Letters of the month highlight the year's top issues

Today, The Olympian prints its 1,345th letter to the editor for the year.

The election, the sting operation that netted Olympia City Councilman Joe Hyer in a drug transaction, and the decision of the Olympia Food Co-op Board of Directors to boycott Israeli goods, were lively topics for community debate on the opinion page in 2010.

Each month, The Olympian’s Editorial Board selects a letter of the month. Sometimes it’s a witty letter. Other times, it’s a letter that tugs at the heartstrings, or is well-researched and written. Other winners of the monthly Silver Pen award have written letters that are provocative or take a bold stand or prompt a community reaction.

Let’s recap the Silver Pen winners for 2010:

 • Liza Rognas of Olympia kicked off the year by winning the January Silver Pen award with a well-written letter about the need to shop locally and support local and state governments at a time of shrinking financial resources. “When we fire state/county employees, we lose our middle class, and thus our strongest tax base,” Rognas wrote. “We lose teachers, nurses, scientists, law enforcement and road workers. We lose community, effective government, and, mostly, we sacrifice democracy.”

 • The February letter of the month went to Michael Edwards of Olympia. He stressed the importance of early childhood education, saying, “Enrolling at-risk kids in high quality early learning can save as much as $10 for every $1 spent by reducing crime, special education and other costs.”

 • Valerie Esquibel of Olympia was declared the winner of the March letter contest. She pointed out the dangerous driving conditions on Yelm Highway where drivers on their morning commute routinely sped and violate other traffic laws. Esquibel called upon other motorists to be on the lookout for children and bicyclists.

 • Bruce Newman of Olympia was the April letter winner. His letter on religion closed with this comment: “When President Obama points out that we are not a Christian nation, he is not denying our country’s rich Christian heritage, he is merely stating the obvious: the U.S.A. possesses no official religion.”

 • The top letter from May was penned by Beth Daniel of Olympia. She used a local trespassing incident where a man was shot to recall a time in her youth when she knocked on the window of what she thought was her boyfriend’s bedroom window, only to have a gun pointed at her face. Hers was a timely warning not to trespass.

 • Janis Stevenson of Tumwater won the Silver Pen for June. She was reacting to a call to “throw the bums” out of office. Stevenson urged a more reasoned approach to electoral politics, saying, “Vote smart, not angry.”

 • Jamie McNarmara Peck of Olympia walked away with July honors after witnessing a horrible car accident on the night of the Fourth of July. She noted how lucky the young occupants were to escape death and ended her letter with a timely message: “Dear local teenagers: I am so glad you were wearing your seat belts last night.”

 • Midway through the year, Robert Walker of Lacey wrote a pointed letter on the importance of religious freedom for all Americans, noting that Article 6 of the Constitution bars all religious tests for any governmental office, locally or nationally.

 • Dianne Doonan of Lacey zeroed in on a conflict between government offices in her letter for the month of September. She noted that the state Department of Transportation was urging residents to check real-time traffic information with their iPhones at the same time Washington State Patrol troopers were enforcing the new law that outlaws texting or talking on a cellular phone while driving.

 • Steilacoom resident Alfred K. Lamotte won the top letter honor for October. He said, “We need to go beyond tolerance, to celebration. Celebrating our differences means rejoicing in a world where people and cultures are delightfully and divinely ‘we,’ instead of the God-forsaken world where everyone mirrors ‘me.’ ”

 • The November Silver Pen winner was awarded to Jo Gallaugher, owner of Matter Gallery in downtown Olympia. In her letter, Gallaugher saluted the unique qualities of the downtown business district and called upon residents to patronize downtown businesses to help the owners survive the years-long economic recession.

 • And, finally, the winner of the December letter of the month is Glen Anderson of Lacey, whose letter on homelessness will run again in Saturday’s newspaper. Anderson says the homeless are the canaries in our mine. “The problem is not homeless persons,” Anderson wrote. “The problem is poverty itself — and the massive shift of our nation’s wealth from the working class and middle class to the extremely rich.”

Congratulations to the 12 Silver Pen award winners for 2010. Readers can see the full text of all dozen letters at www.theolympian.com/editorial.

Olympian readers are invited to join the community discussion by submitting a 250-word or less letter. Who knows, you might be a silver pen winner in 2011.