Sunday, January 28, 2007

Goodbye Andy...

During the past week, I was in that garden spot of the Eastern Seaboard, Newark, New Jersey, due to the untimely death of my first cousin Andy. In our big, Italian family, I am the oldest male grandchild and Andy the second. He was the son of my father's brother.

Andy was a good man — a dedicated family man who leaves behind a wife of almost 30 years and five children — three who are grown, as well as a 21-year old daughter soon to be married, and another who just graduated high school in June. But he was also a man who made a difference to his country, his community and to all the people he touched. Literally hundreds of people came to the funeral home to pay their respects, and at one point on two different days, the line was out the door — in spite of the 20 degree weather.

He was also an electronics genius. His mother is almost totally deaf and his father only had about 20 percent of his hearing. They had a specially equipped telephone made for people like them — but they could never hear it ring. At nine years old, Andy fashioned a system to make a special light come on when the phone rang, and another for the doorbell.

Andy was an inventor who held a patent on an automatic envelope opening machine used by businesses that process large volumes of mail.

He was a serious car guy (an interest we shared) and was restoring the '72 Corvette he bought new. He actually talked me out of buying one back then. I had just graduated from the IBEW Electrician's Apprenticeship, as Apprentice of the Year, and decided I was going to reward myself with a new Corvette. Visiting my first wife and I in Florida right about then, Andy had driven his new 'Vette down from Jersey and said, "Why don't you drive it while I'm here? By the time I leave, you won't want one." He was right.

Andy was also a successful businessman who owned a company servicing and repairing engraving machines, and his work took him all over the world. He was one of only two people in the country doing what he did. In this age of computers, gold and silver engraving on paper is a lost art, and he often had to fabricate the parts needed to fix the machines, since most of them aren't even made any more.
He had a machine shop where he would do this and had to acturally design and build some of the machinery he needed to do that work. Andy had a client in Seattle and we would get together whenever he had to come here to deal with her.

I lost my entire immediate family — both parents and a younger brother — within a six year period. My mother suffered a stroke and succumbed to pancreatic cancer a year after that. My father died of colon cancer after a long, painful battle, and my brother of a heart attack a year and half later. On all three occassions, Andy was there, making the trip from New Jersey to Ft. Lauderdale to do what he could to help. No one asked him to come, he just showed up believing it was his family duty to pitch in, do what he could, and stay until the work was done. But that's just the kind of guy he was.

He was the same way in his own community. Andy loved to fly, and owned a six-passenger Beechcraft. He was a member of the Air National Guard where he flew Blackhawk helicopters. He also flew Medivac helicopters locally, and volunteered his Beechcraft for a group called Angel Flights. And that's how he died. On a flight from New Jersey to Charlotte, North Carolina to pick up a transplant organ, something went wrong with his plane shortly after takeoff. He attempted to land in a residential area putting it down on a street, but crashed into an illegally parked car, and his plane burst into flames. FAA investigators said it was only his superior piloting skills that kept anyone else from being injured or killed.

Even worse, was that his only son, Scott, who is an EMT, was on call that night and was first on the scene, not knowing until he arrived and recognized the numbers on the plane, that it was his father who had crashed.

The story made the national news on CNN for a day and the front page of the New York Times local section, but both played up the father-son angle of the story — not the fact that Andy was a man who sincerely believed in contribution and died doing what he loved.

Naturally, his death was shock to all our family, and there was no way I would not be there for the family of the man who was always there for me. Andy was an ordinary man who did extraordinary things — not for the glory or recognition, but because it was always the right thing to do. I am proud to say he was not only cousin, but my friend.

The world will miss you Andy — you made it a better place. You also left us all a very high standard to aspire to...

Friday, January 19, 2007

Political Retribution

Earlier this week, at the Commissioner's regular Wednesday work study meeting, Commissioner Josh Brown attempted to have me removed from the Kitsap County Planning Commission. Commissioner Jan Angel, who appointed me, stood her ground and refused to be intimated.

Brown made my position as a newspaperman an issue in that discussion, saying he didn't consider me a newspaperman, but a "propagandist." I can only conclude that the suggestion I be removed was politically motivated by my editorial commentary concerning Brown's election, serious lack of qualifications for the job, and his current legal troubles over the still unanswered question of his official residency.

I was approved unanimously by all three commissioners when originally appointed to the Planning Commission in 2000, and again when reappointed in 2004. My job as a newsman is simply unrelated to my duties or performance as a planning commissioner. I'd also like to point out that the last time a Kitsap County Comprehensive Plan update was actually approved by the state, I chaired the Planning Commission that brought it forward. I also chaired the joint Kitsap County-City of Port Orchard Sub-Area Planning Process as part the mandatory 10-year Comp Plan update currently under consideration by the state. Until I was "drafted" to chair that group, which completed its work in about 6 months, the process had been stalled for almost 2 years. I believe my work as a Planning Commissioner speaks for itself.

