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updated 2:54 PM CDT, Jul 28, 2018

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

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

 

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

 

Rick Hennessey 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

  

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

Conrad Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neeleman's

Gary and Rose Neeleman

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Elson Floyd name on new WSU medical school would ensure support for future

Just as it was WSU President Elson Floyd's personal presence in the legislative halls that overrode doubt and opposition to bring about creation of a new medical school for his university, naming the medical school after him would ensure that his spirit and memory provide the support for the school to weather challenges ahead.

Elson Floyd

As the awareness spread in the days following his death from cancer last week that Floyd was waging an eventually losing battle with the disease while he waged the legislative struggle to fulfill his vision of a new medical school for WSU, the idea of putting his name on the school has logically surfaced.  

There are apparently a number of bills making the rounds in the Legislature to name the medical school after Floyd, who died last week in Pullman at the age of 59 after the colon cancer he had been battling for months suddenly worsened and claimed his life.

And a move on social media emerged yesterday urging that the medical school be named for Floyd, since his personal immersion in the struggle to convince the Legislature that the state needed more than one approach to training doctors and that WSU could make the difference won the day with lawmakers.

Floyd had spent hours in Olympia early this year testifying before committees, meeting one on one with legislators and building WSU's case for why a second medical school made sense, even while UW lobbyists were saying it didn't. In the end the legislation that will allow WSU to create a second medical school in this state passed by an overwhelming margin. It was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee the first week of April.

"A lot of legislators knew of his battle with cancer," said John Gardner, vice president for development and CEO of the WSU Foundation. "But he handled his personal health like he handled every other issue he confronted in life, never using the challenges to advance a cause."

"His privacy was something Elson was consistent about, never wanting his burden to become someone else's burden," said Gardner, whom Floyd brought with him to Pullman from the University of Missouri when Floyd took the WSU job in 2007 and was one of Floyd's closest friends.  

While it's logical that the lawmakers who came to know and respect Floyd, and were saddened by his death would seek to put the final mark of his name on his medical school, the Legislature may not be the right forum for that decision.

The established university processes may deserve to be served in Floyd's case in particular, and the forum for a decision on naming the WSU medical school after him should remain the province of the WSU Board of Regents.

And since it seems more than likely that the school will eventually carry his name, that will virtually ensure that future legislative battles over funding to produce doctors from both UW and WSU will unfold with lawmakers sensitive to whose name is on the WSU medical school.  

Just as there was legitimate and understandable opposition to a WSU medical school from supporters and fans of the UW medical school that is one of the finest in the nation, that opposition will surface in coming legislative sessions over the appropriations necessary to provide sufficient funding for now two medical schools.

Elson's name on the school is the most certain way for WSU to weather those certain legislative funding storms, first for the focus on the initial class of 40 medical doctorate candidates who are to be welcomed in the fall of 2017, then for the funding challenges that await through 2024 when the first graduates will complete their residencies.

If that naming decision comes from the lawmakers themselves, it would likely assure that each issue is weighed on the basis of a legislative reaction that "we named this place for Elson."

But the reality is that the decision belongs in the hands of the regents of the university where he left many imprints, one of which was his vision for a WSU medical school.

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A small example of government caring can do much to alleviate broad public cynicism

At a time when cynicism about government, and elected officials in particular, is at its zenith, there's some satisfaction in encountering those occasions when government has a more caring demeanor.

Seattle City Councilman Tim Burgess' announcement that he is seeking re-election reminded me of one of those occasions because he was a player in what to most people would be a minor incident but was one that had a larger import for me because it grew out of a column I had done.

The point of the column, which I think has increasing relevance, was that "elected officials need to weigh the implications of anger that constituents feel toward government in certain situations and consider how to bring private-sector principles of customer-friendliness into their thinking."

To many friends and those who read the column, there was an amusing, and some said typical, overreaction on my part to two traffic-related citations, one for $42 for parking wrong against a building and the other a $124 ticket for rolling through a stop sign in my neighborhood at 6:46 one morning.

The point of the column was that it may be at government's peril when citizens, particularly in tough economic times, find serious financial impact from traffic-related brushes with the law and are angered out of a sense that the penalty exceeded what was just or even moral.

 

I wrote that I would go to court on the two tickets and make the point to the magistrate that the cost of the minor moving violation had come during Christmas season and for some in Seattle, that $124 could have a serious financial impact on their holiday.

 

I said I would suggest to the magistrate that since "customer friendliness" was important to government's relations with its "constituents," I was going to ask permission to make a donation equal to the ticket amount to charity rather than pay it to the city. That would make me feel better about the citations, I said.

 

A number of those who received the column urged a follow-up column once I had met with the magistrate.

 

When I arrived in court and handed Seattle Municipal Court Magistrate Lisa M. Leone the column and explained why I was in front of her to discuss the tickets, she said "there is certainly a lot controversy about this issue, and a lot of angry people," then added: "And a lot of poor people are involved."

 

I could perceive that she cared about that fact and was sensitive to my suggestion that since charitable organizations are squeezed as never before, I'd write a check for the amount owed to any charity she designated. But she noted she lacked the power to issue that sort of order.

 

I explained my point about it being in her hands and the hands of her peers to be the instruments of customer friendliness that so often seems lacking, especially in cases where merely the law and not a moral issue is involved, though admittedly some might debate me over a beer about breaking the law basically being a moral issue.

 

To my surprise, she said she was going to change the parking ticket to a warning, then offered me the opportunity to do community service from a list of approved non-profits, for a number of hours equal to the $124 citation amount.

 

She said she lacked the authority to tell me to make a check out to the charity for that amount but was accepting of my statement that I felt compelled to do that.

 

It was clear that while she logically wouldn't share the information with me, there obviously were a number of citizens for whom the traffic-incident costs would pose a serious hardship who found themselves fortunate enough to be in the hands of a magistrate who fit the image of "justice."

 

So I wrote a follow-on column about what happened, with the lead: "It turns out that Justice does have a smile on her face, even when challenged to defend the workings of government against accusations of possible heavy-handedness."

Councilman Burgess comes into the picture because perhaps a year later, following a parking-ticket incident (I always go to court if I think I was treated unfairly) I went to court again and wound up again before the same Magistrate Leone.

 

I asked her if she remembered we had met earlier and that I had done a column on our encounter and she said she did. And she told me that after the column came out, Burgess, who had also seen the column, spent the bulk of a couple of days sitting in her office as those seeking relief from their traffic-infraction costs appeared before her.

 

"I think he genuinely wanted to get an understanding of those who came to appeal their tickets," she told me.

 

Now any politician seeking re-election wants to have good things said about them. But even Burgess might chuckle at the idea that relating this court incident could help his re-election.

 

But I've carried a respect for him since then because little things that are unpublicized tell much about the person.

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LSDF's comparatively tiny budget should be easy to fund, given its role in the state's future

Don Brunell, retired president of the Association of Washington Business, summed it up best as we were discussing the perilous state of the fund whose purpose has for a decade been to promote the state's life sciences competitiveness.

"A $19 million expenditure in a $40 billion biennial budget is too small a percentage to even try to calculate," said Brunell, who as longtime president of the state's largest business association guided business's side of negotiations through four governors and two dozen legislatures.

"If it's a really important issue, as it seems the Life Sciences Discovery Fund (LSDF) should be viewed, you just take the $20 million out of a major-funded item," Brunell said, "particularly at a time when the state is experiencing an unexpected surge in revenue. It's not that difficult."

Brunell's comment, borne of years of playing the game of helping lawmakers reach budget goals while finding a way to save the most important business items in the final budget, is an important comment, since it's a thought that may still occur to the small group of legislators deliberating the final form of the state budget for the coming biennium.  

