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Tracy Wood's pluck and luck keyed her success as UPI Vietnam reporter

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For Tracy Wood, pluck and luck defined the process by which she convinced United Press International to send her to Vietnam in 1972 as one of the wire service's correspondents.  
And those characteristics, plus tenacity and skill, helped her become one of the most admired reporters during the final chapter of that war.
 
I had planned to write about her, as well as two other one-time UPI colleagues, Joe Galloway, and the late Ray Herndon, in reflective columns as we near the 45th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, that brought the Vietnam War to a close.
 
No such celebration of the 45th anniversary is likely during these virus-focused times.  
 
And instead of writing about Tracy in reflection, I'm writing of Tracy in memory because she died of cancer on March 12 at her home in Fullerton, CA at the age of 76.
 
I did several columns on Tracy in recent years after we became friends a decade ago as I made periodic business-related trips to Orange County, where she was an editor of Voice of OC, a respected on-line news service, following her years with the LA Times post-UPI.  
 
We had known of each other back then because we were both UPI state capital, political reporters, at the time, she in Sacramento and I in Olympia,  
 
The columns came about after I learned of Tracy being the only reporter on hand for the first North Vietnam prisoner release in 1973 that included John McCain, and of the book in which she partnered with eight other women correspondents to write of their Vietnam experiences.
 
Wood was in her mid-20s in the Sacramento bureau, when she decided she wanted to go to Vietnam but knew she would first have to get to UPI's headquarters in New where her lobbying would be closer to the decisionmakers.
 
Her immediate boss on the UPI cables desk in New York didn't think women should cover wars. But Wood had the good fortune to work for UPI, whose top editors Roger Tatarian and  H. L. Stevenson believed in the ability of women to report just as well as men, and dispatched several high-visibility female correspondents to the war zone. Then it was Wood's turn.
 
The column on her reflections of covering the release of McCain and 102 others from the Hanoi Hilton in March of 1973 came about when I called her after McCain's death in August of 2018.
 
Tracy said that when she learned of McCain's death, she was "really sad. That guy went through so damned much and the remarkable thing is he seemed to learn from each setback and become better for it."
 
She recalled that she had been in Vietnam less than a year when word came that McCain, who had been imprisoned under constant torture for five years, and the others would be released two months after the agreement between the U.S. and North Vietnamese to end the war.
 
Wood made up her mind that she would be in Hanoi for the release of the POWs at a time when every reporter was trying to find a way to get to Hanoi. She first tried to set up a press pool (meaning a group of reporters sharing resources) flying into Hanoi from the Philippines.  
 
But as she remembered during our phone conversation, "Nixon himself vetoed any press pool plan, apparently because he didn't want any of the   prisoners photographed and have the photos sent back to this country."
 
"So that meant that I had to try a different way," she said.
 
Thus with that mix of pluck and luck, Wood decided to just ask the North Vietnamese directly for permission to be in Hanoi for the release. And they gave her permission.
 
Then how to get there, since there was no way for her to merely hop a flight from Saigon. She decided to take commercial flights from Saigon to Bangkok, Thailand, then to Vientiane, Laos, where she caught the Aeroflot flight that was the only commercial connection to Hanoi.
 
She explained with a laugh that the photo she sent of her arrival in Hanoi dressed in a miniskirt (that I included in that column and here) was because she had dressed for commercial travel rather than for the usual military lift into battle zones in jungle fatigues.
 
Wood recalled that she "got to stand very close" as the POWs were walked through the iron gates at Ly Nam Prison to the plane for their flight to Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines, but she wasn't able to talk to McCain or any of the others. She noticed that McCain, 36, his hair graying, limped noticeably as he and the other prisoners walked along a wall from the prison to their waiting flight.
 
Wood made two other trips to Hanoi after the one in which McCain was freed, as the POW's were released in stages in 1973.
 
"On the final trip, we had to rent a plane," she recalled. "CBS was so sure the North Vietnamese would give Walter Cronkite a visa that they tied up every available plane from Hong Kong south, but in the end, Cronkite and the CBS crew had to go on my visa, along with the others in the pool and we all used Cronkite's plane.
 
"I was afraid he would be furious but he was incredibly nice and told he I was just doing my job," she added. "Remember, he was a war correspondent for United Press in World War II. Really classy guy."
   
Wood, who spent years as an investigative reporter for the Los Angeles times after leaving UPI in 1975, and at the time of her death was an  editor for the Voice of OC, which bills itself as "Orange County's non-profit, non-partisan newsroom."
 
Of the book, Tracy recalled for another column that she and Kate Webb, perhaps the most prominent of UPI women correspondents, who died of cancer in 2007, have chapters in "War Torn, Stories of War From the Women Reporters Who Covered Vietnam."
 
It's a book whose contents are touted as "nine women who made journalism history talk candidly about their profession in deeply personal experiences as young reporters who lived, worked and loved surrounded by war."
 
Last time Tracy and I connected was by email in September of 2018 when I had to apologize for canceling our planned dinner because my flight to OC had been canceled.
 
"I was really looking forward to connecting, but life doesn't always turn out the best way," I wrote. I didn't make it to OC again.
 
That's a close whose sharing left me with a sad sense of loss that seems almost too relevant given circumstances today.

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Boeing board faces questions - What lies ahead? How about coming home?

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Were it not for the trauma the coronavirus is visiting on this region, the travails of Boeing's effort to restore the lost luster that made it the model for corporate success and community treasure would likely be the subject of negative conversation wherever community leaders gather.
 
Now David Calhoun, new to the Boeing CEO role but a decade on the board during which the crises within the company were being spawned with no sense the board saw anything to question now-ousted CEO Dennis Muilenburg about, is seeking to right the ship.
 
As if to prove that the board had no sense of anything amiss until the two 737 Max crashes and the challenges that have dogged the company since then, Calhoun admitted, in an interview two months after he took the reins, that things inside the company were worse than he had thought.
 
"It's more than I imagine it would be, honestly," Calhoun said, adding "it speaks to the weakness of our leadership," an indictment aimed at ousted CEO Muilenberg.  

But there are some who would suggest it might logically apply to the board. Part of a board's responsibility, after all, is being accountable to the public for the quality of services and goods delivered.
 
It's quite likely that the congressional report that scored "a culture of concealment" and "grossly insufficient oversight" was referring to more than the executives who ran the company.
 
I recall when I first heard that Boeing charged its airline customers an additional amount for installing devices that would ensure greater safety of its products, my first thought was "the board needs to determine if that's true and, if it is, simply say 'don't do that anymore."
 
But some will protest, "boards don't do that!" Tell me about it.
 
So if you haven't, it's worth looking at the board whose job it is to protect the traveling public and the customers who fly them, no less a responsibility than overseeing shareholder profits.
 
It's definitely a board that could compete admirably with other boards in "the fame game."
 
First, there is (The) Caroline Kennedy, who most recently served as ambassador to Japan, and former South Carolina governor and U.N. representative Nikki Haley.
 
The board has military star power. Adm. John Richardson was appointed to the board last year after completing a four-year term as Chief of Naval Operations, and Adm. Edmund Giambastiani Jr. former vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff and former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, is completing a decade on the board.

Board chair is Lawrence Kellner, former chairman and CEO of Continental Airlines, who has been on the board since 2011

Other board members were company chairman and CEOs, Robert Bradway at Amgen, Arthur Collins Jr. at Medtroni, Ron Williams at Aetna and Ed Liddy at Allstate president and CEO, as Lynn Good at Duke Energy and Mike S. Zafirovski, at Nortel. Susan Schwab.  
 
Professor at the University of Maryland school of public policy and the former US. Trade representative, named last year fills out the board.
 
All seem capable of more innovative action than just to name one of their own as CEO.

The fact is, the Boeing that was created in Seattle in 1916 by William Boeing and grew to become one of the most successful and admired companies in America hasn't been the same since it moved to Chicago a week before 9-11. Bean counters, represented by Harry Stonecipher who as president and CEO of McDonnell Douglas orchestrated the merger of the two companies and replaced ousted Phil Condit, took control of Boeing in 2003.

In fairness, a defense-department procurement scandal that eventually led to Condit's resignation, among other embarrassments to the company, began when Boeing was still a Seattle-based company and only exploded after the move to Chicago.

Hard to know whether the culture might have continued in Chicago if Alan Mulally, then president of Boeing Commercial, where the airplanes were made, had been named Boing CEO, which he had expected when Condit was replaced. So instead he went to Ford two years later and worked his engineering-leadership magic for a car company.

Nevertheless, what would be the reaction if that Boeing board decided on a dramatic move to prove the board members wanted a different culture and opted to return the company to its Seattle roots?

The culture shifted when the years passed with the corporate executives 2,000 miles distant from the place where the culture of Boeing's largest unit, commercial airplanes, was nurtured or diminished.

Given the corporate presence that has emerged here in the past two decades, not only in homegrown companies like Microsoft, Amazon and Expedia but expansions here by the likes of Google, a move home by Boeing could not only carry shareholder logic. It could also send a message to customers, lawmakers and employees about the desire to restore the culture and integrity that seems to have waned.

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Bud Krogh's lessons from the fall of a president

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Egil (Bud) Krogh took personal responsibility for the fall of a president and ever after cautioned against the "meltdown of personal integrity" that can accompany excessive loyalty to a president and the power of the office. Thus some with an ironic sense of history may evidence a thoughtful pause at the word that Krogh died quietly last Saturday at the age of 80, two days after the commencement of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.
 
