Support buoys ill teenager

Ashley MacDonald is terminally ill with small-cell carcinoma. The 17-year-old got the diagnosis in November, but her final days were made a little brighter thanks to a host of people - some who knew her, some who did not. Ashley thought she was getting a shopping spree courtesy of the Lacey Wal-Mart and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. She didn't know a limo was going to pick her up at her Roy home, or that a Lacey Police officer would present her with signed CDs and books by her favorite musician, Avril Lavigne. Shopping is one of Ashley's favorite pastimes, according to family members, and Lynette Huggard, community relations for Wal-Mart, said the company was going to do everything in its power to turn Ashley's shopping adventure into a wonderful experience. It was Huggard's idea to contact CosmoGIRL! magazine, which featured Lavigne recently. Huggard was thrilled when the magazine sent signed T-shirts, CDs and books. "I'm glad for Ashley," said Tolanda Jenks, who flew from Maine to be with her granddaughter in her final weeks. "She had to have such a mean thing happen to her; at least she's getting some pleasure."

Wayne "Scotty" Ruegsegger takes pride in his Evergreen Park neighborhood and has made it his personal mission to rid the area of abandoned cars. Four times every day, he walks a mile-long loop that includes Evergreen Park Drive. Every day he sees the junked vehicles - as many as six. He has pressed Olympia police to solve the problem but they have their hands full. Officers get as many as 200 complaints about abandoned vehicle each month. Enforcement falls to one police cadet, Erin Schoolcraft, a 20-year-old aspiring police officer who picks up nonemergency duties police officers can't get to. "I'm angry about the procedure," Ruegsegger said of the process necessary to get an abandoned vehicle disposed of. "I don't like the ideas of these ugly vehicles sitting here for weeks and weeks and weeks." Most people don't, and Ruegsegger deserves credit for trying to keep abandoned vehicles off neighborhood streets.

The numbers are in. More than 1,000 people participated in South Sound's 20th annual Bicycle Commuter Contest. The 1,006 bicyclists that registered this year peddled more than 87,500 miles in the monthlong competition. But as Kris Fransen, marketing and communications manager at Intercity Transit notes, "It's not really about the competing. It's about getting people out there to give it a try." Those thousand individuals who commuted to and from work took a lot of vehicles off area roadways. Officials estimate the commuter contest prevented the release of more than 80,000 pounds of carbon dioxide into the air. In addition to the environmental benefits, the exercise associated with bicycle riding is a plus for each bicyclist. Unfortunately, the future of the bicycle commuter contest is up in the air as Intercity Transit has not yet committed to hosting the contest next year. That's a shame, because it elevates the importance of getting out of single-occupancy vehicles and into other modes of transportation.

It's going to cost taxpayers at least $400,000 to get rid of the superintendent of the Tacoma School District. Charlie Milligan will receive the buyout after just one year on the job. The payout - the equivalent of two years of salary - shows the importance of contract negotiations with chief executives, whether it's a school district superintendent, port manager or a city manager. Milligan, 55, will remain on the job through Aug. 1, then receive a net cash $275,000 settlement, plus health insurance coverage through July 2008. The total package, including payroll taxes, will amount to at least $400,000, School Board President Connie Rickman said. The school board voted 3-2 in favor of the settlement. Milligan's single year on the job was controversial. He brought in a new math program and streamlined administration, but was criticized by some as an authoritarian whose administration bullied workers and brushed off community leaders.