Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Senator Cantwell Visits Olympia On Jobs for Washington Tour

Above: Senator Maria Cantwell listens to Brad Shell, general manager of Fish Brewing Company, address a crowd gathered tonight at Rambling Jack's in downtown Olympia.
Senator Cantwell Visits Olympia on Jobs for Washington Tour
By Janine Unsoeld

In a whirlwind, state-wide, multi-city Jobs For Washington tour, United States Senator Maria Cantwell stopped in Olympia tonight to get out the vote and rally for candidates and positions near and dear to the Democratic Party.

Cantwell, who is running for re-election, has a Republican challenger, Washington State Senator Michael Baumgartner, but he was not mentioned nor did Cantwell seem worried about her re-election, instead focusing on the issues.
The back room at Rambling Jack's restaurant in downtown Olympia was packed with supporters, local elected officials including State Senator Karen Fraser and several members of the Olympia City Council, congressional candidate Denny Heck, secretary of state candidate Kathleen Drew, and local business and Democratic party leaders.

Brad Shell, general manager of the Olympia-based Fish Brewing Company, addressed the crowd, thanking Cantwell for supporting the federal loan assistance program and recovery act that allowed him and his company to receive a $1 million Small Business Association loan in January of 2010. With those funds, Shell said, Fish Brewing was able expand and create 38 new jobs, and open a new pub in Everett.  Cantwell returned the compliment, saying her favorite drink is Fish Tale’s hard pear cider.
Denny Heck, who is running for Washington’s newly created 10th district, also addressed the crowd. Cantwell called Heck tenacious, talented, and smart, saying, “I can’t wait to see him tangle with Paul Ryan!” to loud cheers and applause.

Cantwell emphasized the continued need to build a strong, skilled work force, saying Boeing will need 20,000 new aerospace workers in the next 10 years to meet demand and stay competitive. She called for continued investment in job creation, the prioritization of education and increased access to capital funding to support local economies. She also said she would work to change current filibuster rules in Congress.
She told a personal story - her father never let her go to school on election day. Instead, her job that day was to get out the vote: knock on neighbors' doors, ask them if they have voted, and go back home to report her progress to her father. 

One day, she knocked on her teacher’s door, who was home sick.  Her teacher told her she was not going to vote. Cantwell said she ran home, literally crying to her father that her teacher said she wasn’t going to vote.  “Isn’t she going to be arrested?” she asked her father. Cantwell said that her father had so ingrained in her that an American’s civic duty is to vote, that she thought one would be arrested for not voting.

She quoted Harry S. Truman, who said, “America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.” Then, addressing Social Security, Cantwell said, “I am going to fight to preserve Social Security for future generations, so it’s not about fear, it’s about strategy.”  
Cantwell is one of 28 senators who opposed cuts to Social Security in a letter organized by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) last month as Congress considers deficit-reducing packages.

Gar Lipow, an Olympia community member, issued a press release earlier today asking Cantwell to take what he called the “No Cat Food Pledge.” Outside the restaurant, dressed in a cat mask, Lipow handed out flyers and cat masks, inviting anyone to wear one. Lipgow said he is glad many Democrats won’t support cuts to Social Security and Medicare as part of a deficit deal but also asks that they not support such cuts as a means of "saving" these programs. On this Halloween night, he said he didn’t want seniors to live on cat food, or make choices between food and medications.
His mother, Ruth Lipow, 98, had a chance to speak with Cantwell after the rally. Lipow told this reporter that she volunteered for Frankin D. Roosevelt, walking precincts, when he was running for president in the 1930’s.

“He was so popular, back then, I didn’t know there were Republicans!” Lipow said her first job was working with machines for the National Youth Administration for $20 a month. “They trained me! That’s what we need now – we need another WPA (Works Progress Administration)!”
After the rally, Cantwell was asked by this reporter if she would raise the Social Security retirement age, one of the concerns raised by Gar Lipow. She said no, saying she would protect Social Security. 

A recent press release issued by Cantwell’s office says she has worked to protect Social Security from privatization schemes that would have resulted in deep cuts to the program and has helped block attempts that would have chipped away at Social Security to pay for new spending or tax cuts at the expense of seniors, retirees, and disabled workers.
Cantwell’s tour today included Aberdeen, Shelton and Olympia. Tomorrow, Cantwell’s Jobs for Washington tour bus goes to Bellingham, Mt. Vernon and Everett. Working through the weekend at other stops, she’ll wrap up with fellow Senator Patty Murray on Sunday in Seattle and Spokane.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"You Are More Than Just A Voter...."

