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Journal Editor Plans Book On Korean Years

Mon., March 6, 1995

Norman Thorpe is bowing out of the Spokane business news scene.

The Spokane Journal of Business, of which he was editor and principal owner, is being acquired by an affiliate of The SpokesmanReview.

Thorpe says he will take time out to write a book. After that, who knows?

So long to a colleague, competitor, and friend - again.

Thorpe used to work on the business desk of this newspaper and I had a hand in bringing him to Spokane from San Francisco, where he was a correspondent for the Wall Street Journal.

Before that he spent more than 10 years in Korea, as Asian correspondent for the Wall Street Journal and, previously, a freelance writer.

He resigned from The Spokesman-Review as assistant business editor in 1986 to help launch the Journal of Business.

Now he’s going back to writing about Asian affairs again. But this time in a book, while remaining in Spokane.

The years he spent in Korea were an eventful period in the democratization of that country. “There are a lot of yarns I want to share about my experiences as a reporter with a ringside seat during those turbulent times,” he says.

The book will be partly aimed at a Korean readership. His wife, Hyunki Ahn, was born in Korea. The couple has two children.

Beyond the book, Thorpe says he has no plans at present, least of all, cranking up another publication. But he is “not ruling out” a return to journalism in Spokane at some time.

Whatever the future holds, Norman Thorpe has been a positive force in journalism and the business community of Spokane.

Good news for home shoppers of moderate means who have their hearts set on living downtown overlooking the river, the higher education campus and Riverfront Park. According to developer Don Barbieri, home prices in the next phase of residential construction at Riverpoint Village on the south riverbank east of Division Street Bridge will run $68,000 to $110,000.

Bad news for moms and pops interested in maybe picking up a state liquor store franchise to supplement their retirement income. Judging from the calls I received, a lot of little entrepreneurs were intrigued. But it was not to be.

Time for committee action ran out Wednesday on a legislative proposal by Gov. Mike Lowry to franchise out state liquor sales.

Maybe it’s just as well, considering the strings attached to the governor’s brand of “privatization.” Lowry ballyhooed the sale of franchises to take over the state’s existing 164 liquor stores as part of his program to “right size” government.

Problem was, he wanted to require any and all private operators who bought a franchise to employ all the government’s clerks at their present salaries with full benefits.

With the help of a few key personnel of the state liquor control board, I calculated in a recent column that a journeyman state liquor-store clerk costs Washington taxpayers $35,000 plus. That’s the same tab consumers would get stuck with, I concluded, if lawmakers went along with Lowry’s scheme to establish shadowgovernment sales outlets masquerading as private liquor stores.

My calculations brought a storm of rebuttal from liquor store clerks, managers and other government employees. No matter, what happened Wednesday made it all moot.

Actually, the plan was doomed weeks ago, Judith Gilmore, the governor’s representative in Spokane, says.

She told me several weeks ago Lowry’s liquor bill would never clear the committee. The committee’s excuse for bottling it up, she said, was that too many people testified that private liquor sales by big supermarket chains and others would boost alcohol consumption in a big way.

But polls showed 63 percent of the public liked Lowry’s idea.

Gilmore, who moved to Spokane some years ago from Colorado, observes, “There they have a mom-and-pop liquor store on every street corner - instead of latte stands. (Privatization) works.”

Actually, the foundation for true privatization is already in place in this state. Besides 164 state-run stores, there are 161 “agency” stores in smaller communities. These are operated by private licensees whom the state pays a commission on sales.

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