Hicks said initiative signatures are public record

Thumbs up: Judge Hicks

Thurston County residents are going to miss Superior Court Judge Richard “Cork” Hicks when he retires at the end of this month. Hicks, who has a definite writing flair in legal opinions, issued another common sense ruling last week when he said the names of voters who signed 11 initiative petitions could be released to the public. Over his career as a judge, Hicks has gained a reputation as a hard worker who applied the law in an even-handed manner. In this ruling on initiative signatures, Hicks dissolved a temporary restraining order brought by initiative sponsor Tim Eyman, who sought to block the release of the names. Many of the 11 initiatives at the center of the legal dispute were filed by Eyman. Secretary of State Sam Reed has contended that the signatures are a public record that can be disclosed under state law. Eyman’s lawyer says voters have the same right to privacy when signing petitions that they have when making choices on the ballot. Hicks based his decision on this year’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that release of signatures on initiative and referendum petitions would not violate the Constitution. In addition to basing his opinions on solid legal principles, Hicks generally tempered his decisions with a heavy dose of common sense. That’s why South Sound residents will miss his measured, reasoned approach to decision making.

Thumbs down: Bad pruning

Twenty-three of the handsome old trees shading Legion Way will have to be cut down in the next three years. An assessment by the city of Olympia says the hardwoods, many planted in 1928 as a memorial to World War I, have been in poor condition since they were aggressively pruned to clear them away from power lines. How tragic. The trees are a splendid rainbow of colors in the fall. City Manager Steve Hall said, “There is a very important part of our history that is suffering.” What’s sad is that the power lines are gone, but the legacy of improperly trimmed trees remains. The trees were “topped,” meaning their upper branches were sliced off. That caused the lower tree limbs to grow upward to compensate, making the trees top-heavy. Though the power line affected trees on only one side of the street, trees on the other side also were topped so both rows would look the same. The power lines later were moved to an adjacent alley. “Unfortunately, at that point, the damage had already been done,” said Stacey Ray, the city’s urban forester. The red oaks, pin oaks and sweet gums have been vulnerable to windstorms since they were topped. The city’s assessment says that 23 trees are candidates to be removed in the next one to three years. An additional 76 trees can be removed in later phases and 28 trees are in good condition. Those 28 trees were planted in the past 15 to 20 years and haven’t been topped. This case shows the importance of properly pruning trees and the danger of topping.

Thumbs up: BECU

Boeing Employees Credit Union, one of the state’s largest credit unions, is lending a hand to one of the state’s smallest — the Tulip Cooperative Credit Union, a seven-year-old credit union based at the Olympia Food Co-op. BECU is paying for a marketing campaign to help Tulip diversify its membership base. Tulip was created to serve low- to moderate-income people, but board members hope to entice the “socially conscious borrower” — someone who might borrow $25,000 for a car loan, knowing those loans will help fund smaller loans for low-income members, board Chairman Eric Bowman said. Generating more loans will help the credit union grow. It’s no secret that Tulip has struggled. At one point, loan activity fell from $10,000 to just $800. Bowman said the marketing campaign is “a face-lift to better tell our story.” Tulip today reports having 1,013 members and total assets of $2.2 million. Boeing Employees Credit Union also played a role in boosting Tulip’s financial fortunes. Credit unions can’t raise money quickly because they don’t sell stock the way a bank does, but low-income credit unions can tap “secondary capital” in which they can receive a long-term loan at low or no interest. Tulip received $100,000 in secondary capital from BECU, plus some grant funds from other sources, to help improve its financial footing, Bowman said. Tulip serves a great role in the South Sound community, and the assistance by Boeing Employees Credit Union is greatly appreciated.