April 22, 2010

EARTH DAY AT 40

Originally established in 1970 by President Nixon,
Earth Day 2010 [40th Anniversary] can be a turning point to advance climate policy, energy efficiency, renewable energy and green jobs. Earth Day Network is galvanizing millions who make personal commitments to sustainability. Earth Day 2010 is a pivotal opportunity for individuals, corporations and governments to join together and create a global green economy. Join the more than one billion people in 190 countries that are taking action for Earth Day.”

Delta Airlines SKY Magazine has a fabulous article on Earth day featuring Jane Goodall. Robert Redford, Ted Danson & many others.

And, “Dr. Jane Goodall: ‘I’m not going to fight for animal rights,'” quoting The Ecologist.

“‘Best of Nature’ for Earth Day” pictures from MSNBC.
“The top 40 nature photos of all time? In honor of the 40th annual Earth Day on April 22, members of the International League of Conservation Photographers chose their top 40 [Ten of those 40 are shown…].”


April 22, 2010

VENTURE BANK FAILURE STUDIED

From The Olympian:

A series of issues that contributed to the closure of DuPont-based Venture Bank last fall were highlighted in a report released Wednesday by federal regulators.

The 43-page report, known as a material loss review, was released by the Office of Inspector General of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. It outlines the reasons behind the banks failure and the role state and federal regulators played in supervising the financial institution.

The review was conducted by auditors KPMG LLP on behalf of the OIG. Material loss reviews are triggered by failed banks that tap FDIC funds, according to the report…

The report largely focused on Ventures commercial real estate and acquisition, development and construction loans a risky investment strategy and Venture management before the bank was closed Sept. 11 and sold to First Citizens Bank & Trust of North Carolina.

On the day it closed, Venture had $992 million in assets, and the estimated loss to the FDICs fund was $240.1 million. Venture Bank started as Lacey Bank in May 1979…

Among the reports findings:

Commercial real estate and acquisition, development and construction loans:

The banks concentration of commercial real estate loans were more than 600 percent of total capital from 2005 to 2007, compared with 357 percent to 405 percent for similar-sized banks in the same period. Acquisition, development and construction loans also totaled nearly 50 percent of total loans. By September 2008, Ventures ADC concentration exceeded all but 1.5 percent of the banks and thrifts nationally, the report states.

Investment strategy:

The banks total investments, which contained very high-risk instruments, rose to $295 million in June 2008 from $170 million in 2006….

Management and board oversight:

After a series of examinations by regulators, they noted that the board was either unaware of or failed to grasp the potential threat to the banks viability of increasing risk without corresponding increases in capital.

The board members failed to place limits on managements investment decisions and did not slow the steady increase in ADC loan concentrations, the report states.

Regulators, however, could have done a better job in supervising Venture Bank.

Stronger supervisory actions in 2007 could have influenced Ventures board and management to limit the significant level of risks assumed, the report states.

Dave Ross’s morning commentary on the CBS Radio Network which aired on KIRO-FM 97.3 radio in Seattle highlights some similar banking practices at WaMu:
April 13, 2010
When the profit motive attacks!
The Senate Committee investigating the collapse of Washington Mutual today heard testimony that bank executives were warned they were loaning money to people who couldn’t pay it back.
CLICK HERE to listen.


April 21, 2010

BALD HILLS FIRE DEPT. CELEBRATES 3RD YEAR OF GROWTH

“Over the past three years membership in the Bald Hills FD continues to grow. The Board of Commissioners recently recognized the outstanding effort the members and their families have made to support the fire dept. and the community at the annual banquet. Many hours away from home are needed for training, testing and responding on calls. Thanks to the efforts of all the volunteers the Bald Hills FD has some of the best response times in Thurston County. Response times are almost half of what they were three years ago.

Among the members, the department recognized Ron Smith as the Volunteer of the Year for 2009. He has been very active in training and responding to a majority of calls. He was selected as a Lieutenant in December 2009 and continues to pursue advanced training.

The annual banquet is held at the Cascades Camp & Conference Center and was attended by over 70 members, family and friends this year.

Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer should contact the department at (360) 894-2517 and visit our website at www.baldhillsfire.org,” quoting the Bald Hills Fire Press Release.

Bald Hills FD (officially Thurston County Fire Protection Fire District #17, TCFPD #17) was established in 1975 and serves the greater Cougar Mountain and Clearwood communities. The department members are volunteers who cover the 70 square miles providing fire, EMS, and rescue services to the growing community.

