Editorials

Open governments don’t charge for interviews

With the still-vibrant mural depicting the 2012 Paddle to Squaxin event displayed on its westside wall the vacant Les Schwab waterfront property at 210 State Ave. and next to Percival Landing has been purchased by Downtown Olympia developer Walker John who hopes to turn it into a commercial space with a restaurant and 40-plus apartments.
With the still-vibrant mural depicting the 2012 Paddle to Squaxin event displayed on its westside wall the vacant Les Schwab waterfront property at 210 State Ave. and next to Percival Landing has been purchased by Downtown Olympia developer Walker John who hopes to turn it into a commercial space with a restaurant and 40-plus apartments. sbloom@theolympian.com

REMINDER FOR LANGLEY’s MAYOR: The mayor of Langley stepped into a mess of his own making on Whidbey Island. Tim Callison actually suggested a $64 invoice be sent to the local South Whidbey Record newspaper for an interview it had with the city’s attorney.

The conversation was related to a controversial sanctuary-city ordinance.

Callison since said in interviews Monday with the Record and also The Seattle Times that he did not intend to collect payment, but wanted the local paper’s attention. He indicated attorney fees, which run $320 an hour, are costly for the small jurisdiction.

He also said he arranged for the contract attorney to rescind the bill and that he would not be billing the Times for its interview.

Good call there, mayor. We actually thank the mayor for picking such a fortuitous time to get contrite. Sunday was the start of Sunshine Week, observed by U.S. newspapers including The Olympian and open government advocates each year.

Perhaps Callison should read our Sunday editorial about Sunshine Week and the need for governments to accept that public disclosure is a necessary cost of doing business. We hadn’t thought it necessary at the time to say it, but disclosure also means access to government officials and their experts.

We won’t bill the mayor for our advice.

The return of Walker John (again)

Developer Walker John has made a name for himself with numerous projects adding market-rate housing to Olympia’s downtown core.

After launching a recent proposal for 87 apartments, nine townhouses and retail space near the Hands-On Children’s Museum, it seemed fair to think John and his Urban Olympia partnership might take a day off.

But John recently spent a reported $1.9 million for property next to the city’s Percival Landing along Budd Inlet. He is proposing to construct more than 40 apartments and a restaurant on the 0.4 acre parcel that once housed a Les Schwab tire center. An architect is onboard with the project and the design concept may go to the city within a few weeks.

This is good news.

As with any downtown structure, the city must to take into account sea-level rise and public parking concerns in a corner of the city that is filling up. We also wonder whether a mural depicting the 2012 Squaxin tribal canoe journey can be preserved in some fashion.

We also wonder whether demand for higher-rent housing is sufficient for more projects, but John’s team has put enough money into securing the land that it suggests he is serious.

We look forward to seeing the plans

Remembering Helen Sommers

If office buildings on our state Capitol Campus must carry the names of humans, adding former state House budget writer Helen Sommers’ moniker to the new state-owned structure nearing completion on the Capitol Campus is an idea with some merit.

Rep. Sommers, a Seattle Democrat, died at the age of 84 in Florida on March 7. She was a force to reckon with on state budgets for many years, and Karen Fraser, the recently retired Senate Democrat from Thurston County, credits Sommers with putting Washington’s public pension system among the top tier nationally for its adequacy of funding.

Sommers served 36 years in the House and was known for her strong support for women’s rights and higher education. Her terse manner and impatient glares were useful tools for keeping lobbyists at bay.

House Concurrent Resolution 4400, which would formally name the new structure, gets a Senate committee hearing Friday. The State Capitol Committee, which recommends name changes for campus buildings, also meets Thursday (March 16) to consider the name proposal.

The $82 million building under construction will house the Washington State Patrol and smaller legislative agencies at the corner of Capitol Way and 11th Avenue. Across the street is the TVW building, which is named for former Republican Senate Majority Leader Jeannette Hayner.

Many state-owned buildings are named for elected officials after their deaths. The House office building is named for a Democratic speaker, John L. O’Brien; a Senate Office building for a Democratic lieutenant governor, John A. Cherberg; a former state library for a Republican lieutenant governor and congressman, Joel Pritchard; and a Republican Senate office building for a Republican state senator, Irv Newhouse of Mabton.

There’s been a counter-trend to seek descriptive names for buildings. Examples are the Transportation Building, Natural Resources Building and Employment Security Building on the East Campus, and a proposal to rename Office Building 2 as the Human Services Building.

There’s good sense in naming a public building for its function. This helps campus visitors figure out what is where.

But including the name of a person on a building gives a building a reference to our shared history. There is a place for that, too.

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