Archive for the 'Menzel' Category

Apr 06 2013

Goodbye to a reliable friend

Published by under Menzel

Menzel TOM
MENZEL

 
Washington
My Home

Last week I got the message that I had dreaded for months. I pretty much knew the day would come, but I didn’t think it would be so abrupt. We first met in the 1950s in the small Wisconsin town where I was born. I was just a kid looking for something to do when my neighborhood pals went home for dinner. For most active 8-year-olds, a minute of downtime can feel like an hour.

We were enthusiastically introduced by my parents, who somehow knew we’d get along. They were so right. Our relationship blossomed over the years – growing deeper as we spent more time together. Even in high school we kept in touch almost daily, despite all the distractions that could have easily pulled us apart. We continued our relationship non-stop almost every day for more than 50 years, even after I moved to Idaho, then later to Washington. After brief separations – for fishing trips, backpacking adventures or family commitments – I always scrambled to catch up so I wouldn’t feel left behind.

Monet
Monet reading

However, in recent years I knew things were changing. No matter how hard I tried, barriers were gradually building up between us. Then on Tuesday, April 2, the message suddenly popped up on my screen:

“Your free access has ended. Subscribe today for unlimited access!”

Yes, I had been freeloading on the Seattle Times for a couple of years. I was among those who stopped subscribing to the “dead tree” edition which had been delivered miraculously to my semi-rural home since moving to the Puget Sound in 2003. For the first time in my life I was reading a daily newspaper that wasn’t on paper. The Times was online. It was free. It was even updated with the latest news throughout the day. Unless I was incapable to part with tradition, I had no reason to pay $300 a year for my daily news fix.

But there it was – front and center on my screen when I tried to call up a story. “Time to pay up, pal!”

I had wondered why they waited so long, but I felt almost insulted when it happened. Pretty strange for a former newspaper editor who knows that it takes real money to run a newspaper. In my previous life, I pulled a salary (albeit not much of one) out of newspapers for 14 years – four at a daily in Wisconsin and 10 at the Idaho Statesman in Boise. Those were heady days for newspapers. Many were influential – some perhaps too powerful. And many owners were among the rich and famous.

Power and riches aside, I have always had great respect for the fourth estate – at least the responsible ones. Although I never worked at a major daily, I read the respected Milwaukee Journal as a kid (starting with the comics, of course) and discovered that I could write my way out of almost anything in high school. I then graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a journalism degree and proudly worked as a reporter, photographer and editor until I started my communications consulting business in 1986. I enjoyed the newsroom so much that I didn’t even notice when I spent 50 hours a week or more on the job, which I did regularly. (Why I left a career I loved is a whole different story.)

I’ve always been, and always will be, a news junky. Therefore, I’m a huge fan of C-SPAN, TVW (Washington’s excellent state public affairs television network), PBS NewsHour, NPR – any news program without Cialis ads. It was my fate. My grandfather owned the small but prosperous daily in my hometown. My mother wrote for the paper. My uncle was the editor for many years. And I delivered them every day, even in the middle of January blizzards. The news was as much a part of our family as a pet is to some.

So, of all people, I should be willing to pay for a good newspaper, right? A solid news operation needs cash to pay skilled reporters who take their work seriously and can write circles around 99 percent of the population; under-appreciated photographers who are some of the best on the planet; competent editors and newsroom managers who have to be disciplined and independent while knowing when to pull on the reins. They have to pay for (but probably not for much longer) massive rolls of paper by the ton, ink by the barrel, amazing machines that pound out thousands of papers 365 days a year without fail, and the skilled pressmen to run them (I even had the privilege of yelling “Stop the presses!” several times). Finally, every daily has to pay for a cumbersome system that delivers a bundle of news directly to our homes by an unheralded pack of young kids (and some adults) trying to make a few bucks. Continue Reading »

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Mar 05 2013

Time to Fix WSDOT

Published by under Menzel

Menzel TOM
MENZEL

 
Washington
My Home

If Gov. Jay Inslee wants “lean management” to be a hallmark of his administration, the Transportation Department should be Exhibit 1.

It appears that we have a nasty case of engineers gone wild – and Inslee isn’t one bit happy about it. After months of media scrutiny, outgoing Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond finally revealed this week that engineers in her department blew it – big time. The pontoons for the new Highway 520 bridge across Lake Washington are cracked and leaking, and the $4.1-billion project is likely to be delayed at least a year. Ouch!

