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Tears and joy flow on Alaska 'Fantasy Flight' from Spokane to North Pole

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From the young boy who told his elf "thank you for making this the best day of my life" to the surprise 70th birthday party for Mrs. Clause, this year's Alaska Airlines' "Fantasy Flight" carrying 64 needy kids and their elves to the North Pole from Spokane International Airport brought abundant tears and joy.
 
This story of love and compassion has been Alaska's annual holiday gift to not just the greater Spokane community but also to its employees and to those who, in learning of it, get to share vicariously some of what I've come to refer to as "the magic dust of caring" that's sprinkled on all those involved. This year the volunteers included 15Alaska employees from not just Seattle and Spokane but from far corners or the airline's system.

This "Fantasy Flight" to the North Pole, always known as Santa 1 as it takes wing carrying orphans and foster children ages 4 to 10 from Spokane and Coeur d'Alene, chosen by social service agencies, has been an annual event in Spokane, with sadly only occasional visibility from regular media, for 23 years.
 
But the real magic didn't appear until Alaska got involved in 2008 at the request of Steve Paul, now president and CEO of the non-profit Northwest North Pole Adventures (NNPA), and in his 20th year as a volunteer.
 
United had carried out the holiday event for a number of years but merely taxied the plane around the airport before stopping in front of a north-pole bedecked hanger on the other side of the airport for a party with Santa. But when Paul, then a traveling tech exec and now a senior IT project manager at Spokane energy management company Engie Insight, approached Alaska about replacing United, he asked why the plane couldn't take off and fly around for a bit before arriving at Santa's home. And so it happened.
 
And every year since. So last Saturday evening the kids and their personally selected elves hurried aboard an Alaska 737-900 for a 20-minute flight to visit Santa and Mrs. Clause at their North Pole home.
 
Paul, who is Elf Bernie when he puts on his costume including red top hat, said there were some changes this year, with a new, more expansive hanger arranged for to provide a North Pole Santa's home with more space for volunteers, and a new Santa, the first change in the jolly old man in a number of years.
 
Paul is a senior IT Project Manager at Engje Insight, an energy management company rebranded a couple of years ago from Ecova, who spends much of the year preparing for the flight, working with agencies that select the children, gathering sponsors and overseeing details like elf selection.
 
When I asked Paul prior to last year's column about his elf age, given that he was 43 in people years when he first got involved in 2000, he said his elf age is 907 years, adding that is really only middle age for elves so he still has a ways to go. And he leaves no sign of slowing down.
 
A key part of the event magic in recent years has been Alaska pilot Eric Hrivnak, who has been at the controls for a half dozen or so years. As the flight nears its conclusion, the passengers are told to pull the window shades down and chant the magic words that will allow them to land at the North Pole.  
 
As the kids pull down their shades and do a chant, each wave a magic light wand they were given as they boarded and then Hrivnak deploys the engine thrusters when Santa and Rudolph appear on the radar screen, providing the confirmation that the "Santa 1" flight has entered North Pole airspace.
 
The jetliner taxis to a hanger on the other side of the airport, where the passengers are greeted by a group of elves, with live reindeer milling about, and are they taken to meet Santa and Mrs. Clause.
 
The surprise party for Mrs. Santa was to honor Leslie Lathrop, one of two women founders of the nonprofit, who has been Mrs. Claus 21 of the event's 23 years. As her party began at the donors' celebration, her family emerged from the fireplace in standard Santa style.
 
It was a youngster named Linkin (CQ) whose day of excitement prompted his comment about the best day of his life to his elf, Gwindor, who in real life is Alaska pilot Scott Hitchings, who is retiring next year but told Paul he wants to continue to participate.
 
I first wrote of the event in 2010 when I learned of it from my friend, Blythe Thimsen, then editor of a Spokane magazine, who was to be an elf that year, an experience she shared with me then subsequently wrote about and sent me a copy of the article.
 
And as I explain each year, retelling and updating this story has been my holiday gift to readers of The Harp since then because it's a story of human caring and compassion that not only won't get old but perhaps becomes more needed each year.

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Two tech execs make pink socks the road to empathy, caring and love

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It seemed likely, after the August 3, 2019, mass shooting at an El Paso Walmart claimed the lives of 22 people and left 24 wounded, that the Texas border city would be remembered by history and its largely Latino citizenry as the site of the deadliest attack on Latinos in modern American History.  
 
Then came the moving visit by members of the "Pink Socks Tribe" to the bilingual Dr. Sue A. Shook elementary school to show that love and caring are the healing antidotes to hate.
 
Andrew RichardsAndrew RichardsBy the time the November 18 and 19  visit of four leaders of the tribe to the school had ended, 1,337 pairs of pink socks, paid for by donations from members of the tribe around the world, had been passed out to students, teachers, and staff during two moving student gatherings, a morning one for the older kids and an afternoon one of younger grades.
 
But before sharing further details of the story of this special moment for children, teachers and all the staff at Shook Elementary, who had zero degrees of separation from the pain and the loss caused by the shooting, it's important to tell the story of Pinksocks Life Inc.  
 
It's a nonprofit that describes its role as "promoting authentic human connection around the world. In addition to empowering people from all walks of life to connect with anyone, anywhere, by creating a global tribe of pink socks-wearing people who are focused on empathy, caring, and love."
 
If that sounds like an intriguing mission, consider the two tech executives who launched the pink socks movement in 2015 at the same time as, but unrelated to, their seeking investors for their Portland tech company.
 
Nick Adkins and Andrew Richards, both then Portland residents, met on LinkedIn and co-founded ReelDx, a video-focused medical-education company for which they wound up spending a lot of time in Silicon Valley seeking customers and raising money. It was during that time that they launched pink socks.
 
They soon moved on to other roles as the company shifted direction, with Adkins moving to Pittsburgh and Richards to Spokane, but they continued their pink socks commitment.
 
I first met Richards three years ago when I did a column about his being hired as College Technology Incubation Officer at the then-new WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, as I described it in the column as "an unusual incubator to nurture new healthcare technology."
 
Then as Richards and I were at breakfast in Spokane a month ago, I learned the story of the pink socks first hand.
 
"When I was thinking about the fact the world has come to be a place where everyone, of all ages, is walking along looking at their hands, it occurred to me that it was important to somehow get people to look each other in the eye and acknowledge the connection," Richards explained.
 
So he decided to put on the pink socks and, as walking, he says "someone asked, what's with the pink socks?"
 
To which Richards says he replied: "They are meant to have someone ask that question while they are looking me in the eye and connecting." Then he handed the person a pair of the pink socks, whose feature is an array of black mustaches interspersed on the pink with black puzzle pieces.
 
Adkins recalls that he And Richards went to a healthcare conference in Chicago in 2015 where "There more than 40,000 attendees and, having packed our bags full of what turned out
to be the crowd favorites every time I wore them - the pink socks with the mustaches.  
 
"Every time someone came up to us and commented on our socks and asked us about them, we reached into our bags and gave them a pair of pink socks," Adkins said, adding, "when I gift the socks, I always look the other person in the eyes and say 'Every time you wear your pink socks you're going to make people smile! People will come up to you and ask you about your pink socks. That's your opportunity to connect with another person, that had you not been wearing your pink socks that day, the two of you would have missed each other in the universe.'"
 
We continued to attend conferences and hand out pink socks," said Adkins. "Some of the most important and influential people in healthcare have them.....even an astronaut who piloted the space shuttle has a pair!"
 
Richards estimates there are now about 100,000 members of the Pinksocks Tribe in the world in a movement that Richards notes has been "de-commoditized from its beginning in 2015 - all pink socks are gifts. Every connection made between the gift giver and recipient is based on an authentic connection, not a transaction."
 
In November of 2018, Ms. Blancas, the first-grade teacher at Shook Elementary, was teaching empathy to her students. She posted a video of her first-graders leaving the classroom and choosing whether to have a fist bump, a high five, or a hug to share with one of their classmates as they filed out of the room for the day. The majority of the kids chose the hug.
 
The video went viral and a member of the pink socks team noticed and after some contact, as Richards remembers, "we sent Ms. Blanca 32 pairs for her class and she gifted them."
 
Then came the Walmart shootings. Richards said, "I felt we, the pink socks tribe from around the world, had to send the school a message of love and support from all of us so we reached to find how many socks it would take to gift everyone in the school with the socks."
 
Soon came the arrival of four of the tribe board members to present pink socks to all. 'We walked in the door and started crying, overwhelmed by the school support," Adkins said. "It blew our minds."
 
He recalled that the first assembly had 600 older-grade students the assembly sang happy birthday to Ms. Blancas (Yes, it was her birthday). "Then the kids did the world's largest cinnamon roll hug ever, meaning everyone is hugging everyone at the same time," Richards explained.
 
The exponential ripple effect of goodness that these beautiful children in El Paso are creating across the universe through the timelines of their and our lives...that's the ROI of #pinksocks," Richards explained.

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Ruckelshaus recalled for environmental role and collaborative leadership

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William D. (Bill) Ruckelshaus is being remembered, since his death last week at the age of 87, largely for his unique role in environmental stewardship as head of the Environmental Protection Agency for two presidents. For two other presidents that stewardship included being appointed to help ensure the future of the salmon and the health of the oceans.

Lesser known was his view about the environment in which political and policy decision making occurs. In that environment, he always sought a collaborative approach to resolving disagreements. In fact, he made no secret of his disregard for what he once characterized for me in a 2011 interview as "the era of inflamed partisanship and ideology."

William RuckelshausWilliam RuckelshausAnd lesser-known still, his willingness, as CEO of Houston-based Browning Ferris Industries, a major waste-removal firm, to take on the mafia, as he did in expanding his company into New York City. The collaboration he brought to that situation was with authorities whom he helped to clean up the business environment of an industry.

Ruckelshaus, from a prominent Republican family in Indiana where he became a powerful state elected official, was named by President Richard Nixon in 1970 at the age of 38 to be the EPA's first administrator, then was called back by President Ronald Reagan to be the agency's fifth director.
 
In leading the EPA after its creation, he laid the foundation for the agency by hiring its leaders, defining its mission, deciding on priorities, and selecting an organizational structure. He also oversaw the implementation of the Clean Air Act of 1970.

His name became synonymous with environmental protection, which doesn't mean he always defended the tactics or decisions of those engaged in protecting the environment.
 
In the 2011 interview for a Harp column that I went back to review last weekend after his death, he acknowledged that "it's important to be careful about what power you give government and government has to be careful about how it exercises that power.
 
"It's almost a given that abuses will occur," he added. But then he posed the question: "What's preferable, the possibility of abuses that must be reined in, or no rules? In order to provide a framework in which freedom can function, you have to have rules."
 
As we talked for that column, there was a detectable sense of both disappointment and frustration in Ruckelshaus' voice as he discussed what he termed the "most violent anti-environment rhetoric in recent memory coming from Congress" in attacks on the EPA.
 
As evidence of frustration, Ruckelshaus said, referring to that 2011 political scene, "recent attacks are particularly mindless because they give no credence to the original bipartisan support for the creation of EPA," which came into being by executive order of Republican President Richard Nixon.
 
"It was at a time of public outcry that visible air pollution and flammable rivers were not acceptable," Ruckelshaus recalled. "And as EPA was being established, the Congress passed the Clean Air Act in a burst of non-partisan agreement: 73-0 in the Senate and 374-1 in the House." That obviously came about through political collaboration, discussions toward which Ruckelshaus obviously had a part.
 
It's difficult in this era to even imagine there was a time when such agreement between political parties and both houses of Congress could occur on any issue.
 
The fact that Congress could, with virtual unanimity, approve what obviously was legislation that assumedly made some members politically uncomfortable would be viewed as "historical fiction," or maybe "Fake History" by some political ideologues today. But it was merely a time when Democracy could function.
 
With respect to his taking on the mafia during his tenure at Browning-Ferris from 1987 to 1995, Ruckelshaus helped investigators infiltrate a Mafia-dominated carting conspiracy, leading prosecutors to obtain indictments.

Browning-Ferris not only won that skirmish, but it was also well on its way to winning a war. In just three years, the waste-management giant from Houston accomplished what no other company thought possible: It broke organized crime's chokehold on New York City's $1.5 billion commercial trash industry.
Those who have grown tired of the dysfunctional nature of verbal rifle shots, or maybe more accurately shotgun blasts, that have replaced Congressional debate might wish there was something at the national level like the William D. Ruckelshaus Center in Seattle.
 
