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Publisher's column: Hands On Children's Museum

When Canadian songwriter Joni Mitchell wrote the words, "You don't know what you've got till it's gone," she was referring to people's natural tendency to take things for granted.

No doubt that some Olympian residents have never set foot in the Capitol rotunda, or taken the time to walk Percival Landing and have lunch at the Farmers Market. Many Washingtonians never go to Mount Rainier or the Space Needle except, perhaps, when relatives from the Midwest come to visit, and then only begrudgingly.

Our community seems blessed with many amenities that a person can easily overlook. The unique Olympia downtown district comes immediately to mind, with its theaters and restaurants and interesting shops. The Capitol Campus is another.

Perhaps one of the most important is the Hands On Children’s Museum, which a Seattle TV station just named as the best place for kids to have fun in Western Washington. That recognition for being a fun place actually understates the critical role the museum plays in providing early childhood education to a large and diverse population in South Sound.

At a breakfast last week to raise funds for the Hands On Children’s Museum, John Stanton made it clear. As the chairman of the Business Partnership for Early Learning in Seattle, his group is running a five-year test program to prove that investing in early childhood learning builds a long-term ready work force and a stronger local economy, providing a 1,600 percent return on investment.

Stanton said children begin learning right out of the womb. Without proper encouragement or opportunity, some capacity for learning declines or even dies within the first year or two of life. Half of the kids entering kindergarten aren’t prepared to learn, a number that increases to 75 percent for minorities. It’s one reason why about 25 percent of students eventually drop out of high school.

We’re fortunate to have the Hands On Children’s Museum in Olympia, where free and reduced-rate programs reach out to those families who need early childhood learning opportunities the most.

PORT ACTIVITIES

It seems like a lot of activity at the Port of Olympia lately. Besides the new Hands On Children’s Museum, public plaza and LOTT Alliance buildings, there’s a plan for a residential and commercial redevelopment of the whole East Bay area.

Last week, citizens provided port officials with feedback on proposals for the NorthPoint area that could provide hundreds of jobs and a multimillion-dollar positive effect on our economy.

Those are rather visible signs of port activity. Yet, behind the scenes, the Port of Olympia is showing the largest increase in marine terminal activity on the West Coast, contributing to operating income going over the $1 million mark for the first time.

Olympia’s paid hours to longshore workers increased 75.9 percent through mid-October. Only a few other ports showed an increase, most in the 9 percent to 15 percent range.

Most West Coast ports recorded a decline in activity this year, with Seattle falling off 15 percent, Everett down 23 percent and Portland down 27 percent. Even Long Beach, Calif., declined 25 percent.

We’re doing something right in Olympia.

READER PANEL

The Olympian recently invited readers to take part in a group that will make recommendations to the editors for revisions to our comics pages. Several dozen enthusiastic comics readers responded, for which we’re grateful.

Early next month, we’ll choose the reader panel from those applicants and ask them to review our current comics and some new ones we don’t now carry. The plan is to finish the selection process and unveil a new and improved comics page at the beginning of 2010. Stay tuned.

George Le Masurier, publisher of The Olympian, can be reached at 360-357-0206 or glemasurier@theolympian.com.

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