Transit began operation, to suggest a lower-cost and more efficient idea than the then-planned $1.6 billion Link Light Rail, the idea was basically brushed aside back in 2000.

The plan was called Ride Free Express, offered by two former governors John Spellman, a Republican, and Democrat Booth Gardner, along with John Runstad and Matt Griffin, two well-regarded business leaders, and Charles Collins, one of the region's long-respected transportation experts.

The plan would have eliminated fares for existing as well an expanded express bus fleet and created vanpools, reducing peak congestion by 5 percent at a price a sixth of the cost of new riders on Sound Transit's Link Light Rail, "even assuming they could build, LINK for the original $1.6 billion," Collins said. A recent Seattle Times analysis showed that in the end LINK wasn't built for that price, actually exceeding its budget by 87 percent.

"All of our projections, including that our plan would attract six times the number of new riders, flowed from well-established and independent market studies or actual transit experience," Collins notes. "Not a single board member except Rob McKenna thought that the issues we raised were even slightly interesting."

"They were committed to a project whereas we wanted to reduce congestion," Collins summarized pointly.

"Nothing has changed," said Collins, whose credentials include having been Spellman's Chief King County Adminstrator, Director of Metro Transit and chair of the Northwest Power Planning Council, the State Higher Education Coordinating Board and the State Commission on Student Learning.

Indeed while Sound Transit operates express bus services in addition to rail and light rail service to the region, there has been little doubt in the community that members of the board view themselves as creators of the region's light rail system.

Sound Transit and its proponents have routinely tried to picture the opposition as primarily Kemper Freeman., since a wealthy Eastside businessman makes an easy target for those Seattlites who view rail as something approaching Holy Grail. 

Collins, with impeccable credentials for public service, business success and transportation expertise, as well as being a decorated Vietnam veteran and retired Army Reserve Brigadier General, makes an opponent who many Sound Transit believers will find it uncomfortable to attack.

"If we are committed for 25 years and a good idea like autonomous van pools takes shape, good luck since the bond attorneys have made sure the money can't be diverted," Collins told me. "And autonomous van pools would be a good idea and could also be an energy answer."

Freeman sought this year to boost his years-long campaign for roads over rails with report he funded called Mobility 21 that outlined a fact-based alternative to the existing long-range plans. He has presented Mobility 21 at an array of speaking engagements around the region. 
Freeman told me the first presentation on the Mobility 21 study was made to officials of the Puget Sound Regional Council, which oversees dispensing federal dollars to the four counties.

"They admitted to us that the idea of autonomous cars had never been envisioned in their 25-year plan," freeman said.

Will autonomous vehicles become an ubiquitous presence on the region's roadways soon? Of course not. But technological advancements, including accident-avoidance devices, in vehicles before that happens will enhance congestion-reductions efforts. And some such technological advances could require commitment of dollars from the public, which would be more difficult to draw out if $54 billion in taxes is still being imposed.

And it's interesting that Daimler Trucks North America CEO Martin Daum talked recently about how he allowed a robotic truck to drive him nearly 25 miles, without his ever touching the steering wheel or brakes. He said his digital pilot used a combination of GPS, map data and sensors to drive the autonomous truck across highways and two-way streets.

And Freeman admitted to me, in one interview, that he has taken a half dozen trips, logging up to 125 miles, both freeway and city streets, with his autonomous Tesla. He said his hands were poised beneath the steering wheel in case his intervention was needed, bur that he never actually had his hands on the wheel.

Freeman and other ST-3 opponents haven't yet been seeking slogans for the final months of their campaign, but given the new realities facing the $54 billion plan, it could be referred at this time as "not a sound plan."
 
Continue reading

Patrick Patrick's career was turning troubled banks

The fact that Patrick Patrick was more likely to boast about his selection as batboy of the Seattle Rainiers as a youngster than about his career turning around troubled banks said a lot about the man.
pat patrick
Patrick Patrick 
That's the kind of memories of Patrick, who died last week at the age of 74 from a rare blood disease, that were shared recently at a gathering of his friends and family for a celebration of his life.

It was two years ago that I did my last of several columns on Patrick , this one focused on his retirement as president and CEO of Seattle Bank, which had been on the financial precipice when he arrived on the scene in September of 2010. His success there was the latest, and turned out to be the final, chapter in the turnaround career.