Heads could roll when Inslee determines who’s to blame for what will likely be more than a $100 million fix – that’s right, now let’s see that number with all eight zeros: $100,000,000! This revelation hits the news at a time when our schools need an extra $1 billion, our state parks are on their hands and knees begging for every dollar they can get and lawmakers are considering a possible gas tax increase to fund yet more transportation projects.

Hammond blames the pontoon debacle on design errors by state engineers who she says did not follow “standards of good practice” and failed to run models that would have shown the problem. She also implied in an interview last week that someone, somewhere was pushing too hard: “Everybody wants you to take risks, until something goes wrong.” As top dog at the agency (for about one more week), she apparently doesn’t know where the buck stops.

Wherever the fault lies in this case, we can only hope WSDOT will clean up its act once Inslee’s newly appointed Transportation Secretary-straight-from-Oregon, Lynn Peterson, takes over next month. Inslee says she’s ready to do just that, and we wish her luck.

Former Gov. Christine Gregoire’s appointment of Hammond to head up WSDOT in August 2007 made me nervous from the start. An organization that large embarking on the most extensive capital improvement program in its history needed strong leadership, preferably someone from the outside with a wide range of management experience, tons of discipline and lots of new ideas. Hammond was hired as an engineer at WSDOT straight out of college in 1979 and rose up through the ranks. But putting an insider in charge of people she worked with for 28 years just didn’t make sense.

This latest misstep by WSDOT is just one of many in recent years, some of which predate Hammond’s five years at the helm.

Here’s a shortlist: Continue Reading »

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Feb 28 2013

Some sanity

Published by under Menzel,Washington

The Washington Supreme Court has struck down a requirement for a two-thirds vote in the legislature to raise taxes. The court, in a 6-3 vote, said the state would have to pass a constitutional amendment to change from a simple majority to a supermajority.

While Washington voters have repeatedly approved the two-thirds requirement, it’s nice to know that at least six people in high places have brought some sanity to a tax system that was already a mess. Score in year 2013: Washington’s future, 1. Tim Eyman, 0. – Tom Menzel

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Feb 25 2013

Travesty

Published by under Menzel,Washington

Menzel TOM
MENZEL

 
Washington
My Home

FOR SALE, LEASE OR TRADE: 120,000 acres of prime Washington real estate. Valued at more than $3 billion. Includes 116 parks, 700 historic buildings, cabins, yurts, vacation houses, forts, fabulous wedding venues, and dozens of stunning beaches. Buy now and get naming rights for hokey park names like Cape Disappointment, Steamboat Rock, Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea. Contact Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission or your local state legislator.

Pardon the hyperbole, but this scenario may not be too far off since our parks have become nothing but financial burdens that need to be monetized. After the legislature voted in 2011 to cut off all general fund support for our state parks and replace it with user-fees (“earned income”), the State Parks and Recreation Commission has been scrambling to keep them open and operating while continuing to make its case for stable funding sources.

Unfortunately, the latest desperate attempts to shore up lost revenue – a $30 annual “Discover Pass” and a $10 day-use fee – have fallen 50 percent short of projections. So now we have a critical funding crisis, yet one more chapter in the ridiculous quest to run government like a business. As state parks director Don Hoch said last summer: “At no time in our 100-year history have we been in a position like this, where we have to make so many tough decisions.”

Palous Falls
Palouse Falls State Park (photo/state of Washington)

A report to the Parks and Recreation Commission last August says that no other state follows such a self-funded model, calling it “impractical” and “unachievable.” So now we have a rare opportunity to lead the way to the bottom in park management. The visionary generations who came before us are rolling over in their graves.

Ironically, the legislature’s target for defunding our parks is this year, 2013, which happens to be the 100th anniversary of our state park system. Many of the noble and ambitious plans to upgrade, expand and improve the parks for the centennial celebration have been shelved. State Parks has already made painful staff and spending reductions and has been planning for “previously unthinkable reductions.”

In the very year when we should be bursting with pride to celebrate these crown jewels, we are casting this loyal old dog out into the cold without food or shelter – sort of like filing for divorce on your 50th anniversary party. And we now have a draft of the divorce papers in the form of a report released January 29th by the Parks and Recreation Commission. It’s called “Transformation Strategy – Adapting to a new way of operating Washington’s state parks.”