To be sure, there are a lot of smaller programs whose supporters are seeking to pressure lawmakers to safeguard in the final budget."Molehills vs. the 'mountain' of holding off new taxes," as one prominent business friend of mine, whom I respect but disagree with on this, put it in referring to those various programs.

That current LSDF funding of $19 million a biennium is the small remainder of the $400 million tobacco-settlement money from which LSDF was established in 2005 by the Governor and Washington's Legislature. The goal of the fund was to support innovative research in this state to promote life sciences competitiveness, enhance economic vitality, and improve health and health care.

The challenge for LSDF at this point is that while the money to sustain its funding for another biennium is in the House (Democrat) budget, and strongly supported by the governor, there is nothing for the agency in the Senate (GOP) budget, and there apparently is even Senate talk of taking back some of the money already granted.

Word leaked out earlier this week that the four budget negotiators (a Democrat and a Republican from each house) had reached a tentative deal on the total size of the budget. That's the first step before lawmakers begin tinkering with details, hammering out individual items (like the funding for LSDF's survival) and, of course, reaching some compromises before the hard deadline at the end this month when the biennium itself ends.

There is some belated talk, but probably not nearly enough of it, from business leaders about hammering the Senate with the reality that Republicans can't abdicate the image of supporters of entrepreneurs and innovation to a Democratic governor and Democratic House members.

Brunell was one of a half dozen major business-community figures I had talked within the past week to get a sense of the depth of understanding of and interest in the LSDF and its purpose. And Brunell admitted, as others have, that he was only vaguely aware of LSDF's role (which is visible mainly to the biotech industry and its supporters) or that it was in danger of disappearing, assuming that if it was an important business issue, Republicans would be watching out for it.

 

Brunell, who in his retirement now produces a regular column that appears in several dozen newspapers, seemed struck by the lack of visibility on what he agreed seemed vital to future of an emerging industry in this state.

Noting that there are a number of issues whose backers are bombarding supporters to press their legislators, Brunell said "I am pummeled with emails and contacts from wildlife and recreation and the folks wanting a carbon tax, but besides you I am not hearing from LSDF advocates. But supporting LSDF seems like a no-brainer."

It's important to share that my belief in the importance of LSDF comes, as is usually the case, from personal involvement and commitment. I had only been generally aware, as a journalist, of LSDF and its background and role.

Then I became involved in actively supporting an emerging biopharma company named M3 Biotechnology, believing in its potential dramatic impact if it gains FDA approval for a drug that would reverse neurodegenerative diseases, and in the CEO, Leen Kawas, who has been guiding the company's successful growth.  

As one whose wife suffers from Parkinson's Disease and with a father who died of it, and relatives and friends who have Alzheimer's, the company was a natural one.

It was as a result of involvement with the company that I learned the importance of LSDF, since the then just-launching M3 received grants from LSDF that allowed it to bridge what's referred to as the funding "Valley of Death," the financially challenging period from birth of a company to the successful initial funding round.

 

I also researched what states are doing to attract biotech, which this state's sound and fund has largely substituted for commitment, and learned that others are spending millions of dollars to attract and grow what they realize will be a key economic pillar in the future.

"M3 isn't the only company that needed the LSDF funding to survive until finding conventional funding," said Chris Rivera, CEO and President of the Washington Biotechnology and biomedical Association.

"Legislators tell me 'if we give LSDF $19 million, we'll have to take it away from somewhere else," Rivera said. "And I reply, 'if LSDF goes away, and the industry begins fading and the economy is being impacted in this state a result, you'll be doing a lot more looking somewhere else to make the cuts that will be necessary.'"

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Could proposed capital-gains tax be vehicle for Supreme Court re-look at income tax?

The proposed capital gains tax that the Democratic controlled House of Representatives insists must be a part of the final legislative budget package likely stirs the inevitable liberal hopes and conservative fears about it being the vehicle to bring the issue of state income tax before the state Supreme Court.

Democrats are routinely hopeful of finding an opportunity to pass a tax measure that would cause the state's highest court to re-look at the constitutionality of a Washington income tax while Republicans are pretty much always on guard against that happening.

Thus the seemingly illogical positions of Democrats wanting a tax measure the Legislature passed over GOP opposition to be challenged to the Supreme Court and Republicans not wanting a measure they opposed to be appealed.  

Hugh Spitzer 

But the real logic is in understanding realities. Proponents of adding some sort of a tax on income to the tax structure in Washington have become convinced that the state Supreme Court, given the opportunity, would reverse the longstanding precedent that an income tax is unconstitutional in this state. And many opponents of an income tax apprehensively agree with that analysis.

  

It's been 82 years since Washington's Supreme Court, in a 5-to-4 decision, held that a graduated net income tax would violate the state constitution's uniformity provision because 'income' was 'property' and property was to be taxed uniformly.

Washington is one of only seven states with no income tax, but by almost any measure, it is the most progressive of the states with no tax on either personal or corporate income.  

The 1933 ruling on the unconstitutionality of an income tax has meant that it would require a two- thirds vote of the legislature and the voters to amend the constitution to impose an income tax. And despite repeated efforts to get the voters, since that supreme court ruling, to approve an income tax, no proposal has come close to approval.

But Seattle attorney Hugh Spitzer, an expert on the state constitution and long an advocate of a state income tax, agrees that the state high court, given the opportunity, would overturn the precedent case. But he says the proposed capital-gains tax, which Gov. Jay Inslee and Democrats pitch as targeting the investment income of the super wealthy, isn't likely to be the vehicle to get the issue before the court.

"Although I wish that this legislation, if enacted, would provide an opportunity to re-look at the constitutionality of a Washington income tax, I'm not sure that it would necessarily provide that opportunity," Spitzer emailed me when I posed the question to him this week.

"The state capital gains tax proposal has been carefully drafted to stay comfortably within the definitional parameters of an excise tax," Spitzer said, adding "I helped with the drafting of early versions of the proposed capital gains tax, and the language I worked with is still there."

"It's a one-time tax on a transaction rather than a periodic (i.e., yearly) tax on property.  The tax can be easily avoided by not selling the asset giving rise to the capital gains tax-this is an indicator of an excise tax rather than a property tax," he explained. "Property taxes can't be avoided by means of a voluntary action (like refraining from a purchase or a sale)." 

But likely stirring the emotions of liberal hope and conservative fear about a new supreme court decision, Spitzer, now acting professor at the University of Washington Law School, argues that the current State Supreme Court would accept an income tax as constitutional.  

"Fundamentally, the cases they relied on in 1933 all tied back to three United States Supreme Court cases which have been reversed or, in one case, wiped out by a U.S. Constitutional amendment. The background law no longer exists." Not to mention that this Supreme Court is dramatically more liberal in its makeup than the court in 1933.

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Spokane firm seeks to bring new model to green-card-for-investment program

The EB-5 program that gives foreigners their green cards for a $500,000 investment in a U.S. business has seen a Seattle company, American Life Inc., become a national model for success of the program. Now Spokane entrepreneur Peter Chase is seeking to create what he calls a "true economic development tool" with EB-5, focused on funding new businesses across Washington State rather than just real estate.

 

Peter Chase

Both American Life's success, visible in the form of new buildings in Seattle's Sodo District and in other cities where it operates with a focus on real estate development, and Chase's initiative come at a time when Congress is mulling changes in the EB-5 program that could affect both.  

 

EB-5, officially the Immigrant Investment Program, was created by Congress in 1990 to stimulate the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment by up to 10,000 foreigners a year who must show their investment created or saved at least 10 jobs in order to earn permanent U.S. residence.