I'm sure others share with me the hope that part of his legacy will be the work of the Ruckelshaus Center, a joint effort, created to foster collaborative public policy in the state of Washington and Pacific Northwest. It is hosted and administered at WSU by WSU Extension and hosted at UW by the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Policy and Governance

The mission of the center is to act as a neutral resource for collaborative problem-solving in the Northwest, providing expertise to improve "the quality and availability of voluntary collaborative approaches for policy development and multi-party dispute resolution."
 
For anyone inclined to dismiss the wording of the mission as "policy-wonk," it should be noted that the center has successfully brought together parties to build consensus on a range of issues, perhaps most dramatically the Agriculture and Critical Areas Project.
 
The landmark three-plus-year effort aimed at preserving the viability of agricultural lands dealt with the issue of how to control farmland runoff without destroying the prosperity of farmers, an agreement that has unfortunately received little visibility.
 
"The Ruckelshaus Center has 15 years of experience successfully refining and applying his extraordinary vision for how our state and region can resolve complex public policy challenges through collective wisdom, rather than a competition of narrow perspectives," said Advisory Board Chair Bob Drewel.

Drewel, retired head of the Puget Sound Regional Council and former chancellor of WSU Everett who is now Senior Advisor to WSU President Kirk Schulz, predicted: "The Center will continue to build on that legacy, in new issue areas and challenges, working toward a future where Bill's approach is standard practice."

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Joan Wallace bringing closure to long commitment to children of Granger

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The phrase "Michelangelo Moment," meaning the instant of inspiration when someone is touched to make a difference, first came to mind for me relating to Bellevue business leader and philanthropist Joan Wallace's impact on the lives of the families in the Yakima Valley town of Granger.
 
It was seven years ago that I first learned of and wrote about the then decade-old commitment by Wallace, now retired from her role as president of Wallace Properties to a cause distant from her Bellevue home where she has been involved in community causes too numerous to count. 
 
Joan WallaceJoan WallaceThat "moment" was 16 years when the story of Joan Wallace's role with the mostly Hispanic children of Granger and their families began at a 2003 Thanksgiving dinner with her sister in law.
 
Wallace listened over dinner while Janet Wheaton, then principal of Granger Middle School, expressed concern that the children, who had little food at home, would be going hungry without their two in-school meals a day over the Christmas holidays because the school would be out.
 
When Wallace returned home, an email donation request to pay for Christmas baskets of food went out to a few dozen of her closest friends and associates and soon thereafter, a non-profit named "Children of Granger" was formed.
 
Thus began an ongoing commitment by two women, one an educator and one a prominent Bellevue business leader. Their continuing involvement changed the future for the families in the city of 3,500 where the population is 84 percent Latino or Hispanic and 35 percent of the families live below the poverty level.
 
After writing the first Granger column, an annual update of the dramatic things that continued to unfold in Granger because of Wallace and Wheaton became my regular Thanksgiving offering to readers of The Harp.
 
Everything they did was aimed at helping kid break the poverty barrier, from
giving each child in all grade levels an annual $200 "slush fund" for things like shoes and coats to giving mothers of pre-schoolers learning toys that brought grants once they proved the value of their "Ready for Kindergarten" program.
 
 "While doing our best to take care of the immediate needs, we also believe it is equally important to cultivate self-sufficiency and to enable these children to finish school," Wallace said.
 
But the most dramatic story of the impact that the two women had was with the successful campaign at the middle school five years ago to build a program to improve attendance because of its key to educational advancement. They came up with a slogan that became a mantra, "Every Child, Every desk, Every Day."
 
Thus in 2014, I was able to share that the little non-profit had put together a relationship with nearby Heritage University and its largely Hispanic student body and that the relationship had led to the first-ever grant to Families of Granger.

The $15,000 grant from the Yakima Valley Community Foundation, due largely to the involvement of Heritage student and mother of four Alma Sanchez, was used to implement an attendance-incentive program that Sanchez had created.
Those two things basically made 2014 the little non-profit's most important year. And there was a degree of magic in the results of Alma's idea. a quarterly incentive program aimed at perfect attendance.

Driven by the attendance-campaign slogan and the commitment of children, parents, and teachers, the school set the mark for best attendance record in the state, with an absentee rate of 4 percent, compared to a statewide average of 16 percent absenteeism, outdoing schools even in places like Mercer Island and Bellevue.  

I knew that accomplishment would go largely unnoticed by media and business leaders in Western Washington. So I met with Kemper Freeman, Pam Pearson of Q13 and Mike Patterson, since deceased, whose law firm represented a number of school districts and together we created a special award called Innovations in Education.
 
All involved, most especially Wallace, Wheaton, and Alma, were honored at a banquet at the Rainier Club and presented with plaques to help them remember the accomplishment that helped change a community.
 
The Yakima Foundation got involved with a grant for the attendance campaign and has supported the annual effort since.
 
Last week an email arrived from Wallace advising that the time for an exit to her active involvement in Granger had arrived. "The time has come and the path is not only clear but exciting and gratifying," she said, adding in the mail to her Friends of Granger, "together we have made a difference." She included a chart that showed "we poured $425,000 into the community."
 
"With my sister in law now retired and no longer living in Granger, Friends of Granger will go back to the community to be run by a committee of teachers and community leaders," Wallace wrote.
 
"Over the years, more and more of the teachers have been donating a small monthly portion of their salaries to Friends of Granger. Moreover, with the shift in leadership, we predict that even more will participate. It takes less than $20,000 a year to run the food and emergency fund program. Janet and I have committed to donating annual funds to make up any deficiency for the programs. We have a proven structure in place and passionate and capable people committed to continuing the mission of Friends of Granger. Who knows where it will grow from here?"
 
But in another email to me, it became clear where Wallace intends to grow from here, causing me to realize she had encountered another Michelangelo Moment, touched with the inspiration to bring her talents to an organization called Acres of Diamonds.  
 
She explained that she had recently joined the board and had agreed to chair the capital campaign for the organization that is a homeless shelter for women with young children, "a faith-based organization with a success rate of over 80 percent."
 
Acres of Diamonds is located in Duvall but serves the greater Eastside teaching the women "the skills they need to develop their existing strength," Wallace wrote.
 
"The women are taught household management, parenting skills, budgeting, anger management, and they are provided childcare and expenses to go to school," Wallace said. "But they must commit to job-skill training,  abstinence from substance abuse, getting a job, and contributing to their cost of care when they are capable."

She added that "the program lasts two to three years and has been extraordinarily successful."
 
I will be expecting an email ask soon, to which I'll respond as always.

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Proof of value from Opportunity Zones won't come quickly

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Any legislation created by Congress with the promise of helping the rich get richer by providing for them to help the poor is bound to be challenged from its birth, faced with a mix of believers, skeptics, opportunists, and cynics.  
 
So it is with the Qualified Opportunity Zones (QOZ) provision in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 that will permit those owing capital gains tax to delay, reduce or even totally avoid those taxes by investing in special funds designed to start businesses and provide other steps to help economically distressed communities.
 
Ralph IbarraRalph IbarraAnd now the OZ legislation, signed into law by President Trump three days before Christmas in 2017, a sort of holiday gift to taxpayers and, significantly, a bipartisan one, is drawing a lot of scrutiny from critics who contend it is turning out to be merely a tax break for billionaires and focused far more on real estate projects than on job creation.

Supporters counter that much of the criticism has a political ring to it a year before the presidential election in which Trump could point to it as an example, albeit a rare one, of Congressional bipartisan progress.
 
Meanwhile, officials in most states, including Washington, have been slow to roll out examples and promote projects the act has made possible with its capital gains tax breaks. Nor has there been much creativity on the part of state leaders to convince some of those wealthy investors to look at potentially winning projects, or in maybe putting state funds into projects that, coupled with the tax breaks, could become attractive for major investors.
 
The "politics" accusations are coming because Congressional opponents are starting to discuss what they see as the need for changes, including a possible effort to terminate zones that are not sufficiently low income. That was one of the key criteria for census tracts to gain OZ eligibility in the original list put together by the Treasury Department.
 
A recent high-visibility example of the criticism was a New York Times article that rained vilification down on Michael Milken, alleging that he tried to take advantage of the Opportunity Zones tax incentives to enhance the value of some of his Nevada property.
 
The Times article indicates that Milken, still widely recalled more as the billionaire king of junk bonds who went to jail than remembered for his decades of philanthropy since then, sought to press the Nevada governor and state officials to get the Treasury Secretary to classify the tract as an OZ.
 
There no real evidence that Milken did that, and there was no effort to paint any of his actions as illegal even if he had.  
 
The parcel was eventually included in the eligible census tracts, despite Treasury's concern that the residents were too well off to get the designation. Once included it was selected by the governor as one of the state's Opportunity zones.
 
Ironically, that Reno area OZ parcel in which Milken owns about 700 acres, contains many of the potential job-creating aspects of what proponents of the tax break indicated they hoped would come about, including a planned tech incubator where smaller companies could set up operations and seek investors.  

My longtime Latino friend Ralph Ibarra, a fan of the Opportunity Zones idea from the outset who has delved deep into the details of the tax-break legislation, says he felt it was a "golden opportunity" to provide a chance for investors to get involved to achieve good ends.
 
"if you want to get investors to act in their enlightened self-interest you incentivize them in ways they understand and that's by offering them the opportunity to get a return," said Ibarra, who has shared several ideas on how he might get involved in ways that would generate returns for his clients and causes from OZs.
 
When I mentioned the Times Article on Milken to Ibarra, who as president of DiverseAmerica Network helps corporations with diversity issues and small businesses with access to opportunities, he said he didn't see a problem.
 
"Using your influence in that way is no different than the Port of Tacoma going to the governor and saying 'it would be helpful if you designated the Tacoma Tide Flats as an Opportunity Zone so we can attract capital to some projects.'"
 
"In fact, I did it myself when I looked at every potential opportunity zone from Seattle to DuPont, intending to try to influence the process, then went to the Lieutenant Governor's office and suggested ones I thought should be selected. I said 'respectfully here are tracts that I believe are worthy of being selected because of the lack of equity capital for small and distressed firms in those areas.'"
 
Ibarra's point was he was seeking to use his influence with the lieutenant governor because of projects he had been involved with relating to the state's second-highest elected official.


Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, who wrote the 2017 Investing in Opportunity Act measure that was filed and then forgotten in committee, gathered support from moderates of both parties in a true example of working together to revive the bill as an addition to the major tax bill. Thus was born the Opportunity Zones.
 
Governors of the 50 states were brought into the implementation of the act by having the chance to designate census tracts where various business ventures would be eligible for the OZ benefits, through investment by Qualified Opportunity Funds.
 
Jessie J Knight JrJessie J Knight JrA key business figure I asked about the emerging criticism of wealth-enhancing projects just getting off the ground was Jessie J Knight Jr., a retired prominent San Diego business leader closely involved with oversight of the OZ legislation and one for whom philanthropy has become a retirement focus through his family foundation, Knight's Angels.
 
Knight, a retired Alaska Airlines board member who was chairman of San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Gas Co. both subsidiaries of Sempra Energy, where he was executive vice president, said: "judging this legislation on projects already in place is short-sighted and ignorant about economic development."
 
I reached out to Knight because he is one of the national business leaders selected to serve on a task force chaired by Vice President Michael Pence and Senator Scott that is overseeing the progress of the OP-zones program.
 
"This effort can only be judged in what new investment doors are opened to the private sector in the short run, and in the longer term, what businesses and communities have been improved in years five, seven and 10 (the years in which capital-gains taxes due are evaluated for reductions)," Knight said.

An effort at work in Washington may help provide the model for how Opportunity zones can help bring progress and job creation to economically deprived areas.
A working group, that includes Chuck Depew and the National Development Council for which he is a senior director and West Team Leader, is working with local communities and has come up with some promising projects, in Wenatchee and on the Colville Reservation in Central Washington.

The involvement of the state's Native American Tribes and Opportunity Zones designated near or adjacent to them has yet to fully emerge, but will be essential to future success, Depew says.

But he cautions, with a message that critics of OZ need to digest, that projects that will attract mission-driven investors who want to do good while gaining financial return take longer to put together than the low-hanging fruit that has attracted the wealthy investors looking only to get easy tax breaks.

