How downtown can reach its full potential

YAY: Reaching potential

Many people feel that downtown Olympia has not reached its full potential. That may be an understatement. To help downtown reach that potential, the City of Olympia plans to use the Community Renewal Area program to remove or improve blighted properties. People can learn about how the CRA works at two public meetings at 4.30 p.m. on Dec. 3 and 4. in the City Council chambers.

YAY: New council member

Congrats to Eileen Swarthout on her appointment to the Tumwater City Council. The state worker and Ballet Northwest board member replaces the recently elected M. John Way, who resigned. She will have to run for an elected term next fall. In the meantime, there’s plenty going on with a new hotel under construction and the possible sale and redevelopment of the brewery property.

YAY: Master volunteers

Five Thurston County Master Gardeners have received the highest President’s Volunteer Service Award. Mary Boston, Tam Crocker, Bob Findlay, Norman Gallacci and Mike Gard received the Call to Service Lifetime Award for each completing more than 4,000 hours of volunteer work as members of the Washington State University Master Gardener Program. Jeannine Pia received the Gold Level award for volunteering more than 500 hours in one year at the Rainier Community Garden.

Cindy Cartwright was nominated as the Thurston Master Gardener of the year for her work with the children’s program at the Dirt Works demonstration garden.

YAY: Caring for seniors

Thanks to the state Attorney General’s Office, seniors at two skilled-nursing facilities in Olympia will receive better care in the future. Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office led a multi-state effort to hold Extendicare Health Services Inc. and a subsidiary accountable for services so deficient that the AG said they were worthless.

In an agreement with seven states, Extendicare will pay $28 million to the states and the federal government to reimburse Medicaid for essentially worthless services. The deal, which includes about $1 million to Washington state, should benefit seniors living at Evergreen Nursing and Rehabilitation and Puget Sound Healthcare with improved care.

SAD: Bridge deaths

Two people have jumped from the Capitol Boulevard bridge over I-5 in the last two weeks. They were the first deaths since mid-2011 when the Washington Department of Transportation added an 8-foot fence. Yet the agency has no plans to make jumping from this bridge more difficult. Surely some modification would be the appropriate response.

YAY: $40 PSE credit

Thurston County residents will get an early Christmas present from Puget Sound Energy. The energy company is sharing $59.2 million from the sale of its Jefferson County assets with more than 1.1 million customers in eight counties, including Thurston. PSE will apply a one-time credit of about $40 to customers’ December bills. With the unusual cold temperatures this month, the credit will be especially welcome.

BOO: Overpaying athletes

Giancarlo “Carlos” Stanton received a record $325 million, 13-year contract from the Florida Marlins. Stanton is a great baseball hitter, but is any athlete worth such an enormous amount of money? Are society’s values completely out of whack with reality? What could $325 million do for education, the homeless or to spur the economy?