 

The law, and a key modification in 1992 to allow creation of Regional Centers to pool EB-5 capital and administer the investment projects and track results, has funneled billions of dollars into the U.S. economy though only in the past couple of years has the 10,000-investor target been reached.  

 

EB-5 turns 25 this fall and Congress must renew, change or eliminate the program. There is virtually no chance Congress would end the program but some of the changes being discussed, and advocated, including dramatic increase in the amount of investment a foreigner would be required to make, could have a serious impact on American Life's success and Chase's aspirations.

 

Chase has launched Columbia International Finance, LLC, which he intends to operate as one of those Regional Centers that are government-approved firms which administer the investment projects that seek to attract the foreign capital.

 

American Life was founded in 1996 by real estate and immigration attorney Henry Liebman, the firm's chairman and CEO, and now operates nine of the nation's 652 Regional Centers, including five in this state.

 

. It is viewed as one of the most successful and longest continuously operating regional center management companies, operating centers from Miami to Southern California, plus the Pacific Northwest.The focus of American Life, as with most of the regional centers, has been real estate development projects. 

But Chase, who founded and for more than a dozen years served as CEO of Spokane Valley-based Purcell Systems, a maker of outdoor telecommunications cabinets that grew to $140 million before it was sold last year, has a different model in mind.

 

"We plan to target projects that deliver true economic impact for communities," Chase said. "We have no intention to build hotels and we are not developers. There are just a handful of centers doing what we consider to be what the original intent of the EB-5 program was, meaning  true, ongoing economic development."

 

Chase points to the centers operated by the City of Dallas and an industrial development entity in Philadelphia as fulfilling that original mission of creating jobs and thinks he could do that in Washington State in cooperation with economic development entities.  

In fact he thinks port districts in this state could partner with his new firm as well as potential projects in Spokane's University District with the ports or organizations like the University District Development Association receiving the EB-5 funds, through Chase's firm, for projects those economic development entities need to find funding sources.

 

Chase's new company, for which he has spent the last eight months developing contacts in foreign countries who will help guide EB-5 investment hopefuls in his direction, will generate revenue through origination fees on the financing and a margin of the interest. Investors also will pay a fee for Columbia's guidance through the process.

 

Chase says the vast majority of foreign investors are from China, but Columbia International Finance will seek investors from other parts of Asia, as well as the rest of the world.  

 

The first project for Chase's firm is expected to be construction of a new Ronald McDonald House in downtown Spokane where the $26 million facility will be constructed with roughly 60 percent of the funding coming from EB-5 investors.  

He has also had discussion toward a possible involvement that would bring EB-5 money through his firm to the proposed research and development campus on the site of the old Northern State Hospital in Sedro Woolley. The proposed project would provide up to 1,000 technical jobs on what would be a revitalized campus to support Janicki Bioenergy and complementary uses.

Chase sees both projects as legitimately fitting in the Targeted Employment Area (TEA) that is the designation of a project's acceptability for the $500,000 foreign-investment rather than $1 million. The TEA designation, assigned in Washington by the State Department of Employment Security, means an EB-5 project is being located in either a rural area or a location that has high unemployment.  

Chase isn't the only one thinking of using EB-5 to help finance new businesses. The day after first talking with Chase about his project, I had a breakfast meeting in San Diego with a friend there who is using a mix of EB-5 and conventional investor funding to launch a new company.

David Jacobs is a partner with a North San Diego County law firm. His new company, Stellar Innovations, has already raised $1 million of private funds with $2.5 million in EB-5 money to come for a new business that will be located in a TEA area somewhere in the job-challenged convergence of San Diego, Riverside and Orange Counties.

The business itself will be appealing to investors of both kinds, and likely grow quickly to other metropolitan markets because, as Jacobs explained to me, "its proprietary technology can eliminate billions of pounds of nylon carpet waste bound for landfills each year."  After the initial facility in Southern California is completed,Stellar plans to rely heavily on EB-5 funding to help rapidly expand its services to other areas of the country.

The issue on the table relating to the congressional decision on EB-5 in September appears to be not whether it will be renewed, but what changes Congress will make to the program. Politicians from both major parties support the renewal of the program, but for some, only with changes.

Presidential hopeful Jeb Bush, for example, has publicly voiced his opinion that Targeted Employment Area designation should be eliminated entirely, leaving the EB-5 investment amount at $1 million. Part of the rational of Bush and others who want to eliminate TEAs is that many of the large-scale EB-5 Regional center projects are found in affluent urban areas like Manhattan, Los Angeles, and Miami, with census tracts are often manipulated to allow for a TEA designation.

Others want a cost-of-living adjustment to the two-decade-old $500,000 figure, which, if TEAs were eliminated and $1 million became the only factor, could make the cost to a foreign investor substantially greater, up to as much as $1.8 million, and would make similar programs in other countries more attractive to those seeking to buy citizenship.

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Deal-maker Joe Schocken committed to making sure an Alaska-Delta deal never comes about

The walls of Joe Schocken's office at Broadmark Capital are filled with the financial "tombstones" of deals his firm has done over the years, but he is in the forefront of business-community efforts to make sure one deal doesn't come about. The deal that is anathema to Schocken would be the one-day disappearance of Alaska Air Group into the covetous arms of Delta Airlines.

When Schocken and I first discussed what has become Alaska's David-and-Goliath struggle with Atlanta-based, 10-times-larger Delta, he forcefully said "this community needs an anti-Delta campaign!"

We concluded the conversation that afternoon in the office at his financial-services firm with his reluctantly agreeing with me that we needed to help drive a positive campaign for Alaska because "anti" campaigns don't sell well in Seattle.

But in light of recent events, as Schocken and I visited again yesterday, I found myself saying "You may have been right the first time, Joe, given what has been unfolding of late."

The issue, of course, is growing concern within the business community in Seattle and Spokane that Delta is bent on driving Alaska, through tactical use of its dramatically greater income as one of the world's two largest air carriers, into a merger or acquisition.

But jumping ahead of the battle for passenger dollars at this stage of their competition, the current point of contention between the two airlines is the question of construction of a new international-arrivals facility at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

And a step that should be key to an "anti-Delta" mood in this community is Delta's blatant effort to insert one of its own onto the Port Commission that governs Sea-Tac operations, getting Des Moines resident Ken Rogers, a Delta pilot who has been on Delta's board for eight years, to seek election to the commission in the upcoming election.

Shocken shook his head as he discussed the logic for that "arrogant action, trying to directly control government decisions for Seattle from Atlanta" to instill anger in this community.

He notes that the projected cost of the international facility, which would benefit Delta more than any other airline but be paid for primarily by travelers on domestic flights of Alaska and other carriers, "isn't money for a new terminal but basically just a sky bridge to a concourse, being positioned as an international-arrival building."

How that eventually plays out, with Delta urging the Port Commission to approve the plan that has doubled in cost to an estimated $608 million with much more cost likely to come as a plan actually begins to be drawn up, is still to be decided by the commission.

  

Alaska's contention is that it's unfair that fees attached to domestic tickets would be used to benefit passengers on international flights and that the airport should go back to the drawing board to devise a less costly plan.

The commissioners are undecided on how the cost share should be parceled out, something Delta would like to influence with its own commission member.  

"Another angle that I think Alaska Airlines executives should be pointing out is how would you like to be an Alaska businessman envisioning a possible Delta takeover," Schocken observed. "As big a problem as it would be for Seattle to lose Alaska as its hometown-focused airline it would be a much bigger problem for the state for which Alaska Airlines is the lifeline and understands the needs of the state. They've grown up together."

"I doubt if the people in Atlanta even know where Alaska is," he chuckled.

