October 31, 2011


S.E. Thurston Fire & EMS Chief Rita Hutcheson

The public ravaging of retiring S.E. Thurston Fire & EMS Chief Rita Hutcheson this week by Editor/Publisher Keven Graves was an absolute travesty and over-the-top, even for him!

I have had some very strong views about the Nisqually Valley News lacking depth in their reports, their sometimes desecrating slants to their stories and key omissions of fact that skew their readers’ understanding of important issues, however this Op-Ed was an insult and all should write to let Graves know and/or post comments on the newspaper’s website:
Click here

Hutcheson announced her retirement to Yelm’s City Council On September 13, 2011 and received lavish praise from Mayor Harding, Mayor Pro-tem Isom and others for 30 years of service and as an Army nurse prior to that.
Read more of that story covered here September 16th.

Let’s examine Graves’ Op-Ed remarks one by one:

1. Graves is wrong to compare the financial challenges at SE Thurston Fire with the Yelm Cemetery issues.
For Graves to imply his view there was a mishandling of funds at the Fire Dept. is an outrage!
Fire officials have been impeccable in opening their books, budget and plans to public scrutiny.

2. Graves is wrong to say Chief Hutcheson retired due to the financial issues.
Graves says, “As the financial problems began to rear their ugly head, longtime Hutcheson decided it was time to hand in her resignation.”

Mr. Graves, SE Thurston Fire has had financial challenges for years and Chief Hutcheson has been sounding the alarm that the day was approaching where intended service levels could not be supported. She and Co-Chief King have been very up-front with budget projections in Town Hall public forums, regular public newsletters and columns in your own newspaper. Where have you been?
Hutcheson stayed on as long as she did to do all in her power to preserve service levels and staffing.

3. Graves does not understand the importance of bringing in a new assistant chief or the strategic plan.
Graves states, “the hiring last year of a new assistant chief at a cost of $96,000 per year, plus full medical coverage for him and his family. The fire authority also spent $42,000 on a strategic plan that it can probably no longer afford to implement.”

Hutcheson & the fire commissioners hired the new assistant chief to bring some depth and new, “younger-blood” in the department at the leadership helm. Hutcheson and everyone else knew the days of her retirement after three decades of distinguished service was coming and that co-chief Mark King did not want to be the Chief. The fire authority, and rightly so, went to bring some new, young talent in here to grow in the position and also cultivate new ideas and provide additional energy required to handle the budget and service levels and to fill the huge boots from Hutcheson’s experience whenever she was to retire, to smooth the transition.

They also went outside of their “box” to hire a company to assist with a strageic plan. They learned many valuable lessons in staffing, community outreach and developing a road map to the future.
I applaud them for making these decisions.

4. Graves wants to “blame” Chief Hutcheson & the fire authority’s board of commissioners.
He says:
“Is there something to be learned from the fire authority and cemetery district debacles? I think so.

If they havent already, every single taxpayer-funded agencies should be reviewing their structure and processes to ensure tax dollars are spent wisely.”

Mr. Graves, I have NEVER seen your newspaper suggest the City of Yelm review their taxpayer-funded structure with hundreds of thousands of dollars in unrecoverable taxes and fees, revenue loss, and expenditures that were not in the public’s interest. Again, to compare the fire authority with the cemetery debacle is ridiculous!

No one here could have foreseen the huge property-tax revenue erosion since 2008 that has decimated public budgets. Even Washington State just last week had to make an additional $2 billion budget cut for 2011.
Hutcheson’s and the fire commissioners’ number one goal for many years has been to retain staffing and service levels in the face of huge revenue losses. That this day of reckoning is happening now and not 2 years ago is a testament to their fine efforts.

The financial issues have been a challenge for many years and did not just begin to raise “their ugly head” that led to the chief to retire. The Fire Authority’s financial situation was what led local channeller JZ Knight to donate over $100,000 the the department and that was 2 years ago.