The disgraced presidency of Richard Nixon is the stuff of history books. But for Bud Krogh, the memories that remained vivid for the rest of his life were of condemnation and redemption for the role he played and the belief that the events that led to the fall of the president need be kept ever in mind by both presidents and those who work for them.
 
Egil Bud KroghEgil (Bud) KroghWhat follows is taken from a column I did on Krogh, with whom I became friends as the 40th anniversary of the 1968 campaign that brought Nixon to the presidency came about. And I did several interviews with him before various Seattle audiences.

Krogh, who had just passed the bar in 1968 after graduating from law school at the University of Washington, actually didn't have a part in Nixon's campaign. Instead, being left to run the Seattle law practice of John Ehrlichman, the prominent Seattle attorney who helped engineer Nixon's eventual general-election victory in 1968.    
 
But after the election, Krogh was asked to join the White House team as personal attorney to the president and staff assistant to Ehrlichman, who was one of the handful of men who basically ran the White House and thus the country until Watergate brought them all down.

The many books on Nixon and Watergate detail how Krogh, who was caught up in the scandal, was named by Ehrlichman to guide the "Special Investigations Unit" that came to be known as "the plumbers," whose charge was to stop the leaks to the media after the New York Times published the Pentagon Papers.

That led to the break-in at the office of the psychiatrist of Daniel Ellsberg, whose release of the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times had helped create a siege mentality in the Nixon White House. Krogh's role eventually led to a prison sentence after he pled guilty to criminal conspiracy for engineering the break-in. 
 
Krogh recalled in our conversations and interviews how after Nixon's resignation, his path of reconciliation involved a visit with Fielding to apologize to him for Krogh's unacceptable violation of the rights of "a genuinely decent human being."

And Krogh and Ellsberg became friends, with Ellsburg writing the forward comments for Krogh's book.

Then followed a visit with Nixon in California in which Krogh recalls basically saying: "Mr. President. I apologize to you because everything that's happened was really my fault."    
I asked Krogh over lunch in 2008 if he and Ehrlichman, who also went to prison for his part in the events, had ever had the opportunity to talk through what had gone wrong. "John and I had several opportunities to visit after we were in prison, about what happened and why," he said. "We concluded that so many of the mistakes were due to our not grasping how off-base Nixon was in his demand for results that used illegal means."

Loyalty to 'the man' was the over-arching requirement for service on that staff." And it is the flaw of misguided loyalty that Krogh has remained ever convinced that presidents and their staff members must be vigilant to avoid. That commitment included his caution about "reliance on hazy, loose notions about 'national security' and 'commander in chief' and what such notions can be tortured into meaning."

Krogh left Seattle and his law practice in 2011 to join the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress as a Senior Fellow on Leadership, Ethics, and Integrity.

We last talked in 2012 as I caught up with him by phone as he was en route to a Pennsylvania speaking engagement. The time was near the anniversary of Watergate and I asked him if the book was still successful. "It's selling better now than at the beginning," he replied. "The issue of government integrity seems more relevant to people today."

By then his personal focus had become zeroing in on the School for Ethics and Global Leadership, which attracts high school students, and it was in that environment of sharing his philosophy with young people that he honed his Integrity Zone concept.

The concept of the Integrity Zone was based on a couple of fundamental considerations. The first is to challenge the process of thinking that precedes decisions, basically: "have I thought through all the implications?" while the second part is ethical considerations: "Is it right? Is this decision in alignment with basic values like fairness and respect?"

"We never asked any of those questions in the Nixon White House," Krogh told me. "And most of what we see in Congress today fails those tests. Instead, we see a focus on loyalty and fealty to party. You simply can't check your integrity at the door."

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PART 2 - A Decade of the most memorable Harps

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(This is the second of two articles in which I am offering readers of The Harp a reprise of the stories from the past decade that were most memorable to me, some of which got little in the way of broad visibility but all of which got repeated visibility here for reasons that will become obvious.)


The story that was my personal favorite was actually several Harps relating to my friend Joseph L. (Joe) Galloway, one of the best-known correspondents of the Vietnam War, who has been on the road much of the past decade doing interviews with veterans of that conflict to preserve their memories.

The interviews by Galloway have been part of the 50th Anniversary Vietnam War Commemoration to honor those who fought in that war but were never thanked when they returned to a divided nation.
 
Galloway's travels to do the interviews, mostly about two hours in length and which he told me now number about 400, embody his commitment to producing the "the body of material for future generations who want to know what this war was all about."  
 
The formal launch of the 50th Anniversary Vietnam War Commemoration was on Memorial Day of 2012 and since 2013 Joseph L. (Joe) Galloway, one of the best-known correspondents of that war, has been on the road doing interviews with veterans of that conflict to preserve their memories.

Galloway, a reporter assigned by United Press International to cover the war, was selected by the Defense Department unit charged with administering the program to do the interviews to preserve for future generations.

Galloway, decorated for battlefield heroism at the Battle of Ia Drang in November of 1965 where he was the only correspondent and joked to me that he turned in his camera and took a machine gun, spent a week doing interviews in Seattle in the spring of 2015. I had urged him to come to Seattle for a round of interviews and found KCPQ TV willing to make its studios available for his interviews. He returned to Seattle for another round of interviews two years later.

I've written several columns on Galloway and his Vietnam interviews, partly because we were UPI colleagues (he in war zones and I as a political writer and later a Pacific Coast executive for the company). But in a broader sense because of a fascination with his perspectives on the war in articles and speeches, and the import of the battle in the Ia Drang Valley that Galloway and the late Gen. Hal Moore, then a lieutenant colonel in command of the U.S. Army forces in that battle, made famous in their book and a subsequent movie.

The battle became the subject of Galloway's and Moore's book, "We Were Soldiers Once...and Young," and the resulting movie, "We Were Soldiers," as well as a second book, "We are Still Soldiers... A Journey Back to the Battlefields of Vietnam" when the two returned to the battlefield years late.

In an earlier column, I quoted Galloway about his time on the battlefield, particularly at Ia Drang: "The men I met and the time we spent together fighting for one another was a life-changing experience that transcends the bonds of friendship and brotherhood."

During one of our interviews, Galloway said of the Vietnam veterans: "They are not bitter but I am bitter in their behalf. It makes me angry that those who came to hate the war came to hate the warriors who were their sons and daughters."


It was seven years ago that I first learned of and wrote about the then decade-old commitment by Bellevue business leader and philanthropist Joan Wallace to the mostly Hispanic children in the Yakima Valley community of Granger that changed their lives and the life of their community.  

Wallace listened over Thanksgiving dinner in 2003 while Janet Wheaton, her sister in law and 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.
Joan Wallace

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 kids 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 had 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."

"Friends of Granger will go back to the community to be run by a committee of teachers and community leaders," Wallace wrote.


My first column on Shabana Khan came when in 2015 when she was struggling to raise sponsor money to put on the Men's World Squash Championship at Meydenbauer Center as the first time ever for the event in the United States and I was asked to help her. I wrote a Harp then because I was intrigued about the sport and her efforts and other Harps followed as I watched her progress.

The men's world event turned out to be a success, attracting attention in all countries where squash is prominent, and within a couple of years, the 51-year-old former national women's squash champion had grown to become nationally and actually globally prominent as the queen of the promoters of the sport of squash.

That growing recognition for her efforts has come as a result of a few giant steps while to her frustration and the frustration of a few key supporters, her local visibility has come in small steps, including virtually no local media visibility.
 
Her late father, Yusuf Khan, brought the sport of squash to Seattle from his native India a half-century ago and, as one of the world's top squash professionals, proceeded to bring Seattle to the attention of the national and international squash establishments. Yusuf, who died in October of 2018 at 87, saw his two daughters become women' national champions, with Shabana beating her sister to claim the national title in 2001.

She put on a squash event last August that was the first of its kind in the country as she created a world invitational squash tournament that attracted the world's top squash talent, six men and six women and was pleased to have the event sponsors name the event after her late father.

The invitational event held at the Hidden Valley Boys & Girls Club in Bellevue was named "PMI Dave Cutler Presents the Yusuf Khan Invitational."

The "PMI Dave Cutler" portion of the title is for the two men, both internationally known in their respective professions, who have become the financial support for YSK Events, the little non-profit through which Khan carries out her squash events.

One is Dave Cutler of Microsoft, universally acclaimed as the key technical brain behind the Microsoft Windows NT and all the subsequent Windows versions. A decade ago he was recognized as a National Medal of Technology and Innovation laureate, perhaps the most prestigious honor in the country for developers of new technology.

The other is Robert Harris, founder, and CEO of PMI-Worldwide, a Seattle-based brand, and product-marketing company with offices in seven cities around the world whose corporate philanthropy has only recently begun to be recognized.

The two have come to team up for a $150,000 donation that for the past several years has allowed Khan to put up the prize money, which this year will total $300,000.

Among her important innovations for the sport has been her National College Showcase for nationally ranked students, 16 men and 16 women, aged 15 to 18, playing before coaches of the top schools where squash is a scholarship sport.  
 
Part of Khan's stated goal is bringing an awareness of squash to young people of all backgrounds rather than merely the children of the squash affluent, whose demographics are men and women, both players and fans, with median incomes of more than $300,000.
It seems that eventually, Khan's efforts on behalf of a sport that has begun growing in this country at a rate third fastest in the world will pay off with attention and support in this region, including sponsorships dollars.