Above: Former United States Representative Jolene Unsoeld jokes with congressional candidate Denny Heck at a private fundraiser for Heck in September.

“You Are More Than Just A Voter….”
By Janine Unsoeld

Ever energetic and always inspiring, former Washington State Congresswoman Jolene Unsoeld (D - 3rd Congressional District) addressed a private crowd at a recent fundraiser for Denny Heck who is running for the newly created 10th Congressional district.

In her words of support for Heck, she also presented a larger message about citizen participation and an informed democracy.
“What is needed now in our state, our nation, and this globe requires more than a skilled politician who gets the votes….It isn't sufficient to vote into office the right man or woman.  It requires an on-going partnership between the person we elect and us - there is no substitute! You are more than just a voter!
The tragedy of the Reagan legacy, through which we are still living, isn't just the beginning of the biggest debt in the history of the human species, it isn't just the crumbling bridges and highways, it isn't just the increasing global climate change, or even the millions of hungry, homeless children.

As tragic as are all of these, the real Reagan legacy is that he, through the American Legislative Exchange Council, rendered us incapable of addressing our problems.  He turned us against ourselves and made Americans hate their institutions of government.  

It has only been in very recent times that most of us have even heard of ALEC, although Reagan was a member and praised it, when the Council began their steady progress of creating a partnership to put the interests of big business above all else.  Under an umbrella that it took most of us a couple of decades to recognize, ALEC identified itself as a charitable education entity that had little responsibility to pay taxes or publicly identifying who was benefiting and for what.

Now, today, we find ourselves playing catch up with a monster that takes advantage of the view that most of us hold: to seek the best candidates, support them, vote for them, and then expect them to get busy and work for us while we sit on the sidelines and keep score.

If we are really to succeed with our goals for society, for the earth, for our children, and for our industries, we must bring ourselves into the process.

Roosevelt said, "You elected me to do these things. Now make me do them."

The grave shortcomings of state legislatures, of governors, of congress, and of a president as instruments of a responsive and honest government must be laid squarely at the door of us -  American citizens. 

There is an ancient farming proverb which expresses the view that land doesn't prosper under absentee ownership.  "The footprint of the owner is the best manure."

When members of congress come back to the district and hold town hall meetings or visit work sites, we must be there.  Believe me, those who would like to get rid of the member of congress will be there.  We, too, must be there as the lobbyists start bonding with the newly elected just by sharing and commiserating over the endless work load, a grueling schedule, and wrestling with unlimited data.

Ingrained in her memory, Unsoeld outlined her typical, hectic schedule for a west coast member of Congress.  And as Unsoeld often ends her speeches, she said, “There is no substitute for an informed and participating citizenry.” 

At this particular event, Unsoeld was honored for her service as Washington's congressional representative from 1989 – 1995, and for her 40 years of contributions to the South Sound community.

Heck noted that during her time as congresswoman, she had been called “The Conscience of Congress.”

“This woman defined open government,” recalling that when he won the 2009 James Madison award from the Washington Coalition for Open Government, Unsoeld had earned it the year before him.

Following her remarks, a beautiful glass plate created by local artist Kim Merriman was presented to Unsoeld.

For more information about the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), go to, or  

For more information about ALICE, a progressive counterpoint to ALEC, go to  

Above: Artist Kim Merriman presents Jolene Unsoeld with a piece she created especially for Unsoeld. The glass dish features a Northwest image including Mt. Rainier and water.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Didn't They Get the Press Release?

Above: Advertising works!

Didn't They Get the Press Release?

by Janine Unsoeld

Olympia light show activists struck again, broadcasting messages such as "Public Power Yes," "End Corporate Power," and "Sold To PSE," this time highlighting The Olympian building on Bethel Street, earlier this evening. No one was apparently available to comment within The Olympian offices.

Drivers seeing the messages honked their acknowledgement, passersby asked questions, and two police officers stopped by to check on the situation. The officers left within a minute of their arrival, smiling and waving to nearby photographers. 

The Olympian is owned by the McClatchy Company and has taken a position against Thurston County's Proposition 1, the same position held by Puget Sound Energy, the for-profit multi-national corporation that currently serves Thurston County.

