Our views: Sid Otton is a local treasure

Tumwater High School football coach Sid Otton recently received a national award at the American Football Conference in San Antonio, Texas.

The Power of Influence Award is awarded to the country's high school football coach who has a positive influence on his players, his school and his community. Otton is the fifth recipient of the honor. "Of the 5,000 or so high school football coaches across the country, to be selected out of that, that magnifies the prestige of the award," said Bill Beattie, who played on Otton's first team in Tumwater in 1974 and attended the ceremony. Otton, who has stressed team goals and developing men of character over individual achievements in his 32 years at Tumwater, was embarrassed by the attention, but in his emotional acceptance speech thanked his coaching staff, his wife, Marjean, and his three children, Tim, Brad and Tana. He thanked the coaches he played for and the players who played for him. Otton is a class act, and this community is extremely fortunate to have him shaping the lives of young men.

The Medicine Creek Treaty tree is no more. The tree has been dying for 40 years - ever since its top snapped off during a winter freeze. The historic landmark was little more than a barren snag when last month's windstorm finished it off. The ancient Douglas fir tree marked the location of the signing of the Medicine Creek Treaty of 1854 where federal government officials and representatives of nine Indian tribes and bands gathered by it to sign a treaty ceding 2.2 million acres to the U.S. government. "Over the years, the tree became an icon, a reminder of our treaty rights," said Nisqually tribal chairwoman Cynthia Iyall. The Interstate 5 freeway was rerouted to preserve the historic landmark. The good news is 50 of its seedlings have been planted in a grove near the treaty site and other seedlings have taken root naturally. Another 100 second-generation seedlings will be turned over to treaty tribes.

Lacey's investment in fire protection has paid off with a better insurance rating for its residents. The city moved from Class 4 to Class 3, with Class 1 being the best fire protection possible. The Seattle-based bureau that evaluates fire departments and districts for insurance-rating purposes reviews training, equipment, location of fire stations and water supplies to calculate a grade. As noted by Chief Jim Broman, Lacey Fire District 3 has opened three new fire stations, expanded a fourth station, added a truck with a 105-foot ladder and, last year, brought on six new firefighters. The result is a safer community as acknowledged by the insurance-rating adjustment.

Two Coast Guard divers killed in a botched Arctic training dive were loaded with too much weight and were assisted by untrained crew members who had been drinking beer, an official investigation has found. According to an investigative report, the series of blunders led to the death of two Coast Guard members stationed on the Seattle-based icebreaker Healy. Vice Adm. Charles Wurster, the Coast Guard's Pacific area commander, investigated the drowning deaths of Lt. Jessica Hill, 31, of St. Augustine, Fla., and Boatswain's Mate Steven Duque, 22, of Miami. Wurster said the pair plunged to about 200 feet - about 10 times deeper than intended - when they submerged about 500 miles north of Alaska. The water was 29 degrees and they were under the water for about 20 minutes. The Coast Guard "tenders" manning the divers' lines were untrained and there were not sufficiently qualified divers to conduct the training exercise. Two of the tenders admitted drinking beer before the fatal dive. Hill's tender took her tug on the line to be an "OK" sign when the diver was actually in distress. The officers in charge of the ship received official letters of reprimand or admonition, which likely will end their careers. The Coast Guard has reviewed its entire dive program in the wake of the fatal mishap.