Contact:
Steven L. Slater
Deputy Fire Chief
DeputyChief17@fairpoint.net
P.O. Box 783
Yelm, WA 98597
(360) 894-2517


April 20, 2010

IS YELM OWNED? MAYOR HARDING: TOO CONTROLLING OR GOOD POLITICIAN?

One would think this town is controlled by one man, if an outsider looked at the local newspaper on-stands this week.

Yelm’s Mayor Ron Harding is pictured or mentioned in this week’s Nisqually Valley News 7 times:

1. Front page headline article on Appeals Court over-turning JZ Knight’s lawsuit against the city.

Ed. Note: Harding said in this story:
“‘Knight’s already caused the damage with some of these developers,’ Harding said. ‘Some of them have had to file bankruptcy.'”
This is an appalling comment by a city official – that the developers’ woes are tied to Knight – a statement that is totally out-of-line & demonstrates the caliber of person this mayor is.
The developers’ bankruptcy lies at their own hands. They found bankers, who through avarice & greed, disregarded wise banking practices while they ignorantly sided with City of Yelm officials who brushed-off state regulations designed to protect the public’s interests, thinking no one would notice.
Oh, and the developers’ bankers? They have been put on-notice by the Federal Reserve.

2. A picture on the front-page and page A-7 on the Yelm By-pass ribbon-cutting and this quote:
“Yelm Mayor Ron Harding said he’s happy to be the mayor who reaps all the benefits.”

Ed. Note: What was NOT mentioned in this story is while the entire Bypass when completed will be of great benefit, my issue all along has been the disingenuous nature of the city requesting WSDOT split the Bypass into 2 phases & taking remaining right-of-way & engineering funds from Phase 2 & moving them to Phase 1, so Ron Harding could have a ribbon-cutting on his watch for a 1 mile section that doesn’t even approach the city’s main cross street 1st Ave. and leaves the 3+ mile Wal-Mart, Phase 2 section of the road without funding.

3. “Yelm going digging for additional water
Harding suggested he’ll condemn Tahoma Terra’s defaulted land to get water.
He already went after a citizen’s water rights last year with the McMonigles, entangling the city in a legal-billings quagmire.
Ed. Note: Scroll down to see yesterday’s blog entry.

4. The Mayor’s Column titled:
“Higher water rates a sign of shifted economy”

Ed. Note: Harding mentions nothing about the higher water rates are to fund an unapproved draft Water System Plan (WSP) to spend millions on infrastructure for multi-planned communities (that have defaulted).

5. Picture of Mayor Harding at Chamber After Hours
Mayor Harding is also the Yelm Chamber Treasurer.
Ed. Note: How about pictures of other Chamber Board members?
Or, what is this newspaper’s fascination with the mayor?

6. “Harding talks conservation
Harding tells Yelm Chamber of Commerce members they will have 50% mandatory irrigation cuts this summer, yet omits telling them the city over pumped its allocation and continues to issue building permits without water.
Ed. Note: More on this coming soon in an investigative report.

7. Chamber swears in 2010 officers –
Harding is listed as Treasurer with a picture.
Ed. Note: Interesting that the Mayor directed Council to allocate funding for Chamber advertising and is the person responsible to see that the public’s money is deposited into the Chamber bank account and reconciled. Isn’t this a conflict of interest? HMMM!

IS THIS TOWN TOO CONTROLLED BY MAN?
OR IS MAYOR HARDING JUST A GOOD POLITICIAN?
WHAT DO YOU SAY?
HMMM


April 19, 2010

HARDING SUUGESTS CONDEMNING TAHOMA TERRA LAND TO GET WATER FOR CITY

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED HERE SATURDAY, APRIL 17, 2010.

In Friday’s edition of the Nisqually Valley News [April 16], Yelm Mayor Ron Harding was quoted in a front-page story titled:
“Yelm going digging for additional water”

where he said:
“‘The property the well is being drilled on is currently owned by developers, but within its master plan is an agreement to gift the property to the city.’

Yelm Mayor Ron Harding said if for whatever reason those plans don’t move forward, the city can always condemn the property.”

On April 13th, the Yelm City Council approved a $615,223 expenditure to dig a test/production well, which is on Tahoma Terra property.
Ed. Note: This is one of the contributing factors to a 32% water rate increase in the last 9 months.