The role Patrick had at Seattle Bank was one he played several times over 30 years, a role I suggested that role could have been characterized as the financial version of an old television western series called "Have Gun, Will Travel" in which the hero went from town to town to resolve problems created by the bad guys.
Patrick was certain there would always be bad guys, or more accurately, as he preferred to describe those who guided banks into problems, he figured there'd always be greedy guys.
Patrick, then 72, told me that after retiring five times, he'd still be interested in another turnaround opportunity and was quite certain, he said, that there will always be banks in need of turnaround. And he shared the thought that perhaps what he saw emerging in the industry might continue to produce more of them.
"There will always be troubled banks," said Patrick in our interview following his retirement. "The question is the degree of trouble in determining if they need to bring an outsider in."
"We're going back to doing the same things we did when the financial industry got into trouble," he added. "Because competition is fierce and interest rates are extremely low, some banks are making loans on terms we shouldn't be considering," Patrick added.
Patrick's perspective extended back over four financial crises, with his first opportunity to assume the role of turnaround CEO coming after the savings and loan crisis of the early '80s when, in 1983, he was asked to take the helm at Seattle-based Prudential Savings, which was in danger of being closed.
Two years later, he found himself overseeing Westside Federal as well, running both thrifts simultaneously for a year before melding Westside into Prudential and, on "Black Monday" in 1988, selling Prudential to Tacoma-based Pacific First Federal.
Patrick was part of a fun Harp I wrote before his last retirement, highlighting the region's three Irish bankers, each prominent in the local banking industry.
Patrick Patrick, Patrick (Pat) Fahey (who was both banking innovator and reluctant turnaround expert) and Patrick Dineen (former president of U.S, Bank and now chairman of Bellevue-based Puget Sound Bank) shared an Irish heritage and, all three as friends of mine, fitted logically into a column.
In fact, Fahey and Patrick, at a time when both were dealing with turnaround challenges, connected occasionally over breakfast or lunch to share notes and strategies on the progress of their efforts. Fahey, who founded Pacific Northwest Bank and was brought in to turn around a couple of other banks, joked that, like Patrick, he couldn't stay retired. 
The idea of three Irish bankers was good enough for the Irish Network Seattle organization to suggest a panel discussion with them. All were willing but the opportunity never fit all four of our schedules.
And over recent months, as Patrick would offer me a comment on one of the Harps or another, one of us would inevitably close an email by saying something like: "Let's get together, my friend."
It inevitably failed to rise to the top of either of our priority list. "Too bad," I'll scold myself at the celebration of life for Patrick.
Continue reading

At 50th anniversary, memories remain forever young

A half a century is a long time. But boy does it pass swiftly.

     

       Betsy and Mike


Betsy and I met in math class at Gonzaga 52 years ago when, as a super senior having to fulfill a freshman math requirement, I came to the first day of class, spotted the blond young sophomore and took the seat behind her. We celebrate 50 years of marriage this week. And we'll take time to remember all that has transpired over five decades.

"All that has transpired" includes the son and two daughters, as well as eight grandchildren, who will all join us over Labor Day weekend for a family celebration of our anniversary. One daughter is no longer with us but she will be in Betsy and my thoughts as we mark 50 years.

Amusingly, it was a statistics class that I chose to pick up those math-requirement hours so I've often wondered: what are the odds that the coed I sat behind would turn out to be "the one." We were engaged three months after we completed that class, and married a year later in August of 1966.

One of my early romantic outreaches was one I've shared with readers of the Harp. It was my love affair with a '55 T-Bird, a sleek aqua and white machine then almost 10 years old in which I taught Betsy how to drive a stick shift. I mused in the column that she was so excited sitting behind the wheel that I wasn't certain even now if she first fell in love with the car or the guy.

A marriage gets stronger when a couple shares pain as well as pleasure and so it was when the pleasure of the birth of our third child turned to the pain of her being taken by Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Sarah Elizabeth, born four days before Christmas in 1973, gave a special meaning to that holiday season. As I wrote about Sarah in an earlier Harp, her brother and sister would sit on the couch and push as close as possible, looking on with smiling fascination while mom held or fed the baby. Two months to the day later, we found he dead in her crib.

The loss of our baby to "crib death" came to be a bonding thing both during and after the pain. After drawing support from the SIDS medical and family community, we gave back as active in the SIDS Foundation, which I served as state president while Betsy did most of the work of our involvement helping new SIDS parents work through their grief.

The pain of Sarah's loss found a counterpoint two years later with the excitement of the arrival of Eileen, who bore the burden of being the "subsequent child," a description hung by psychologists on children born following the death of a sibling.

Over the coming years, three children grew through teen-age years to adulthood and headed off to college or marriage.

It was four years ago that it came time to move from the house that, over the four decades it was home, had been where three children grew to adulthood and where their laughter and tears, and those of their children, echoed from walls and windows that were always decorated by Betsy for the appropriate holidays.

And so it was that as we watched, the house was emptied of the furnishings, the closets emptied of decorations and toys our voices began to echo through the empty rooms.

The empty spot by the front French doors after movers had cleared the area made it harder to picture the Christmas tree that occupied the spot each holiday season, to be surrounded by excited children, then in addition by their children. And the absence of the sofa and chairs made it difficult to recall the candy-filled plastic Easter eggs that were inevitably hidden in and around them.