"The challenge in the program is how can Opportunity-Zone communities, rural, urban and tribal, encourage mission-driven investors, including private, community and family foundations and social impact investors to be involved," Depew told me for an earlier column. "That takes time and resources."
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Serial entrepreneur Pete Chase carving out a key role in 5G cell technology

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Serial entrepreneur Peter (Pete) Chase is sympathetic to the pushback from communities upset about the impact of looming 5G cellular technology on their esthetics and infrastructure, but he's convinced the new company he's putting together will help ease much of that community concern.
 
Chase, whose Easy Street Solutions will be based in his hometown of Spokane, is referring to the suit filed by more than 100 municipalities around the country, including Seattle and Bellevue, against the Federal Communications Commission over its plan for the rollout of 5G networks across the country.

Pete ChasePete ChaseThe 5G stands for fifth-generation cellular wireless, which will be required in order for industry leaders AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint to develop and introduce new wireless communications platforms, including the Internet of Things (IoT). This is a transition from existing networks that will require millions of what are described as "small cell towers" placed mainly in urban areas where data usage is greatest.
 
The politics that is accompanying the emergence of the new networks is that the FCC has pre-empted the right to control how the networks of new towers come about and that has local officials up in arms because they are basically being pushed aside on details of things that could have a major impact on the communities.
 
As PC Magazine noted in an article in its August issue, "you should expect the big 5G applications to crop up around 2021 or 2022 and until then, things are going to be confusing as wireless carriers jockey for customers and mindshare."
 
Meanwhile, Chase will be seeking to attract investors as well as wireless carrier "mindshare" for a company that he says will produce towers that "will fit well into the look of the communities."
 
"What we are doing is designing a very aesthetically flexible pole, 20-to-40 feet in height and one-tenth the weight of current poles and one that allows a lot of different options," Chase explained. "These will fit well into the look of the city."
 
"The FCC and carriers need to work with cities to find solutions that make both happy," said Chase. "The big thing for the FCC is that we need to beat China to 5G and you can imagine that China is not going to spend a lot of time thinking of things like building permits," he added with a chuckle. "However, I did see that China is claiming 5G systems are up in several cities - they are definitely ahead of us at this time."
 
"You can't blame communities who feel they have the right to make their own decisions, only to watch that power taken away," Chase said.
 
"Something to note about the FCC mandate is that along with insisting that cities not slow down 5G projects, they also are capping the lease rate per site that the cities can charge the carriers, Chase added.
 
"It's an educational thing on both sides since the cities need to understand that if they want 5G in their cities, they have to work with the carriers.
 
And the carriers need to accept that they can't just start to put up ugly poles everywhere since these poles will be about 800 to 1,000 feet apart."
 
As he begins seeking investors for Easy Street Solutions, which, Chase says is a name that "addresses the issue of how do you deploy this technology and make it easy for all stakeholders," he is likely reminded of his first entrepreneurial go-round with a telecom startup, Purcell Systems.
 
That was in 2000. He was 40 and recalls with a smile that he was guided in that launch by "blind optimism" in the future of what became a $140 million revenue company as a maker of outdoor telecommunications cabinets.
 
The company was sold six years ago to NYSE-listed EnerSys, a manufacturer of batteries for various uses, for $115 million.
 
His success with Purcell earned Chase official entrepreneur status with selection as an Ernst & Young (E-Y) Entrepreneur of the Year and for several years thereafter he was a judge in the EoY competition.
 
His entrepreneur focus took Chase in an unusual direction after Purcell as he launched Columbia International Finance in Spokane to become a player in the Immigrant Investment Program called EB5 that was passed by Congress 30 years ago to stimulate the economy through investment by foreigners. The vehicle was to grant green cards to a specified number of foreigners in exchange for $500,000 invested by each foreigner in projects in this country that created at least 10 new jobs.
 
Chase said he intended to use the EB5 program, which initially and quickly turned into a real estate financing tool by developers, as what he called a "true economic development tool," focused on funding new businesses across the state rather than just real estate.
 
He applied for and was granted approval for Columbia International Finance to be a regional center, which the act decreed would serve as the vehicles to turn the investment dollars into job-creating projects.
 
He found little opportunity in Spokane but got involved in several projects in Seattle to which he directed foreign investments but laments that congressional action to raise the $500,000 investment fee to $900,000, effective Nov, 21, "is going to put the brakes on the program. It's a victim of the effort by Congress to slow applications down because they just don't want immigration."
 
So turning back to his 5G initiative, I asked Chase: "If blind optimism was the attitude you brought to Purcell, what's driving your 5-G effort?"
 
"Confident zeal," Chase replied quickly. "Nothing will stop the growth of data and the Internet of Things, but you have to have a reasonable solution to 5G deployment to pull it off. We do the extremely necessary dumb stuff to make the smart stuff work."
 
"But it's important to remember that 5G networks don't exist now, although there is certainly testing in some venues like sports arenas, so what's in play right now is a lot of marketing fluff," Chase said, adding that "real 5G is probably two years out for the average consumer."

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One of Jim Ellis' little-known contributions was helping enure a post-Pilots MLB franchise

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As state and community leaders reflect on the accomplishment and legacy of James (Jim) Ellis, who died Monday at the age of 98, one vital role he played that was little noted or known was the one helping assure that Seattle would have a major league baseball team to replace the departing Pilots.
 
Anyone who follows baseball, business or community affairs know that Jim's younger brother, John, helped Sen. Slade Gorton put together the local-ownership team that saved the Mariners in 1992 from being sold and moved.
 

Then he served as Mariner CEO through the '90s, the Mariners most success string of years.
 
Jim EllisJim EllisBut few except for maybe a handful of community and elected leaders knew the story Jim Ellis shared with me how the failure of his and Seattle business icon Eddie Carlson's community-ownership initiative to save the ill-fated Seattle Pilots paved the way for the Mariners.
 
I met with Ellis back in 2011 as the Pilots' saga was getting some renewed visibility as Jim Bouten, who parlayed his stint as a Pilot's pitcher into Ball Four, his famous inside look at the Pilots and baseball, gathered some of the players featured in the book for an anniversary.
 
Ellis recalled, in our interview, the groundswell of support that Carlson, then perhaps the most influential business figure in Seattle, mounted in the form of a community fund-raising effort to buy the franchise from its bankrupt owners and keep it in Seattle. Many knew that the idea of a Green Bay Packers-like ownership in baseball was going to be a hard sell to a group of wealthy baseball owners.
 
Ellis remembered that Carlson, who had risen from bellhop to president of the former Western International Hotels and eventually CEO of United Airlines after it bought the Seattle-based hotel chain, led the community effort. The plan was for Carlson to be chair of a publicly owned community franchise and he asked Ellis, then in his mid-40s but already a decade on as the leader of most major civic projects, to join the effort and be the team's legal counsel.
 
I asked Ellis to tell the story, some parts long were forgotten, some parts never told, about that feverish effort in the winter of 1969-70 to save Seattle's baseball team and how the story unfolded after that.  
 
Here is his account:
"We went after contributions of from $5,000 to $200,000 and raised the money the American League said it would need, and it was real money in those days. The effort drew national attention as the media made this a struggle of the little guy against the big guys. It would have been the only community-ownership in sports other than the Packers.
 
"We went back to Chicago triumphantly for the meeting and the formal vote of the American League owners and I remember (baseball commissioner) Bowie Kuhn telling us the night before that meeting that we were in. We knew we had a solid majority of support from the owners, but the league rules required that no more than three of the 12 teams in the league could vote against the plan.
 
"We were called upstairs at the hotel the previous evening for a private meeting with some of the American League owners and we thought it was to be a welcome-to-the-club meeting for us and we'd be welcomed with open arms, though there were a few questions asked that implied some reluctance about us.
 
"We were thunderstruck at the next day's public meeting, with the room at least half media, when four votes were cast against us. It was over. We had lost.
 
"We went home and Eddie called everyone who had committed and told them they no longer were committed. Bowie Kuhn called the next day and asked if we would make one more try-I think he really wanted us to succeed - but it was over."
 
Ellis recalled how he telephoned Gorton, then Washington's attorney general and later U.S. Senator to tell him they'd failed in the effort. But Gorton apparently said, "hold on, baseball told the community that if they voted to build the Kingdome, the city would have a team as its major tenant." So Gorton decided to go the legal route and brought suit against the owners.
 
But the untold story was that, for whatever reason, the American League owners who hosted Ellis and Carlson for the dinner meeting and discussion about the ownership plan secretly recorded the conversation.
 
And as with then-President Nixon's secret White House recordings, the outcome was disastrous for the recorders. Ellis recalled that once the door on the meeting is heard on the tape to close, followed by what Ellis recalls as a "minute or so of silence," one of the owners is heard to say "I guess we gave them enough rope to hang themselves."
 
So the next morning the owners voted down the Seattle plan and Gorton's suit soon followed.
 
Ellis recalls that "it became clear the jury, after hearing the tape, was going to come down on the side of Seattle, which was seeking $18 million from baseball, when the jury foreman came out to ask the judge if the jury was limited to only what Seattle was asking."
 
"So as the jury came back with its verdict, baseball's attorneys came over to our table and said, 'You don't want the money, you want a team. We'll guarantee you'll have a team.' We agreed to keep the verdict sealed unless baseball failed to bring a team to the Kingdome."
 
And so it came to pass that the franchise the city got in 1977 became the Seattle Mariners. The franchise went through a local ownership group and two out-of-area owners, all testing whether Seattle could really support major-league baseball. Then the local group put together by John Ellis and Gorton bought the team and proved baseball could work in Seattle.
 
So the facts of Mariner history are that an Ellis brother was involved significantly at both ends of the Mariners story.
 
And thus the contributions of the Ellis brothers to an array of community contributions came to include the Mariners, Jim's contribution in the realm of public-service projects that he guided and John's as CEO of first Puget Sound Energy and then the Mariners,
 
It seems somehow that an award should be created in the name of The Ellis Brothers to honor future contributors to our region, so they won't be forgotten.
 
I asked Ellis what would have happened had the effort to save the Pilots as a community-owned team been successful. He replied, "Eddie and I both felt, after it was all over, that it would have been more of a beast than we had anticipated as baseball's financial picture changed so significantly over the coming few years."

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As he turns 94, Dan Evans' role in history will be discussed at Tower Club interview

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We call the Columbia Tower Club's breakfast interviews On the Shoulders of Giants in the hope that those who accept the invitation to be our guests fit the role of giant whose shared wisdom can permit us to stand on their shoulders, as it were, to perhaps learn from them in shaping our own futures.
 
And despite his likely reluctance to accept the "giant" characterization, former Governor and U.S. Senator Dan Evan comes about as close as any public figure in this state to earning the accolade "giant."
 
So we hope to put some of his thoughts and deeds on display and in the discussion next Friday morning, October 25, the date when he has agreed to be our guest interviewee.
 
DanielEvansDaniel J EvansIt was 55 years ago this November that Daniel J. Evans was elected governor, the state's youngest governor, defeating two-term incumbent governor, Albert D. Rosellini, who was seeking a third consecutive term in the 1964 election. Evans bucked a Democrat landslide nationally that year in winning.
 
It was an election season not unlike this one in terms of the fierce political battles that then, as now, even created divisions within parties, with the John Birch Society creating a right-wing focal point for Republicans.  
 
Despite being a Republican and a self-styled conservative, Evans became known for his administration's liberal policies on environmental protection as he founded the country's first state-level Department of Ecology, which became President Nixon's blueprint for the federal EPA.
 
He was a strong supporter of the state's higher education system, including founding Washington's system of community colleges.
 
And he fought unsuccessfully for a state income tax, basically telling voters that if they rejected his tax plan they maybe should reject him as well. But voters made up their own minds and kept Evans while rejecting his income tax.
 
He achieved national prominence in 1968 as he was chosen to give the keynote address at the Republican National Convention that nominated eventual president Richard Nixon. Evans was talked about for a time as Nixon's possible running mate but his refusal to endorse Nixon, instead of throwing his convention support to Nelson Rockefeller, ended vice president talk.
 