The property’s deed where SW Yelm Well #2 is located shows Thurston Highlands, LLC as the owners and is located within the unfinished phases of Tahoma Terra, having been in foreclosure since the developers defaulted, as reported in The Olympian.

City Administrator Shelly Badger responded on-the-record to Council member Thompson’s question [April 10] about his understanding that SW Yelm Well #2 was located on city-owned land, where she said:
“We also, in addition to that, have approval from the property owner to conduct the drilling activity. But ultimately, yes, it is owned by the city. ”

THESE QUESTIONS ARE GLARING:
– How can Mrs. Badger tell Council member Thompson the city owns this land? HMMM! Did she lie on-record?
– How can the developers gift the property for the well to the city if they are in default & going to auction, according to Mayor Harding’s assertion?
– Is the city looking to buy or has an agreement been consummated for the parcel, at auction?
– Is this the “real estate acquisition” issue being discussed in the City Council’s Executive Session & away from the public the last few months?
– What if water is not found after spending 2/3 of a million dollars at the Tahoma Terra site?
– The mayor said the property is still owned by developers, however the land is in default & was scheduled for auction and Mrs. Badger says the land is owned by the city. So, what IS the truth?

Additionally, the city has been notified by the Dept. of Ecology they over-pumped their 2009 water allocation, so the city is looking for more water rights and implementing a mandatory 50% irrigation cutback on local commercial property owners.

Mayor Ron Harding & the city have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars condemning another citizen’s water rights last year, which they still do not own!

The City of Yelm has had an expired Water System Plan (WSP) for almost a year and a half, resulting in a Yellow Operating Permit from the Dept. of Health. The city is supposed to update their 6-year WSP every six years. Their draft Water System Plan has yet to be approved by the Depts. of Health & Ecology.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE MAYOR’S COMMENT & CITY’S ACTIONS TO CONDEMN PRIVATE PROPERTY FOR WATER RIGHTS?
ISN’T THIS AN ABUSE OF THE INTENT OF EMINENT DOMAIN LAWS?


April 18, 2010

PUBLIC HEARINGS THIS WEEK: “Designation of Mineral Lands and Permitting Requirements”

“Greetings from the Thurston County Planning Department. We are writing to advise you of two public hearings on proposed changes to how mineral lands are designated in Thurston County, and the permitting requirements to extract minerals from those areas.

The April 21 public hearing before the Planning Commission
will focus on proposed requirements for obtaining a special-use permit for mineral extraction.

The April 22 public hearing before the Board of County Commissioners
will focus on proposed changes to how mineral lands are designated in Thurston County’s Comprehensive Plan.

April 21, 2010: The Thurston County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing to take public comment on the draft ordinance relating to the Special Use Permit process and requirements involving mineral extraction under Thurston County Code (TCC) 20.54.070. The draft ordinance includes changes to the process and requirements for obtaining a special use permit for mineral extraction. The amendments include, but are not limited to, where mineral extraction activities may be permitted, exclusion of critical areas and new buffers established under TCC 20.54.070(21), restrictions on impacts to critical areas, removing asphalt production and recycling as accessory uses to mineral extraction and other amendments related to permitting mineral extraction as a special use. For details, click here.

April 22, 2010:The Board of County Commissioners will hold a public hearing to accept public comment on the adoption of updates to the Thurston County Comprehensive Plan Chapter 3, Natural Resources. Specifically, this amendment changes the criteria for how property is designated as mineral lands of long-term commercial significance, and the permitting of gravel mines. It addresses the minimum designation criteria such as set back standards, site size, and various environmental considerations.
For details, click here.

Please note: The permitting of asphalt plants was included in Ordinance No. 13030, but will be addressed by the Board at a later time. The ordinance limits the issuance of special use permits for asphalt plants and gravel mines. To view the ordinance, click here.

Sincerely,
The Planning Department Staff


April 17, 2010

MAYOR SUGGESTS CONDEMNING TAHOMA TERRA LAND TO GET WATER

In Friday’s edition of the Nisqually Valley News [April 16], Yelm Mayor Ron Harding was quoted in a front-page story titled:
“Yelm going digging for additional water”

where he said:
“‘The property the well is being drilled on is currently owned by developers, but within its master plan is an agreement to gift the property to the city.’

Yelm Mayor Ron Harding said if for whatever reason those plans don’t move forward, the city can always condemn the property.”

On April 13th, the Yelm City Council approved a $615,223 expenditure to dig a production well, which is on Tahoma Terra property.