It needs to be noted that when I refer to virtually no local visibility for several of the Harp topics I feature in this decade-ending reprise, I have to single out KCPQ13 television for the manner in which the station picked up on the Harps.

The station's VP and general manager Pam Pearson and her staff seized on the opportunity to provide support for Joe Galloway's veteran interviews and news coverage through his week of conducting interviews. And the station stepped up to be a sponsor of the Innovations in Education event for Joan Wallace and Granger involves. And they did an excellent interview with Art Harrigan that must have made other stations mutter "where the hell were we?"

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A Decade of the most memorable Harps

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Few journalistic tasks could be more subjectively challenging than that undertaken by various media entities as the old year faded into a new decade and they chose the best or most important news stories of that decade past. Thus came revisiting of the education funding battle, the various clashes over Sound Transit, the drama of Amazon's quest for a second headquarters, Boeing's travails and ventures into the absurdity of the Seattle City Council's machinations. But for me the challenge was easier: choose from a decade of Harps the stories most memorable to me, some of which got little in the way of broad visibility. These are not my most personal Harps like my daughter's selection for the Oregon Supreme Court, my involvement with the rise of the young biotech company, Athira, from being its first outside investor to watching its move toward national Alzheimer's treatment visibility, or my almost yearly opportunities to compete in the World Senior Games. But ones with broad impact that deserved more recognition.


The story that may have been the most impactful on the Seattle area in several ways was about Seattle attorney Arthur Harrigan, Jr., who had key legal roles in saving two of Seattle's professional sports franchises.

Harrigan's low-visibility legal maneuvers forced absentee owners Jeff Smulyan of the Seattle Mariners and five years later Ken Behring of the Seattle Seahawks to be pressed into allowing time for local buyers to be found rather than being permitted to move the teams.

The legal confrontations with the owners of the two professional sports teams came about because Art Harrigan's law firm, now Harrigan Leyh, long represented King County on its legal issues. And the owners of both the Mariners and Seahawks came into conflict with the county because they sought to abandon the county-owned Kingdome and their leases there.

Because the Mariners' decision occurred in arbitration session rather than court battles, there was no media visibility for Harrigan's victory that required Smulyan to not only allow an opportunity to find a local buyer but had the arbitrator set a "local value" $35 million below market value for the franchise. No visibility, that is, until Harrigan shared the stories with me nearly four years ago (search Flynn's Harp: Art Harrigan).

And five years after the Mariners were saved, a series of Harrigan legal maneuvers that ended up before the State Supreme Court and eventually NFL owners, left enough uncertainty about Behring's likely ability to move the Seahawks to LA that he sold the team to Paul Allen.

Harrigan's arbitration victory with the Mariners allowed the high-visibility work of then Sen. Slade Gorton and John Ellis in landing Nintendo as the new lead owner to unfold and Paul Allen to emerge as Seahawks owner. But Harrigan deserves a moment of thanks as each Mariner season opens and when Seahawk fans gather for the first game of the year.


The story I personally found most memorable was the quest of Washington State University, President Elson Floyd, to convince a legislature that was initially reluctant to give him a hearing, to create a medical school at WSU.

Getting the 2015 Legislature to approve the creation of a new medical school at WSU, despite bitter opposition from the University of Washington and its powerful lobbying influence, was the crowning achievement of Floyd's eight years as WSU president.

It only later became known, as his battle for his medical school was being won through the tireless effort of hours of testimony before legislative committees and engaging lawmakers in one-on-one meetings, that he was waging another battle.

Floyd apparently learned early in that 2015 session that he had colon cancer, which before long he learned would likely be terminal. But he fought with equal determination for the next four months against his cancer, a battle he would lose, and for his medical school, a battle he won.

He died on June 20, 15 days before Gov. Jay Inslee signed the bill containing the first $2.5 million to launch what would soon be named The Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, which would be located in Spokane and grow to serve communities in all parts of the state.

As a member of the national advisory board for what is now the Carson College of Business, I had the opportunity to get to know Floyd from soon after his arrival and was stuck, as many others were, with his focus on his conviction about what he viewed as the job-creating mission of higher education.

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

Thus he transformed WSU's role as Washington's land grant university into something far broader. He stood at the national forefront of college leaders in understanding that the role of universities in economic development was destined to become the issue it has become in most states.

And the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, in August of 2017, welcomed its first 60 students to its Spokane campus.


What I describe as the most interesting business-sports story of the decade was the decision by two of the icons of the cellular-wireless era to bring their mutual love of baseball to develop alongside their affection for their wireless business.
John Stanton and Mikal Thomsen were in their 20s when they teamed up in the early '80s at McCaw Cellular to become part of the birthing of a fledgling communications technology whose growth globally they helped guide through several major companies over the next 20 years. Stanton was actually second in command at McCaw.


Now in their early 60s, both have parlayed their business success into owning and guiding professional baseball teams, a commitment both might well agree is a passion that rivals their business activities. Stanton is the majority owner of the Mariners and Thomsen majority owner of the Tacoma Rainiers, making them an anomaly in all of professional baseball since the Rainiers are the Triple-A franchise for the Mariners.  

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

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

That baseball tie began, in fact, with the Walla Walla team in 2010 when Stanton, an alum of Whitman College, where he served as member and chair of Board of Trustees, called Thomsen and advised that he wanted him to join the ownership group Stanton was forming.
 
Thomsen returned the favor in 2011 when he advised Stanton that he was fulfilling his boyhood dream of owning his hometown Tacoma Rainiers team and wanted Stanton and his wife Theresa Gillespie, to join the ownership team.
 
In both Thomsen's and Stanton's cases, their love of baseball stems from childhood memories.
 
Thomsen once told me that the opportunity to create the ownership team that bought the Rainiers was like his "dream come true." He would be owning his hometown team that he had grown up rooting for from the time his dad took him to his first game at age three. That was the year that the then-Tacoma Giants returned after a 55-year absence.
 
Stanton also recalls attending the games of his hometown team with his father. That was in 1969 when, as a teenager, he became a fan of the Seattle Pilots in their first and only year of existence and recalls crying when they left town for Milwaukee.
 
So now Stanton, who took the title of Mariners CEO for a time after the ownership group he led bought out Nintendo, then turned over that role to Kevin Mather, has returned to officing fulltime in Bellevue where he can wander into Thomsen's office any time to discuss either baseball or wireless.
 
(The second article in this two-part series on my most memorable stories of the decade will be sent tomorrow. They will include a Harp that's my personal favorite because it's about my friend and former colleague, Vietnam correspondent Joe Galloway and his interviews with Vietnam veterans. Then there's the most overlooked story of the decade: the amazing commitment by Bellevue businesswoman Joan Wallace to the children of Granger, and finally the story of the locally overlooked but globally successful promoter of the sport of squash, Shabana Khan)
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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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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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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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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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Trade pacts should be about economics, not politics - Frmr Congressman Bonker

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Donald Bonker, one of this state's most respected experts on international trade across the past half dozen presidential administrations, suggests that when trade agreements become more about politics than economics, the stability of economies comes to be at risk.

In focusing on the current trade crisis with China, Bonker, a former seven-term Democratic congressman from Washington's Third District, suggests that "China has a historical and long-term perspective that is lacking in America. 

Donald BonkerDonald Bonker"They have a five-year economic plan that enjoys strong support while America has presidential elections every four years, with incoming presidents often reversing the course of their predecessors," he said.

Bonker's trade credentials, both those he earned during his 14 years in Congress from 1974 to 1988 and from his involvements thereafter, have gained him broad respect in this country and abroad for his trade and foreign investment knowledge.

He was a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and chairman of the Subcommittee on International Economic Policy and Trade. Bonker served on the president's Export Council and headed former House Speaker Tip O'Neill's Trade Task Force, which led to the passage of the 1988 Omnibus Trade Act.  

I knew Bonker well when we were both in our early 30s, he as innovative auditor of Clark County, laying the groundwork for an intended but unsuccessful run for secretary of state, and I as a UPI political writer in Olympia. And later, after his first unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate, I had him write a regular trade-issues column for Puget Sound Business Journal.

In fact, I have had fun telling friends occasionally that after he left Congress, at one of our meetings, he gave me a photo of us that had been taken at a 1968 political fundraiser for Sen.Martin Durkan and that had hung on his wall during his years in Congress. After sharing the story, I then add that the reason it had hung on his wall was because of the other person in the photo, then-Sen. Birch Bayh of Indiana, one of his heroes.

Bonker, 82, travels back and forth regularly from his Bainbridge Island home to Washington, D.C., where he is an executive director and on the international advisory council of APCO Worldwide, global public affairs & strategic communications consultancy.

We hadn't visited for years when I suggested recently that we have lunch so I could learn about his newly published autobiography called Dancing to the Capitol, which begins with what the foreword describes as "a wry take on his brief stint as a dance instructor, which gives the book its title and its spirit."

The foreword, by former Los Angeles Times editor Shelby Coffey who is now vice chairman of the Nuseum, describes Bonker as "a man of faith--often struggling with being both a Democrat and a Christian," and noting that Bonker helped bring the National prayer breakfast to international prominence.

"He has been a key, if quiet, force for others of faith who contend in public life," Coffey wrote.