In reflecting on Evans in preparation for the interview next Friday, I went over some previous columns I did on him and was reminded that he was an elected official who was impossible to pigeonhole ideologically. As both governor and senator, he avoided ideological rigidity and found good ideas might sometimes spring from the Democrat side of the political aisle. And that dumb ideas could sometimes be offered by his fellow Republicans.  
 
Proving he was impossible to typecast politically, Evans was equally comfortable blasting "talk show hosts screeching about waste in government," proponents of term limits and a balanced-budget amendment, environmental extremists, and excessive regulations that stymie growth.
 
In a memorable speech he made in Seattle to an audience of business leaders in the mid-90s, Evans offered a couple of bits of political wisdom that bear sharing.
 
"By constantly trashing our political leaders, we also breed disrespect for our own system, of government," Evans said. "The result is a new political landscape dotted with constitutional amendments and initiatives designed to protect citizens from 'evil' politicians."
 
Of two ideas whose proponents have continued to seek traction, Evans told a business-leader audience: "The balanced budget amendment is a loony idea that is meaningless until we decide how to keep a national standard set of books so we can measure balance."
 
And of the idea of term limits, Evans offered: "As a voter, I am outraged by those sanctimonious term limiters who would steal from me the freedom of my vote."
 
But in addition to hitting "those talk show hosts who cater to the base emotion of people," he took to task "the politicians who blithely promise what they know they cannot deliver," and "those rigid environmentalists who will see you in court if they don't get all they seek."
 
Thus he has always been a leader in what I, and many, feel is an unfortunately disappearing breed, those who view ideas on their merits rather than insisting that any new idea must be vetted based on where it fits ideologically.
 
Evans celebrated his 94th birthday this week with friends, followers and admirers, and students of history, still awaiting completion of his autobiography.

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79-year-old runner gets unusual support to overcome injury and race

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The phrase "senior support group" takes on a whole different meaning when the senior is a 79-year-old seeking to remain athletically competitive and the support group is a trio of unusual healthcare providers and a nationally prominent track and field coach seeking to contribute to the process.  
 
Members of this particular senior support group came to the fore in the past three weeks to see if collectively they could salvage my hope, after a leg injury while working out, to get to this year's Huntsman World Senior Games in St. George, UT, where I have competed in my age group in the 100-meter sprint half a dozen times in the past decade.
 
The support team is composed of Bryan Hoddle, one of the nation's most recognized and honored track and field coaches; Dr. Robert Greczanik, an acupuncturist, and practitioner with athletes both amateur and proof what he calls "energetic technologies;" high-intensity trainer Ann-Marie Anderson, and skilled Reiki practitioner Trini Evans. Interestingly, they are also teamed in that they are each other's friends and clients, as I am their client or, in Hoddle's case, friend.
 
Hoddle and Anderson have both been subjects of Harps (Flynn's Harp: Bryan Hoddle and Flynn's Harp: Ann-Marie Anderson) while columns on Greczanik and Evans are in planning, not because they are friends but because what they are doing to bring new definitions to healthcare merits attention.
 
The challenge they are now helping to address with me is that during a recent workout on a Bellevue track, as I wound up my workout with a series of full-speed 100's, near the 80-meter mark of the second 100 meters, it suddenly felt as if an alligator had bitten into the base of my right hamstring. I instantly knew I had torn it, or at least pulled it.
 
The details that follow will be interesting to some readers, amusing to others who think they know all about sports medicine.
 
I called Hoddle to ask if I could do any sort of exercise in the following three days before I could get in to see "Dr. Bob," given the injured hamstring and pain accompanying it.
"Don't do anything until you see Dr. Bob, and make sure to ask him if you locked your big toe," he added.
 
It was a weekend and I knew I wouldn't be able to see my acupuncture doc, "Dr. Bob," at his Energetic Sports Lab in Bellevue until Tuesday since Monday is the day for Seahawks to see him repair game day injuries.
 
Robert Greczanik, known to most as "Dr. Bob," has a doctorate in the practice of acupuncture as well in Oriental Medicine and for 20 years has been serving athletes (and others) to "achieve peak performance," avoid injuries and recover rapidly when injury does occur.  
 
Acupuncture is a technique in which practitioners stimulate specific points on the body by inserting thin needles through the skin. It is one of the practices long used in traditional Chinese medicine.  
 
Since he has worked with organizations and athletes from the Seattle Seahawks and Sounders, Buffalo Bills, Los Angeles Clippers, Portland Trailblazers and numerous other pro and college organizations and individuals, I was pleased and grateful that he has had time for an old runner. Being friends helped.
 
When I asked Bob about Hoddle's "frozen big toe" comment, he replied that I hadn't frozen it but he made the point that "most people are unaware of the fact that there are fibers in the big toe that help determine the health of the hamstring as well as other parts of the body. Yours is okay."
 
I remarked to Dr. Bob that I realized there was no way I was going to be able to run a competitive 100-meter race in three weeks but that I'd like to begin getting my hurting hamstring back to health.
 
"Hey, 'white lightning' (his nickname for me that he knows will bring laughter), don't worry about it" he replied. "You'll be running fine by then.'
 
So he placed the needles in my hamstring and areas in the other leg and after 25 minutes on the table, he removed them and the hamstring felt like new. But I realized I needed to avoid full-speed effort until the race day.
 
"So what can I do on the track now," I asked and Dr. Bob replied, "ask Coach Hoddle."
 
Coach Hoddle counseled me to do 40 percent-speed work out on the track, followed by 60 to 70 percent speed three days later. "I tell my guys returning from an injury to remember the 72-hour rule."
 
Hoddle is one of the nation's most recognized and honored track and field coaches whose attention to developing young athletes and counseling coaches came to include aiding disabled athletes and now a national focus on wounded veterans who have lost limbs and need to learn to run again.
 
And he's full of sayings, as in when I worried that I wished I could get one more workout in before heading for St. George, he said "Don't worry about it. The hay is in the barn." When I asked what that meant he replied: "You're set. Don't need any more preparation." Hd followed that with "People don't realize that less s frequently better."
 
When I returned to Dr. Bob the following week, he placed his needles in several places but none in the injured hamstring and when I questioned that, he replied "Hamstring is all well now. Go for it."
 
Meanwhile, sessions with my high-intensity trainer to keep muscle strength as close to normal as possible and Reike to enhance the healing, as well as deal with a sore back muscle, added key elements to the return to health.
 
Trini Evans, my Reiki Master/Teacher practitioner in the form of healthcare that is based on the idea that human hands can redirect "life force energy" to heal stress and assist in the body's natural healing processes, became a key part of the healthcare team seeking to restore my ability to compete.
 
In addition to the Reiki healing process, she regularly provided the counsel "relax. Focus on your ability. You'll do fine." Maybe that was mental Reike.
 
Interestingly, Reiki is now viewed by many as an effective, accepted alternative practice in mainstream America, where at least 1.2 million adults have tried the energy healing therapy that 60 hospitals have adopted as part of patient services and education that is reportedly offered at 800 hospitals.
 
And the high-intensity training sessions with Ann-Marie Anderson, one a week, as I have been doing with her in her Ideal Exercise Gym for more than three years, became important for her focus on ensuring that I retained the upper-body strength key for sprinting.
 
Anderson is a nationally recognized leader of a small but growing group of practitioners of an exercise technique called high-intensity resistance training, which Greczanik, also one of her clients, describes as "the new paradigm of training."
 
So after my workout on the track at 90 percent of full speed over the weekend, I told each member of the team this week: "Thanks, guys. I didn't really expect to be ready for the starting line in St. George after the hamstring pain hit, but I now know I will. So we'll see when the gun sounds mid-morning on Oct. 16 how many seconds before I reach the finish line, as well as how many guys got there ahead of me."  
 
Oops! Each of my healthcare team has admonished or scolded me on several occasions in the past three weeks to quit focusing on the idea that some will be ahead of me. "Sorry, guys!"  
 
The reality is I've never taken first in this race at the Games, but I've taken 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 6th. So some year there may be no one ahead of me at the finish line.
 
So of the Huntsman World Senior Games themselves. The late Jon Huntsman Sr.'s vision of creating an event that would attract hordes of seniors to Southern Utah annually to engage in competition with each other if he named it the World Senior Games has become, over three decades, likely the most successful event of its kind in ...well...the world.


As many as 10,000 seniors show up at the remote corner of the West over the two weeks to compete in the Games, which include events ranging from track and field and tennis to golf, archery, bowling, cycling, lawn bowling, and various others.

So back to this year's Games. All those on my team have joined the ranks of friends important to me and I to them. So perhaps the best incentive next week in St. George will be that I don't want to let them down.
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Two with deep roots in Bon Marche share demise thoughts

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Macy's announcement that it will close its downtown flagship store and thus bring permanent closure to the last vestige of the retail icon whose decades of visibility as simply The Bon was actually ended by Macy's in 2005 prompted two people for whom The Bon had deep roots to share their thoughts on what it meant to Seattle retailing.
 
One, Chuck Nordhoff, recalled how his great grandparents, Edward and Josephine Nordhoff, she 18 with a two year old daughter and he 32,, came west to Seattle from Chicago in 1890 to create a small dry goods store they named the Bon Marche, after a famous 1800s retailer in Paris, a European capital where Nordhoff worked for a time.
 
john BullerJohn BullerJohn Buller, on the other hand, had a key role in shaping The Bon competitively and changing the culture of the retailer in the '80s when, as training director and Director of Corporate Culture, researching the history of the company was part of his approach to aide employees in understanding their roles as current employees. He described his role to me as "changing the culture from a clerk environment to a selling environment."
 
In his research relating to history, Buller discovered some of the details that helped fashion The Bon's early appeal and that built regard for the Nordhoffs among citizens of what was, at that time, a population of about 40,000 residents scattered in and around the Seattle area.
 
One was the fact that Edward Nordhoff was one of the earliest discount retailers and the story of how he fashioned that role is an amusing bit of history that should have been more enduringly told.
 
It seems that Nordhoff, in the face of competitors who included Donald E. Frederick and Nels B. Nelson (like the Nordhoffs in their 30s when they founded Frederick & Nelson) went back to New York and returned with thousands of pennies. He gave customers back a penny for each dollar spent, basically offering a 1 percent discount on all purchases, the idea of a 1 percent discount being nothing to sneeze at in those days, apparently.
 
Chuck Nordhoff's thoughts are more future-focused as he shared with me concern about what will become of fixtures and parts of history still located on the walls and doors in the store.
 
"If there's one thing the family is interested in, it's what will happen to things like the bust of Josephine Nordhoff over the elevator door and the series of panels that are mostly dated from the earliest era, including one panel that talks of Josephine," he said.
 
He suggested there would be room for such memorabilia in the Museum of History and Industry, whose board he has been a member of and chaired.
 
In fact, Josephine Nordhoff is a woman appropriate to be remembered well beyond the store. Little recalled is her role as a prominent Seattle businesswoman. In fact, Edward Nordhoff credited her with guiding the success of the store. She was also a prominent supporter of community causes, including the Seattle Day Nursery and the Seattle Orthopedic Hospital Association.
 
As early as 1918, she championed the eight-hour workday, a controversial position at the time. She died of cancer in 1920. On the day of her funeral, all of Seattle's major downtown retailers closed their stores in her memory.
She was the first woman inducted into the Puget Sound Business Hall of Fame early in the history of the event created by Junior Achievement and the Puget Sound Business Journal.
 
Nordhoff recalls that his father, Arthur, who turned 90 on September 11, was born a year after The Bon was sold to Hahn Department Stores. Five years later Hahn Stores was bought by Allied Stores Corporation.


Chuck Nordhoff recently turned 60 and climbed Mt. Rainier with his 17-year-old daughter to celebrate the occasion.
 
"I did it 16 years ago as a belated celebration of my 40th and I promised myself I'd not do it again unless one of my children  invited me to do it with them," he chuckled, given that the invitation came for this birthday.
 
Regarding Buller and his history notes, few know that The Bon Marche drug store was the largest drug store business in the state, or that the store the then-new store that opened in downtown Seattle in the 1900s was the largest department store on the Pacific Coast.
 
And Buller notes The Bon's focus on sportswear and young men's casual business apparel created an industry based in Seattle with the likes of Brittania Jeans and Union Bay apparel. And Walter Schoenfeld, who founded Brittania (as well as being a founding investor in three Seattle pro sports team), was convinced to bring jeans in from Hong Kong in what Buller noted was one of the first retailers to get clothing from a foreign country.
 