"It isn't just trying to own a seat on the Seattle Port Commission that should upset people who are fans of Alaska," Schocken said. "What you have is a series of things coming together, including Delta beginning non-stop service to Sitka. There is no international traffic and little growth coming out of Sitka, thus undermining Alaska is the only purpose behind that flight."

"Finally there's the issue of June 1 reauthorization or the Export-Import Bank, something very important to our region's economy for which Delta's Dick Anderson is the key opponent, claiming it subsidizes its competitors," Schocken said. "Meanwhile Delta is buying planes from Canadian and Brazilian manufacturers and receiving subsidies from their governments. That makes Delta hypocritical, not mention anti-Boeing, but that's another subject."

Schocken emphasized, as he says he does when it makes his Alaska-Delta points in conversation he routinely has at business meetings or cocktail gatherings, to what he says are reactions of tremendous support for Alaska, that he's not hoping to see Delta lose a battle with Alaska. Rather he wants to see Seattle and the Northwest served by two successful airlines.

But in any event, he says "we're only in the first or second inning of a likely long game."

Meanwhile, Alaska keeps its focus on the goal of remaining the nation's most respected domestic carrier, last week being singled out for the J.D. Power customer-satisfaction award for the eighth consecutive year.

It was USA Today, not an Alaska press release, that noted "Alaska Airlines and Jet Blue continued their stranglehold atop the annual J.D. Power customer service satisfaction survey of North American carriers."

Alaska CEO Brad Tilden has avoided negatives about Delta in speeches he's given in recent months.

But he is the guest at next week's Business Journal Live q and a event where he will be interviewed by PSBJ Publisher Gordon Prouty, an environment where he could strategically refer to comments he's heard made by Alaska fans about Delta without saying those things himself.

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Neil Peterson's unusual dual focus on at-risk kids and California high-speed rail project

Neil Peterson's high-powered career dealing with major transportation issues has been matched in his priorities over the years by his vocation to help kids overcome learning and behavioral disorders through his Seattle-based Edge Foundation.  

Now both his transportation savvy and his focus on students at risk with learning and behavioral disorders have guided him to plan major initiatives that would amount to career capstones on both fronts for the 71-year-old Peterson. One would be a $4 million national expansion of his foundation's leading-edge work and the other a $1.8 billion high-speed rail line along a planned high-desert corridor north of Los Angeles.

If forced to choose, Peterson might well say the Edge Foundation's future is more important to him because of the commitment that brought it into being a decade ago and what he hopes it can achieve with a dramatically expanded focus.  

But close behind would be the plan by the man who founded Flexcar and headed transportation organizations in Seattle, Oakland, Los Angeles and Orange County to build a 63-mile high-speed rail line that would fill a missing link in what is expected to be a Los Angeles-to-Las Vegas rail service.

The non-profit's original mission of supplemental treatment and coaching for students and young adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to help them realize their potential through personal coaching was born out of learning that his son, Guy, and daughter, Kelsey, then age 14 and 13, were identified as having ADHD. "I felt I was responsible for that," he recalls thinking when he learned it was hereditary and thus determined that he had to do something about it.

Thus he created the foundation, and soon expanded the coaching focus, extending it to the whole area of executive functioning, described as "an umbrella term for the neurologically-based skills involving mental control and self-regulation,' meaning the ability to filter distractions, prioritize tasks and control impulses.

The foundation's goal is to help at-risk students, particularly what it describes as "an at-risk student -- a non-traditional learner with executive functioning challenges, ADHD being the most severe -- get the benefit of an Edge Executive Coach."

The foundation has been running a pilot coaching program for the past four years in seven of the 10 worst-performing schools in the state, taking employees of the schools and training them to be the individual coaches focused on enhancing executive function for the students who need help planning, prioritizing, staying focused and following through.

Peterson says "the single greatest predictor of academic success is executive functioning."

Now he is seeking $4 million to take the program national to provide individual coaching for a fee to allow the in-school program to expand and be self-sustaining. Individual coaching designed to not only help people but to raise.

Taking the program national will mean extending the Foundation's independent coaching program to students or other individuals wherever they are located, in schools or elsewhere, with coaches working via Skype or phones, for a fee. "We match individuals with one-on-one Edge Coaches, like the ones CEOs use," Peterson says.

The California rail project would create a spectacular denouement for Peterson's transportation career, which in addition to his role as executive director of Seattle METRO included serving as chief executive officer of public transportation systems in Oakland, Los Angeles and, most recently, the Toll Roads Authority in Orange County.

He also was founding CEO of Flexcar in 2000, guiding the nation's first successful car-sharing company to expansion to about two dozen cities around the country before it was acquired by AOL founder Steve Case in 2005 and later merged into Zipcar..

His international transportation consulting agency is guiding the effort to fund the rail project, would involve a high-speed line between Palmdale, north of Los Angeles, and Victorville, north of San Bernardino, running along route of the proposed High-Desert Multimodal Corridor project, which has not yet received its environmental approval.

A Las Vegas-based private rail project called XpressWest is developing a rail line from Las Vegas to Victorville, envisioning Southern California residents driving from the Los Angeles area to Victorville to board the Vegas-found high-speed train.

That plan got under way before the idea of a high-desert multimodal corridor was conceived, leaving from for Peterson's concept of a connection between the eventual XpressWest terminal in Victorville and a connection with the planned Palmdale stop on the planned California High-Speed Rail project.

Because of the controversial nature of the proposed route, for which environmental hearings are now going on, Peterson says it's possible the rail link could be approved before the highway itself gets an okay. He sees his role as getting the rail link funded and construction planning launched, perhaps as early as six years from now, regardless of what happens with the proposed highway itself.

One of the challenges for those with ADHD, which Peterson is certain he has had to deal with, is creating the ability to focus. He's doing that now with the two of the most important components of his legacy.

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Mothers Day recollections of a 'boys mom' a decade on from her passing

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Mother's day is a time to reach out to moms across the room or across the miles. But for many of us the connections need to be made through memories of moms departed. Or perhaps spiritual connections.And so it is that with another Mother's Day approaching, a decade and a year on since my mom died surrounded by her grandchildren and great grandchildren, I am reminded anew about a column I wrote a few days after her death in July of 2004.

I keep the column in a desktop file and open it around Mother's Day to reflect on her passing and the why of the relationship that often comes to exist between moms and sons, different than between moms and daughters. When I reread the column, I'm reminded of reactions from many who said they were moved by the column to call their moms, drop a note, or wish that their moms were still around to stop by to visit. So I share the column again.)

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My mother was a boys' mom, not only playing baseball, football and tag with her three sons and counseling us on our ability to succeed if we did our best, but also providing "mothering" for dozens of young men she kept her eye on in the St. Aloysius neighborhood in Spokane where we grew up, encouraging, scolding, guiding us all toward manhood.  

One of those boys, now a prominent Spokane businessman, recalled in a note to me a few days after her funeral that she had been one of the "angel moms" who kept him from straying very far from the right path.

It was at the age of 82, three days after the sudden heart-attack death of her 94-year-old husband of 19 years while she was hospitalized for a heart problem of her own, that she decided there wasn't a lot of reason to go on alone in this life and that she was, as she told a caregiver, "ready to go home." She had said "goodbye," one by one, to each of her grandchildren and great grandchildren who had gathered at her Spokane home, then went to sleep for the last time.  

Time allows the pain of loss to transition into perspective, though each of us deals with that process in his or her own way. Thus a couple of months after her death, I asked my brother, who had lived closed enough to Mom to stop by most days, how it felt to drive by her house now that she was no longer there.  

"I just say to myself, 'I don't have time today, but I'll stop in for a visit tomorrow,'" he said, then realized sheepishly he'd been more candid in his response then he had intended to be.