This is not a fun read unless you like hearing about good people begging for help. I can imagine the seven volunteer commissioners weeping as they sat through countless McKinseyesque workshops and public meetings and finally forcing themselves to approve this document. They are doing the best they can. They are doing what they have to do.

But the 27-page report reads like notes from a corporate retreat. It uses the word “business” 20 times. “Lease” shows up 13 times. It includes buzzwords straight from Dilbert, like: forming strategic partnerships; strategies and initiatives to help create a new business model; transformation principles with imperatives that will drive agency-wide planning, resource allocation and day-to-day decisions; core values and cultural norms that promote organizational change and innovation; specific action-oriented initiatives that will advance agency transformation. And, my favorite, it boldly encourages a decimated park staff to embrace risk-taking, accepting responsibility for the outcome and “excellence in all we do.”

The report even sheepishly admits a dark secret: “For many years parks and recreation providers believed that technology had no place in parks. Even commissioners and staff believed state parks should remain technology-free.” Imagine that. Continue Reading »

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Feb 19 2013

Getting real on college costs

Published by under Menzel

Menzel TOM
MENZEL

 
Washington
My Home

You can’t miss the headlines:
“Tuition to Spike Third Straight Year”
“State Support of Higher Ed Continues to Plunge”
“Student Debt at All-Time High”

Meanwhile, we hear the incessant drumbeat of despair from business and industry that our schools aren’t producing the right kind of workers to feed the hungry beast of production and growth, even though a record 21.6 million students are attending American colleges and universities this year.

The Washington Student Achievement Council (http://www.wsac.wa.gov/KeyFacts2012) paints a bleak picture: “At a time when we should be educating a much greater percentage of our citizens to higher levels we are instead making it increasingly difficult for tens of thousands of potential students, many of them from our state’s most economically disadvantaged households, to gain the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed. We have done this especially over the last three years through deep cuts in student funding … Worse yet, these cuts are almost certain to continue this decade, accompanied by corresponding steep increases in tuition that threaten to place higher education beyond the reach of many middle-class families.”

Not a pretty picture. So, what’s a good Washington leader to do in the face of ever-rising costs, seemingly insurmountable K-12 funding mandates and stingy taxpayers? First, we need to jettison the myriad of Band-Aid proposals to increase revenue for our colleges and universities. Instead, I offer below a few radical ideas that are likely to go nowhere, have little basis in research or data, and would likely elicit chuckles from hallowed halls in both Olympia and academia. But here goes anyway:

CUT COSTS

· It’s time for our colleges and universities to cut costs, starting with the heavy load at the top of the food chain – school administration – and continuing on through every line item of every budget of every department. It’s interesting that we hear so little about cutting costs at our universities while every other level of government is cutting staff and services. I understand that the state’s share of funding has dropped precipitously in recent years to levels where some public universities advocate going private, but I have some solutions for this.

· Stop punishing our students and their families with outrageous tuition and fee increases year after year – a 42 percent increase nationally at public institutions over the last 10 years. We all know that college grads fill the needs of business and industry, so let’s stop charging students and their families – yes, I mean a free education – and start sending most of the bill directly to the businesses that benefit. (OK, I can hear the howls of laughter on this one.) And while we’re at it, let’s outlaw unpaid internships, also known as slavery. Continue Reading »

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Feb 08 2013

Smart/dumb?

Published by under Menzel,Washington

library
image/courtesy, Seattle Public Library

 
So, last week the Infallible Gallup Organization revealed that Oregon is a teeny bit more liberal than Washington. This week that bastion of “institutional research and assessment” – Central Connecticut State University – found that Seattle is the nation’s second “most literate city,” while Portland – home of the eighth wonder of the world, “Powell’s City of Books” – straggled in at No. 10.

At least they beat San Francisco this year.

The Other Washington came in No. 1 in 2012, while Minneapolis took the third spot. Over the last eight years, Seattle’s been duking it out for the top spot with Minneapolis and DC, with Seattle perched on top four times. Portland has ranged from ninth to twelfth since 2005, except for a sixth-place blip in 2009, when something suddenly sent Portlandians into a reading frenzy.