The Thurston Public Power Initiative, a grassroots group of citizen activists, encourages citizens to vote yes on Thurston County Proposition 1 this November 6th. The initiative authorizes the Thurston County Public Utility District (PUD) to own and operate electric distribution and generation facilities.

For more information, go to

Monday, October 22, 2012

National Day of Protest Against Police Brutality in Olympia


Above: Participants of tonight's National Day of Protest Against Police Brutality in Olympia set out from Sylvester Park, walking to Bayview Thriftway, to remember an incident involving Steven Edwards, who died of a heart attack on November 7, 2002 after being tased.
National Day of Protest Against Police Brutality in Olympia

By Janine Unsoeld

A dozen South Sound community members gathered in Sylvester Park tonight in downtown Olympia to participate in a national day of protest against police brutality, just one of over 30 planned events held across the country tonight, including Seattle.

Olympia’s event was sponsored by the Green Party of South Puget Sound, a group that has begun a study into Olympia police department incidents in which excessive or deadly force has taken place. Walking to the actual locations in the downtown area and taking turns reading an account of the incident that occurred there, the group honored those traumatized by and commemorated those killed by Olympia police officers in recent years.

Recognized incidents included those involving community members David “Long Hair David” Fawver, Steven Edwards, Maggie Belknap, Joseph Burkett, Jose Ramirez-Jimenez, Bradden Ferber and Scott Yoos.

Janet Jordan, chair of the local Green Party, compiled the list of incidents and said that several of the victims were punished for simply not following orders fast enough. Others were overcome in struggles when they were suspected of having broken the law.  While those present asked numerous, specific questions about individual cases, she said, in all cases, human lives were devastated, and in several cases, lives were lost.  

Jordan later said that videos are useful to citizens in conflict with the police, and many activists do take on the role of recording what happens during an incident. Although video cameras on Olympia police department vehicles are useful, lapel cameras on officer's uniforms may be even more effective.

"We are hoping to break the pattern where Olympia police demand for instant and total obedience from citizens...and bring the police back to the status of human beings among other human beings, whom they have a responsibility to protect," said Jordan.

As the group moved to each incident location with their placards, they often received supportive 5:00 p.m. rush-hour honks and thumbs up from passing drivers.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Despite the Rain, The Message is Clear

by Janine Unsoeld

Despite the rain, messages were clearly visible earlier tonight as activists peacefully used the biggest billboard surface in town: the Mistake by the Lake, aka the Capitol Center Building, in downtown Olympia. The messages could be seen by Westside residents and passing motorists, many who honked in acknowledgement. Who knows when or where the messages will next be seen!

For those who missed the Public Power forum sponsored by Thurston Community Television (TCTV) and the League of Women Voters on September 27 at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts, you can watch it anytime on or on TCTV Channel 77 on Comcast or Channel 23 on Fairpoint in the Yelm area, on the following remaining days: Wednesday, October 17, 4:00 p.m., Sunday, October 21, 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, October 24, 4:00 p.m., Sunday, October 28, 7:30 p.m., or Wednesday, October 31, 4:00 p.m. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Civility in Thurston County Conversations

Civility in Thurston County Conversations

By Janine Unsoeld

The League of Women Voters, an organization that supports voter rights and voter education, is acting to address the increasing apparent lack of civility in various political processes. 
The Thurston County chapter of the League has chosen this topic for a series of upcoming discussions in hopes of generating new ideas about how we can all contribute to civility within our democratic processes.

The definition of “civility” that has been adopted for the League of Washington State is: “Being civil does not mean being silent.  It does not mean avoiding contentious public issues.  On the contrary, healthy disagreement is central to a robust, flourishing democracy. Civil dialogue strengthens policy.  Only by considering all sides is it possible for us to make progress while keeping everyone’s dignity and democratic rights intact.”

Civility discussion meetings will be held Wednesday, October 17, 1:30 – 3:30 p.m., at The Evergreen State College, Seminar Building II, A2107, and later that evening, October 17, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m., at the Olympia Community Center, Room 200, 222 Columbia St. NW. 
A discussion meeting is also scheduled for the afternoon of October 16 in a League member's private home, and the home cannot accommodate a large group. Given the amount of interest already generated, a request was made by the League to just publish the location of the two Wednesday meetings.  