The photos of her sons, seven grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren filled her home, and their accomplishments filled her heart. Those accomplishments frequently came about, I was convinced, by her incredible faith in the outcome when she prayed to her patron saints, asking for their help.  

A convert to Catholicism, It was early on that she discovered St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes. He and St. Anthony, patron saint of lost items, became the saints who heard from her the most, likely because her three sons frequently seemed like they needed the former and our antics led to the need for the latter.

She had a phenomenal record of success in having her prayers "answered," probably because those patron saints never heard her ask for anything for herself. To this day, I am convinced my track scholarship to Marquette was due to her prayers rather than my abilities.

Hazel Flynn was a working mom at a time when that was much more unusual than today. But our family needed the income supplement that her hours at the local IGA store in the St. Al's neighborhood provided.  

She was pretty hard-nosed about teaching us to be the best we could be. Thus, on occasion in my early years when I'd come home crying from being struck or harassed by neighborhood kids, she'd march me back to the scene and force me to have a proper fistfight with the offending kid.  

I can't remember ever losing one of those fistfights. Even on the occasion when I begged tearfully: "But mom, there are two of them!" She marched me back anyway and made the bigger kid stand aside until I had sent his pal home crying after our fight, then she motioned him to step in and get his drubbing.

Even from the perspective of almost seven decades, I still view that "battlefield education" by my mother as a remarkable, perhaps even unique, chapter in my early development. And many who have heard the story have remarked cryptically: "That explains a lot, Flynn."

She never had the opportunity, as a mom, to know the joy of daughters. But she did with the arrival of female grandchildren and great grandchildren, and she lavished her love on them perhaps even more than on the boys, perhaps to make up for her not having had a daughter.

She loved heading off to Nevada, where she had such phenomenal success on the dollar slots that she would be quite upset that she had wasted her time if she failed to come home with enough winnings to cover her trip costs, and have some left over for a gift for one or more of her family.  

I always suspected that part of the reason she had such uncanny success with the slots was that she wasn't trying to win for herself, but had other uses in mind for any money she won. I have never heard of a patron saint of slot machines, but I became pretty convinced that she had discovered one, and prayed to him before each trip, and that her winnings were prayers being answered.  

In fact, she was in contact with her patron saints so regularly that no matter who the heavenly greeting party normally includes, I'm quite sure in this case St. Jude and St. Anthony were on hand when Mom arrived that Friday afternoon in July of 2004, curious to meet the woman they had heard from so much during her lifetime.

 

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Mother's Day recollections of a 'boys' mom' more than a decade on since her passing

Mother's day is a time to reach out to moms across the room or across the miles. But for many of us the connections need to be made through memories of moms departed. Or perhaps spiritual connections.And so it is that with another Mother's Day approaching, a decade and a year on since my mom died surrounded by her grandchildren and great grandchildren, I am reminded anew about a column I wrote a few days after her death in July of 2004.

 

 

I keep the column in a desktop file and open it around Mother's Day to reflect on her passing and the why of the relationship that often comes to exist between moms and sons, different than between moms and daughters. When I reread the column, I'm reminded of reactions from many who said they were moved by the column to call their moms, drop a note, or wish that their moms were still around to stop by to visit. So I share the column again.)

------------------

My mother was a boys' mom, not only playing baseball, football and tag with her three sons and counseling us on our ability to succeed if we did our best, but also providing "mothering" for dozens of young men she kept her eye on in the St. Aloysius neighborhood in Spokane where we grew up, encouraging, scolding, guiding us all toward manhood.  

One of those boys, now a prominent Spokane businessman, recalled in a note to me a few days after her funeral that she had been one of the "angel moms" who kept him from straying very far from the right path.

It was at the age of 82, three days after the sudden heart-attack death of her 94-year-old husband of 19 years while she was hospitalized for a heart problem of her own, that she decided there wasn't a lot of reason to go on alone in this life and that she was, as she told a caregiver, "ready to go home." She had said "goodbye," one by one, to each of her grandchildren and great grandchildren who had gathered at her Spokane home, then went to sleep for the last time.  

Time allows the pain of loss to transition into perspective, though each of us deals with that process in his or her own way. Thus a couple of months after her death, I asked my brother, who had lived closed enough to Mom to stop by most days, how it felt to drive by her house now that she was no longer there.  

"I just say to myself, 'I don't have time today, but I'll stop in for a visit tomorrow,'" he said, then realized sheepishly he'd been more candid in his response then he had intended to be.

The photos of her sons, seven grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren filled her home, and their accomplishments filled her heart. Those accomplishments frequently came about, I was convinced, by her incredible faith in the outcome when she prayed to her patron saints, asking for their help.  

A convert to Catholicism, It was early on that she discovered St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes. He and St. Anthony, patron saint of lost items, became the saints who heard from her the most, likely because her three sons frequently seemed like they needed the former and our antics led to the need for the latter.

She had a phenomenal record of success in having her prayers "answered," probably because those patron saints never heard her ask for anything for herself. To this day, I am convinced my track scholarship to Marquette was due to her prayers rather than my abilities.

Hazel Flynn was a working mom at a time when that was much more unusual than today. But our family needed the income supplement that her hours at the local IGA store in the St. Al's neighborhood provided.  

She was pretty hard-nosed about teaching us to be the best we could be. Thus, on occasion in my early years when I'd come home crying from being struck or harassed by neighborhood kids, she'd march me back to the scene and force me to have a proper fistfight with the offending kid.  

I can't remember ever losing one of those fistfights. Even on the occasion when I begged tearfully: "But mom, there are two of them!" She marched me back anyway and made the bigger kid stand aside until I had sent his pal home crying after our fight, then she motioned him to step in and get his drubbing.

Even from the perspective of almost seven decades, I still view that "battlefield education" by my mother as a remarkable, perhaps even unique, chapter in my early development. And many who have heard the story have remarked cryptically: "That explains a lot, Flynn."

She never had the opportunity, as a mom, to know the joy of daughters. But she did with the arrival of female grandchildren and great grandchildren, and she lavished her love on them perhaps even more than on the boys, perhaps to make up for her not having had a daughter.

She loved heading off to Nevada, where she had such phenomenal success on the dollar slots that she would be quite upset that she had wasted her time if she failed to come home with enough winnings to cover her trip costs, and have some left over for a gift for one or more of her family.  

I always suspected that part of the reason she had such uncanny success with the slots was that she wasn't trying to win for herself, but had other uses in mind for any money she won.

I have never heard of a patron saint of slot machines, but I became pretty convinced that she had discovered one, and prayed to him before each trip, and that her winnings were prayers being answered.  

In fact, she was in contact with her patron saints so regularly that no matter who the heavenly greeting party normally includes, I'm quite sure in this case St. Jude and St. Anthony were on hand when Mom arrived that Friday afternoon in July of 2004, curious to meet the woman they had heard from so much during her lifetime.

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Is Delta's focus on Alaska 'just business' or something that has long been unacceptable?

As the awareness grows of Delta Airlines' increasingly obvious designs on the business of Alaska Air, it's intriguing to see that while a majority in the business community are quickly becoming protective of what they view as their hometown airline, there are some who have said to me: "it's just business."

When I did my first column on this issue in December, suggesting that the once beneficial relationship Delta and Alaska had was turning predatory, a number of proponents of the free-market system found themselves agonizing a bit before most sided with my viewpoint.  

John Fluke, an outspoken proponent of the notion of free markets and competition, was sophisticated enough to quickly distinguish between the concept of competing to win, necessary to the success of our economic system, and competition with the goal of driving out competitors.

