YAY: Opening the jail
If the tentative agreement between Thurston County and the union representing county corrections officers holds up, the Accountability and Restitution Center jail complex could open by the end of this calendar year. That’s good news. The ARC has sat empty for years, and has wasted millions of dollars keeping a vacant building warm and secure while inmates suffered in crowded conditions at the old jail.
BOO: Negotiation secrecy
Thurston County corrections union president Paul Minker is wrong. After last week’s report of a tentative agreement between the union and the county, he said county officials, such as Commissioner Karen Valenzuela, shouldn’t be discussing the negotiations at all. Yes, they should, and other public sector unions openly talk about tentative deals (see next item).
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Taxpayers paid tens of millions of dollars for this jail and they have a right to know why it’s taken so many years to reach a deal. And we deserve to know who to hold accountable for the delay.
If Thurston County held these negotiations in open public meetings, taxpayers could decide whether either side isn’t acting in good faith.
YAY: State worker pay
It looks like state workers will be getting a modest cost-of-living increase next year, after a six-year drought. The Washington Federation of State Employees reported a tentative two-year agreement last week for 3 percent and 1.8 percent hikes. That’s good news for these employees, and bodes well for other state workers whose contracts are still in process. It’s also good news for South Sound businesses and local governments, who will ultimately benefit from our largest workforce having some extra dollars in their pockets.
BOO: Congress, again
The U.S. House kicked another can down the road last week, voting to temporarily extend the Export-Import Bank’s authorization beyond its Sept. 30 deadline. That just means prolonging the fight until after the November elections. Thanks to the Rep. Denny Heck and Sen. Maria Cantwell for leading the fight to save this important tool for Washington state trade.
YAY: Freedom Farmers
A program at Olympia High School teaches students how to grow food. Based on the model of the successful nonprofit GrUB, the teens also learn how to work as a team and gather self-esteem. It’s an accomplishment to produce 10,000 pounds of vegetables annually. But that pales in comparison to the participating students’ personal growth.
The community-based cable television station just opened a state-of-the-art high-definition television studio. It’s available to the community to make video programs to air on TCTV or via the Internet.
YES: Historic Old Main
Saint Martin’s University iconic Old Main building represents the epitome of a U.S. college campus. The towering red-brick building on a knoll has been nominated for a place on the National Register of Historic Places. That’s a befitting honor for this 101-year-old example of Collegiate Gothic architecture.