Knight said in Nov., 2009:
“Knight is very aware of the difficult challenges facing the local Fire Commissioners & the Fire Chief to maintain services and existing response times the public expects and demands in emergency situations. In response, Knight has pledged $100,000 in 2010 to Southeast Thurston Fire/EMS for their general operational fund or to where the greatest community benefit would be derived,” quoting JZ Knight.com.

5. Graves’ criticism of Hutcheson taking vacation time vs. lump-sum vacation pay is misplaced.
“As the financial problems began to rear their ugly head, longtime Hutcheson decided it was time to hand in her resignation and take the three months of vacation she has on the books.”

Anyone who has managed finances knows, a retiring or tenured person leaving has less impact to the bottom line if they take their accrued vacation prior to retirement, rather than cashing-out their vacation-time in one lump-sum at their departure.

6. Mr. Graves’ lack of compassion for a fire commissioner fighting for her life was an embarrassment!

If Graves would have just done a little homework, he might have been a bit more compassionate about this remark:
“By all appearances, Hutcheson, as well as longtime Fire Commissioner Kathleen Devin, are jumping out of the frying pan to avoiding dealing with the mess that they helped to create.

Devin, a friend of Hutcheson, failed to show for the last commission meeting and instead sent her letter of resignation.”

Mr. Graves, you should know Ms. Devin turned in her resignation only because she has been fighting a different “fire” that requires all of her attention right now, the battle for her life.

Devin has served with distinction and honor for more than 20 years as an EMT, plus being a Fire Commissioner for at least 15 of those 20 years. Devin’s retirement had nothing to do with the department’s financial situation. She never missed a commissioner meeting unless she was in the hospital or unable to move from chemo. Indeed, Devin stayed on as commissioner as long as she could wanting to be involved in these difficult decisions, however, is battling to regain her health from a debilitating disease.

Bottom line:
Chief Hutcheson, Co-chief King, Commissioner Devin and others have always had an “open-door” to me and this blog and I have been updated continually throughout the years to share their information with Yelm Community Blog readers. There are 6 years of archived stories here about their efforts in serving the public’s interest and keeping patrons informed.

Wazzup with our local newspaper/editor?

That our local newspaper editor/publisher did not have the grace to send-off Chief Hutcheson and Commissioner Devin cheering into their retirement with accolades and thanks for their service is a gross injustice, for his opinion piece was far from based on facts.
Instead, Graves chose to use innuendo, unfair comparisons & lack of information as a guide in his Op-Ed.
These two fine citizens deserved nothing less than sincere appreciation from our newspaper!

Kudos go to The Olympian’s Nate Hulings who filed a superb report on Chief Hutcheson’s retirement.
Read more from The Olympian and beautiful comments left by their readers.

October 30, 2011


The STOP THURSTON COUNTY movement will be holding a Yelm Town Hall Public Forum this Tuesday.

Yelm Town Hall

Tuesday, Nov. 1, 7pm 9:30pm PDT


Yelm Middle School – Commons area

From the website:
“Thurston county bureaucrats are out of control. They are using rodents, weeds and bugs as an excuse to take 117,000 acres of land and harm over 50,000 property owners.

Property owners, including the most vulnerable in our community, are experiencing life-changing harm caused by Thurston Countys overzealous regulations. People in Thurston County are mad, and rightfully so. Their property is being rendered nearly useless by these government regulation-inspired land grabs. And, of course, Thurston County is not compensating them, AND property owners still have to continue paying taxes!

The Freedom Foundation is responding with a new project called STOP Thurston County, as in Stop Taking Our Property.

This new project is aimed at educating and engaging citizensand restoring their voices. We are advocating for positive environmental policythe kind that puts people first for a change. We believe that individuals are better stewards of the environment than government regulation any day. And we believe that government should trust their citizens, not force burdensome regulations upon them.”

