Saturday, January 31, 2009

Senate Legislation to Preserve Isthmus Views to be Introduced

Olympia - January 31, 2009
Two bills will be introduced on Monday in the Washington State Senate to preserve isthmus views. Both bills are sponsored by Senators Karen Fraser (D-22), Dan Swecker (R-20), Darlene Fairley (D-32)and Ed Murray (D-43).

Senate Bill 5799 creates a state capitol campus special height district to protect views from and to the Capitol across the isthmus. The bill limits new or remodeled buildings to no more than 35 feet. This is the current limit on the isthmus prior to the rezone for which the the city is now seeking state approval.

The intent section of SB 5799 declares that "The legislature finds that the broad public vista northward from the historic capitol campus, and the public view of the state capitol from many points to the north of it, constitute a vista of statewide and national historic significance."

The other bill, SB 5800, defines the isthmus as a shoreline of statewide significance through the Shoreline Management Act "to advance the public interest and to protect public investments."

The intent section of SB 5800 declares that "The vista is an integral part of the design of the state capitol campus. The state's founders sited the capitol campus in its location principally to take advantage of this expansive vista. It is representative of much of the physical characteristics of very large areas of the state; provides a visual and physical connection between the capitol and Puget Sound; is inspirational; and promotes an appreciation of the scenic grandeur and rich natural resources of our state."

Both bills will be referred to the Senate Government Operations and Elections Committee. Senator Fairley is chair of this committee and Senator Swecker is a member.

Hearings have not yet been scheduled for the bills. In order to continue to be considered by the full legislature, the bills need to be approved by the Committee by February 25th.

To read the bills and follow their progress, go to For more information on the campaign to save the isthmus from development, contact Olympia Isthmus Park Association chair Jerry Reilly at or (360)561-4212 or Friends of the Waterfront member Bonnie Jacobs at (360) 352-1346.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Karen Veldheer announces candidacy for Olympia city council

Photo by Janine Gates
Olympia - January 26, 2009

Karen Veldheer announced her candidacy for Olympia City Council last night at a meeting of the Coalition for Neighborhood Association steering committee. Veldheer serves on the committee as a homeowner and representative of the Cooper Crest Community Neighborhood Association.

In her statement to the committee, Veldheer resigned from the committee to run for office.

Veldheer said, "Olympia is a great city and has a great wealth of community knowledge and energy. People spend a great deal of time and energy studying critical local issues and they often feel like they are not heard. This is tragedy in a city with such a rich history of public involvement. City business can and should be done better. I pledge to work to build public confidence and listen to public input."

"I will continue to work with the City to make the the necessary repairs to homes in Cooper Crest and to serve as the Cooper Crest representative to the CNA. Thank you for all of the support and I look forward to seeing you all as I begin this new phase of my life," Veldheer concluded.

Veldheer, a married mother of five and an Olympia resident since May 2005, is best known for the difficulties she has had with the builders of her home on the Westside of Olympia. Other neighbors have had similar problems and have made those problems known to current Olympia city council members.

Veldheer wrote about the plight of homeowners at Cooper Crest in an article in the September/October 2008 issue of the South Sound Green Pages. In the article, she details the failure of the stormwater management system, the use of non-native landscaping, and other promised features characteristic of a low impact development.

The article can be read at

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Gaza Teach-In Educates Olympia Community

Olympia - January 4, 2009
Gaza Invasion Teach-In at Traditions Fair Trade

Cindy Corrie, mother of Rachel Corrie, addresses a crowd of Olympians concerned about the Israeli invasion of Gaza; Steve Niva, professor of Middle East and International Studies at The Evergreen State College, Jen Marlowe, filmmaker, Sameh Matar, student from Gaza.

Over 100 people came to learn more about the Israeli invasion on the Gaza Strip on Sunday night. Sameh Matar, 16, a Palestinian exchange student attending North Thurston High School in Olympia, spoke about the news he has received from his family since the situation in Gaza has intensified this week. He has been living in Olympia since August. He spoke with his family just yesterday and is concerned for their safety.

"When I spoke with them, I could hear explosions around their house...everybody is hiding." Matar said that three or four years ago, everyone in his aunt's house was killed during an Israeli attack, killing everyone, including her husband and nine children. "The Israeli's said there was a Hamas leader there but there was nobody there...."