I did a Harp on Buller several years ago that focused on his book "Survival Guide for Bureaucratic Warriors, based on his experience at The Bon training the company's 4,000 employees spread across the region. His duties eventually included the role of vice president of marketing, overseeing the operations of the company that had spread across cities in six northwest states.
 
"Changing the culture at The Bon was an effort to focus on service, both to our customers and our internal attitudes toward our fellow employees," Buller explained of the approach that led to the book.  "The book was about my learning the difference between a 'Soldier,' someone who takes orders, and a 'Warrior,' one who has a mission or a cause. I learned how to be a Warrior."

As I wrote in the column on Buller, now 72 and still entrepreneurially active: He took the warrior attitude, and the details of building survival skills, to roles as co-chair and director of the organizing committee for the NCAA Final Four in Seattle in 1995, executive director of the UW Alumni Association, CEO of Tully's Coffee and CEO of the Seattle Police Foundation.
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News report from 9/11 of global grief serves as a reminder

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(The following article, written a few days after the tragic 2011 September day that has become etched forever in our minds as 9/11, was a reporter's wrap-up of the grief that citizens of every country shared in our behalf. The piece, written by a former, now late, United Press International colleague named Al Webb from his post in UPI's London bureau, was first shared in The Harp on the 10th anniversary of that day and again on the 15th anniversary. Now it has become my annual reminder of that display of shared pain out of a sense that it deserves, or rather requires, being remembered.)    
 ------------  
 
By Al Webb
LONDON (UPI) -- A small girl with a Cockney accent shyly waved a tiny American flag, and a queen brushed away a tear. In a Scottish town that has known its own tragedy, a lone church bell tolled. On a German river, foghorns sounded a low moan.
 
Across countries and continents, waves of sympathy for a nation in anguish rolled on. A young woman in a Kenyan park wept over the sad headlines in newspapers spread on the ground. A one-time terrorist donated blood for the victims. Hundreds stood in line in cities from Dublin to Moscow to sign books of condolences.  
 
And over the outpouring of grief and mourning for the lives lost in the boiling flames and rubble of the World Trade Center towers and a wing of the Pentagon, time and again came the strains of "The Star-Spangled Banner," sometimes in places where it had never been sung before.
 
In a gesture reminiscent of John F. Kennedy's "Ich bin ein Berliner," symbolizing his solidarity with another troubled people a half-century ago, the Paris newspaper Le Monde perhaps summed it up best: "We are all Americans."
 
In London, where the little girl with the funny accent and her American flag pressed her damp face against the gates, the band performing the traditional Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace suddenly did something it had never done before -- it struck up "The Star-Spangled Banner."
 
 For 45 minutes, the Mall in front of the palace became a little piece of America for hundreds of its citizens who were there because there were no planes to take them home. And the band of the Coldstream Guards played on.
 
As tear-stained faces lifted and sang along, as Americans and British and other nationals waved Old Glory, the marches rolled -- "The Liberty Bell" after the national anthem, followed by "The Washington Post March" and "Semper Fidelis" and finally, heart-rendingly, "When Johnny Comes Marching Home."
 
What the Coldstream Guards had triggered was the greatest mass demonstration of grief in Britain since Princess Diana was killed in a car crash four years ago. And as with Diana's death, a carpet of flowers, children's toys, poems, letters, all illuminated by tiny candles, built up this time at the fortress-like U.S. Embassy in London.
 
Amid the hundreds of bouquets, a single American flag was wrapped around a tree. One woman pressed her tear-dampened lips to its fringe in a soft kiss.  
 
The sweeping tide of mourning reached its crescendo at 11 o'clock Friday morning when Britain, France, Germany, and scores of other countries in Europe, Africa, and Asia went silent for three minutes, in honor of the innocent dead in America.
 
In Paris, the elevator at the Eiffel Tower stopped halfway to the top. Buses, trams, and cars halted in their tracks across the continent.
 
In Spain, more than 650 city and town halls became gathering centers for tens of thousands who bent their heads in silent prayer -- and then, at the end of the three minutes, they lifted their eyes and applauded in that people's traditional tribute to the victims of terrorism.
 
On the River Elbe leading into Hamburg, ships flew their flags at half-mast. The minutes of silence crept by -- and at the end were broken by the sound of a thousand foghorns rolling across the water into the city's very heart.
 
In Lockerbie, Scotland, there was no applause, no singing, no bands, only the ringing of a single church bell and the flutter of flags at half-mast. This is a town with singular links to America, forged in a terrorist attack in the skies 13 years ago.
 
In all, according to an estimate by The Daily Telegraph newspaper in London, some 800 million people across Europe joined in the three minutes of silence.
 
At Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, once part of a dividing line between freedom and tyranny, a crowd of some 200,000 -- among them Germans whose relatives had died in terrorist attacks -- gathered beneath a black banner bearing the words, "We Mourn With You."
 
In Paris, crowds jammed the Place de la Concorde, itself a symbol of reconciliation, while church bells rang for five minutes before the silence.
 
In the government's Elysee Palace, "The Star-Spangled Banner" rang out, while over the French airwaves, radio stations played John Lennon's "Imagine."
 
The bankers of Switzerland are not noted for their sentimentality, so they dealt in their own currency. At the end of the three minutes of silence, they announced they were donating more than $500,000 to the families of the victims of the atrocities in America.  
 
Lloyd's of London, the insurance market-based in the British capital and one of several insurers of the World Trade Center, rang its Lutine bell and observed a minute of silence in memory of the dead in America -- some of them in the several broker offices Lloyd's has -- had -- in the WTC.  
 
In Belfast, the bullets and bombs of Northern Ireland's own form of terrorism, known as sectarian violence, went silent as tens of thousands from both sides of the divide -- Roman Catholic and Protestant - gathered in front of a makeshift stage at City Hall, to stand in silent tribute.
 
It is a city that knows the heartache of terrorism. "We have suffered for 33 years," said Betty McLearon. "People here have to be admired for the way they can cope with it. It will take the people in New York a long time to get over this."
 
In Moscow, the Russians observed a minute's silence as they laid wreaths and floral tributes outside the U.S. Embassy, once a symbol of the Cold War. Thousands of Muscovites lined up patiently to sign books of condolences.
 
In turbulent Israel, a nurse gently inserted a needle into the right arm of Yasser Arafat, himself a one-time terrorist who is now head of the Palestinian Authority. In a demonstration of support, he was donating blood to help the American injured.
 
Back in London, the minute of silence was followed by a service of remembrance in the capital's majestic St. Paul's Cathedral, led by Queen Elizabeth II herself. In the audience of 2,400 inside, Americans hoisted the Stars and Stripes for the rest of the world to see via television.
 
Outside the cathedral, the tens of thousands who could not get in waved their own tiny flags and listened over the loudspeakers that carried the words and music for blocks around.  The cathedral's huge organ rumbled into life, to open the service, appropriately, with the American national anthem.
 
Then something happened that has never happened before, certainly not in public and doubtless not even in private. Softly, the queen began to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner."
 
Now, the British monarch does not "sing" national anthems. When they are played, she never even opens her mouth. Until now.
 
 But Queen Elizabeth sang it all, this song whose words were written 187 years ago during Britain's last war with her lost American colonies, through the final words, "O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave." With the last note, the queen gently brushed away a tear.
 
(Al Webb died in January 2015 at the age of 79 after a UPI career that ranged from the civil rights struggles to the battlefields of Vietnam to the Houston Space Center. But he could well be best remembered for this piece of moving reportage whose rereading stirs a compelling question about whether the global regard for us that the outpouring of affection evidenced remains our national treasure. Or has it become a squandered legacy.)

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State High Court's agreeing to hear Sound Transit tax case will reignite old arguments

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The fact the State Supreme Court will hear arguments next Tuesday on the legality of how Sound Transit is imposing the vehicle taxes necessary to pay for its light rail system is sure to reignite some of the arguments about the most expensive transportation package ever undertaken in the nation.

Specifically, the issue before the nine justices will be Sound Transit's use, commencing mere months after voters in three counties approved the measure known as ST3, of a formula that inflates the value of vehicles on which the annual motor vehicle, or car-tab, tax is levied.  

The case before the high court is an appeal of a ruling by a Pierce County superior court judge who quickly dismissed a class-action lawsuit that contended the law authorizing those taxes was unconstitutional. The rapid ruling by Judge Kathryn Nelson, who basically said she wasn't qualified to decide the issue, meant Sound Transit could continue to collect the car-tab as it has been doing since early 2017.

Indeed, in addition to providing a renewed interest on the part of both supporters and opponents in replaying the arguments over the ballot measure, the high court's handling of the arguments and its eventual decision on the Pierce County case may provide some interest for court watchers. But more on that later.

For opponents of the 2016 ballot measure, the initial flap in early 2017 over the unexpected leap in car-tab (MVET) tax for motorists to renew their vehicle licenses was an I-told-you-so moment. Opponents viewed it as epitomizing the arrogance of the unelected Sound Transit board that opponents had been trying point out.

Car-tab taxes are the agency's second-largest source of revenue to pay for the massive expansion of bus and light-rail service the voters approved.

The first broad perception of Sound Transit arrogance surfaced with the outcry from motor vehicle owners, pro light rail or not, irate about the increase in the cost of renewing vehicle licenses after the excise tax had climbed dramatically, due in part to the vehicle valuation chart used by Sound Transit.

The agency uses an outdated formula, inherited from the Legislature, to estimate a car's value for the purposes of collecting taxes. The unexpectedly higher car-tab fees result from the formula that inflates newer cars' values, relative to Kelley Blue Book values.

The Legislature has repeatedly failed to pass bills that would correct the formula because while support for such legislation has been bipartisan, it has not been sufficient to approach a majority.

In fact, the outcry over the inflated MVET fee has also echoed into the legislative halls with a proposal that Sound Transit's governing body should be elected, instead of being officials elected to various local offices and then appointed to the board.

The goal of legislation that passed the State Senate, then controlled by Republicans, but got nowhere in the Democrat-controlled House, would have been to replace the 18 Sound Transit board members with 11 directors directly elected by voters in districts that would have been created by the legislature.

Sound Transit's media relations person explained that part of the reason for the large jump in MVET fees was that, in approving the $54 billion ST-3, voters said ok to a major increase in vehicle excise tax.  

The outcry would suggest that many voters weren't really aware of that.

The Sound Transit public relations representative had been quoted earlier, as the MVET flap emerged, to the extent that Sound Transit could have used a vehicle depreciation schedule that would have meant a less expensive renewal fee but chose not to "for simplicity sake," to bring transportation relief quicker.

Now back to the point of legal minds and those interested in how courts make decisions will likely be watching as the process unfolds in this case over the coming months leading to release of the court's decision.

What could be a backdrop issue here is the difference between the merits of the argument by the plaintiffs seeking to reverse the Pierce County judge's ruling and the perceived "public good" of a $54 billion regional transportation plan that impacts the revenue of hundreds of companies and thousands of jobs.

Whether something is good or bad policy has frequently been a consideration at the U.S. Supreme Court level but state supreme courts usually seek to avoid going into the "public good" issue and instead stick to interpreting the law in the case before them.

But judges on this state's high court, being human and subject to political and social tugs, could find themselves tempted not to overthrow the funding device without which Sound Transit's transportation master plan would be thrown asunder.

So while I don't advise attorneys how to practice law, I have to think it would be a missed opportunity to fail to suggest, for the judges' inclusion in their thought process, that if voters three years ago felt the plan was good public policy, the outcry over the tax to pay for it could suggest a different public attitude. And add to that the fact that it's now pretty likely that alternative vehicles added to the transportation equation could render a rail-based system obsolete years before it's due for completion.

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Bellevue hosts global squash sports event

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Two men who built global reputations in their respective industries have come to be viewed as the dedicated heroes advancing the sport of squash in this region by way of their financial support for the India-born queen of promoters of the sport who is making the Eastside a growing international center for squash.

The two are Dave Cutler of Microsoft, key developer of Windows NT and all subsequent Windows versions, and Robert Harris, founder, and CEO of PMI-Worldwide, Seattle-based brand and product-marketing company with offices around the globe.