As we returned for a final check of the now-empty house, with its unfamiliar echoes as we moved through each room, an important reality for us emerged that I noted in a Harp I wrote son thereafter about the house.

It was that for us, and for all those making large life changes, it was and is important to remember that the memories don't remain behind in the place where they were made. Rather they travel with us, an essential part of the experiences we gather and carry through the years. Memories to be recalled and savored.

Forever young, as is the memory of each new experience, now and in years to come.

Continue reading

Wireless icons Stanton, Thomsen focus on baseball

John Stanton and Mikal Thomsen were in their late 20s when they teamed up at McCaw Cellular to become part of the birthing of a fledgling communications technology whose growth globally they helped guide through several major companies over the next 20 years, becoming iconic figures in the wireless industry.

Now just into their 60s, both have parlayed their business success into owning and guiding professional baseball teams, what they might well agree is a passion that rivals their business focus.

A business focus remains, however, as they continue to manage their Bellevue-based wireless venture and investment firm, Trilogy Equity Partners, formed by a collection of long-time wireless partners after the sale of their Western Wireless to Alltel Corp. in 2005.

Thomsen once told me that the opportunity six years ago to create the ownership team that bought the Tacoma Rainiers was like his “dream come true.” He would be owning his hometown team that he had grown up rooting for from the time his dad took him to his first game at age three. That was the year that the then-Tacoma Giants returned after a 55-year absence.

Stanton, who will soon assume the role of CEO of the Seattle Mariners after the ownership group he leads completes its purchase of the team from Nintendo of America, also recalls attending the games of his hometown team with his father. That was in 1969 when, as a teenager he became a fan of the Seattle Pilots in their first and only year of existence and recalls crying when they left town for Milwaukee.

Thomsen would undoubtedly echo Stanton’s “I am first and foremost a baseball fan” comment  that he made to the media gathering at Safeco Field when he was introduced as the leader of a 17 member local group that would become 90 percent owner of the team and he become the CEO, once Major League Baseball owners bless the deal.

Thomsen and his wife, Lynn, and Stanton and his wife, Terry Gillespie, are all alums of McCaw Cellular in the ‘80s and are now on the team of co-owners of the Tacoma Rainiers, though the oversight of the franchise, including attending many games and spending about 10 hours a week in the office during the season, falls to Thomsen.

The owners are fortunate that the baseball team acquisition included Aaron Artman as club president, a former Microsoft executive who oversaw the $30 million renovation of Cheney Stadium and remained with the new owners in the role of president.

Stanton’s and Thomsen’s baseball involvement extends across the state and all the way down to the West Coast League, an amateur collegiate summer league, where they are among owners of both the Walla Sweets and the Yakima Valley Pippins.

But it was when Thomsen had the opportunity to put together the purchase of the Tacoma Rainiers in 2011 that he turned to Stanton and his wife, an avid baseball fan herself, to become part of the ownership group.

Thomsen has immersed himself in his hometown baseball team and has enthusiastically committed to its increasing success, despite being the smallest market in far-flung Pacific Coast League and being the closest Triple-A team to a major league city.

In fact, the Seattle Mariners and the Rainiers are not only geographically close, which Thomsen admits may sometimes cost the Rainiers attendance of fans heading for Seattle, but close in that the Rainiers are the Mariners’ triple-A farm team.

As Thomsen puts it: “Most of the Rainiers fans are Mariners fans who enjoy keeping up with both teams and hearing about the players they saw in Tacoma performing with the major league club. I think the nearness of the M’s cuts both ways.”

In addition, the relationship is good for the Rainiers’ bottomline since the Tacoma roster is determined by and players’ salaries paid by the Mariners.

A lot of the changes brought about since Thomson’s group bought the team relate to community things, but he is pleased about what has happened in the stands and on the field.

At this point, atop PCL pack, the Rainiers seem headed for their first playoff appearance since Thomsen’s group bought the team, though Thomsen cautions that “it’s a long way from certain. We are only three games up on Fresno.” Plus the team appear on the way to another franchise attendance record, though beating the 352,000 attendance mark of last season is well behind the nearly 680,000 of the Sacramento River Cats.

In addition, Thomsen notes that the decision by the ownership group three years ago to build a new set of stands in left field “has been a stunning success,” adding that he celebrated his 60th birthday there in early May this year “with a couple hundred friends.”

He says the change of the team’s logo two years ago to “the now somewhat iconic ‘R’” has helped drive merchandise sales “through the roof.”

In terms of community involvement, he says the Rainiers “teamed this past off season with Tacoma Parks, the Cheney Foundation and Mary Bridge Hospital to add a playground behind the right field berm that includes a whiffle ball stadium,

“It is packed for most games and open as a public park when games are not going on in the stadium,” he adds.