Fluke, and others like him I have talked to over the weeks of seeking to test viewpoints and plumb attitudes, noted that the key to the acceptability of a competitive approach is the question: "Does it benefit the customers?"

Strategies aimed at driving out competitors have been unacceptable since the dawn of the last century when that great advocate of competition, President Theodore Roosevelt, took the Sherman Anti-trust Act as a bludgeon against corporations that sought to win by gobbling up or driving out competitors.

I decided to do a bit of research on that law that became Teddy Roosevelt's tool in busting trusts and learned that the law declared illegal "all combinations in restraint of trade."

As one explanation put it: "The law directs itself not against conduct which is competitive, even severely so, but against conduct which unfairly tends to destroy competition itself."

So is it in the spirit of competition that Delta would seek to extends its service to, for example, Alaska cities that offer one airline marginal income and offer two airlines only red ink?

Maybe, on the issue of Delta seeking to convince the University of Washington to take Delta's money in exchange for becoming Delta's travel partner. But that's a possible development that hopefully UW's regents would deem counterproductive for the university in the longer-term goal of building allegiances rather than divisiveness.

It has occurred to me that the quest by this community's leadership in seeking to determine whether the possible eventual demise of Alaska through takeover or acquisition would be good or bad for the community would be served by asking those who have been there.

Thus the idea I have been talking up is for a group of business and community leaders to set a meeting with their peers in Minneapolis-St. Paul, which once had its own hometown airline, Northwest, which was absorbed by Delta.

In fact, a city-to-city visit of Seattle-area leaders with their peers in Minneapolis-St.Paul could explore more issues than just air service, since the two regions have long shared economic roots and similarities.

It was almost exactly seven years ago, April 15, 2008, that Delta and Northwest merged to form the largest airline in the world. Has the merged airline that resulted benefitted the Twin Cities? Has it resulted in little change (other than the loss of jobs that Northwest represented to the region)? Or significant?

Might be worth finding out, guided by a recollection of philosopher-poet George Santayana's oft-recalled (and oft-misquoted): "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

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Dan Evans' leadership role in resettlement of Vietnam refugees 40 years ago recalled

As Vietnamese refugees huddled by the thousands in processing centers in this country in the days following the fall of South Vietnam 40 years ago this month, then-Gov. Dan Evans made Washington the first state to extend a welcome to an eventual several thousand refugees in what was undoubtedly one of the state's finest hours.

Now the outreach and leadership role Evans played are being celebrated next Monday evening at Kane Hall at the University of Washington with a 40-minute screening of the Academy-Award nominated Last Days in Vietnam.The screening will be followed by a conversation including Evans and Ralph Munro, later the long-term Washington Secretary of State but then an intern in Evans' office who was dispatched to Camp Pendleton, CA, the West Coast processing center for the refugees.

Ralph Munro with Vietnamese refugees at Camp Pendleton 

It was in April of 1975, with the North Vietnamese army closing in on Saigon, that the 5,000 remaining Americans hurried to get out. And because of the 11th-hour bravery of some Americans, 135,000 South Vietnamese managed to escape and many made their way to processing centers in the U.S., including Camp Pendleton.

Munro remembers viewing the sprawling tent-camp for the refugees, meeting with some of them, then meeting with the Camp Pendleton base commander, who asked: "Do you want these people?" Munro says he responded "Yes. I think we do."

 

Munro recalls that Washington's interest in caring for the immigrants came about when Evans heard that California Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown made it clear he was not going to permit the Vietnam refugees to be received into his state.

 

So Evans dispatched Munro to California with the admonition, "If you see that S.O.B. (and he didn't abbreviate the profanity, though Evans was never known to swear) Brown, remind him what it says on the face of the Statue of Liberty."

 

Munro recalls his first view at Camp Pendleton of the refugee encampment: "The sun was starting to set and I came over this hill and I just saw thousands of tents."

 

Once he connected with the refugees at their camp, Munro got on a loudspeaker and offered that those who wanted to do so could come to Washington and many quickly stepped forward.

Evans laughs "a lot of them probably thought they were going to Washington, D.C."

While the transit of the refugees was being arranged, Evans' office was contacting churches, community groups and people who might work with a single family. "We found more volunteers than we could handle," he said in a phone interview.

So the first 500 began making their way to Seattle, then 1,500, and on May 8, 1975, Evans personally carried a letter to President Gerald ford formally advising him that the state was agreeing to be involved in the resettlement effort.  

Evans recalls that President Ford soon created the Presidential Commission on Refugees "and we were able to bring the commission the experience we had with the refugees and that helped create the methodology for dealing with the refugees."

He notes that ironically, despite Jerry Brown's desire to keep the Vietnamese refugees out of his state, today California, along with Texas and Washington, are the three states with the largest population of Vietnamese.

So that Monday evening gathering, sponsored by KCTS9 and the Seattle Times, will wind up with a community recognition of Evans and the role he played.

But Dan and Nancy Evans' personal story within the broader story of outreach to the Vietnamese is perhaps even more compelling than the welcome of the eventual 1,500 refugees to a new life and newopportunity in this state.

Evans recalls one family they came in contact with when they went to visit the refugees at Camp Murrray, the state's National Guard headquarters south of Tacoma. It was the Nguyen family, husband, pregnant wife and their five children.

When the sixth child was born, they named him Evans in honor of the governor whose state welcomed them.

"We got to know the family and followed them and saw their focus on education for their children," Evans recalls. "The outcome was the first five were all valedictorians of their high school classes."

"Then as we waited for the invitation to Evans' graduation and none came, we contacted the parents and learned that they were reluctant to invite us because he was not the valedictorian," Evans chucked. "But he was in the top 10 in his class."

Evans recalls that there were two shrines in the Nguyen house. "One was a religious shrine," said Evans. "The other one was in the living room where six UW graduation certificates were displayed."

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For Galloway, interviews with Vietnam veterans are revisiting that war's memories, emotions

 

 It was 50 years ago this month that Joseph L. (Joe) Galloway arrived in Vietnam as a 23-year-old reporter for United Press International and stayed to become perhaps the best-known war correspondent of his time with his book and the movie it spawned detailing his involvement in what may have been the defining battle of that war.

Joe Galloway 

Now Joe Galloway is revisiting that war in memory and emotion as he travels the country interviewing veterans of that conflict as part of a 50-year Vietnam Commemoration, not celebrating the war but those who fought there.

Galloway has been in Seattle this week conducting a series of interviews at Q13 Fox, which made its facilities available for the interviews, 60- to 90-minute videos that Galloway hopes will be "the body of material for future generations who want to know what this war was all about."

Speaking of the more than 100 interviews he has done around the country, beginning with a video interview with Colin Powell, Galloway says he thinks the veterans are sharing their memories and feelings "because we are 50 years down the road and if they are going to tell their stories, they had better tell them now."

"Since we are in the twilight of our lives, they want to leave the truth of their experience," he added.

"They are not bitter but I am bitter in their behalf. It make me angry that those who came to hate the war came to hate the warriors who were their sons and daughters."

Galloway is a fan of soldiers, and even some generals, but can't find a politician he can muster regard, or even respect, for. Certainly not Lyndon Johnson and his defense secretary Robert McNamara nor those who guided the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars for whom "the lessons of Vietnam were lost, forgotten or never learned."

He refers to McNamara and Donald Rumsfeld, defense secretary for George W. Bush as "the evil twins of the 20th Century," but adds "the deepest part of hell is reserved for Henry Kissinger. He convinced (President Richard) Nixon to bomb Cambodia for no good reason and eventually millions of Cambodians died because of what the U.S. put in play there."