Shabana Khan PMIShabana KhanTheir support has made possible the string of international squash events put on by Shabana Khan, who has become one of the foremost creators and promoters of squash events, all held in Bellevue, thus making the city increasingly known throughout the world in places where squash is a prominent competitive sport.

And again this week, Khan, with the support of Cutler and Harris, is putting on a first-of-its-kind squash event, this one at the Hidden Valley Boys and Girls Club field house, which has become her venue of choice for her events.

Cutler and Harris have decided to name the week-long world invitational squash tournament for top squash talent, six women and six men, the only event of its kind in the country, after Khan's late father.

Yusuf Khan, who brought the sport of squash to Seattle from his native India a half-century ago when Shabana Khan was still an infant.  

As one of the world's top squash professionals, Yusuf proceeded to bring Seattle to the attention of the national and international squash establishments and see two of his daughters become women's national champions. He died last October at the age of 87.  

Thus the "PMI Dave Cutler Presents The Yusuf Khan Invitational" is playing out this week with the finals Friday evening. An added attraction is what Khan has dubbed "The Tech Challenge," with eight two-person teams from tech firms in the region competing in what Khan intends to make an annual part of her tournaments in the future.

As has become the norm for Cutler's and Harris' involvement, the two are teaming up for a $150,000 donation to provide the major share of the $300,000 purse. The winners of both the men's and the women's competition will each take him $80,000.

The financial support by the two has been the key for YSK Events, the little non-profit through which Khan puts on her squash events.

Readers of The Harp will recognize that I've written about Khan before, beginning when she brought the Men's World Squash Championship to Bellevue in late 2015, first time the event was ever held in the U.S. The reason for the repeat visibility is out of a conviction that what she is seeking to do for Bellevue, and its young people in particular, merits far more attention and support from the community than she has been able to generate. 

When I first wrote about Khan, now 50 and the mother of 13-year-old emerging squash star Yasmin, I noted that she had won the U.S. women's national championship by defeating her younger sister, Latasha, who held the title, thus creating a "best in the family, best in the nation" outcome.

The PMI Cutler tourney this week follows last May's Bellevue Squash Classic, the third year Khan has put on that event as part of the PSA World Tour. It was an especially significant event and a milestone for the PSA World Tour as it was the largest ever prize-money purse for a 16-player draw.

Come fall, Khan launches her West Coast Squash circuit designed to make it easier and less expensive for parents and their children to compete at a high level and gain points toward national ranking. Two tournaments will be at the Redmond Pro Club, where Khan coaches and which has been a regular sponsor of her events. The first of those will occur in late September or early October to launch West Coast Squash. Other cities participating and holding events will be Vancouver, B.C., The Bay Area, Orange County and likely Portland.

So back to Harris and Cutler, who a decade ago was recognized as a National Medal of Technology and Innovation laureate, perhaps the most prestigious honor in the country for developers of new technology. Cutler expresses frustration at the absence of other support for what Khan is seeking to do for squash among young people in particular.

And he suggests that her involvement in the past few years may have something to do with the fact The U.S. has the fastest growing squash participation in the world, which the Sports & Fitness Association (SFIA) estimates at 66 percent growth overall since 2010 to 1.7 million squash players around the country.

Regarding Harris's support, I was struck by a previously quoted answer when I asked him why he was such a strong supporter. And his answer bears repeating and maybe echoing.

"It's pretty simple," he said. "In a world beginning to look inward rather than building international alliances and global partnerships, I believe it's increasingly important to support sports that are global in nature and connect people from around the world. This is the only way humanity and our planet is going to survive and prosper."

 
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'Encore Entrepreneurs' a growing reality for seniors support groups

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The director of Income Security at the AARP Foundation, Aliza Sir, seems an unlikely messenger for her talks to entrepreneur-support groups with her attention-getting message that today's entrepreneurs are just as likely to be empty nesters or grandparents as typical tech-savvy younger people.

So it's appropriate on this World Entrepreneur's Day, created by the Alliance of International Business Associations to focus awareness on entrepreneurship and innovation, for the entrepreneur-focused Kauffman Foundation to discuss "encore entrepreneurs," in keeping with Sir's message.
 
When I retired in 2006 and bought the domain name "Entrepreneurial encore," it was because I knew that would characterize my post-retirement path and that at some point, I could create a website with that focus for others seeking the same encore. I just didn't realize that I was merely ahead of the curve.

Kauffman, the Kansas City, MO, organization that is the nation's largest non-profit focused on entrepreneurs, notes that "America is not getting any younger," adding that "in fact, last year the U.S. Census Bureau's national population projections forecast that by the year 2030, older people, 65 years and older, will outnumber children under age 18 for the first time in U.S. history."

And Kauffman's most recent Index of Startup Activity points out that the highest rate of entrepreneurial growth over the last few years is not Gen Y startups but Boomers over the age of 50, a trend that has attracted the tag "Encore Entrepreneurs."

According to the Kauffman Indicators of Entrepreneurship, the percent of the U.S. population that starts a new business is highest in the 45 to 55 age category at 39 percent with the 55 to 65 age group following closely behind at 38 percent. In both age groups, the number of new startups trends upward. Moreover, the percent of new entrepreneurs who created a business by choice instead of necessity in the 55 to 64 age categories registers just over 88 percent, higher than any other age group.

"The future of work is something that we think about a lot," Sir added. "The trend of older entrepreneurs offers amazing potential for people to leverage their experiences, work for themselves, and transform Main Street economics. It's incredibly important to celebrate and lift up those entrepreneurs."
 
Comes now the State of New York with a leading-edge initiative that is most likely to spread to other states, and hopefully, Washington State will be at the forefront.
A bill called the "encore entrepreneur,", proposed by Sen. Rachel May, a Syracuse Democrat would establish training and education programs across the state to allow older citizens to more easily open and operate their own businesses. It's been approved by both houses of the legislature and is awaiting signature.
 
"What we're seeing in New York and around the country is that, more and more, there are people over the age of 50 turning to entrepreneurship," said the lawmaker's chief aide. "We need to understand that, while New York's population is getting a lot older, it doesn't have to be a problem. We need to see it as an opportunity. And one opportunity is the potential for encore entrepreneurs."
 
Supporters of the legislation say it will establish a more robust system that would allow the state to better incorporate older citizens into the economy.
 
As key supporters note, "many older people have significant work experience, deep networks of contacts and are typically placed in the low-risk lending category."
 
But many seniors often lack direct knowledge of starting and growing their own business or maybe intimidated to work in an incubator space surrounded by dozens of millennials decades younger.
 
My first reaction to that was that as WeWork, with its the soaring success, has changed the way people think about work and office spaces and Seattle-based Riveter has created a model for co-working space for women, some entrepreneur will soon come up with a plan for co-working space for seniors.
 
The New York plan could lead to something like dedicated educational and mentorship programs directed towards seniors within a business incubator, or it could be a dedicated space for just seniors to work in.
 
"No state to date has done much to explicitly support senior encore entrepreneurship," he said. "One of the reasons that we felt a piece of legislation was important is to nudge the state into taking more of an active role," said the New York lawmaker's aide.
 
At my retirement party, as I left Puget Sound Business Journal's publisher role in April of 2006, the late Herb Bridge said to me: "I can't envision you being retired, Mike."
 
"Herb," I replied, "there are various ways to retire. It's like if your tires are getting in need of a change, you drive into Costco to get a new set of treads and you emerge re-tired and ready for another trip."
 
I figure an increasing number of those like me, including a number of friends reaching 70s and beyond, will find themselves looking to re-tire for a new trip and that a growing number of support services, including from states and dedicated workspace, will emerge to help fuel the trips.
 
My friend and venture capitalist John Fluke Jr. has a message for senior entrepreneurs that relates to not trying to fly alone and reminds those hoping to find investors for their businesses that most of the investors that seniors might hope to attract are likely to also be seniors, well into their 60s or beyond.
 
Fluke is chairman of Fluke Venture Partners and chairman of Athira, the regenerative-medicine biotech that is attracting national attention to its human trials on a drug to regrow brain cells and in which he and I were fortunate enough to be the first two investors (at dramatically different amounts!),
 
He says his interest in investing in an entrepreneur company has more to do with the team being assembled than in the age or gender of the entrepreneur.
 
A lone entrepreneur is going to be less interesting than one who has begun to assemble a team, Fluke said. "There's a reason why a commercial jetliner always has two pilots."

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Is the Age of Google over? Discovery Institute summit to explore 'disruption and convergence'

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Seattle's Discovery Institute is planning what it's billing as a national technology summit in Bellevue in late October with some of the nation's most noted experts in areas from technology to economics on hand for an event with the compelling goal "to explore the impacts of the coming technology disruption and convergence."  

And it may be that while the topics for the October 23-25 event range from artificial intelligence, blockchain, crypto, and international political impacts, the best draw may be the discussion of "life beyond Google."

The summit gathering is called COSM, which Discovery Institute president Steve Buri explains is not an acronym but means the world and stands for what organizers tout as the era of emerging and converging technologies.

Tom AlbergTom AlbergThe event, which will be held at the Bellevue Westin, is the brainchild of George Gilder. Discovery Institute co-founder and noted lecturer and author who is described as "a peerless visionary of technology and culture." 

He was, among many things for which he is prominent, a proponent of supply-side economics in the early '80s, particularly through his best-selling Wealth and Poverty in 1981.

With the increasing controversy about Google, its social media pervasiveness and the growing concern about the security of personal information, there are likely to be more than a few attendees eager to learn more, including from Gilder whose Life After Google: The Fall of Big Data and the Rise of the Blockchain Economy may key discussion.

The Age of Google, built on big data and machine intelligence, has been an amazing time. But conference speakers are among those who say it's coming to an end.

In Life after Google, Gilder explains why Silicon Valley is suffering what he refers to as a nervous breakdown over what lies ahead and what to expect as the post-Google age dawns.

And Gilder won't be the only guest speaker challenging Google's supremacy. Peter Thiel, founder of PayPal and one of the most successful and controversial venture capitalists, has a problem with Google.

In an opinion piece for The New York Times, Thiel accused Google of being unpatriotic for operating an artificial intelligence lab in China while simultaneously developing artificial intelligence for the Pentagon. Thiel has been prominent in his criticism of Google in recent years and at a July speech at the National Conservatism conference, he called the research "treasonous."  

In addition to Gilder and Thiel, speakers include Steve Forbes, Ken Fisher, inventor, and futurist Ray Kurzweil and venture capitalist Tim Draper, a major proponent of Bitcoin and decentralization.

The conference is targeted toward anyone seeking to peek into the future of technology, including corporate senior executives from CEOs to CIOs, investors, researchers, and technologists.

The summit is being co-sponsored by Seattle-based Madrona Venture Group, whose founder, Tom Alberg, will serve as co-chair as well as moderator of a panel on alternative vehicles, called "Will Pilots and Drivers Soon Be Obsolete?"

This is a topic of particular relevance to the Seattle area as Bellevue pursues a strategy focused on an eventual 23,000 autonomous vehicles with autonomous vans as their primary transportation role. Meanwhile, Seattle's $68 billion Sound Transit light rail system could face a challenge from driverless cars in its effort to attract rail supporters.

Steve BuriSteve Buri"Technology and Science are ever-present in our lives, actually more obvious than they have been in previous decades given the phone in our pocket and constant news flow that raises questions about where it is all going," said Alberg. "COSM will bring together people from different backgrounds and points of view to talk about the impact of science and technology on culture.  These are the conversations we have around the dinner table and Seattle has experts in so many of these areas."

"Rather than being focused on specific areas of technology - we are going to take a broad look at the big themes that will continue to have an impact for decades to come," Alberg added.    

An interesting focus at the conference will be on cryptocurrencies, including a first-day panel on the question: "Can crypto reverse the tech decline (and enable an internet renaissance)?"

As Gilder puts it: The future lies with the "cryptocosm" - the new architecture of the blockchain and its derivatives. Enabling cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and ether, NEO and Hashgraph, it will provide the Internet a secure global payments system, ending the aggregate-and-advertise Age of Google."

"Silicon Valley, long dominated by a few giants, faces a 'great unbundling,' which will disperse computer power and commerce and transform the economy and the Internet," he added.

Or how about this discussion point from Gilder: "The crisis is not just economic. Even as advances in artificial intelligence induce delusions of omnipotence and transcendence, Silicon Valley has pretty much given up on security. The Internet firewalls supposedly protecting all those passwords and personal information have proved hopelessly permeable."