Boise didn’t quite make the population cutoff of 250,000, but we’re sure the City of Trees would be up there somewhere. The study focuses on six key indicators of literacy: number of bookstores, educational attainment, Internet resources, library resources, periodical publishing resources, and newspaper circulation.

Check it out all you data junkies: http://www.ccsu.edu/page.cfm?p=15619. – Tom Menzel

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Feb 06 2013

Evergreeners vs. Beaverites

Published by under Menzel

Menzel TOM
MENZEL

 
Washington
My Home

Listen up here all you liberal Evergreeners. It’s time to get back into the ring and fight! I know you’re a bit bruised and bloodied by the news, but you can still win this battle if you just do the right thing (actually, the left thing).

In case you haven’t heard the news, Washington The State came in an embarrassing sixth place in the battle for liberal supremacy in these United States, according to the infallible Gallup Organization. (Check it out: http://www.gallup.com/poll/160196/alabama-north-dakota-wyoming-conservative-states.aspx#1) Not only that, but we had to share the sixth spot with Rhode Island, a state about the size of Franklin County where you can’t yet marry your same-sex sweetheart and you can only smoke weed legally with a prescription. Talk about demeaning.

But this story gets even worse. For crying out loud, we got beat by the Beaver State, which stands alone in the No. 3 position right behind The Other Washington and Massachusetts. (Slipping in at No. 4 is Vermont, followed by Delaware and Connecticut in a tie for fifth.) I’ll get to Idaho in a minute.

So what gives here? In Oregon they’re OK with weed, but still don’t allow same-sex marriage. Just a couple of months ago Evergreeners approved same-sex marriage and recreational pot simultaneously. We partied in the streets like it was New Years. Shouldn’t that catapult Washington into the No. 3 spot, at least? Nope, it doesn’t work that way. This isn’t an issue-driven poll. It’s about our perceptions of ourselves.

You see, Gallup called nearly 212,000 people in all 50 states and DC throughout 2012 and asked responders to “self-identify” their ideology. During that phone call you could admit to being conservative, moderate or liberal, which, of course, could depend on your mood on the day of the phone call. This is social science, not rocket science. Give Oregonians credit for feeling a teeny bit more liberal on the day of the Gallup phone call.

However, the numbers for both states pretty much break evenly into one-third portions for each category. While Oregonians claimed to be more liberal than Washingtonians by a 1% margin (29.3 to 28.3%), they said they were more conservative by a whopping 0.1% margin (33 to 32.9%). Evergreeners, meanwhile, felt a tad more moderate than the Beaverites on the day of the Gallup call (36% to 35.1), if you ignore the margin of error. Continue Reading »

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Jan 30 2013

Menzel’s world

Published by under Menzel

Menzel TOM
MENZEL

 
Washington
My Home

Welcoming today a new writer here: Tom Menzel, a veteran editor and a close-eyed observer of the Puget Sound. From his bio: “Tom Menzel has a journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin and spent 14 years in the newspaper business, including a variety of editing positions at the Idaho Statesman in Boise. He founded Menzel-Higgins Communications in 1986 and has provided communications counsel for many government and private-sector clients, including high-profile public involvement projects and political campaigns. Tom has also been involved in community activities ranging from education and health care to community trails. He lives in the Puget Sound village of Hansville on Washington’s Kitsap Peninsula.”

Greetings from the great state of recreational weed, marriage for all and surprise majority coalitions!

It’s a high honor to be invited by my longtime friend and colleague, Randy Stapilus, to contribute occasional commentary, analysis and random observations about the ever-dynamic, Everblue state of Washington.

With Randy’s blessing, we’re calling my little corner of the virtual world “Washington, My Home,” which is the title of our awe-inspiring state song that begins with these words: “This is my country; God gave it to me; I will protect it, ever keep it free.” OK, maybe “Louie, Louie” would have been a better choice after all.

Keep in mind that I’m pretty much a regular guy, with a talented wife, a couple of above-average grown kids and one very cool 20-month-old granddaughter. No gigs with the nation’s formerly influential newspapers or magazines. Never won a Pulitzer. Sorry, no books. But this just makes me try harder to dazzle you.