In fact, our luncheon discussion quickly turned from his autobiography to the issue of trade and politics. Bonker would like to see Democrats turn trade discussions away from the punitive to the progressive, meaning they should focus on building the opportunity for exports that could create jobs rather than be focused on trade barriers in the hope that approach can retain jobs.

During his tenure in Congress, Bonker authored and was a principal sponsor of significant trade legislation, the Export Trading Company Act and the Export Administration Act.

"The trade issues are very difficult for Democrats," Bonker said. "In their hearts they are global but labor has become so against trade that Democrats are left in a difficult political position."

"We should match what our competitors -- Japan, China, Germany - have been doing for years. They have ambitious government programs that give their exporters an advantage in this increasingly competitive global economy," Bonker suggested. "The U S., by comparison, is so preoccupied with limiting imports that there is little or no attention given to boosting exports. That is the real problem."
My alternative would be to export more, not import less," Bonker said.

"One example is the Export-Import Bank, which provides essential financial guarantees that allow U.S. corporations to compete with their competitors (Boeing versus Airbus)," he added.  

"This respected financial entity remains idle now, even though it does not require Federal funding," Bonker said. "Meanwhile, across America, there are about 50,000 domestic companies that are competitive but have difficulty pursuing foreign markets because the help that should be there isn't."

Bonker offered a bit of history on the political back and forth that has characterized this country's trade positions, starting with the passage in 1928 of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act that hiked tariffs, often up 100 percent, on 20,000 foreign imports.

"That prompted our allies and dozens of other countries to retaliate, causing the collapse of the world trading system that led to the Great Depression," Bonker said.

"Hoover was booted out, replaced by FDR, who championed pro-trade policies to repair the damage to international trade," he added. "Again, the political dynamic changed around the 1960s-70s, where Democrats, driven by labor unions, started to embrace protectionist policies, and Ronald Reagan arrived to champion free trade.  

"Trump's campaign rhetoric and subsequent actions are more in sync with Democrats and Bernie Sanders," Bonker added, with a jab at both. "Republicans are puzzled and frustrated.  It is contrary to their fundamental beliefs, alignment with their business support base."

As to the China trade concern, Bonker said: "whether China will retaliate to the latest round of tariff threats remains to be seen, but in long term, you don't mess with China, even if your name is Donald Trump."

Bonker, who specializes in Chinese investment in the United States, offers a criticism of both houses of Congress for their reactions to the Administration's tariff initiatives, saying"Senate Republicans remain muted and House Democrats discretely like what the President is doing, adding, "if we continue down this path of protectionism, it will be a repeat of Smoot Hawley."

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The reason that WA is unlikely to have a state capital gains tax - this session

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Disagreement between Washington's Democratic House of Representatives and the Democratic Senate over a proposed capital gains tax will likely keep the tax from being included in the state's operating budget for next biennium.

And that could be well for both those for whom the lawmakers should be seeking to provide opportunity and for the wealthy that many legislators would merely like to squeeze.

With Sunday's sine die adjournment of the 2019 Legislature's regular session looming, there appears virtually no likelihood that the two houses can resolve their differences over the most controversial piece of the tax increases they seek to impose.

There is obvious business pushback over any new taxes the lawmakers might pass in an economic environment in which state forecasts of surging new revenue already provide the lawmakers with $5.6 billion more to spend in the coming biennium without new taxes.

And the protests over a possible capital gains tax provision is the most logical for business to oppose, particularly now because of the impact an ill-thought-out version of such a tax could have on the opportunity for future job creation.

The "opportunity" I'm referring to is the Qualified Opportunity Zones created by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 with those zones basically being census tracts designated by the governors of each state where development could occur and where those putting up the funds to seize those opportunities would get capital gains reduction or deferral.

Gov. Jay Inslee, with the help of Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib, was an early and enthusiastic advocate for picking census tracts that could best serve the goal of supporting the economic opportunities and creating jobs in less well to do parts of the state. Each opportunity zone is selected from the state's census tracts.

So it would seem that if Inslee thought through what's at stake in imposing a capital gains tax now, he would be saying "don't pass that now." But some would suggest urging Inslee to "think it through" might be an issue in itself.

Over the past year, professional firms and wealth management companies have been promoting their OZ expertise to clients and prospects while states have begun to compete to lure investors to projects coming about or envisioned on their lands where the benefits of the new federal tax law could come into existence.

A key issue, beyond the fact that all states that impose a capital gains tax acknowledge that it is a tax on income and an income tax is unconstitutional in this state, is that states with a capital gains tax have moved or are moving to bring their state capital gains tax provisions into harmony with the new federal one.

Meanwhile, the IRS has been tinkering with the rules, issuing proposed changes several times in the past year and leaving uncertainty for those seeking to be early users of the tax advantage for projects ranging from hotels to manufacturing facilities.

The tax rates on capital gains range from California's 12.3 percent to North Dakota's 2.9 percent. Oregon's rate is 9.9 percent, above but similar to the 8.9 percent proposed for the Washington capital gains tax.

Most all of the states understand that failing to give a capital-gains break similar to what the federal tax law will provide is likely to put them behind the eight-ball in appealing to those seeking projects that will maximize their benefits.

And since the federal law will permit anyone anywhere owing tax on capital gains to invest those dollars in a project in any Opportunity Zone in the country, the example I share with people is the guy in Keokuk, IA, who needs to find an Opportunity Zone somewhere in which to invest his gains. He will go looking for a project he likes in Montana or Oregon or Washington, make his investment watch the tax-break dollars pile up.

If he's going to give up 10 percent of tax savings on his gain by investing a Washington zone rather than an equally interesting project in Montana, why would he do that?

Thus the importance of a state staying in the herd of states that are adding state tax breaks to the federal ones. But that takes planning and such planning isn't possible during what's left of this legislative session.

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Port of Seattle plan, Department of Commerce Spain agreement key step toward Land of OZ

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Lisa BrownLisa Brown

As states begin to compete to create the most attractive Land of OZ to lure investors and create new businesses and jobs, the state of Washington and the Port of Seattle have taken key steps in the past few weeks that could put them at the front of the pack employing the benefits of new federal tax law.
 
OZ refers to what is officially called Qualified Opportunity Zones that come about under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The QOZ provision in the legislation approved by Congress 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.
 
Virtually every major accounting or law firm or wealth management company in the country has been inviting clients and prospects to learn all about the details of what have become known simply as Opportunity Zones, or OZ.
 
And while the message in many of those explanatory sessions by professional firms has been the prospect to create funds for investment in real estate projects, funds could be particularly appropriate for energizing the prosperity of small and diverse firms that have not had access to equity capital to grow and expand.
 
And that's where the recent separate initiatives by the State Department of Commerce and the Port of Seattle come into play in a manner that gives this region a leg up in that competition among states for attracting new investment to job creation.
 
Ralph Ibarra 
The development for the state was Spain's first-ever Memorandum of Understanding with a state to promote economic cooperation to benefit trade relations and boost business opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses in both Spain and Washington State.  
 
The agreement was signed in Madrid March 1 between Lisa Brown, the new director of the state Department of Commerce, and Maria Pena Matcos, chief executive officer of the public agency attached to Spain's Ministry of Industry.
 
The Port of Seattle's initiative was issuing a "Request for Qualifications" for a $200 million renovation of 29 acres near Pioneer Square in Seattle to provide for the port's fourth cruise ship berth that would accommodate super-size cruise ships.  
 
That parcel, for which the Port is seeking a partner, is located within an Opportunity Zone that extends across the property on which T-Mobile Stadium and CenturyLink Field are located and extends into the International District.
 
The Port's Request for Qualifications intriguingly contains the sentence: "It should be noted that Terminal 46 is located within a Qualified Opportunity Zone," suggesting it intends to use the tax-break incentive in seeking to attract a wide array of businesses to develop on the site, or nearby.
 
So what kind of developments are being created in other regions with Opportunity Zone funds? A potentially appropriate example was the announcement by a Scottsdale, AZ, based wealth development company called Caliber of plans for a new hotel development at Tucson Convention Center, which is in a designated OZ.
 
For Ralph Ibarra, president of DiverseAmerica Network, the agreement with Spain and the Port's announcement represent important steps to dramatically benefit small and diverse businesses.    

Ralph IbarraTo Ibarra, a consultant to the public and private-sector corporations and institutions who has brought long-standing support of small and diverse business to his consulting activities,
the agreement with Spain and the Port's announcement represent important steps to benefit small and diverse businesses.  

He sees both developments as important steps"particularly appropriate for energizing the prosperity of small and diverse firms that have not had access to equity capital to grow and expand."

In fact, Commerce Director Brown said her immediate priorities include helping address the sustainability of infrastructure financing programs and enhancing the agency's outreach activities - especially with rural and underserved areas - to ensure communities in need can access Commerce programs and services.
 
The statement put out following the signing of the agreement noted that it 'builds on a foundation of approximately $9 billion in trade activities currently taking place between Spain and the State of Washington. It acknowledges common strengths in aerospace, information and communication technology, cybersecurity, clean energy technology, life sciences, maritime, agriculture, and other sectors, and formalizes plans to explore opportunities for Washington companies in the Spanish market and establish future opportunities for Spanish companies to create jobs in Washington."

Ibarra, who chairs the Washington District Export Council, suggests Opportunity Zones "hold great promise to accentuate and expedite beneficial outcomes" from the Agreement with opportunities for Washington companies in the Spanish market and for Spanish companies to create jobs in Washington.