That discussion alone strikes me worth the price of admission to an event that Buri said Discovery Institute hope will become an annual summit event. Meanwhile, it is looking for other sponsors for this first event.

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Mrs. Washington has an agenda for mothers and challenged kids

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Neelam Chahlia's path to her selection as Mrs. Washington America began with a pregnancy crisis when doctors said her unborn son had a hole in his heart and advised that she terminate the pregnancy. Her husband told her she should listen to what the doctors said, to which she replied: "No, I am listening to what my heart says."

She not only carried her son, Dax, now a healthy youngster who turns 4 next week and has begun to play soccer, to full term but was moved to launch a group aimed at helping other mothers to recover both physically and emotionally from the stresses of pregnancy.

neelam chahlia mrs washingotnNeelam Chahlia
Mrs. Washington
For Chahlia, who was born and raised in a small town in India and educated there through her master's degree and Ph.D., the experience of pregnancy that by the third trimester had her bedridden and virtually unable to walk caused her to be determined to recover and become "the best version of myself."


And she says that her recovery process "awakened a passion in me to help other mothers. I want all women to know there is strength in motherhood."

It was that conviction and learning that Mrs. Washington could provide a platform for her, that prompted her to enter the pageant, although knowing that no first-time entrant had ever won.
   
"I was sending my resume to almost everyone in hopes of getting back to work," she explained. "One of my former co-workers and a good friend suggested joining the Mrs. Washington America organization, where I could make more connections, improve communication skills as well as continue with my community work."

"So, once my son joined preschool, I decided to apply for Mrs. Washington America," she said.

But the 39-year-old mother of two (her daughter, Zoey, is 8) did win the title in Olympia in June and is now preparing for the Mrs. America 2020 pageant in Las Vegas later in August.

As Mrs. Washington, Chahlia says she wants to raise awareness about drug abuse among young people through the Victoria Siegel Foundation and save children's lives through UNICEF in addition to her focus on aiding women recovering from problem pregnancies.

Chahlia came to the U.S. in 2008 after getting her Master's in zoology with a focus on human genetics and her doctorate in biological sciences and became a citizen three years ago.

She says she worked hard to become a scientist and an engineer but never dreamed of being a beauty queen.  

Although she says "it's not really a beauty pageant since the mission of Mrs. America is making a difference," as in she now gets to go around the state to talk about my issues." But she explains she is seeking to raise money because candidates who raise the most are automatically moved to the semi-finals. Her goal is $20,000 and has gained $3,400, including a sponsorship from the Pro Sports Club in Redmond.

But Chahlia is waging another campaign in addition to her one on behalf of mothers coming back from difficult pregnancies.

Chahlia, who says she has been trying for nearly a year to return to work, says she understands the challenges faced by working women in getting back to work after pregnancy or other personal needs. So she wants to work with the major corporations in Washington to establish strong returnship programs.  

She is seeking to help create a "returnship program," noting that"It is exceptionally 
hard for women to get back into the workforce after taking time off to care for a sick child or an aging parent," she said. "Instead of getting rewarded for their sacrifice, they are penalized for helping the ones in need."   

So she says she is working with state Sen. Manka Dhingra.on a tax incentive bill for corporations that provide returnship programs.

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Katrina Eileen touts shared housing as a wish-fulfilling step for at-risk youth homelessness

Like pearls on a string, those focused on doing good tend to connect and attach themselves and spawn new ideas for expanding the sphere of socially committed citizens. And Katrina Eileen Romatowski is convinced that the pearls are those from her real estate industry as well as their investors whose commitments to at-risk young people could address homelessness in unique ways.

Katrina Eileen RomatowskiKatrina Eileen RomatowskiRomatowski is a Seattle real estate agent who is creating Level Up as a non-profit that will provide what she describes as a "real home" for at-risk and foster youths who have aged out of the system. She thinks that the concept of shared housing can be a key to solutions for homelessness and that the real estate community and real estate investors are specially equipped to guide that part of the solution.

"Nonprofits providing group homes or halfway houses don't understand the business and real estate side, so they lack the tools to focus on housing," she said. "It's inexcusable that we in the industry have been silent too long on the role we can play in creating a model of structures and scale up to address homelessness."

She touts her firm, Katrina Eileen Real Estate, as the first "B Corp" in her industry in the state, meaning a for-profit business that includes positive impact on society, workers and the environment in addition to profit as legally defined goals. Forming as a B Corp (sometimes referred to as benefit corporations) allows her to focus the company on community good, not just profits.

Level Up aims to create "vibrant homes for foster kids who are in their senior year of high school and have thus aged out of the system but who can live well and finish well," says Romatowski as she guides final steps to welcome the first 10 students who will move into the first Level Up home in Edmonds by mid-August. She intends that others will follow the first house in King and Pierce County.

Romatowski's desire to provide a wish-fulfillment of home and family for young people just reaching adulthood without families, whether foster kids, orphans or homeless, guided her to the vision for Level Up and led to befriending "Wish Man" Frank Shankwitz, the creator and one of the founders of Make a Wish Foundation, a supporter.

Shankwitz, who created Make a Wish 29 years ago and whose life is featured in the movie, "Wish Man," that was released last month, is to be on hand to cut the ribbon for the Edmonds first Level Up home July 27.

And Shankwitz, who will be the featured guest at the Columbia Tower Club's "On The Shoulders of Giants" breakfast interview series that morning to share his story, is hoping to follow the shared-housing model in getting involved with services for veterans.

Shankwitz noted in a conversation we had discussing the breakfast interview forthcoming that he got a star on the Las Vegas Walk of Fame this summer between Elvis Presley and Bobby Darin. He said he's been on a plane to somewhere probably every other week promoting his book, the movie or giving speeches. Forbes Magazine has honored him as one of the 10 top keynoters. When he's not traveling, he's at home in Prescott, AZ.

It's a well-known story but one not familiar to everyone how Shankwitz, as one of the primary officers from the Arizona Highway Patrol responsible for granting the wish of a seven-year-old boy named Chris, dying of leukemia, who wanted most of all to be a police officer. In the spring of 1980, the boy was named the first and only honorary Arizona Highway Patrol officer, an honor that came complete with a custom made uniform and badge.

A few days later, Chris died. But he received a full police escort to the cemetery in Illinois where he was buried. His brief life became the inspiration for the creation of the foundation that would let children "Make a Wish."

Frank ShankwitzFrank ShankwitzRomatowski is quick to point out that the inspiration for Level Up, which involves several investors from the real estate industry, came from what she characterizes as "the miracle" of Kate's House Foundation, created by Frank and Sherri Candelario to provide safe and affordable housing for those homeless and in recovery.

The Candelarios, also real estate investors, boast having founded "a new model of shared housing to help end homelessness in the U.S.," noting their approach is identifying, buying and rehabbing homes in "superior neighborhoods to provide a lifeline for people in recovery."

"We're helping real estate investors around the country acquire homes to end homelessness and addiction in their own cities," says Frank Candelario. "We have great homes in great neighborhoods, utilizing tech-enabled all digital sober living. We use the latest in technology: computerized drug testing, smart technology for monitoring, data collection to assure that we are assisting in recovery and a highly skilled hands-on staff."

Romatowsi says the Candelarios urged her and her husband, Richard, the company COO, to use their shared-housing approach to aid talented kids moving from foster homes and orphan situations to adulthood.

Meaning rather than dealing with recovery issues, Romatowski, and her husband plan to build places where "go-getters go get," kids who, when it comes to graduation and launching into what's next, "we want them to finish and finish well," she says.

"Level Up Seattle provides these young adults with a warm community in a beautiful home where they attend school, take turns making meals and attend life-skills classes," she adds. "We also provide career development and mentorships with business and trade professionals, but importantly, we empower them so they can lift themselves up to their next level."

As Angie Christensen, Level Up executive director, put it: "We want to select motivated young adults within these vulnerable populations and equip them to achieve their personal, educational and professional goals, creating their own safety net for perhaps the first time in their lives."  

Christensen estimates that Level Up, which is seeking donations now, will need about $225,000 "to launch the model and build the scalable infrastructure." 

With the creator of the Make a Wish Foundation along with the shared-housing solution to homelessness that's been launched by the Candelarios, and now Katrina Eileen's firm and non-profit, the way may indeed be being paved to providing national tools to fight homelessness, from at-risk youth to veterans.

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Perot impacted two prominent lives in the sports world of WA

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H. Ross Perot had a dramatic and lasting impact on the lives of two Washington residents, one a high school coach who became nationally known for his work with disabled athletes and later physically and emotionally disabled veterans and the other a young man born without hands or feet who became the world's most famous Paralympics runner.

Perot, the billionaire philanthropist turned politician who carried a third-party candidacy into the presidential battles of 1992 and 1996, died of Leukemia Tuesday in Dallas at the age of 89.

Bryan HoddleBryan Hoddle"I've cried three times in my life, and one was when I learned Tuesday of Ross Perot's death," said Bryan Hoddle, who was a high school track and field coach at North Thurston High School when Perot-supported paralympic sprinter Tony Volpentest reached out to him. "That's how much Ross meant to me and how his death touched me."

The story of the relationship between Hoddle and Volpentest after they were brought together by Perot is a remarkable story of caring, not only on the part of the coach but perhaps more surprisingly, on the part of the hard-nosed business leader who twice sought to be president of the United States.

The relationship between the coach and the athlete began as a series of links that came about by accident, or maybe fate, when in 1994 Hoddle's wife, Sherri, saw a television program on Tony Volpentest, a young disabled sprinter who had won three gold medals in the 1992 Paralympics in Barcelona.

Volpentest, born without hands or feet, took some time off after the '92 Paralympics and before he could compete again he faced the problem that officials had decided his prosthetic leg was too long and provided an unfair advantage and would have to be shortened.

Hoddle recalled that after his wife saw the television program, he had reached out to Volpentest, who lived north of Seattle, "so we met and formed a friendship."

"When Tony decided to train for the 1996 Paralympics, he called me and we talked about how it could work for me to coach him and help get a new, shorter prosthetic leg," said Hoddle, noting that "Ross Perot had taken Tony as a cause and agreed to provide for all his expenses.

"When Tony talked to Perot about me coaching him, Perot agreed to pay me to be Tony's coach, and we started training in the fall of 1995. Perot was wonderful to my family and me."

At the '96 Paralympics in Athens, under Hoddle's coaching, Volpentest bested his 1992 record 100 meters time by half a second and shaved two seconds off his 200 meter record time, winning the Gold medal in both.  

When I interviewed with Hoddle soon after we first became friends a couple of years ago, he showed me several videos of his training work with Volpentest back prior to those '96 games and one showed the two men, each lying on a hotel bed talking face to face.

"What were you two talking about?" I asked.

"I was telling Tony that I knew he was going to win the gold medals in his events and that a lot of handicapped kids were going to want his autograph," said Hoddle. "So I told him 'you will stay until every kid who wants you autograph has the chance to get one.'"

ABC did a special feature on Volpentest as he stayed after his victories and, as Hoddle had instructed him, signed every autograph of those who wanted one, many of them disabled youngsters. The signings went on for more than 90 minutes.

The Volpentest experience led Hoddle to work with athletes with disabilities, including Marion Shirley, an amputee Hoddle convinced to try sprinting who then went on to win the 100 meters in the 2000 Paralympics as well as the 2004 games in Athens for which Hoddle had been chosen to be the head coach of the U.S. team.  

Just after returning from Athens, Hoddle got a call from an organization called Disabled Sports USA, asking him to come back to Walter Reed Army Medical Center to do a running clinic for injured soldiers. That set him on his current course. He made three more trips to Walter Reed then began doing running clinics at Lakeshore Foundation in Birmingham, AL, which became a continuing commitment as Hoddle has made nearly 20 trips there.

Those who know the Hoddle-Volpentest story may be forgiven for considering it to be one of the most significant coach-athlete stories in sports, a relationship that has continued to today with Hoddle now living in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler and Volpentest five miles away in Gilbert, AZ, where he works for Charles Schwab.

"Tony and I talked on the phone last night about Perot, and I reminded him 'if it wasn't for you wanting to have me coach you and Perot hiring me for you we wouldn't have had the money to adopt our second child.'"