October 29, 2011


Pizzeria LaGitana owners Francesco Chiechi & Carlos Morist

Francesco Chiechi & Carlos Morist opened Pizzaria LaGitana in Yelm last December and have announced the opening of a second restaurant in Olympia.
La Gitana is a Spanish female gypsy. See the mural on the wall of the restaurant’s namesake as you enter!

Co-owner Francesco Chiechi told this writer that he is Italian born & raised AND he knows how to make good Italian pizza, being a former pizza-maker in Italy. His partner Carlos Morist is from Argentina and lived in Spain and knows good wines at a fair price.
Both have a penchant for quality.

Francesco & Carlos tell everyone:
“Come Enjoy Authentic Pizza as if you are siting at a coffee in Rome. Italian Owner. Best pizza and best ambiance in town.”
People from all walks of life in and around Yelm have come together to enjoy this restaurant.
Olympia will be taken with this unique restaurant.
Read more of the wonderful comments already posted about the Olympia store.

518 Capitol Way S.
Olympia, WA. 98501
Phone: (360) 753-2929

309 East Yelm Avenue
Yelm, WA 98597
Phone: (360) 400-2929


October 28, 2011


Photo Courtesy: Nissan USA

The first “all-electric” Nissan Leaf automobile has been registered in the 98597 zip code.
This is not a hybrid, rather is marketed as “Zero-Emissions” & zero tail-pipe.
The Leaf gets about 100 miles to the charge, uses no gasoline or oil and is 100% electric.
The vehicle is slated to use about $561 a year in electricity, on average.

Read more on the Nissan Leaf.

The City of Roy’s City Council have discussed electric-charging stations as has several other cities in the area.
There are several in Olympia, as an example. Yelm has not even had this on their City Council’s agenda.
Read more from the Tacoma News Tribune.

Read more from Roy, Washington’s Ordinance 852 on electric-vehicle charging stations:
“Level 1 and 2 electrical vehicle charging stations are allowed in all residential zones…”

West Coast Green Highway

“Washington is implementing the nations first Electric Highway, a basic network of public access electric vehicle (EV) recharging locations along Interstate 5. Once implemented, Washington will have the first border to border highway to offer fast charge technology.

The electric highway will support mass-produced plug-in electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus, and Chevrolet Volt now rolling off the assembly lines,” quoting West Coast Green Highway.

October 27, 2011


Matt Schubert of the Peninsula Daily News reports:

“Peninsula Colleges Miguel Gonzalez is on a level of his own”
“There is an elegance to the way Miguel Gonzalez plays soccer.”

“In the blink of an eye, the Peninsula College forward exposes angles that dont even seem to exist.

He contorts his body through traffic like a gymnast, all the while keeping the ball on his feet as if it was attached by a string.

Give him even the slightest of openings, and hell fire it at his target with the precision of a marksman.

After a few minutes, one gets the idea they are watching some sort of soccer savant a natural playing the game on a different plane than everyone else around him.”

“The diminutive sophomore has already scored a school record 28 goals in 16 matches this season, nearly doubling his previous mark from a year ago (15), and is three assists shy of Jesse Retans single-season mark (13) from 2007.

Hes scored at least one goal in every match but one the first of the season.”

“Given Gonzalezs background, it seems odd that he would have such a firm grasp of the technical aspects of the game.

An immigrant from the state of Michoacan in southwest Mexico, he first arrived in the Pacific Northwest with his three brothers, two sisters and mother at the age of 8.

He played little to no club soccer growing up on the I-5 corridor in Yelm, instead opting to team with his brothers and cousins in adult leagues and pickup games throughout the area.

While that may not be the path most players his caliber take, its one Gonzalez credits with helping him develop his unique style of play.

Read more from the full article.

October 26, 2011


Mayor Ron Harding

As voters take time to mark their ballots during this next week, Mayor Ron Harding owes the citizens of Yelm an explanation as to his FLIP FLOP from his 2005 vs. his 2011 election remarks.

In a Letter to the Editor of the local newspaper published September 30, 2005, Mr. Harding wrote:

“Truth related to residency qualification should be without hedge, blur, double talk or concealment.”