 

It was in early November of 1965, six months after his arrival, that Galloway found himself covering, and participating in, the first battle of the war between U.S. Army and North Vietnamese regulars at a place called the Ia Drang Valley, a battle that Galloway later wrote "changed the war suddenly and dramatically."

It was during the Ia Drang battle that Galloway rescued two wounded soldiers and later was decorated for his heroism. And after coverage of subsequent wars, he was praised by the late Gen. Norman Schwartzkopf as "the soldiers' reporter" because of his caring and regard for those whose battles he covered.

The Vietnam War Commemoration, of which Galloway's interviews are a part, is aimed at spurring events and activities in states, cities and towns around the country to recognize Vietnam Veterans and their families for service and sacrifice.

 

 Specifically, the mission of the United States of American Vietnam War Commemoration  is to "assist a grateful Nation in thanking and honoring its Vietnam War Veterans and their families, the fallen, the wounded, those who were held as Prisoners of War, and those still listed as 'unaccounted for."   

 

Referring to the growing number of interviewees he has taped, Galloway said "almost every one of them gets emotional and I get emotional with them."

Galloway's first interviewee of this week, Seattle attorney Karl Ege, touched on the emotional aspect when he told me later "It's the loss of so many men (and eight women) who never had a chance to live full, complete lives - for no reason whatsoever - that is the true tragedy of Vietnam. And that's what brings Galloway and me (and so many other Vietnam veterans) to tears."

Ege told Galloway during the interview that "the dishonor of that war for me came when the objective turned to 'how many did we kill?' rather than some strategic or political objective."

He recalled a battle in September 1966 in Quang Tri Province near the DMZ when his outnumbered Marine battalion repelled a larger unit of North Vietnamese with relatively few Marine casualties.

He recalled for Galloway: "A Colonel from a rear echelon unit arrived after the fighting ended and asked 'you fired a lot of artillery Lieutenant; how many did you kill?' I was stunned by the question. Told him I had no idea, and we were not going into the jungle to see how many casualties we could find.  'Don't get smart with me, Lieutenant. I need a number,' the Colonel pressed. I said 'what would you say if I told you 325 as a made up number?' 'Don't get smart with me, Lieutenant,' he said as he walked away."

"Shortly thereafter Stars and Stripes reported that the Marines killed 325 North Vietnamese in an encounter near the DMZ," Ege said.

"Vietnam strikes a raw nerve with most veterans, mainly because of the loss of so many (58,220 dead, 150,000 physically wounded, 2-plus million who served and have internal scars) for what was at the end of the day, a 'fool's errand,'" Ege emailed me after his interview.

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Environmental scientist turned full-time mom drawing attention for blended-learning model

 

When Kathryn E. Kelly, an environmental toxicologist with a global reputation and clientele, decided to step away from business for a time to home school her two adopted foreign-born sons, she wound up honing an education model that is now drawing as much attention as her science role did.  

Ironically, it was her deciding she wanted to be a mom that guided Kelly to a new career as an education innovator as she adopted 6-year-old Nicolay from Kazakhstan in 2003 and Sasha, then age four, in 2006 from the same Central Asian nation so "Kolya" would have a brother.

Kathryn Kelly with Sasha and Kolya 

Kelly, a Stanford graduate who earned her PhD at Columbia, didn't create the concept of "blended-learning." But in the Incline Village, NV, community where she moved to raise her sons, she has implemented it in a way that has attracted attention from other communities, who want her to show them how to do it, and even other countries.  

Kelly has a quick explanation of what has happened since she created eLearning Café in 2011 as an innovative internet café with computers, chairs for relaxing conversation and an opportunity for drop-ins to take courses in person or online, or to offer instruction.

"When you let students be in control of their learning, great things result, whether retaking a class, looking for advanced academic opportunities or just expanding personal horizons," Kelly said. Her premise has been "the one-size-fits-all model of current education did not fit my sons or anyone else I knew, from special-needs kids to profoundly gifted ones."

Kelly, whom I first met in the late '80s when she headed her own Seattle-based environmental firm and we served on the Seattle Chamber of Commerce Board together, had closed her Seattle company, keeping some key clients for personal attention, and moved to Tahoe, where her family had a summer home when she was growing up. She wanted a friendly environment for her kids and began home schooling first one son, then two, and learning the challenges of that process.

She recalls that the first donor who walked in the door while she and friends were still painting the cafe prior to opening was a retired Green Beret who had "heard about what we were doing as he engaged one of our board members in conversation while having a glass of wine the previous night," Kelly recalls with a smile. "He handed me a Costco card so we could get some things we needed."

Soon former teachers began wandering into the café for coffee, conversation, and offering to teach various classes for the face-time portion of the blended-learning offerings, a concept described as "the effective use of education technology to transform the learning experience for students." She explains that blended-learning courses involve 30 to 70 percent of the instruction delivered online.

And the "face-to-face" instruction has also sometimes taken on an Internet flavor as she explains "We have Skyped with our students from Japan to New Zealand to Chile to Spain."

"We have been gratified to attract seasoned teachers who love that they have the freedom to be with kids all day and not stuck in meetings and paperwork," said Kelly, noting "Our math teacher, for example, has been teaching so long that she owns calculus.net domain name and can teach anything from 4th grade special needs to Calculus and computer programs."  

Kelly quickly put together an advisory board for eLearning Cafes, Inc., including reaching out to WSU President Emeritus Sam Smith, one of the founders of Western Governors University, where she got her Master of Education degree soon after founding eLearning Café.

Within two years of its founding, eLearning Cafes, Inc., was attracting national attention and winning awards. Kelly was a speaker at various blended-learning conferences and in 2013 and 2014 was honored with a prestigious Top-Rated Award from Great Nonprofits, a national organization that recognizes the best of nonprofits based on user reviews.

But eLearning Cafes, which she describes as a big, beautiful, community learning space, has now metamorphosed into what she has named iSchool, standing for "individualized school," to reflect the move of the community learning center to a formal school that she proudly says she patterned after WGU.

"There was clearly a pressing need to help kids who have not finished high school for various reasons so we turned it into a school, although I miss the community learning center part where students of all ages, from 4 to 94, came to learn everything imaginable - and from each other," she said.

Kelly has become a speaker sought after by education-focused groups who would like to bring the iSchool concept to their regions and at blended-learning conferences. And she has hosted visitorsfrom Texas, and recently from China.

Kelly has another important Washington State tie that came into play when she created iSchool. It was turning to Washington State's 34-year-old Alger Learning Center and Independence High School, State approved and nationally accredited independent school, serving students in grades K-12, as well as adult learners.

ISchool's students get their diplomas from Independence High School since Nevada law doesn't recognize her school.

When I asked her about the costs of operating iSchool, said replied: We operate on a budget of $240,000 to cover primarily rent, teacher salaries, and course materials.  As a non-profit, grants and donations allow us to provide scholarships to all who need them and also test new evidence-based learning strategies."

"We did not set out to become a school," Kelly says of the transition from eLearning to iSchool. But she smiles about her takeoff on Microsoft's early '90s campaign theme of "Where do you want to go today," explaining her successful philosophy of education: "We basically ask the kids 'What do you want to learn today?'"

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Social Venture Partners founding president Paul Shoemaker decides to turn a new page

When Paul Shoemaker agreed 17 years ago to be the first president of Social Venture Partners (SVP), it was a time when hundreds of suddenly wealthy Microsoft employees were retiring young and taking their newfound mantra of "if you have it you share it" into the community.

 

Thus it was that dozens of Microsofties were ready to seize the opportunity that would be created when SVP founder Paul Brainard, the father of desktop publishing who had sold his Aldus Corp. and turned to philanthropy, convinced Shoemaker to leave his position as Microsoft group manager for worldwide operations to head SVP.