Cynthia Stewart, a local League board member, will facilitate the discussions.  In an interview today, Stewart expressed excitement in getting back to these in-person focus group conversations that the League used to sponsor in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

She will lead participants in discussions exploring the following questions:

1.      How important is civility to you in assuring that we continue to have a democracy?  How would you describe the degree of civility that you feel is important?  To what extent does the definition above describe your own attitudes about civility in democracy?

2.      How would you describe current national, state and local processes (e.g., campaigns and elections, legislative processes, regulatory processes, etc.) in terms of the extent to which they are conducted civilly?  What would you change, if you could?

3.      What are the boundaries of civility?  When is civil disobedience appropriate?  When is some other form of protest or engagement appropriate?  When are they inappropriate?

4.      To what extent does information or lack of information affect our ability to act and react civilly in our democracy?
5.      What could/should the League of Women Voters and individuals do to enhance civility in our democracy?

Stewart, a trained dispute resolution mediator, says she has learned that, when parties are in conflict, “the intensity of their anger is a reflection of the extent that they have needs that are not being met. It’s better to stop and ask what do they need and deliberate, acknowledge that, and try to address that need.”

In an effort to increase League membership and garner interest in a younger population, an intern from The Evergreen State College will work with the League starting in January to help with future focus groups and broaden membership.

The League of Women Voters is not just for women - it is open to men and women alike and tackles other topics such as health care, quality of government, education, transportation, and alternative energy. The League also researches and publishes detailed position papers on these topics.

Future focus group topics will be announced in the local League newsletter and on their web site each month. The League is also training moderators who can be available across the state to facilitate discussions of controversial topics. 

For more information and directions to meetings, go to the League web site,
Above: Disputing ducks earlier this week in Olympia near Percival Landing. They worked it out.

Andrew Barkis and Why He Wants To Be Our Next County Commissioner

Above: Andrew Barkis, candidate for Thurston County Commission Position #2, talks a lot with his hands during an interview in his office on Tuesday, October 9th.
Andrew Barkis and Why He Wants To Be Our Next County Commissioner

 By Janine Unsoeld

For months, one lone campaign sign for Andrew Barkis on Olympia’s West Bay Drive greeted me every day as I rode my scooter though town to work.  Gaudy looking, yellow, with black, girly-looking curly-que lettering, the sign says he’s “Honestly Refreshing.”
Running as a Republican for Thurston County commissioner Position #2, the position currently held by Commissioner Sandra Romero (D), I didn’t think much of it.

Then, the August primary garnered Barkis 47% of the vote, against Romero’s 52%, with no other challengers in the race. For the primary, only voters in that district could vote for the candidates. In the general, every registered voter in the county can vote for either candidate.

Since I do not live in that district, I kept waiting for our corporate and local media to enlighten me on who this person is, and how and why he managed to get a chunk of the vote. Two months later, eight local parades and ten debates and forums later, the campaigns for Thurston County commissioner Positions #1 and #2 and pressing county issues have still received no coverage or analysis.

So, with the ballots scheduled to be mailed in a matter of days, I still wondered. Who is Andrew Barkis? 
I called him up.  He said his property management office was on 4th Ave, near Ralph’s Thriftway and I was welcome to come on by. We coordinated a time for the next day. That was easy. So, two blocks up from The Olympian offices, I settled in to meet Barkis and asked him a few questions.

Barkis, 44, is physically fit and warmly engaging. Greeting voters at their doors since March, he says he’s covered 75-80 precincts, going to an estimated 15,000 homes. His i-Phone has a pedometer in it.
“It’s super accurate, it even tells me my elevation and calories burned,” Barkis shows me. “I’ve personally averaged 15-20 miles a month.  My team has done three times that."

The owner of Hometown Property Management, a firm he bought in 2004 with a business partner, Barkis’ company was honored several years ago as one of the top thirty property management companies in the United States by the National Association of Residential Property Managers. His company employs 20 people and is recertified by the organization every two years.

Barkis’ long list of civic experience includes being a long-time member and former chair of the Lacey Chamber of Commerce and former president of the Lacey Sunrise Lion’s Club. An Eagle Scout, Barkis is a long-time Boy Scout troop leader and current chair of the Boy Scouts of Thurston County. He has two sons, ages 9 and 18, with his wife Lisa, to whom he’s been married since 1992. Born in Chehalis, he is the eighth of nine children.