“The community views this as a partnership and we go out of our way to be great partners,” Thomsen says with obvious pride.

 

Continue reading

Alaska Airlines begins wooing process for Virgin America fans

Alaska Airlines’ goal of winning friends and influencing people in the Bay Area, whose hometown airline is about to be absorbed by the Seattle-based carrier, began in earnest Tuesday night in San Francisco as Alaska executives and board members hosted a gathering for local leaders.

Some 250 business, political and community leaders were on hand at the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco for an event whose theme was “Flying Better Together.” The goal of the gathering of Bay Area who’s who was for them to meet and begin to get to know the leadership of the airline that is buying Virgin America, the Richard Branson-founded carrier that began service as San Francisco’s hometown low-cost airline nine years ago this month.

During that nearly a decade of service, Virgin built what many in the Bay Area have described as “almost a cult following,”with many regular flyers enthusing that they “love Virgin.”

Aware of that challenge, Alaska CEO Brad Tilden and his executive team have sought to express sensitivity to the cultural issues and the initial backlash from Virgin fans. That awareness was pointed up a few weeks ago when Tilden told the Wings Club, a group of aviation professionals in New York, that he was thinking of running the Alaska and Virgin as separate airlines within Alaska Air Group.

Such an outcome may or may not still be a possibility, but when I asked Joseph Sprague, Alaska senior vice president, after the Tuesday event, about Virgin continuing to function as a third carrier, he said: “ Initially it will be a third airline but by 2018 it will be merged into Alaska.”

But Alaska leadership is playing up a cultural fit they see existing between Alaska and Virgin, rather than addressing the different styles.

Sprague said “a lot of the integration pre-planning work has revealed an encouraging number of similarities from which we can build.” 

He noted that Tilden, in his comments to the group Tuesday, pointed out three such similarities: “both have an obsessive focus on the customer, we both want companies that are employee-driven and we both have a strong leaning towards innovation around the customer experience.”

Alaska’s San Francisco community gathering came exactly s week after shareholders of Virgin America approved the acquisition by Alaska Air Group, with Virgin’s chairman announcing the voting results at a brief shareholders meeting on July 26.

That Virgin shareholder approval was the next-to-last major hurdle for the takeover, with the remaining step being U.S. Justice Department approval. Closing by October is expected for the $4 billion deal ($2.6 billion in cash and the rest in assumed debt and other costs) that Alaska had to put together to beat out Jet Blue.

It’s quite possible that the shadow of Delta Airlines’ seeming predator pursuit of Alaska that left key Alaska supporters concerned Delta was seeking to force a takeover played a role in Alaska’s decision to acquire Virgin America for a very large premium.

But in addition to likely ending concern about Delta coveting a takeover, Alaska also gets Virgin’s lucrative California routes as well as keeping Jet Blue, the losing suitor in the Virgin bidding contest, from acquiring the routes.

In fact, it’s perhaps amusing to consider the community response if Delta, after a hostile takeover of Alaska, held a reach-out event with the theme “get to know us.” They’d have faced a ferociously hostile audience in Seattle.

But obviously Alaska, which has been successfully serving the Bay Area from three airport for years, isn’t perceived as a bad guy, more just a carrier that locals don’t know a lot about other than it has an excellent record in all the areas airlines get rated.

In fact, as Phyllis Campbell, Alaska board member and Pacific Northwest chairman of JP Morgan Chase, put it after the event: ‘I think it is emblematic of Alaska Airlines to reach out to the community in a spirit of collaboration and collegiality. Having dinners like this send the message that we want to be the best airline going forward for the Region and also the best citizen in terms of community partnership.”

In fact, the event was apparently successful enough from Alaska’s perspective that Sprague said “we will likely do additional events, both of our own and sponsoring others.”

Still there are Virgin supporters whose love affair with the airline was partly due to the fact it was the Bay Area’s hometown airline. And the takeover will mean not just the end of Virgin’s “hometown” ties, but also that California will no longer have an airline based in a state that has served as home to a variety of important carriers over the years.

As Mary Huss, publisher of Puget Sound Business Times, summed up when I asked her about it: “I think people were very proud that Virgin chose to locate and start up here when it did.”

But while Jet Blue lost the bidding to Alaska, it is seeking to woo Virgin fans away before Alaska can convert them by looking for ways to exploit what it senses as uncertainty of flyers about the transition. It has been touting giveaway deals to potential frequent users of Jet Blue’s longhaul service from New York to San Francisco and Los Angeles, including its tongue-in-cheek wooing of Jet Blue “virgins,” those who haven’t previously tried Jet Blue.

Continue reading

52°F

Seattle

Mostly Cloudy

Humidity: 63%

Wind: 14 mph

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