Speakers also included Steve Niva, professor of International and Middle East Studies with The Evergreen State College, who offered a policy analysis of the situation and Jen Marlow, filmmaker, who last visited Gaza six months ago. Marlow shared with the audience that she just realized, just moments before the evening's event began, that she had met and last seen Sami Matar at his home in Gaza when he was just nine years old. "Each time I go back, people in Gaza say how they can't imagine how things can get worse, but it always has, on each subsequent trip I take, and people speak nostalgically of how things used to be," Marlow said.

Marlow read emails she is receiving from friends in the region. One boy, Ali, is asthmatic and uses a ventilator, often run by a generator when the electricity goes out. She read another email from a ninth grader in Gaza whose friend of four years, Christine, died in the attack this week:"What if my parents can't protect me? An Israeli rocket hit my school this morning - every explosion shakes my house...depression and fear are filling our souls...I hope this war will end soon. Help us because we are all human beings...." Several in the crowd, including Sameh Matar, cried.

Cindy Corrie, mother of Olympian Rachel Corrie who was killed in the Gaza Strip five years ago, urged the audience to contact the media and legislators to voice their concerns. Corrie said that she and her husband Craig have been interviewed many times over the years by CNN, but the interviews have only been carried by CNN International and broadcast around the world, but not in the United States.

Corrie offered several avenues for action, handing out information sheets entitled, "25 Things to do to bring Peace with Justice" and "Make Your Voice Heard." detailing extensive contact information.Any checks made out to the Rachel Corrie Foundation with "Gaza" written in the memo section will be forwarded to appropriate medical and humanitarian relief agencies. For more information, contact the Corrie's at:

UFO Sighting in Olympia on Capitol Campus

Olympia - January 12, 2009

A strange UFO sighting on the Capitol Campus on the first day of the Washington State Legislative Session caught the attention of folks walking by, including Washington State Patrol Trooper Ted DeHart, who decided he better call it in....

In reality, the UFO was actually a solar car and piloted by Marcelo da Luz, a Brazilian native, who built it in 1999. Starting in Buffalo, New York, he has been on the road with it for 190 days. da Luz passed through Olympia before heading to Portland and eventually, Los Angeles. He has traveled in it to the Arctic Circle and around Alaska.

The solar car weighs only 470 pounds. Its 893 solar cells generate 900 watts, less watts than it takes to power a toaster. It goes 1 - 50 mph in six seconds and can reach a top speed of 75 mph. It can go 130 miles on a single charge, 300 miles in summer. "It's extremely comfortable to drive," says da Luz.

For more information about Marcelo's journey, contact him through his website at

Olympia's 150th Birthday Party

January 17th, 2009

"Celebrating Our Past...Embracing Our Future"was the theme at Olympia's 150th Birthday Celebration at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts (formerly the Liberty Theatre).

Fun was had by all - from our oldest residents to the youngest. A recognition of former council members, a magic show with Olympian Jeff Evans, balloon making, poetry read by local school children, cake, and historical displays rounded out the day.

Winnifred Castle Olson, one of Olympia's oldest residents, said, "You don't have to wait to be 92 to be a's determined by what you do and what you don't do...."

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Janine's "Little Hollywood"

Welcome to the first edition of Janine's "Little Hollywood." During the Great Depression, "Little Hollywood" was the name of the shantytown that lined the shores of the area now known as Capitol Lake in Olympia, Washington.

Having lived in Olympia for 25 years now, it's fun to walk down the street or attend an event or meeting and see so many friends. It's an easy town to make new friends. In many ways to me, Olympia does seem like a "Little Hollywood." With this blog, I hope to shine the light on a lot of our stars.

As a writer and photographer, and involved community member, I attend many local events. There is no shortage of local news and activities, but The Olympian, our McClatchy-owned paper, recently laid off about 20 staff members, and has greatly reduced its local coverage to one or two pages. My goal is to help fill the gaps and create a home for local journalism and photojournalism.

I also have a website (please see, however, I thought I would start this blog to write about local news and events and promote the community building efforts of our local citizens.

Today I attended Olympia's birthday celebration at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts. How appropriate that I might play a part in documenting Olympia's next few years. Enjoy and let me know what you think!