Briefly, this is who I am: I was born a cheesehead (what the hell’s up with the Packers lately? Sorry, I digress), stole my journalism degree from UW-Madtown and spent 14 years in the newspaper biz, mostly as a nasty editor at The Idaho Statesman in Boise long before it was renamed The Bronco Gazette. After declaring independence from the newspaper bubble in 1986, I quickly hooked up with a few political campaigns and played communications consultant for some high-profile public projects ranging from urban renewal to infrastructure funding.

I also did some community organizing (is that a dirty word?) and worked with many local leaders representing a wide spectrum of thought. It was very rewarding to actually do things in my community rather than simply report on what everyone else was doing. Just for fun, I also learned to flyfish, backpack and pilot a little Cessna without killing myself or anyone else. I’m proud to have survived my years in Idaho – just barely.

After 26 years of the good life in Boise’s North End liberal hideout, we moved everything we owned in 2003 to a place known – only to real smart people like me – as the Salish Sea. We couldn’t resist the siren call of the Northwest’s largest metropolitan conclave, Amazonia (formerly Seattle), known for its sky-high demographic rankings in categories like burnable dollars per condo, muzzled conservatives, worried Microsofties, pampered Googleites, hourly latte consumption, scarcity of children and religion, and mysterious, beer-swigging, basketball-addicted, billionaire San Francisco hedge-funders. Continue Reading »

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Two bulls fire near Bend, and defensible space.

 

JOURNEY WEST

by Stephen Hartgen
The personal story of the well-known editor, publisher and state legislator's travel west from Maine to Idaho. A well-written account for anyone interested in Idaho, journalism or politics.
JOURNEY WEST: A memoir of journalism and politics, by Stephen Hartgen; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, here or at Amazon.com (softcover)

 

 

NEW EDITIONS is the story of the Northwest's 226 general-circulation newspapers and where your newspaper is headed.
New Editions: The Northwest's Newspapers as They Were, Are and Will Be. Steve Bagwell and Randy Stapilus; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 324 pages. Softcover. (e-book ahead). $16.95.
See the NEW EDITIONS page.

How many copies?

 
THE OREGON POLITICAL
FIELD GUIDE 2014

The Field Guide is the reference for the year on Oregon politics - the people, the districts, the votes, the issues. Compiled by a long-time Northwest political writer and a Salem Statesman-Journal political reporter.
OREGON POLITICAL FIELD GUIDE 2014, by Randy Stapilus and Hannah Hoffman; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, available right here or through Amazon.com (softcover)

 
 
THE IDAHO POLITICAL
FIELD GUIDE 2014

by Randy Stapilus and Marty Trillhaase is the reference for the year on Idaho Politics - the people, the districts, the votes, the issues. Written by two of Idaho's most veteran politcal observers.
IDAHO POLITICAL FIELD GUIDE 2014, by Randy Stapilus and Marty Trillhaase; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, available right here or through Amazon.com (softcover)

 
 
without compromise
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WITHOUT COMPROMISE page.

 

Diamondfield
How many copies?
The Old West saw few murder trials more spectacular or misunderstood than of "Diamondfield" Jack Davis. After years of brushes with the noose, Davis was pardoned - though many continued to believe him guilty. Max Black has spent years researching the Diamondfield saga and found startling new evidence never before uncovered - including the weapon and one of the bullets involved in the crime, and important documents - and now sets out the definitive story. Here too is Black's story - how he found key elements, presumed lost forever, of a fabulous Old West story.
See the DIAMONDFIELD page for more.
 

Medimont Reflections Chris Carlson's Medimont Reflections is a followup on his biography of former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus. This one expands the view, bringing in Carlson's take on Idaho politics, the Northwest energy planning council, environmental issues and much more. The Idaho Statesman: "a pull-back-the-curtain account of his 40 years as a player in public life in Idaho." Available here: $15.95 plus shipping.
See the Medimont Reflections page  
 
Idaho 100 NOW IN KINDLE
 
Idaho 100, about the 100 most influential people ever in Idaho, by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson is now available. This is the book about to become the talk of the state - who really made Idaho the way it is? NOW AN E-BOOK AVAILABLE THROUGH KINDLE for just $2.99. Or, only $15.95 plus shipping.
 

Idaho 100 by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson. Order the Kindle at Amazon.com. For the print edition, order here or at Amazon.


 

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