The property’s deed where SW Yelm Well #2 is located shows Thurston Highlands, LLC as the owners and is located within the unfinished phases of Tahoma Terra, having been in foreclosure since the developers defaulted, as reported in The Olympian.

City Administrator Shelly Badger responded on-the-record to Council member Thompson’s question [April 10] about his understanding that SW Yelm Well #2 was located on city-owned land, where she said:
“We also, in addition to that, have approval from the property owner to conduct the drilling activity. But ultimately, yes, it is owned by the city. ”

How can Mrs. Badger tell Council member Thompson the city owns this land?
How can the developers gift the property for the well to the city if they are in default & going to auction, according to Mayor Harding’s assertion?
Is the city looking to buy the parcel at auction?
Is this the “real estate acquisition” issue being discussed in the City Council’s Executive Session & away from the public the last few months.

Mayor Ron Harding & the city have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars condemning another citizen’s water rights last year, which they still do not own!

Additionally, the city has been notified by the Dept. of Ecology they over-pumped their 2009 water allocation, so the city is looking for more water rights and implementing a mandatory 50% irrigation cutback on local commercial property owners.

The City of Yelm has had an expired Water System Plan (WSP) for almost a year and a half, resulting in a Yellow Operating Permit from the Dept. of Health. The city is supposed to update their 6-year WSP every six years. Their draft Water System Plan has yet to be approved by the Depts. of Health & Ecology.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE MAYOR’S COMMENT & CITY’S ACTIONS TO CONDEMN PRIVATE PROPERTY FOR WATER RIGHTS?
ISN’T THIS AN ABUSE OF THE INTENT OF EMINENT DOMAIN LAWS?


April 16, 2010

STATE APPEALS COURT OVERTURNS JZ KNIGHT’S CASE AGAINST CITY’S WATER PRACTICES

FIRST PUBLISHED THURSDAY, APRIL 15, 3:03PM

JZ Knight’s successful Thurston County Superior Court ruling by Judge Chris Wickham made final November 7, 2008 from his Letter Opinion dated October 7, 2008 was overturned by the Washington State Court of Appeals in a ruling issued Tuesday afternoon, April 13, 2010. The City of Yelm appealed the Court’s decision in Fall, 2008.

From JZ Knight’s website:
“In response to the Court of the Appeals opinion issued on April 13, 2010 dismissing JZ Knights LUPA petition and reversing the Thurston County Superior Court ruling,

JZ states, ‘Our attorneys are reviewing the decision and evaluating options.’

Read the Court of Appeals Division II State of Washington Opinion Information Sheet

Read the Public Notice to Residents, Taxpayers and City of Yelm Water System Customers from Nov 2008.”

MAYOR HARDING SAID IN TODAY’S [April 15, 2010] NISQUALLY VALLEY NEWS:
“‘Knight’s already caused the damage with some of these developers,’ Harding said. ‘Some of them have had to file bankruptcy.'”

Ed. Note: This is an appalling comment by a city official – that the developer’s woes are tied to JZ Knight – a statement that is totally out-of-line & demonstrates the caliber of person this man is, passing the buck and is totally opposite what he said last year in the April, 2009 NVN:

“The city has taken the stance in recent years for growth to pay for growth, Harding said.
The city has taken on debt and allowed new growth to pay that debt.

That has changed with the economy, growth slowing and an anti-growth environment.

‘We can no longer operate the system allowing new growth,’ Harding said….”

The developers’ bankruptcy lies at their own hands. They found bankers, who through avarice & greed, tossed wise banking practices to the wind to invest in their dreams to put 5,000 homes (18,000 added people) in a town of 5,000. And, the developers threw their bags in with City of Yelm officials who thumbed their noses at state regulations designed to protect the public’s interests (i.e. Dept. of Ecology water allocations) thinking no one would notice.

SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
THE CITY DOES NOT HAVE TO PROVE IT HAS WATER UNTIL THE BUILDING PERMIT STAGE IN A DEVELOPMENT — WHICH IS AFTER PLAT APPROVAL.
IN OTHER WORDS, A DEVELOPER WILL BE ABLE TO GO AHEAD AND CREATE A DEVELOPMENT, PUT IN ROADS, TELEPHONE LINES, WATER, SEWER & POWER AND THEN PROVE WATER WHEN THEY APPLY FOR A BUILDING PERMIT TO BUILD A HOME.
IF THE DEVELOPER AND/OR THE CITY DOES NOT HAVE ENOUGH WATER THEN, THE BUILDING PERMIT IS TURNED-DOWN – AFTER ALL OF THAT EXPENDITURE.