In his September 23, 2011 newspaper column, Mayor Harding spoke of Yelm City Council position 6 candidate Ken Garmann as being a long time resident of Yelm, yet Garmann has worked and lived most work-weeks in Bothell the last 12 years, according to Garmann’s own statement in the 2011 voters pamphlet.

According to the Nisqually Valley News:
“Residency requirements state that a candidate must live in his stated home at least 12 months prior to an election. The rules also stipulate that “intending” to live someplace is not the same as actually living there, according to the Thurston County Auditor’s Office.”

Ed. Note:
Garmann told me in a phone call on July 14th he lives near his office during the week and returns to his Yelm home on weekends.
Is this the meaning of to “live in his stated home”?
Has he been involved in the fabric of Yelm life for the last 12 years to be able to serve?
Garmann said he intends to live here full-time after he retires from Bothell at the end of the year.
Is “intending” to live someplace the same as actually living there?

Mr. Harding,

With Garmann running unopposed and our local newspaper mute on this subject in informing their readers, can the public expect from Mr. Harding and his new, up-coming Position 6 Council member,
“Truth related to residency qualification …without hedge, blur, double talk or concealment?”


October 26, 2011


The week of October 16-22 was Winter Weather Awareness Week in the Pacific Northwest!

This is Flood Awareness Week in Thurston County – October 23-29!

Read more of the meetings and resources available for you to learn more.

October 26, 2011

TONIGHT – THURSTON CTY PLANNING COMMISSION – Critical Areas, Mineral Lands, Agritourism

From Thurston County’s Press Release:
The Thurston County Planning Commission will hold a special meeting on October 26, 2011 [6:30pm] to review proposed changes to the Thurston County Critical Areas Ordinance (Chapter 17.15 of the existing Thurston County Code). The Planning Department will present background information on County policy and ordinance development pertaining to critical aquifer recharge areas, including a discussion of the previous effort to update the Critical Areas Ordinance. The Planning Commission may receive new supplemental draft materials from staff.

This meeting will be a continuation of previous work sessions on proposed changes to the Critical Areas Ordinance. No final action is scheduled to occur on the proposed changes at the meeting. The proposed changes are part of the 2010-11 Comprehensive Plan Amendment Official Docket.

Read more from the Agenda and to get directions.

Thurston County Courthouse Complex
Superior Court, Building #2, Court Room 257
2000 Lakeridge Drive SW
Olympia, WA 98502

October 25, 2011


Yelm Cinemas at Prairie Park
Photo courtesy of Yelm Cinemas

Yelm Cinemas presents The Prince of Arthur Avenue.

A Terrence Knight film, filmed on location in Olympia and Lacey, Washington.
One night only!
6:00pm Wednesday, October 26-2011.
Yelm Cinemas


From the Seattle P-I:

“Downtown Olympia is transformed into the mean streets of the Bronx when Terrence Knight’s indie film, “The Prince of Arthur Avenue,” premieres at the Yelm Cinemas 6PM Wednesday Oct 26. Local writer Knight produced the movie at various locales in and around Olympia, featuring a variety of extras that you just might recognize. This 20-minute short is an exciting story about honor and betrayal. Persons under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. www.knightvisionmedia.net

See the trailer on YouTube.

Read more from Yelm Cinemas.

October 24, 2011

“2 meetings this week on Nisqually public safety complex”

“Residents who live near the Nisqually Tribes $20 million public safety complex, under construction near Yelm Highway and state Route 510, are meeting twice this week to gather community support in a continued effort to stop construction at the site.

The first meeting is at 7 tonight at the Thurston County Courthouse, 2000 Lakeridge Drive S.W., Building 1, Room 280. Organizers say the meeting is a way to raise awareness, share new information about the project and hear from a tribal couple about other citizen movements to stop tribal construction.

Another meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at Sunbreak Church, 7722 Yelm Highway S.E.,” quoting Nate Hulings in The Olympian.


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