Asked about his unconventional campaign signs and slogan, Barkis credited his 19 year old nephew, Austin, a graphic designer. Austin asked him a series of questions:  "What’s your favorite color? Yellow. What’s your favorite drink? Coke, but I don’t drink it. (The font used for his signs is actually called the Coke Font.) What words do you hear described about you? Honest. What would you bring to the position of county commissioner? I’d refresh the commission, you know, like you refresh a page on your computer….and so on.”

“I like to think outside the box. I don’t want to do what others have done. I didn’t want red, white and blue.”

What made you want to run for county commissioner? What was the tipping point for you?

“I’ve always known deep down I’d be in public service, even as a kid. When I was chamber president, people were always asking me when I was going to run for something. I was asked several years ago in a meeting with Sam Reed, Kim Wyman and Gary Alexander. Over breakfast, they asked me what my plans were down the road. They were encouraging me but at the time I wasn’t ready.  Then, about two years ago, watching what was happening in the county, land use issues, and the budget crisis, it became apparent there was a need for new leadership. I was asked by several people to run. After two to three months of investigative work, I met with citizens, law enforcement, asked a lot of questions, and went on vacation with my wife to think it over.  We came back, and I was ready.”

Please be more specific about your concerns with “land use issues.”

"The County restarted the process of "updating” the Critical Areas Ordinance. The revision turned into a complete rewrite of the ordinance. The land use issues are far reaching. The inability to use your property, to build and or develop has been severely impacted. I am concerned, as this affects individual property rights. It affects the agriculture community, the industrial and business community. The process an individual or business has to go through to determine if they can use their land is complicated, and very expensive. The outcome of the process may render your land unusable all in the name of protecting our environment."

"There are other methods that can achieve balance in protecting our environment and still allow for the use of your property. The adaptive management approach is one way that is much more reasonable and has been adopted by other areas. Thurston County did not look at anything but the most restrictive in their process and the result is evident in the ordinance as adopted."

Asked what his county commissioner campaign was about, Barkis said leadership.

“Leadership starts at the top – we have fantastic people at the county in roads, the sheriff’s office, Resource Stewardship, all looking for clarification. My company is a direct reflection of my leadership. That’s at the core of what I’d bring to the commission, that private sector leadership and quality. County staff wants to be empowered to do more. Instead, what do they get? ‘We’re going to cut you and your position…’  I’m going to empower them and ask them ‘what can we do?’ They will excel and what comes out of that is better customer service, for all residents. Now, people feel like they’re putting out staff when they need answers.”

You’re a Republican. Some people have the opinion that all south county residents are Republicans, members of S.T.O.P. Thurston County or the Evergreen Freedom Foundation. Where do you live, and are you a member of S.T.O.P. or the Freedom Foundation?

“I have never been to a S.T.O.P. meeting and I’m not a member of the Freedom Foundation. I’m not a party guy (me:  oh, you mean the Republican Party) – right, a Party guy – although I’ve been a precinct committee officer for the Republican Party for two years now. I like the grassroots part of that and meeting tons of people.  For the last 13 years, I’ve lived near Lake St. Clair, six miles out from Lacey, in a 1950’s house, a fixer upper.  I grew up in a house in Chehalis that was built in 1894. I like old houses.”

“About S.T.O.P., Glen Morgan is a friend.  S.T.O.P. helps people find their voice, the same as Sandra helps people in Futurewise find their voice. That organization is as radical, or many times more so, than S.T.O.P. (Romero was a board member of Futurewise when the organization sued the county in 2008, and won, because Thurston County was out of compliance with the Growth Management Act). Socially, I’m a moderate Republican, and a fiscal conservative. I believe in small government, private enterprise, and I’m an environmentalist in the sense that I treasure where we live. I’m an avid outdoorsman. We bike, camp, and go backpacking….There’s nothing radical about me. I’m very principled.”

I asked Barkis about the sources of his endorsements and financial support.

“I’ve looked at the candidate PDC reports, and compared to the Democratic Party giving Wolfe and Romero’s campaigns $7,000 each, you’ve received just $600 from the Thurston County Republicans since the primary. You’ve received many contributions from individuals, business owners and organizations, and ranchers, many to the maximum allowed. Please explain.