Ibarra brings some awareness of the extent of potential represented by the state's agreement with Spain since some years ago he prepared and escorted an aerospace manufacturing firm from this state to various meetings with Spanish aerospace companies at a U.S.-Spain Aerospace Industry Summit.

"And now, whether its Spain or Washington State, any individual relationship that comes about is going to need some sort of facility, whether distribution or manufacturing, in place and that's where Opportunity Zones can come into play to facilitate those relationships," Ibarra said.
 
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Cuomo blasts critics who doomed Amazon deal - "...stupid or liars..."

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New York Gov Andrew Cuomo has laid to rest any doubt that the political fallout from Amazon's decision, in the face of loud but relatively small opposition, to abandon its plan to bring its HQ2 to New York will drift across the national Democratic party landscape heading toward the 2020 elections.'
 
An open letter released last Sunday on Cuomo's web page was written by New York State Budget Director Robert Mujica who basically derided those whose opposition led to Amazon's decision as either stupid or liars.
 
As Mujica ungently said of opponents of the project who claimed Amazon was getting $3 billion in government subsidies that could have been better spent on housing or transportation: "This is either a blatant untruth or fundamental ignorance of basic math by a group of elected officials."
 
Mujica, whose letter has become fodder for blog comments across the political and economic spectrums, said there were three reasons the Amazon deal fell apart.
 
"First, some labor unions attempted to exploit Amazon's New York entry. Second, some Queens politicians catered to minor but vocal local political forces in opposition to the Amazon government incentives as 'corporate welfare.' Third, in retrospect, the State and the City could have done more to communicate the facts of the project and more aggressively correct the distortions."
 
On the third point is where Mujica took opponents of the project to task for his charge of "blatant untruth or fundamental ignorance."  
 
He explained that "The city, through existing as-of-right tax credits, and the state through Excelsior Tax credits -- a program approved by the same legislators railing against it -- would provide up to $3 billion in tax relief IF Amazon created the 25,000-40,000 jobs and thus generated $27 billion in revenue."
 
The fallout from Coumo's withering criticism of Amazon critics, through Mujica's superbly crafted narrative, coupled with the emerging influence of newly elected congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, could make New York ground zero for a major rift among Democrats, and not just those in New York.
 
Those elected officials scorned by Cuomo through Mojika's commentary, included Ocasio-Cortez, who has gathered growing support from elected Democrats on the left as well as left-leaning groups around the country, particularly after she promised that candidates like her will be on the ballot in an array of locations next election.
 
I looked through a variety of political and economic blogs about the Amazon debacle and found several that made compelling reading.

But the one that I found most compelling, though politically partisan, was from an economics blog called Marginal Revolution done by a couple of economics professors at Gorge Mason University in Virginia.
 
"I can only think that this is some sort of cognitive dissonance that prevents people of a certain politics slant from mentally processing words that go against a deeply held stereotype," wrote the prof, Alex Tabarrok. "Amazon is big. Bezos is rich. Obviously then the state gave them unique benefits. That's the only message that the left wing brain is neurologically capable of hearing, even though, in this case, it is the opposite of what happened."
 
His comment made me think his "certain political slant" likely fits both political fringes and it was then I realized it's been exactly a decade since the modern-day Tea Party came into existence, in either February or April of 2009, depending on which event its fans took to be the launch.
 
There obviously isn't going to be a liberal Tea Party, even if "neurological incapacity" can be found far out on either fringe. But what's happening in New York in the Amazon aftermath makes it clear there could be a mirror image of the Tea Party with the mirror folks shouting "yes, taxes!" in reply to the "no on taxes!" Or "more government" to"no government."
 
That's the "balance" of equally potent fringes which, even if each appeals to about 15 percent of their parties, will be reflected in pressures on the middle as the next election nears.
 
And because the liberal "Tea Party" mirror is coming about a decade on from the original, it will be affecting political positions more than in the past for Democrats. And thus it will be interesting to see how the positions of Washington State's two presidential wanna be's, Gov. Jay Inslee among the Democrat hopefuls and Starbucks' Howard Schultz as an independent, might change.

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Amazon/New York - Are the days of corporate incentives or breaks coming to an end?

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Watching the free-for-all of analysis and commentary over Amazon's misadventure romance with New York City, we're talking about the company now, now its CEO, over a second headquarters made me think of my senior-sprinter friend and author Steve Robbins. Although he is acknowledged as the most prolific author of management textbooks, he may now have an outline for one he's never written.
 
I'm referring to Amazon's unprecedented suddenly announced decision that it was no longer planning to build a second headquarters in a section of New York City's Queens neighborhood of Long Island City.  
 
I say suddenly announced because no one can be certain that Amazon's decision to turn away from New York was as quickly made as the announcement might suggest. Like the world third's richest company may have begun to have a change of heart soon after its early November announcement that unexpectedly there would another "second headquarters", adding Northern Virginia in the announcement that New York was the pick.
 
Is it possible Amazon execs hadn't thought things through about New York until Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York Mayor Bill de Blassio pointed out, as they welcomed the company, that New York is a union town? That fact had assumedly already been digested by a company that doesn't go for union organizing.
 
The business fallout from this may simmer for a time but will likely disappear. Bu the political fallout will likely continue for New Yorkers into the next general election and maybe beyond.

Meaning from a business sense, Amazon will likely be able to go on as if nothing happened. As a former top Amazon executive told me, "the world is a very big place. If one doesn't want us, others will."
 
But politically, the rift between the New York Democratic party power structure and the newly emerging powerhouse of left-wing forces, some elected and some not elected, will echo down the coming months.
 
I called my roommate from college days at Marquette, who retired after fashioning a prominent New York legal career, to ask him his thoughts.
 
"A lot of the politicians who were against the Amazon deal didn't represent the district so they had no skin in the game and Governor Cuomo is outraged at the politicians who had no constituent reason to get involved but screwed it up," he said.
 
"Regarding the idea that unions opposed Amazon, a non-union giant, coming to New York: that doesn't make sense," he said. "The municipal employees union was very opposed because they feared the multi-billion dollar package the city had put together for Amazon would come out of their salaries and future raises.
 
"But a majority of the unions are upset that Amazon walked away. Do you think any of the construction-related unions weren't excited about what the future held for them?"
 
The Amazon-New York situation represents the conundrum that areas seeking to attract new business face. If a city or state don't offer the incentives, they are often out of consideration.  If they do play the game, they are open to public pressure to back off.
 
A longtime business leader in this state, when I asked about that conundrum, told me he thinks the days of corporate incentives or breaks are coming to an end.
 
"This movement among millennials to the left is going to reset the political system, including things like corporate incentives," he said.
"The selection process was, in my judgment the height of corporate arrogance in a time when the tide is going the other way," added my business-leader friend.
 
"The variables which help strengthen public support for a company's actions are the goodwill a company builds in the community and the public support they build," he added. "Boeing has been a master at that, something they learned after the 1972 cutbacks from the demise of the SST."
 
So back to Steve Robbins and his management textbooks. I haven't seen Robbins, who moved from Seattle to Cleveland a few years ago and turned 76 last month, for a decade but was caused to recall his leaving me far behind in various 100-meter races in masters and senior games events. But fortunately, I got to talk with him after or over coffee about both writing and running.
 
I'd love to get hold of him now to get his view of the management aspects or lack thereof, that might have been in evidence in the non-dramatic drama of Amazon's decision.
 
I flipped through his nearly three dozen titles, of which he has sold 10 million copies and that have been translated into 20 languages, to see if any of the titles, all available on Amazon, might suggest he's already been there in the discussions and lessons in his management textbooks.
 
Robbins' books focus on conflict, power, organizational politics and interpersonal skills. Which of those were in evidence or absent, and to what extent, would make interesting cocktail lounge or boardroom, discussion.
 
I was intrigued at the title of one of Robbins' books: "Divide and Conquer: The ultimate guide for improving your decision making."
 
It occurred to me that the way Amazon left the New York political scene in taters definitely demonstrated an ability to divide, as was also evidenced in the embarrassing snafu of the Seattle City Council and its aborted head tax.
 
I'll leave the "conquer" to those cocktail lounge conversations.

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WA legislature and Congress in crosshairs over consumer privacy

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Lawmakers in both Washingtons are in the consumer-privacy crosshairs amid a growing awareness, and thus anger, of how little people are able to keep private about themselves.  
 
While both the Washington Legislature and Congress are deliberating bills the lawmakers hope can be crafted to satisfy both tech giants and consumers, there is an increasingly uncomfortable sense among legislators at both the state and federal levels that they had better not rile consumers further on the privacy issue.
 
And interestingly, part of the script for how this struggle between the tech industry and individuals over privacy plays out may be written in Washington state, either with the legislative tax hammer that is almost uniquely available in this state or by an emerging Bellevue company that hopes to take the privacy issue out of the hands of the tech giants.  
 
The tax tool is the state's business and occupation tax, a use tax on gross receipts rather than profits, which can and has been imposed in a punitive manner. The business start-up company is Helm, which has created a relatively inexpensive device, about the size of a router, that lets consumers send and receive emails from their own domain. More on both the b&o and Helm later.
 
At the federal level, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is proposing sweeping new legislation that would empower consumers to control their personal information, create radical transparency into how corporations use and share their data, and impose harsh fines, even prison terms for executives at corporations that misuse Americans' data.
 