DRIVE THROUGH THE UNFINISHED PHASES OF DEFAULTED TAHOMA TERRA NOW & GET A PICTURE OF THE THIS SCENARIO.


April 15, 2010

YELM LED IN COUNTY IN RETAIL SALES DECLINE IN 4TH Q 2009

Overall taxable retail sales in Thurston County fell in the fourth quarter of 2009, the eighth consecutive quarter in which the county has experienced a decline in consumer and business spending, the state Department of Revenue said.

Statewide taxable retail sales fell 6.3 percent in the year-over-year fourth-quarter period, largely because of the slower construction industry. Revenue spokesman Mike Gowrylow said Thursday that the construction industry typically represents 20 percent of taxable retail sales in the state.

Thurston County taxable retail sales also fell, but not as sharply, down 1.7 percent in the fourth quarter to $967.8 million from $984.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2008.

Heres how the countys largest cities did in the same period:

Olympia: Taxable retail sales rose 4.54 percent to $442.9 million from $423.6 million

Lacey: Fell 6.84 percent to $243.2 million from $261.1 million

Tumwater: Rose 2.32 percent to $104.1 million from $101.7 million

Yelm: Fell 11.8 percent to $36.7 million from $41.7 million (largest decline in Thurston County)

The state also reports a separate category of taxable retail sales called retail trade, which includes retailers but excludes industries such as services and construction. The data show:

Olympia: Fell 1.78 percent to $221.7 million from $225.7 million

Lacey: Rose 4.11 percent to $159.4 million from $153.1 million

Tumwater: Rose 2.43 percent to $52.3 million from $51.1 million

Yelm: Rose 1.78 percent to $23.1 million from $22.7 million (tied Olympia for smallest gain in county)

From the April 9th Olympian.

ED. NOTE: This wasn’t discussed at the Yelm Chamber of Commerce Forum Tuesday!


April 14, 2010

CITY COUNCIL VOTES TO DRILL TEST WELL ON ‘CITY-OWNED’ LAND IN TAHOMA TERRA


Yelm Public Safety Building & City Council Chambers

The Yelm City Council voted unanimously to spend $615,223 to drill SW Well #2 as a production well last night.
The only question prior to a motion to move forward on this project was from Council member John Thompson who said he understood the “benefits of doing it there (in the Tahoma Terra development) is because Yelm actually owned that property, not Tahoma Terra.”
Mrs. Badger replied,
“The property is slated to be dedicated as part of the master plan process…so in the Conceptual Master Plan approval…it is a future city park, which will be dedicated to the city. We also, in addition to that, have approval from the property owner to conduct the drilling activity. But ultimately, yes, it is owned by the city. ”

Prior to that in her introduction, Mrs. Badger stated this well was part of the draft Water System Plan and current rate (water billings) structure in effect. She told Council “Until you get a well-driller in there and do the work, you don’t know for sure” what water will be there.
Interestingly, there were no questions about spending 2/3 of a million dollars and no water is found there.

HMMM!
If the city owns the land then, why would they need an agreement to build there?
A search of County records show no city owned land in the Tahoma Terra phases.
Hello?

– The 2008 Mitigation Plan was never approved and no longer stands because the City of Yelm withdrew their MDNS on August 14, 2009.
The city said, “You will be notified when the City re-issues a threshold determination in this matter.”
There has been no further determination by the City in this matter.

– The draft Water System Plan (WSP) has no legs because it also has never been approved & so many things have changed since it was publicly released.

– The unfinished phases of Tahoma Terra were supposed to go to auction last week.
From the March 13th Olympian:
“A foreclosure sale is scheduled April 9 for the unfinished phases of the Tahoma Terra master planned community in Yelm.”
That is where is well is located.
CLICK HERE
Scroll to page 30. See well W-2 in red.

– Is the city going to buy some (or did buy some without telling the public) of the Tahoma Terra parcels?
They have been going into Executive Session alot, as they did last night, and hiding behind RCW 42.30.110(1) “to discuss possible real estate acquisition.”

THIS ALL HAS THE SMELL OF SOMETHING FISHY AT YELM CITY HALL,
HOWEVER THE PUBLIC HAS NO INTEREST & EVERYONE THINKS ALL IS OK,
SO THE CITY & CITIZENS ARE HAPPY – IGNORANCE IS BLISS !


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