“The Republicans aren’t the well-oiled machine that the Democrats are in this county….I have no agenda. I’m not beholden to the Olympia Master Builders, the Farm Bureau or the Realtors. They sought me out – it’s an honor to have their endorsements. It bothers me that I’m being mis-classified – and I’ve never sold real estate.  With the Master Builder’s, they asked to support me in a way that I thought was interesting. They asked if I would be willing to accept their endorsement and financial support. They represent painters, builders, carpenters, housing people who are employers in this county. Why wouldn’t I want their endorsement? So how am I going to work with them? The same way I do with everyone: find consensus and common ground. Most of my financial support is from individuals, business owners, and farmers…. I’m not beholden to anyone – I don’t have that line of 25 organizations expecting me to go in one direction.”

Asked about the feelings of south County residents, Barkis said he is happy to have the endorsement of Rainier Mayor Randy Schleis. “South county mayors feel grossly underrepresented and have started a mayor’s council. They want to be at the table….”

He says he doesn’t think the commissioners should automatically vote like a team.  “I keep hearing the commissioners say they’re a team, ‘we need to be re-elected’…That scares me. A commission should work together, yes, and demonstrate teamwork, but not operate as a unified voice without dissention. There are differences of opinion….”

Like the Critical Areas Ordinance and the pocket gopher? 

“It’s not good policy – putting them on the endangered species list is not necessary. There’s a cost attached to the Critical Areas Ordinance. These are big numbers….it’s a blanket proposal with no room for negotiation. We have to look at balance. How about industrial agriculture? We need cooperatives to grow and produce our own food – that will produce jobs, tax revenues. Let’s go to the people at the Economic Development Council (EDC) who know these issues the best and go after it!”

I thought the purpose was to list the gopher as an endangered species so we are not dictated to by the federal government as to what we can or can’t do here in Thurston County. It was pre-emptive. Isn't that want you want?

"I do not believe this is the case. I have heard this but the fact remains, they can advocate along with the community not to have this listed."

Let’s talk about impact fees. Thurston County isn’t collecting them and the county is growing. How do we pay for this? How should those fees be determined? And do we really have to believe the Office of Financial Management and Thurston County Regional Planning projections that x number of people are going to be moving here within 20 years?

“I look at those projected numbers and go hmmm…I believe they are put forth to establish policies and agendas. They use fear tactics that Grandma isn’t going to be able to get the bus stop because of all the traffic coming and we have to build more to meet those demands.  But developers are paying. The commissioners lump the Scott Homes, Gemini’s, and John Irwin Construction’s in all together with the Horizon’s and DR Horton’s.  Ask any builder what they have to pay. I question the current administration’s true purpose of the source of revenue. When I hear that the developer must pay their “fair share,” where will that money go?  If we’re going to have that conversation, everyone needs to be at the table. What is reasonable? Here’s what we need to offset, like roads and parks. You’re killing them collecting it up front. Why can’t we do it at the time of closing? That would be a mutual benefit for both the county and the builder.

What about the fees that were put into place in June?

“Let me show you testimony I gave to the commissioners.”  Barkis digs through his files and produces his remarks made during the commissioner’s public comment time on June 19th, 2012:

“Thurston County is proposing…to add yet another fee to the myriad of fees and costs that are already placed upon developers….Is this what is needed now as we begin to finally see a bit of light after a very dark tough economic time? As is so often, the cost/benefit approach is overlooked and replaced by a perceived revenue source….These studies are very clear on the counties (sic) goal of collecting revenue for developed and undeveloped parks. It is curious that this becomes the focus now as over the years, especially during tough economic periods, the parks are the first to be cut out of the budget….In reviewing the proposals it clearly states ‘several issues must be addressed in order to determine the need for the validity of such fees…the benefit of New Parks and Rec. facilities to the new development.’ I believe before we place yet another burden upon a segment of the population, the commissioners should look at the overall budget…Impact fees are not the answer, or the solution…the use of impact fees to dictate where and what type of development occurs is wrong on every level.”

Barkis added, “Nothing bothers me more when a government has trouble with their budget and the first thing they cut is services to seniors and police. What about parks?  The fact of the matter is, we’re not in good shape. The knee-jerk reaction is to cut expenses, but we need to look at things we can add. Increase our tax base and revenue stream. We have to be business friendly, and balance the needs of the environment. What are the roadblocks? I went to the Economic Development Council's real estate forum recently.  We have a great infrastructure, a skilled work force, the best location, the last remaining land available for manufacturing. It’s a recipe for success. Why aren’t they here? Regulations. It’s not easy. We have to change that, first thing.”

