Letters to the editor for Nov. 26

Downtown Olympia still a thriving community

It's time for The Olympian to stop its ongoing smear campaign of downtown Olympia.

The Olympian's opinion page has been continually harping about the dismal state of affairs in downtown Olympia usually referring to "safety" problems and "transients." The editorials vaguely describe these problems in anecdotal fashion while elsewhere in the paper we read fact-based articles that tell us the downtown core has a "low crime rate"; a "typical vacancy rate for a business district of its size"; a "transient population at or below the national average"; etc.

The highest number of police calls in the city originate at the Capital Mall and yet you don't hear The Olympian warning the public away from the mall. It seems to reserve its ire for those of us who prefer to support the local businesses that populate the downtown core and enjoy the diversity of people we experience there.

And it's not just the facts that contradict The Olympian's position. In every forum sponsored by the City Council, the vast majority of the participants have one thing to say; downtown Olympia is safe, it's inviting, it's a great place to spend your time.

Don't let The Olympian's fear mongering scare you away. Come downtown. You will encounter friendly people from all walks of life. Downtown Olympia is not a problem; it is a thriving, exciting community of folks who, for the most part, celebrate their differences and enjoy each other's company. I invite you to join us.

Vince Brown, Olympia

An unfunded Medicare will burden the nation

The Olympian's editorial of Nov. 9 overstates the challenges to the Social Security system and misses the much, much bigger problem: the coming collapse of Medicare.

President Bush exaggerated the funding problems of Social Security in an effort to gain support for his failed privatization proposal. Yes, in about 11 years, Social Security will need to pay out more than it is taking in. But Social Security can be stabilized with a combination of relatively minor benefit reductions and tax increases.

Medicare, however, is a mess. The combination of new medical technology, an aging population, and adoption of a prescription drug benefit that was unfunded (we're borrowing money from China to pay for it) is an oncoming fiscal train wreck. According to the Government Accountability Office, the unfunded liabilities of the federal government increased from $20.4 to $46.4 trillion (yes, that's trillion) dollars between 2000 and 2005. Nearly $21 trillion of that increase reflects expected Medicare expenditures that at present are not covered by expected federal revenues. (The Social Security long term deficit went up by a relatively modest $1.9 trillion).

If we do nothing, either massive tax increases will be required, or spending on Medicare will crowd out everything else provided by the federal government, from education funding to parks.

We need to rethink Medicare, along with our entire health care system. Perhaps the change in congressional leadership will create an environment in Washington, D.C., where honest talk about difficult problems can lead to real, innovative solutions. We can hope.

Larry Geri, Olympia

Downtown Olympia is home to local merchants

We were surprised and dismayed at the recent editorial on why Olympia should be more like Lacey. Olympia should be celebrated for its distinctive character, small businesses, and progressive ideals.

Moreover, big business isn't all that it is cracked up to be. For starters, let's not forget that when major retailers enter a city, they force out local merchants.

Major retailers also send up to 90 percent of their profits out of the local community. Franchises usually pay minimum wage with little to no health benefits for their workers. The increased traffic that is supposed to bring more buying power to a community, really brings more congestion and puts an extra burden on local municipalities to create the infrastructure to support it.

Taxpayers often foot the bill for those improvements. While the editorial board might want their children to live in poorly built, over-priced condos, wearing Gap from head to toe and getting fat on Applebee's, we don't. And as for the anti-homeless sentiments expressed, we need wrap-around social services to help people on the streets rather than simply running away and being afraid of them. It seems that the editors of The Olympian are out of touch with their community. When we think of Olympia, we think about our weekly walks to the Farmers Market and to the San Francisco Street Bakery, not a drive to Wal-Mart. Olympia has the charm and unique qualities of a small city; let's keep it that way.

Matthew Newton and Ilene Stohl, Olympia