As Wyden has put it: "Today's economy is a giant vacuum for your personal information - Everything you read, everywhere you go, everything you buy and everyone you talk to is sucked up in a corporation's database. But individual Americans know far too little about how their data is collected, how it's used and how it's shared,"  
 
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said he expects the state legislature to address privacy in the upcoming session, saying he has begun discussions with tech leaders in the state "about a privacy policy that is consistent with innovation and also consistent with fundamental rights of privacy." And Inslee expressed confidence about getting a policy, probably in this session, that will be pleasing to innovators and consumers."
 
"Pleasing" to the big tech companies like Facebook, Google and hometown Amazon is an almost amusing word for a governor to use when "acceptable" to the tech giants is the best that is likely to happen with any state legislation that constrains the manner in which personal information is being collected and used.
 
That's particularly true with citizen pressure on lawmakers here and in other states after California's Assembly and Senate overwhelmingly passed a far-reaching piece of legislation called the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA). The measure largely mirrors protections offered to European citizens under the recently implemented General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), is likely to drastically change the ways that American companies store and trade in consumer information for Californians.
 
The law allows Californians to ask firms collecting and selling data: what do you collect, why and with whom do you share it? And it allows California residents to opt out of the sale of their data and to request deletion of their data.
 
And in addition to Wyden's zeal on behalf of privacy, the passage of CCPA is spurring the tech industry to seek Congressional action on something they could at least reluctantly accept to avoid what they are protesting as a possible "patchwork approach to privacy policy" if each state enacts its own version.
 
So in the event Washington lawmakers approve legislation that makes its citizens happy about new state protections for privacy, and then Congress approves a law that offers dramatically less protection that supersedes what states like California, and Washington, have put in place, how can this state preserve the protections it will have given its citizens.?
 
A suggestion, borne or my political-writing background: The state, led by its Democrat Atty. Gen. Bob Ferguson, could put in place a privacy policy that companies would be told they must comply with or a special B&O tax rate of some compelling amount, maybe even 25 percent, will apply to those firms not honoring our privacy policy.  
 
Would Ferguson have the courage to confront major tech companies either located here, like Amazon or having a significant presence here like Google and Facebook? Given the fact that he'd like to be Inslee successor as governor and that his key role is first and foremost "preserving the rights of the individual," he could fatally impact his political hopes if he failed to follow the public demands on this issue. And in fact, if he failed to take a protective step demanded by citizens, they could use the initiative process to create a special b&o tax rate themselves.
 
This wouldn't be a law, since the federal government if Congress passes a privacy act, would likely have pre-empted states passing laws governing privacy. But legislation imposing a different b&o tax and the significantly higher rate has a long tradition protected by decisions of the Washington State Supreme Court.
 
Would what I am talking about be legal blackmail? Consider that there are almost three dozen B&O classifications with rates often unexplainable, like parimutuel wagering having a rate of .0013 and gambling contests of chance, .015. The latter, incidentally, is the rate for "service and other activities," which includes professional firms like attorneys as well as consultants-the rate I pay.
 
And how law firms came to be taxed at the highest rate is instructive for how lawmakers in Washington can use the b&o. In the 1993 session, lawmakers sought to extend the sales tax to the legal profession but the attorneys brought their lobbyists to the fray and successfully defeated the effort. Presto, came the highest b&o tax suddenly applying to attorneys, just about tripling their tax.
 
I once asked the late Gov, Mike Lowry if that came about as punishment by a Democratic governor (him) and Democratic legislature and he let out one of his classic shoulder bouncing laughs.
 
When I discussed the privacy issue with Bellevue-based research analyst Jim Hebert, he noted that Congress has been through a major privacy-invasion crisis and solution before. He was referring to the reforms in consumer credit law to combat excesses of the credit agencies.  
 
"The agencies collected information on you, kept it and sold it to banks and others, with statistics disclosing that 40 percent of the information was wrong and no one knew it," Hebert said.  
 
The outcome was legislation enacted requiring that all such data the credit agencies collect is now turned over to a third-party organization that polices the data's accuracy and makes it available to consumers.
 
"Credit bureaus weren't put out of business or even really damaged by the corrective legislation," Hebert noted.
 
So back to Helm, the Bellevue company that was the idea of  Giri Sreenivas and Dirk Sigurdson, two entrepreneurs who had sold a security startup and raised a $4 million seed round from top venture capital firms last year.
 
"Right now, nearly all of the data that comprises your online life is stored in a massive data center," Sreenivas wrote in a blog he posted. "You don't own it. You can't see it, you can't touch it - and you don't know who can. That dream of a device that would make data 'ownable' to the individual - not a stranger - is what led to Helm."
 
Their device connects to a home network and pairs with a mobile app that lets users create their own domain name, passwords, and recovery keys. Helm supports standard protocols and works with regular email clients such as Outlook or the Mail app, with encryption protecting the connection between the device and the apps.
 
A key challenge for privacy champions is the apparent uncertainty about the extent to which younger generations will care enough to get into the fray as opponents of the big tech data collectors, although a recent survey I saw said there's growing disillusionment among people in their twenties and thirties surrounding social media.
 
But in a comment that leaders of the privacy battle would find disappointing, one of the millennials in the survey was quoted as saying "I feel like our generation has been raised to not be so worried about online privacy because it just feels like there is no alternative. Ultimately I do value privacy in theory, but it feels like it's a cost of participating in society. Not just online."

-0-

An amusing post-script to last week's column
 
An email from a Russian friend provides a post-script to last week's column in which I suggested the formation of a business that, for a fee, could crowd the fringe in congressional or legislative races, helping ensure the re-election of moderates of either party.
 
Natalia Blokhina, who helps guide a Moscow-based fund management company that invests in U.S. companies, as well as companies elsewhere, sent me an email saying it was an interesting column.
 
Because I sought to help introduce Natalia to companies in which her fund might invest, I emailed her back asking if her fund might be interested in being an investor if the idea of a Save Our Middle LLC took hold.
 
"It would be interesting to tell people we have Russian investors in our company," I joked to her.
 
"We wouldn't want to be involved in a political company," she replied quite seriously.
 
You can search the column I did about Natalia at Flynn's Harp: Natalia Blokhina.

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WA legislature and Congress in crosshairs over consumer privacy

privacy_banner

Lawmakers in both Washingtons are in the consumer-privacy crosshairs amid a growing awareness, and thus anger, of how little people are able to keep private about themselves.  
 
While both the Washington Legislature and Congress are deliberating bills the lawmakers hope can be crafted to satisfy both tech giants and consumers, there is an increasingly uncomfortable sense among legislators at both the state and federal levels that they had better not rile consumers further on the privacy issue.
 
And interestingly, part of the script for how this struggle between the tech industry and individuals over privacy plays out may be written in Washington state, either with the legislative tax hammer that is almost uniquely available in this state or by an emerging Bellevue company that hopes to take the privacy issue out of the hands of the tech giants.  
 
The tax tool is the state's business and occupation tax, a use tax on gross receipts rather than profits, which can and has been imposed in a punitive manner. The business start-up company is Helm, which has created a relatively inexpensive device, about the size of a router, that lets consumers send and receive emails from their own domain. More on both the b&o and Helm later.
 
At the federal level, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is proposing sweeping new legislation that would empower consumers to control their personal information, create radical transparency into how corporations use and share their data, and impose harsh fines, even prison terms for executives at corporations that misuse Americans' data.
 
As Wyden has put it: "Today's economy is a giant vacuum for your personal information - Everything you read, everywhere you go, everything you buy and everyone you talk to is sucked up in a corporation's database. But individual Americans know far too little about how their data is collected, how it's used and how it's shared,"  
 
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said he expects the state legislature to address privacy in the upcoming session, saying he has begun discussions with tech leaders in the state "about a privacy policy that is consistent with innovation and also consistent with fundamental rights of privacy." And Inslee expressed confidence about getting a policy, probably in this session, that will be pleasing to innovators and consumers."
 
"Pleasing" to the big tech companies like Facebook, Google and hometown Amazon is an almost amusing word for a governor to use when "acceptable" to the tech giants is the best that is likely to happen with any state legislation that constrains the manner in which personal information is being collected and used.
 
That's particularly true with citizen pressure on lawmakers here and in other states after California's Assembly and Senate overwhelmingly passed a far-reaching piece of legislation called the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA). The measure largely mirrors protections offered to European citizens under the recently implemented General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), is likely to drastically change the ways that American companies store and trade in consumer information for Californians.
 
The law allows Californians to ask firms collecting and selling data: what do you collect, why and with whom do you share it? And it allows California residents to opt out of the sale of their data and to request deletion of their data.
 
And in addition to Wyden's zeal on behalf of privacy, the passage of CCPA is spurring the tech industry to seek Congressional action on something they could at least reluctantly accept to avoid what they are protesting as a possible "patchwork approach to privacy policy" if each state enacts its own version.
 
So in the event Washington lawmakers approve legislation that makes its citizens happy about new state protections for privacy, and then Congress approves a law that offers dramatically less protection that supersedes what states like California, and Washington, have put in place, how can this state preserve the protections it will have given its citizens.?
 
A suggestion, borne or my political-writing background: The state, led by its Democrat Atty. Gen. Bob Ferguson, could put in place a privacy policy that companies would be told they must comply with or a special B&O tax rate of some compelling amount, maybe even 25 percent, will apply to those firms not honoring our privacy policy.  
 