What regulations would you change - barriers to development - to invite businesses to Thurston County?

"I would look at the Critical Areas Ordinance and begin the process of discovery of how it can be altered. This is one of the first and biggest "roadblocks" - so much revolves around this. The permitting process, what and where things develop. There is much to be learned once in office. The key is listening to the citizens on what are the areas of hindrance. Learning the workings, focusing on bringing a customer service attitude into the court house.  A culture that realizes who the customer is and focuses on asking 'how can we be of service.'"

Switching gears, I asked Barkis about the LOTT Clean Water Alliance and asked his opinion on their groundwater study to put treated water back into our aquifer.

Barkis said, “It’s very concerning…I have a concern about what would be in that water, it getting in our aquifer, and have it come back in a couple years and then we say, ‘oops…”.
Asked if he thinks LOTT meetings should be televised, he said yes, but “don’t get me started on LOTT.” (Romero is the county commissioner representative to the LOTT Alliance.)

Barkis says he has many issues with LOTT, and believes the organization to be spending too much money. “There needs to be accountability. Where’s the accountability?” Barkis reaches for a nearby highlighter pen.

“It’s like this. I have an office manager who buys our pens. I have what, seven highlighters in my desk drawer.”  Barkis digs them out. “Do we need more highlighters? No. Turns out we have enough of them. With LOTT, there appears to be no oversight. They say they got a grant to do such and such. So what? Grants don’t come from God! They come from the federal government or the state – bottomline, us. That’s the difference between a private and public mindset.”

Pressed to go beyond highlighters, Barkis added:

“When I see the office complex they have built, the money they have put into the Eastbay Plaza etc. it is concerning. The dollars they are using are the People's. They keep increasing the rates. This has a direct effect on individuals, especially during these tough economic times. The rates are getting to the point where many can’t afford it. The money collected should be solely for the purpose of providing the service they were designed to do - process waste water. If money is needed to improve infrastructure and keep pace with demands on the system, that is one thing. If money is needed to improve technology to assure the water being discharged back into the Sound is safe and not impacting an already fragile ecosystem, then that is warranted. The other expenditures I question.”

“I find it interesting that we celebrate developing a public space in our community for families and children to play and splash in a stream created with "reclaimed" sewage water, but we do not work to clean up Capitol Lake….We have a beautiful lake in the center of our city that could be enjoyed in the same manner! Just saying!”

It’s time to end our interview, and asked him how he has been received overall. 

“People are great.  They ask me about my background, what my priorities are, and lots of questions about land use. We were in Tenino on Saturday….I’ve been in the South Capitol neighborhood, the Eastside, off Boulevard, Tumwater… great reception. I’ve had a few doors slammed in my face and my wife got bit by a dog… it’s tough sometimes, but when it’s all said and done, I will know we’ve done the best we could do.”

I asked Barkis where he likes to hike. 

“The Olympics, Hood Canal, Duckabush, Mima Falls, the Bald Hills... I like to ride my Harley to clear my mind, and ride the back country through Tenino, Yelm, Rainier, Tenino, Bucoda, cut down through Lewis County, back to Rochester…the backroads. “

Asked what he might be reading right now, Barkis said, “Killing Lincoln,” by Bill O’Reilly. “It’s pretty fascinating….The divisions in our country were so great. I see similar divisions now in our country and right here in our county….

“And,” reaching to some files surrounding his desk, “these,” plunking down a hefty stack of binders and red folder issue files. “I’m a quick read, I’m like a sponge. I feel like I’m getting my Master’s in Commissionership,” Barkis laughs.

“There’s an amazing transformation in campaigning. You campaign for a position, particular roles and responsibilities. Then, there’s a passion and a conviction that creeps in as you knock on doors and listen to people, a passion that supersedes the job description.  I have a passion for this county. I can make a difference and it’s huge.”

As of mid-day on October 12, according to the Thurston County Auditor’s Office, there were 158,100 registered voters in Thurston County, 64,970 registered voters in Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater, and 5,519 registered voters in the south county cities of Tenino, Rainier, Yelm and Bucoda. 

Regardless of location, there are voices throughout the county who do not feel they are being represented.

Andrew Barkis' is one of them.
Above: At the end of our interview, as the sun starts to go down behind him, Barkis shows off an enlarged copy of an article written about him on February 4, 2007, "Chamber leader knows power of perseverance," by The Olympian's then-business reporter Jim Szymanski.