Paul Shoemaker 

That 1998 luncheon meeting where Brainard made his pitch to Shoemaker came a few months after more than 130 potential contributors met with Brainard, Shoemaker and a couple of other high-tech leaders to found SVP as a kind of donor's circle, as it was once described. The partnership was set up with each member "investing" at least $5,000.

 

What followed, under Shoemaker's guidance, was the growth well beyond that Microsoft nucleus into what soon became a 501c3 focused on philanthropic investments. Today SVP is the world's largest network of engaged philanthropists and over the years the partners have invested not just dollars but volunteer hours in the non-profits they focused on.

 

SVP has spread not only to 39 cities across the country but in the past couple of years has reached into nations on four continents, including Asia with a launch first in India, then Japan, Australia, Korea and China.

 

Now shoemaker has announced that he will be stepping down from the position that his business card and the SVP website simply describe as Executive Connector, transitioning out over the next three to five months as the board looks for a successor.

Shoemaker's successor will assume leadership of an organization that has grown to 550 members in the Seattle area and more than 4,000 globally. Each partner now antes up $6,000 for the investment pool.

 

SVP website indicates members have collectively given more than $15 million to King County nonprofits and that money was stretched farther by the tens of thousandsof volunteer hours given by SVP Partners.

 

This number multiplies when looking across SVP's international network.  Since SVP's inception, the partners across the country and internationally have collectively given more than $54 million and "countless volunteer hours."

 

Shoemaker, who will remain on the board of the SVP International Network, says there will be "more to come" for international growth as he will be taking the initiative to focus on bringing SVP to Latin America this fall.

 

Shoemaker says that not only is SVP's impact becoming global, but "partners and investors are reaching for more positive change than ever, with exploration into impact investing and deeper diversity, equity and inclusion work."

 

Moving into impact investing, which SVP is exploring and which will be a key agenda item next fall when SVP's international conference will be held in Seattle again for the first time in a number of years, would add a different factor to SVP philanthropic investing.

 

Impact investing brings financial returns into consideration alongside social and environmental impact since the investments are in for-profit entities. Shoemaker says SVP involvement in impact investing, and how to go about it, is still to be determined. But he notes that "a lot of partners are already into impact investing on their own."

 

"Impact investing is where the action is," Shoemaker said. I asked him about B Corp investing and he said "I don't know if B Corp companies are an up or down trend but I think they are here to stay, sort of becoming more on the radar."

 

B Corp companies, a corporate legal status permitted in a number of states including Washington, allow for a higher purpose than shareholder value, permitting companies' decisions to go beyond maximizing financial results to include positive social or environmental impact.

 

I asked Shoemaker if it was fair to say that SVP could only have been launched in Seattle and only because of the giveback focus of those young Microsofties.

"I'm not sure about that, he replied. "But it was surely the best time and place to have created SVP."

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Delta Airlines' Dog-Gone Disaster and CEO's 'PR tailspin' on Mid-east airlines merit sharing

 

It's coming to be known as Delta's Dog-Gone Disaster. It's the tale of the plight of the distraught family whose dog was lost on a Delta Airlines flight out of Los Angeles last fall, and the more than 200,000-plus supporters who have petitioned Delta via the website
change.org to take responsibility in some manner.

 

It's a story that suggests Delta CEO Dick Anderson may need to spend more time keeping his eye on his own company rather than eyeing someone else's airline, as in his acknowledged coveting of Seattle's hometown airline, Alaska.

Apparently it's not a unique case of doggie disasters at the world's second largest airline, an airline that may have grown too large for the CEO to be personally bothered by such things as worrying about a lost family member of customers (since a family member is how a pet is viewed by most owners). One blogger has even referred to Delta as "The Bermuda Triangle of Dog Travel."

Not flying on Delta would be a logical response for pet owners as a statement for the airline to step up, take responsibility, and figure out how to improve its pet-care performance. And every dog lover should insist on an apology, and not from some underling but from CEO Anderson himself.

I checked on change.org, which I hadn't been aware of, to ensure the site is legitimate and here's what I learned:
Created in 2007 by a then-32 year old NYU law school dropout named Ben Rattray, change.orghas become one of the largest sites on the web for anyone seeking to pressure politicians, corporations or others with what the web company describes as "a public shame campaign." It's a certified B Corporation with a stated mission to "empower people everywhere to create the change they want to see." 

  

Rattray says that "with cynicism about government at an all-time high," he can keep growing by keeping the stories personal. The petitions that catch fire on

Change.org are almost always tied to human drama, and so it is with Frank Romano and his family, whose dog, Ty, disappeared on the Delta flight from Los Angeles to Tampa, where the family was moving. 

 

Here is a bit of the story of Ty's disappearance, from the

change.org website, as written by the family. 

 

"Ty had been checked by our vet and transported in an airline approved-crate. Delta confirmed everything was in order prior to assuming responsibility for Ty. When we said our goodbyes to Ty, his tail wagging, we never imagined it would be for the last time.

"Prior to takeoff, a Delta employee approached Frank and took him aside to tell him that Delta couldn't find Ty. Our son was confused and horrified listening to Delta's story.

 

One minute Delta had the dog, and the next he was gone. They claimed there were no witnesses. Eventually Delta would state Ty had 'compromised the kennel on his own.'  

 

"When we got the crate back there were no bite marks, scratches, or other damage inside that would corroborate Delta's story. All we found was a crack on the outside of the kennel that wasn't there when Delta checked Ty into their custody.  

   

"After Delta lost a member of our family all we asked for was help searching for Ty. Delta denied our requests in helping provide resources for the search effort. Instead, we had to rely on many kind-hearted volunteers who spent weeks searching, putting up posters, and talking to people in the area," the family wrote.

More than 211,000 people, and counting, have signed the petition for the Romano family's plea: "Please join us in calling on Delta to release their official report, apologize to our family, and put in place a plan to prevent future pets from being lost. Please sign and share our petition today."

 

Others who do blogs and have pets, are tuning in to Delta's doggie dilemma, including by friend Al Davis, a widely respected turnaround expert, who does a blog on various business issues.

He is planning a blog offering Delta some advice on customer service and corporate culture, something the onetime Intel general manager knows a thing or two about, on which Delta apparently could use some guidance.

Meanwhile, I can find nothing to indicate that Anderson has offered the distraught family any sort of apology himself. But that reluctance apparently would fit with Anderson's pattern.

And since a key reason for this column is to give readers a sense of the kind of leader the guy is who would like to turn his airline into Seattle's "hometown airline," and a bit about the character of the airline he guides, another, perhaps more dramatic, example of Anderson's unwillingness to take responsibility is the recent gaffe related the Middle East.

That example of his apparent "I don't personally apologize" approach came after his recent statements, what CNN described as a "clumsy comment" that was more like a mix of ignorance and arrogance, in which he seemed to link Gulf-based air carriers with the 9/11 terrorist attack. The apology for what CNN described as a Delta "PR tailspin," came not from Anderson himself but from "a Delta spokesperson."

Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar airlines, offered perhaps the most appropriate put down for Anderson over the comments he made, which were in connection with his effort to kill the Ex-Im Bank that is so important to Boeing. For those not familiar with it, the Export-Import Bank is the official export credit agency of the United States with the mission of ensuring that U.S. Companies have access to the financing they need to turn export opportunities into sales, as in sales to Middle East airlines.

Al Baker said on CNN that the Delta chief "should be ashamed to bring up the issue of terrorism to try to cover his inefficiency in running an airline. Mr. Anderson should be doing his job improving and competing with us instead of just crying wolf for his shortcomings in the way his airline is run."

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