Would Ferguson have the courage to confront major tech companies either located here, like Amazon or having a significant presence here like Google and Facebook? Given the fact that he'd like to be Inslee successor as governor and that his key role is first and foremost "preserving the rights of the individual," he could fatally impact his political hopes if he failed to follow the public demands on this issue. And in fact, if he failed to take a protective step demanded by citizens, they could use the initiative process to create a special b&o tax rate themselves.
 
This wouldn't be a law, since the federal government if Congress passes a privacy act, would likely have pre-empted states passing laws governing privacy. But legislation imposing a different b&o tax and the significantly higher rate has a long tradition protected by decisions of the Washington State Supreme Court.
 
Would what I am talking about be legal blackmail? Consider that there are almost three dozen B&O classifications with rates often unexplainable, like parimutuel wagering having a rate of .0013 and gambling contests of chance, .015. The latter, incidentally, is the rate for "service and other activities," which includes professional firms like attorneys as well as consultants-the rate I pay.
 
And how law firms came to be taxed at the highest rate is instructive for how lawmakers in Washington can use the b&o. In the 1993 session, lawmakers sought to extend the sales tax to the legal profession but the attorneys brought their lobbyists to the fray and successfully defeated the effort. Presto, came the highest b&o tax suddenly applying to attorneys, just about tripling their tax.
 
I once asked the late Gov, Mike Lowry if that came about as punishment by a Democratic governor (him) and Democratic legislature and he let out one of his classic shoulder bouncing laughs.
 
When I discussed the privacy issue with Bellevue-based research analyst Jim Hebert, he noted that Congress has been through a major privacy-invasion crisis and solution before. He was referring to the reforms in consumer credit law to combat excesses of the credit agencies.  
 
"The agencies collected information on you, kept it and sold it to banks and others, with statistics disclosing that 40 percent of the information was wrong and no one knew it," Hebert said.  
 
The outcome was legislation enacted requiring that all such data the credit agencies collect is now turned over to a third-party organization that polices the data's accuracy and makes it available to consumers.
 
"Credit bureaus weren't put out of business or even really damaged by the corrective legislation," Hebert noted.
 
So back to Helm, the Bellevue company that was the idea of  Giri Sreenivas and Dirk Sigurdson, two entrepreneurs who had sold a security startup and raised a $4 million seed round from top venture capital firms last year.
 
"Right now, nearly all of the data that comprises your online life is stored in a massive data center," Sreenivas wrote in a blog he posted. "You don't own it. You can't see it, you can't touch it - and you don't know who can. That dream of a device that would make data 'ownable' to the individual - not a stranger - is what led to Helm."
 
Their device connects to a home network and pairs with a mobile app that lets users create their own domain name, passwords, and recovery keys. Helm supports standard protocols and works with regular email clients such as Outlook or the Mail app, with encryption protecting the connection between the device and the apps.
 
A key challenge for privacy champions is the apparent uncertainty about the extent to which younger generations will care enough to get into the fray as opponents of the big tech data collectors, although a recent survey I saw said there's growing disillusionment among people in their twenties and thirties surrounding social media.
 
But in a comment that leaders of the privacy battle would find disappointing, one of the millennials in the survey was quoted as saying "I feel like our generation has been raised to not be so worried about online privacy because it just feels like there is no alternative. Ultimately I do value privacy in theory, but it feels like it's a cost of participating in society. Not just online."

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An amusing post-script to last week's column
 
An email from a Russian friend provides a post-script to last week's column in which I suggested the formation of a business that, for a fee, could crowd the fringe in congressional or legislative races, helping ensure the re-election of moderates of either party.
 
Natalia Blokhina, who helps guide a Moscow-based fund management company that invests in U.S. companies, as well as companies elsewhere, sent me an email saying it was an interesting column.
 
Because I sought to help introduce Natalia to companies in which her fund might invest, I emailed her back asking if her fund might be interested in being an investor if the idea of a Save Our Middle LLC took hold.
 
"It would be interesting to tell people we have Russian investors in our company," I joked to her.
 
"We wouldn't want to be involved in a political company," she replied quite seriously.
 
You can search the column I did about Natalia at Flynn's Harp: Natalia Blokhina.
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One-time phone company exec recalls two memorable political campaigns

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It was 50 years ago that James Elias, then a local Portland area telephone company manager, suddenly became a political giant killer when he agreed to run the U.S. Senate campaign of a popular Republican legislator and proceeded to guide the defeat of an Oregon icon known as "the tiger of the Senate."

Elias was a 33-year-old Portland district manager for the old Pacific Northwest Bell (PNB) when Robert Packwood, who had been a force in the Oregon legislature since his election in 1962, asked Elias to manage his 1968 campaign, an unlikely quest to topple one of the most respected men in the Senate, Wayne Morse.

Before continuing with the Packwood story, It's important to note the second chapter of this column is the gubernatorial campaign in Washington State four years later when Elias guided the precedent-setting re-election of Republican Dan Evans to a third term.

Ironically, both Evans' opponent in the third-term bid, former Gov. Albert D. Rosellini, and Packwood as a prominent Oregon legislator had served as consultants for Elias in speaking to PNB managers and doing some training about political issues in the two states.

But back to Packwood, whom Elias recalls wasn't even mentioned by name at first in the state's major newspaper, The Oregonian, which merely referred to him as "Morse foe."

After all, Morse was one of only two Senators who voted against the Gulf of Tonkin resolution that basically gave President Lyndon Johnson carte blanche to pursue the Vietnam War any way he wished, without again having to ask Congress. And Morse had remained one of the Senate's most vocal critics of the war.

But he had made enemies over time because of his switch of parties from Democrat, as which he was originally elected, to Independent, for which he proudly claimed for himself the role of the Senate's one-man Independent Party, and eventually to Democrat.

And in facing Packwood, he had an opponent of broad appeal. As Elias recalled: "We had thousands of young people all across the state working for what they viewed as a different sort of candidate, liberal on social and women's issues, although fiscally conservative."

"We put out position papers on any issues anyone could care about, dozens of them," Elias said. "After a while, people couldn't believe anyone was on top of so many issues."

"In the end, The Oregonian did an editorial page column saying, basically, that Packwood seemed to be 'more knowledgeable on more issues than we've ever seen,'" and they began calling him by name. Packwood kept climbing in the polls and eventually won.

Elias recalls that after Packwood's election, the new Senator wanted him to come to Washington as his administrative assistant and when he learned Elias had no interest in going to Washington, D.C., "Packwood wouldn't talk to me for six months."

Taking on the Evans third term campaign brought about one of the all-time strangest political stories when Elias hired a young Ted Bundy, who would later be found to be a serial rapist and killer of young women but was then an intelligent and personable political science student.

"I always hired 'spooks' to hang out with the competing campaign," Elias explained. "They'd pick up things the candidate said more candidly with those close to him, then I could use that information to frame questions comparing private comments with what they were saying in public."

"So Bundy was our 'spook' in the '72 campaign. He was a smart kid and I sent him to hang out in Rosellini's campaign and Al got accustomed to talking with Ted and eventually had Bundy ride along with him and talk," Elias said with a chuckle.

Elias' wife, Ann, a partner in any campaign he was involved with, did the polling research and determined that Rosellini was ahead in the polls and continued so until the two candidates debated.

"As the debate ended, the floor was opened for questions and answers and I had our people, with their prepared questions, hurry to the mike and they were the first dozen people to ask questions," Elias said. "One of them was Bundy and when Rosellini realized the kid he had trusted was actually in the Evans camp, he could only stammer and his jaw clicked in the classic 'Rosellini is upset' reaction."

It was then that Rosellini mouthed his "Danny Boy" reaction to Evans that observers said turned the campaign. Ann's polling showed that Evans climbed from that time on and he won a third term.
 
Jim and Ann Elias were stunned, as were all those who knew Bundy, when he was jailed three years later in Utah as his string of murders of young women began to unfold. 

Elias shared that Ann, his wife of 52 years, played key roles in both the Packwood and Evans campaigns.

"For Packwood, Ann managed all of the county chairmen statewide as well as all who volunteered to work in the headquarters," he said. "After Packwood was elected, he got her appointed to manage the largest 1960 census district in the country."

 "For Evans' campaign, Ann was responsible for the polling. She drew the sample of voters to interview, constructed the questionnaires and supervised the people conducting the research," Elias said.
 
Packwood served four terms in the Senate and was always in the forefront of women's issues, including being an early and ardent advocate for abortion rights and a strong supporter of the Roe vs. Wade decision of 1973.
 
 Thus it was a stunning fall from grace when the Washington Post, in 1992, published a series of articles chronicling accusations of sexual harassment against Packwood, who fought the charges. but more women came forward to make the same claims. After three years of controversy, the Senate Ethics Committee recommended his expulsion and Packwood resigned from the Senate on October 1, 1995.
 
Elias returned to his Northwest management role with the phone company, turning down opportunities to go to New York and Washington, D.C.,(again) but by the early '80s he became part of a new challenge, the breakup of AT&T and the spinoff of the local phone companies that became known as " Baby Bells."

He recalled skiing in Sun Valley when he was notified that "Mr. Smith (Andy Smith, PNB president) was sending a plane to pick him up to return to Seattle.

"Divestiture had been ordered by the Federal Court and Smith wanted Elias to handle the public relations challenge of convincing the public that "just because we were being spun out from AT&T didn't mean we were now adrift in relating to our customers."

