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Eye On Olympia

Posts tagged: olympia

Anti-poverty groups rally at capitol…

About 300 people from anti-poverty groups and other organizations held a rally on the capitol steps Monday afternoon. They called for restrictions on payday lending, more health care, and preservation of the General Assistance to the Unemployable program, which provides health coverage and monthly stipends of $339 to people who cannot hold a job, often due to mental health problems.

Who greets the legislative session each January with glee?

Restaurants, florists, and the city of Olympia’s traffic-fine fund.

Olympia’s handing out sandbags…

The city’s giving up to 10 sandbags apiece to city residents facing flooding problems.

Details here.

(Hat tip to Olyblog.)

What’s really being discussed when public officials are hunched over their laptops?

Great story from the Olympian’s Matt Batcheldor recently, in which he details what council members seem to be doing on their computers during meetings: secretly working out how to vote and mocking a member of the public who showed up to testify.

The paper got the council’s email records for half a dozen meetings over several months. Among the exchanges:

During the Oct. 14 meeting, in an e-mail to (councilman Craig) Ottavelli, (councilman Jeff) Kingsbury made a derisive comment about Gerald Reilly, a member of a citizen’s group that wants to turn much of the area between Capitol Lake and Budd Inlet into a park.

“Jerry Reilly can’t even look anyone in the eye. Coward,” Kingsbury wrote.

Asked about that, Kingsbury told the paper that Reilly was a friend and he wouldn’t comment on the e-mail.

The Olympia council also felt the love from the Tacoma News-Tribune, which editorialized:

We may be interlopers from outside Olympia, but the idea that a council could have what amounts to a secret meeting under the cover of an ostensibly legal and public one should be troubling to anyone concerned with ensuring that public business is done in public.



Several state offices closed due to yesterday’s snow, ice…

Several state offices have shut down today, as the Olympia area is blanketed with dense wet snow from yesterday and several previous days. Of the four capitol reporters who made it in to my office this morning, three got their cars stuck in the parking lot. (The fourth is a sturdy native Idahoan at the wheel of an old four-wheel-drive Nissan.) The weather has hampered staffing at state offices since the middle of last week. On Thursday, the Employment Security Department temporarily closed its two call centers that field requests for unemployment insurance claims, saying that snow and ice made it too hazardous for employees to get there to man the phones. (Most workers can also file a claim online at www.esd.wa.gov.)

Who’s watching the store? Olympia press corps has shrunk by two-thirds since early 1990s…

As newspapers shrink staff, the number of reporters covering state government has shrunk dramatically, both across the nation and here in Olympia. We joke that soon the only one watching government will be the robotic cameras of TVW, the state’s public affairs network. And no one laughs very hard.

The Seattle Times’ Andrew Garber chronicled the growing emptiness at the press desks on the House and Senate floor.

In 1993, there were 34 journalists covering the Washington state Legislature. By 2007, there were 17. This year, there may be as few as 10 full-time journalists, mostly newspaper reporters.

and this:

The Associated Press office at the state Capitol keeps a printout with mugshots of reporters who recently covered the Legislature pinned to a wall. They mark off each reporter who leaves. Seven faces are now covered with smiley-face stickers.

The public-relations staff employed by state lawmakers and government agencies, many of whom are former journalists, vastly outnumber the reporters in Olympia who call them for information.

Some political bloggers are trying to fill that gap. Horse’s Ass blogger David Goldstein is thinking of dispatching one of his political writers, Josh Feit, to cover Olympia’s legislative session. Writes Goldstein:

The problem, of course, is the money.  It’ll cost HA about $15,000 in salary and expenses to pay Josh to cover this four month session… and that’s on top of the money I ultimately need to raise to support myself.  And I’d like to hear from you, my readers, whether you think it is worth it?

Snow paralyzes capitol…

I know this is hard to believe in places with things like snow plows and sanders, but 2 1/2 inches of snow overnight has left the capital city at a near-standstill, with a small number of cars and trucks creeping over snow that’s been compacted to make for some nice sledding indeed.

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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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