As it turned out, said Hoddle, the money Perot paid for the Volpentest coaching covered about but $100 of the cost for Steven. 

Hoddle recalls visiting Perot in the presidential box at the '96 Paralympics in Atlanta and "he took Steven and carried him around the box and the stadium."

Hoddle is convinced that it was because of the attention Volpentest brought to the Paralympics that it has become the second-largest sporting event in the world, And that was with credit to Perot for making it possible without a lot of personal attention.

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Reporter pursues answers over illegal immigrant crimes

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The most interesting news story in the state right now relates to the politically charged issue of Sanctuary protection for illegal immigrants against the backdrop of a heinous crime committed in Seattle by one illegal and the fact elected officials, particularly the sanctuary supporters, are avoiding media efforts to get answers about the incident.

Brandi KruseBrandi KruseActually, the effort to get answers to the rape of a wheelchair-bound woman in front of her three-year-old by an illegal from Mexico is an effort by one journalist, though she is quick to point out "it's not one reporter but a team working on this together at our station."

KCPQ-TV commentator Brandi Kruse is the leader of a one-media campaign to get a response to questions from officials ranging from Gov. Jay Insley to King County Executive Dow Constantine.

Looking sternly at, or maybe through the camera at the silent elected officials, Kruse suggested to viewers in one broadcast: "those with such fierce support for sanctuary laws would certainly be willing to defend those laws. Not so much. Not so much."

But while Kruse is troubled by the lack of answers, actually the lack of responses other than minimal from representatives of the elected officials, what's equally troubling to me as a journalist is that local media, ranging from the Seattle Times to the region's broadcast outlets, are shying away from coverage of the issue. It's not clear whether they are seeking to avoid red-flagging at least one aspect of the sanctuary issue or whether they don't want to be latecomers to a cause to which a competitor has given significant voice.

Kruse is no young reporter trying to make a name for herself with an issue that could embarrass elected officials.

Rather she brings a list of awards to her regular role as host of "The Divide," a Q-13 Sunday morning commentary that looks for common ground on issues dividing Americans, not a bad goal in an era when divisions have become gaping wounds on the body politic.

Kruse is a nine-time Edward R Murrow Award recipient for excellence in journalism and a four-time Emmy nominee for her work covering veterans, the opioid epidemic, and the effort to reform Seattle's police department.

What she has been pressing elected officials for are answers on how do the sanctuary policies they have proudly put in place allow illegals like 35-year Francisco Carranza-Ramirez to be protected by the system. Ramirez, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, was convicted of raping a White Center handicapped woman, got off with an incredible nine-month sentence that included time already served then tracked his victim down, pushing her out of her wheelchair and strangling and beating her in front of her young son.

Inslee made sure, as he hits the road on the extended role in the Democratic presidential sweepstakes, that he will get plaudits for ensuring, by a decree issued in May, that his state is one of a handful of sanctuary states.

How appropriate if he got a question from a reporter on the campaign trail along the lines of whether he had included any safeguards for his state's citizens against any criminal element among those illegal immigrants, then site the Ramirez case.  

Turns out the King County Superior Court judge who imposed the sentence said she was prohibited by law from asking Ramirez about his immigration status, a comment that may or may not be accurate.

Now Ramirez is home in Mexico and Kruse has been advised by a spokesperson for the court that there are warrants out for him through which he could be extradited back to this state to face more severe charges on the second rape (I could say alleged because he hasn't been tried but let's give the handicapped woman the courtesy of belief).

So the email Kruse got back from the court spokesperson should follow Inslee on the campaign trail, since he refuses to personally address the question at home. Although after some prodding, his staff recently said they would look into the situation.

The county has felony warrants out for the rapist, but it is unknown if he will be extradited. Kruse wanted to speak with the judge, Nicole Gaines Phelps, to ask about the likelihood of extradition. This is the response she received from the court's communications director, as she outlined on her Q13 show, The Divide.

"He does have warrants out, but we probably won't be exercising the extradition process," said the spokesperson, then closed the email with a winky face emoji.

"That's how our judge's spokesperson responded - a winky face emoji?" Kruse questioned. "A winky face emoji was used to help explain why they won't extradite a convicted rapist who was in the country illegally and allegedly attacked someone?

As Kruse questioned in her commentary: "Could the law be written in such a way that it doesn't provide sanctuary for criminals?"

"Like how dare you fail to give answers," she pressed elected officials. "Get thicker skin. Get the courage to defend what you believe in."
The entries she has gotten on her Facebook page by the dozens indicate broad agreement with her effort to get answers. Too bad other local media don't care to enter the hunt for answers.

Of course, there have been expressions of anger from sanctuary supporters who think it unfair to questions sanctuary policy that makes it difficult to determine where criminals may be hiding among the illegal immigrants.

Perhaps it's appropriate to focus on this issue as we celebrate the nation's birthday, honoring the date in 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was signed since it seems like the appropriate time to celebrate the American dream framed by that declaration, as well as give thought to who gets to dream it.

As I wrote last July 4th in a column that upset some of my conservative friends, as this one will irritate some of my liberal friends, two things made me think of that. The first was a feature from Geekwire, the Seattle-based technology news site, focusing on the American Dream that guided immigrant entrepreneurs and tech leaders to this country and success. The second was a poem written by an immigrant fifth grader in San Diego about a conversation between "The Wall and Lady Liberty."

The Geekwire interviews had the tech execs explaining why they chose the U.S. as a place to build their lives, families, and dreams and thus were able to fulfill their American dream and became highly successful.  

The second was having a chance to read the poem by Guadalupe Chavez after a prominent immigration-attorney friend of mine in San Diego, Kimberley Robidoux, who is a judge in an essay event for immigrant fifth graders from around the nation, told me about the contest and the San Diego youngster who took second in the nation.

Robidoux, a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association's San Diego Chapter and a judge in the Celebrate America Creative Writing Contest, explained to me that the contest challenges fifth graders across the country to reflect on and write about the theme "Why I Am Glad America Is a Nation of Immigrants."

It was my quoting Guadalupe's essay conversation in which Lady Liberty is questioning the wall about why it needed to be there that upset some of my conservative friends. My reaction was "let a fifth grader have the freedom to ponder being glad America is a nation of immigrants."

Certainly, there are children among the illegal immigrants, as with legal immigrant kids like Guadalupe, who have a right to dream the American Dream that it might sometime come to pass for them. 

But my reaction to my liberal friends who may find offense at this column, which is sure to happen to those in Seattle, is: "If you create and believe in the concept of sanctuary, have the courage to defend your actions when the flaws emerge. Have the courage to insist on fixing the flaws in the face of hostility from your friends who find themselves locked into politics over substance.

Except people like Governor Inslee and King County Executive Dow Constantine disappoint by being leaders of the politics-over-substance crowd.

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Mike Kunath, 'a true Renaissance Man,' remembered, as is his table

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S. Michael (Mike) Kunath, who died in his sleep early Saturday after a nearly two-year battle with cancer will be remembered for his successful financial guidance of some of the region's most prominent business people, his active support of charitable causes and his nurture of entrepreneurs.  
 
But for many who knew him, their memories will start with his table at the Fairmont Hotel where plans for most of his business, charitable and community involvements took shape and were vetted by those gathered there.

Kunath was a fan of this column and once hired me to help him create his own blog. And he often said to me: "You should write a column about this table." So here it is, Mike: a column about the table, and the unforgettable guy who held court there for nearly a quarter century through ownership of two hotels.
 
It was always an interesting group gathered over wine at his oval table just outside the bar at the Fairmont, whether they were there for important business discussions or merely someone wandering through the hotel lobby and invited to sit down. All looked on as any newcomer was advised by Kunath, leaning to his side in his chair, in earlier years, puffing on his corncob pipe: "tell us who you are and why you are here."
 
But first briefly about his background before reflection and recollections on the man his 46-year friend and co-investor in various businesses and charitable events, Brendan O'Farrell, referred to as "a true Renaissance Man for All Seasons."
 
Kunath was the son of a diplomat and spent his growing up years being educated in various places in the world before attending the University of San Francisco as well as Seattle University from which he graduated, then got his MBA. After time as a financial advisor, he became a founding partner and principal at Kunath, Karren, Rinne and Atkin, LLC in Seattle.
 
One of the most interesting ideas to spring from the Kunath-table discussions was one of the last. It was the suit he filed in July of 2017, a few months before his cancer emerged, challenging the Seattle City Council's plan to impose an income tax on Seattle residents.
 
Kunath, known as a political moderate, was incensed at a City Council that openly, and proudly, touted the measure before cheering supporters as an effort to "tax the rich." For days, his anger at a council that had departed so far from the moderate council members and mayors of old was on display to all who visited the table. Then came the lawsuit idea.
 
Filing suit against the tax was discussed and framed in table discussions for a couple of weeks, with it being important to Kunath that his suit is the first filed (eventually two other suits were filed against the City) because he was typically certain his arguments would be more persuasive before the court.  
 
Juarez Kunath BledsoeJuarez, Kunath, BledsoeKunath's suit was filed by his attorney, Matt Davis, minutes after then-Mayor Ed Murray signed the tax into law following City Council passage. By lottery, it was the suit first destined to be heard before King County Superior Court Judge John R. Ruhl in November, but the City Council decided to withdraw the income tax plan before Judge Ruhl could hear the case and rule on it.
 
While the suit over the city income tax was the most visible, it wasn't the most impactful of Kunath's involvements. The ones that likely fit that description of "impactful" came in the '80s.


First was the effort to turn the small leukemia support event called Celebrity Waiter into something significant.
 
His longtime friend, Mike Bledsoe, recalled in a conversation after Kunath's death, how he, Kunath and their mutual friend Gene Juarez, who was also a client of Kunath's, stepped in to turn the $12,000 fundraising lunch into what became the most successful Celebrity Waiters event in the country at about $500,000.
 
"We felt we could improve on the total amount raised and have a darn good time doing it," Bledsoe said. "The more zany things we could think up, the faster the event grew."
 
"I remember Kunath convincing me to travel with him to Vancouver B.C. a few years ago to convince a group of locals there that they should create, with our help, a sister group to the Seattle Celebrity Waiters group so we could have someone to compete with," Bledsoe added.
 
It was the same threesome of Kunath, Bledsoe, and Juarez who helped fulfill the dream of the founding of Heritage College on the Yakima Indian Reservation in Toppenish by Dr. Kathleen Ross, a Catholic nun of the Holy Names order.
 
Ross planned to launch a fully accredited four year College, Heritage College, in an abandoned old Schoolhouse with the dream of bringing quality education to the Native-American students in the region.
 
"It looked like a long shot to us and so it was too big of an idea to ignore." And thus with business advice and arm-twisting of contacts for a financial contribution, coupled with Ross' vision, what has emerged in Toppenish is Heritage University. It was the Hispanic youths who have come in large numbers to Heritage, which now has branch campuses at two-year colleges in the Tri=Cities and Yakima.  
 
Back to Kunath's table, which always sported a "reserved" sign throughout the day and which was, since Kunath always picked up the tab for wine there, a significant source of revenue for the hotel.  
 
Kunath and I were the same age, our birthdays a day apart so we inevitably found time for a toast to the fact we were still here and life had been good to us the previous year. But there was no toast to our 79th this past April. 
 
Kunath OFarrell HatchKunath, OFarrell, HatchAmong the most regular of attendees at the table, always serving as both table humorist and key Kunath advisor, was Ken Hatch, the retired 30-year chairman and CEO of KIRO Inc, who died in November of 2017.
 
An example that far more than wine was shared there was the comment from his longtime friend John Oppenheimer, founder and CEO of Columbia Hospitality, the Seattle-based hospitality management and consulting company.
 
"Kunath's table at The Fairmont was such a great place for all kinds of introductions," Oppenheimer recalled. "We met our Senior VP of Marketing, who has been with us for the last 10 years, thanks to Mike's table."
 
There was a time when conversations at tables cross the city shaped the future of the region, like the one on which a napkin drawing of a space needle provided a step toward what became Century 21, the Seattle World's Fair. And many of those conversations were at the same hotel, but more likely back in the day when it was the Olympic Hotel.
 
There likely will be a final gathering at, or more likely in the room surrounding the table. And Bledsoe predicts attendees will take turns sitting in the chair at the head of the table, sipping a glass of wine and leaning forward while looking at the crowd with a Kunath grin.

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