But as AT&T sought ways to come back from the breakup, it apparently sought legislation in Congress that might have allowed it swallow its orphaned children.

Elias recalls going to Packwood to get him to kill the legislation, which he did, getting back to Elias with a comment he well remembers: "You just cut the heart out of AT&T."
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High Court ruling outlawing death penalty stirs memory of hanging

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The Washington Supreme Court's decision to strike down the death penalty as unconstitutional brought back memories of the 1963 hanging of Joseph Chester Self, which I covered for United Press International as a young reporter. It would be the last hanging in Washington State for nearly 30 years.

Last week's ruling in which the court held unanimously that the death penalty was "arbitrary and racially biased" was the fourth time that a high court has decreed that Washington's death penalty was unconstitutional, for a variety of reasons, but capital punishment was approved anew after each of the three previous occasions.

And while the court's ruling last week included the comment "death as a penalty for crime is not in itself unconstitutional," and "We leave open the possibility that the Legislature may enact a 'carefully drafted statute," the decision noted that it would be very difficult to do that in a constitutional manner.

At the time of Self's execution 55 years ago, the state didn't have a gallows in the Old West style, but rather a large room at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, a "death chamber" as it was referred to, a short walk from Death Row where those sentenced to die awaited the outcome of their appeals process. It was later, to rectify a court decision throwing out the death penalty, that a legislature made fatal injection an option for the condemned prisoners.

Only men have been executed in Washington and, interesting in light of the court's statement about the death sentence being "racially disproportionate," of the 14 who went to their deaths between and 1947 and 1993, 13 were Caucasian, including Joe Self, and one was Hispanic.

Washington's governors have routinely passed on the opportunities over the years to interfere with the death penalty being carried out, until current governor Jay Inslee imposed a moratorium on the death penalty and has now announced he would veto any effort to restore it.

Mike Lowry, who was then in his first year as Washington governor, was the last to weigh whether to permit a condemned man to hang, although two men were subsequently executed by lethal injection during Gary Locke's time as governor.

I once asked Lowry to recall that hanging and his thoughts about it. In the process of answering, he disclosed that a personal visit with the condemned man at the state penitentiary had been part of what he referred to as "the considerable time" he spent reviewing the case of Charles Rodman Campbell.

"I received delegations from opponents of capital punishment and, of course, from family and friends of the people he murdered," Lowry recalled. "In the end, I could not justify in my own mind reversing the 13-year legal process that included all the appeals that were made by his defense lawyers exercising his constitutional rights."

"One of the reasons I did not commute Mr. Campbell's sentence to life without the possibility of parole is that there was a very legitimate fear that he might try to kill a prison employee or other inmate," Lowry added.

I chuckled at the thought that Inslee might have taken Lowry's example and met with either one of the death row prisoners or members of the family of one of the victims before rendering his far-reaching decision

Lowry, who died 18 months ago, conceded during our conversation that is was possible there would be other executions in Washington State, noting: "I feel for whoever is governor at that time and I hope he or she will explore every opportunity to find a solid justification to commute the sentence to life without possibility of parole."

In fact, Campbell, who was executed for the murders of two women and the eight-year-old daughter of one of the women, all of whom had their throats slit, perfectly fitted the profile of a killer who deserved to die, for those who believe there may be a societal issue, not merely a legal issue in capital punishment discussion.

The late true-crime author Ann Rule wrote a chapter about Campbell in one of her books and described him as "a killer straight out of a nightmare." And then-Atty. Gen Christine Gregoire observed after Campbell's execution: "The death penalty is not something to be taken lightly and should be reserved for only the most heinous crimes. If anyone deserved the death penalty, it was Charles Campbell."

Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst wrote that "no penological goal" was served by capital punishment. But some would argue that capital punishment could also have a societal aspect, since academic discussions of the purposes of punishment always refer to five purposes, including retribution.

And as a friend who spent years in the prosecutor's office observed to me, "closure for the families of murder victims should be a very important consideration."

But the case of Joe Self perhaps fitted the Supreme Court's comment about the arbitrary aspect of the death penalty's imposition.
 
Self was convicted and sentenced to die for shooting a cab driver to death in a $15 robbery, the final criminal chapter in a life of otherwise petty crimes, none of which qualified as "heinous."
 
When he made the short walk from his death-row holding cell to the door of the chamber, he had long-since converted to Catholicism and he had willed his eyes to an eye bank.
 
Two other young journalists and I were among the group of about 35 people on hand for Self's hanging, by tradition just past midnight, "the first minute of the new day."
 
Self, Warden Bobbie Rhay, a Catholic priest who had become Self's regular death-row visitor, and a couple of guards entered a door to the cement balcony against the back wall of the chamber, with the witnesses looking up from below. They walked to the center of the platform and stopped as Self stood above the steel door through which he would fall to his death when the door was sprung open.
 
Rhay asked Self if he had any final words and the condemned man replied: "Ask me if I've said my prayers, warden."
 
With that, a hood was pulled over Self's head. A straightjacket pinned his arms to his body. Rhay flipped a wall switch, signaling three men in a room below the death chamber that they should each flip the switches in front of them. Only one of the switches activated the trap door, through which Self fell in a moment, his neck snapping before onlookers could even grasp what they had witnessed.
 
That only three reporters, all print journalists in their early '20s, were on hand (no radio or television news people and no seasoned reporters) to cover the execution was a commentary on the relative importance of a hanging then, though there was certainly media coverage in the weeks prior. After all, hangings occurred on average about once a year. But Self's would be the last for decades.
 
By the time 30 years after Self that another death row inmate was to be hanged, the attention was widespread and went on for weeks, and all three of us who had been at Self's execution found ourselves being interviewed by various media on "what it was like."
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An appropriate time for 'We The People' student focus on U.S. Constitution

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At a time when the U.S. Constitution has become the focal point of conversation and discussion across the nation, with an alarming amount of the discussion heatedly political, it's heartening to learn about the little-known competition among high school students across the country to create a deeper knowledge of the nation's founding document.

The program is called "We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution" with programs in all 50 states involving thousands of students in a national competition that culminates in the spring with national finals sponsored by the Center for Civic Education and conducted at the national conference center in Leesburg, VA.

The finals are designed to simulate a congressional hearing, presumably without the rancor that characterized the convention that adopted the constitution and that has been passed down through legislative bodies since then to the Congress of today.

I learned about the program from my granddaughter, Emma, then a senior at Portland's Franklin High School, a year before her mother, Oregon Supreme Court Justice Meagan Flynn, became part of an unusual lineup of coaches at Franklin. 

That team of coaches this year includes, in addition to Meagan, fellow Supreme Court Justice Rives Kistler, as well as a retired Oregon appellate court judge.

Grant and Lincoln high schools in Portland have carved out roles as perennially among the top three high schools in the nation with Grant finishing first in the national competition last year and Lincoln third.

There's little likelihood that when Grant or Lincoln teams return with their national recognition there are celebrations to congratulate the winners, or that the parents at those schools even know much about the event. Anyone aware of the importance of informed citizens in creating forms of governance would find that disappointing.

But apparently among the students at Grant and Lincoln, the old story of "success breeds success" is at work.

"They are very selective in who they pick and they have developed a strong draw to students,' Meagan said.

Washington State high schools lag far behind the performance of their Oregon counterparts. Six Washington high schools are involved in the constitution competition.

They are: Eastlake Evergreen, Heritage, Orting, Overlake, Tahoma (Tahoma frequently winds high on the list of national honorable mentions)

Students from the six Washington State High Schools participate in the We the People State Competition on the Capitol Campus in Olympia each spring.

About 40 Franklin students gather each Monday evening with 15 to 20 coaches and the high school's advanced placement teacher to go over questions and discuss aspects of the constitution.

The questions they deal with would make interesting fodder at adult gatherings if the idea of discussing the constitution in other than the occasional irrelevant conversations about getting a new one occurred to them.

As Meagan explained to me when I asked her how the evenings go, "We usually split into six individual units during the evening and help the kids work on their answers to the prepared questions or have them practice answering random questions about their topics.  In the competition rounds, they give their prepared answer and then spend six minutes fielding any questions about the topic that the judging panel wants to ask. The questions are mostly along the lines of taking a position and defend your answer with specific examples, rather than closed-ended questions."

The questions the students deal with are compelling and hopefully could prompt some of their parents to gather and say "hey, let's have a discussion about this."

Three questions gleaned from a multi-page list that the students deal with attracted my attention:

  - "How does the Constitution limit government power to protect individual rights while promoting the common good?"

  - "what arguments can you make for and against giving each state the right to send the same number of members to the Senate?

  - "If a law has been properly passed by the law-making branches of a democratic government, why should judges have the power to declare it unconstitutional? Do you agree or disagree with the position implied by this question? Why or why not?"

During the national finals, more than 1,200 students testify before a total of 72 judges, in panels of three. The judges are history, political science, law, and education professors, members of the legal community, and others with knowledge of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

According to the Center for Civic Education, "Since the inception of the We the People program in 1987, more than 28 million students and 90,000 educators have participated in the program and more than 30,000 students have participated in the national finals."

I asked Meagan what she views as the value of the program.

"It makes good citizens," she said. "Students learn about the Constitution and how it relates to current events and they learn to take information and form an opinion, based on facts."

I think we should form an adult version of "We the people."

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