The Business Journal has been honored professionally a number of times, including a statewide award for its coverage of the GMA, and I have been personally honored with the Small Business Journalism Leadership Award for both Washington State and Region X by the U.S. Small Business Administration. I was also a finalist for the national award, and sit on the USA Today Small Business Panel as well. I make no apologies for doing my job and doing it well.

I'd also like to point out that although I am not legally bound in any way to do so, my original promise to the county commission was that as a Planning Commissioner, I would not personally author any articles or editorially comment upon any actions or ordinances in front of, under consideration, or being deliberated on, by the Planning Commission. I have adhered to that promise for the entire time I have served on the Planning Commission and defy anyone to prove otherwise.

So Josh Brown's action in spearheading the lame attempt to remove me from the Planning Commission, appears to me at least. to be nothing more than small-minded, blatant political retribution aimed at trying to either intimidate or silence a critic. I think this obvious attempt at censorship is a clue to how Josh's mind works, not to mention how his ego has over-inflated since being elected.

Hopefully, his legal troubles over the residency issue will deflate that ego enough to give him some much-needed perspective — not to mention a reality check — about how the real world actually works.

The Arrogance of Power

There's a saying... "Power Corrupts" and Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely.

Commissioner Chris Endresen, with the help of her new lap dog Josh Brown, has moved quickly to consolidate and ensure her position as the most powerful person in Kitsap County. On Monday, Jan 22, at their regular meeting scheduled for 10 a.m., the pair will introduce a resolution that would establish a county position regarding any proposed state legislation that would provide for the development of a professional motorsports facility at the South Kitsap Industrial Area (SKIA).
Suppossedly, at least according to the county's press release, the resolution will outline "unresolved issues the board would like to bring to the attention of state legislators before any action is taken on NASCAR-related legislation that could directly impact Kitsap County." These are the same issues that according to sources at ISC, the county refuses to discuss in good faith. The resolution will pass 2 to 1, with Commissioner Jan Angel voting against it.

It's my understanding that Endresen and Lap Dog Brown spent part of the week in Olympia — on our dime — calling on legislators in hopes of discouraging them from supporting the bill that would move the ISC proposal forward. I believe it is wrong for them to do so, because when coupled with the proposed resolution, it's a blatant attempt to circumvent the entire public process the citizens of Kitsap County have been promised on this issue.

No matter where you stand on the NASCAR issue, the "Big Picture" here isn't about partisan politics — or NASCAR. It's about honesty and integrity in government and respecting the will of the voters.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Brown Invalidation Moving Forward

The controversy surrounding Josh Brown’s official residence may be settled as soon as Feb. 5 — but maybe not. Visiting judge, Craddock D. Verser of Jefferson County, has set that date to hear CK resident Robert Ross’ lawsuit alleging Brown intentionally lied about his official residency and is not a resident of the district he was elected from, nor has he ever lived in the Perry Avenue apartment he listed as his residence on his declaration of candidacy.

This is getting interesting because it was obvious to everyone in the courtroom that no one on Brown's side — and especially Brown — expected that result. To them, this was a slam-dunk political issue that would be quickly dispatched.

According to a number of courtroom observers, Brown was obviously stunned, physically reacting to the judge’s ruling. “The judge sure wiped that smug look off his face in a hurry,” chuckled one observer, while another stated that Brown looked “positively ashen” when the ruling was handed down. Brown has a lot on the line here. Besides possibly losing his job, he has reportedly purchased a home and new car not the best spot to be in for someone who could find himself both unemployed and possibly facing criminal charges within the next 45 days or so.

Meanwhile, someone else said that Auditor Karen Flynn looked, “panic stricken," and that Brown's attorney, former Democratic Party chair John Morgan, was, "trying to think on his feet after being cut up by Judge Verser."

When I reached Brown to ask for a comment for the Business Journal afterwards, he demonstrated his high level of maturity by simply hanging up. Mentioning this to his attorney, who was my next call, he replied, "Hey, he's 25-years old. What do you expect?"

What I expect, is for my county commissioner to be polite, demonstrate that he is mature enough to deal with the press under adverse circumstances, accept my call and answer my questions. That's what I expect.

What Josh, and seemingly those advising him don't get, is that this isn't about politics. It's about honesty and integrity. Brown needs to stop hiding behind whiny politics and legalities, and just come out and face the voters who trusted him with honest answers to the three simple questions we have continually posed to him.

• Does he or does he not live at the address he gave on his Declaration of Candidacy? This is a simple yes or no question.

• If not, even if we forget that knowingly giving a false address is a crime, where exactly is it that he does live?

• If he doesn't live at the address he gave, is wherever it is he does live in the district he was elected from or not?

Morgan says that when the case comes to court on Feb. 5, he believes Brown will be vindicated. “I am confident we will prevail at the evidentiary hearing. I’ll be set to go with guns blazing when they present their evidence.”

I suggested to him that Josh could have put all this behind him on the day the suit was filed, by calling a press conference and inviting reporters in for coffee at his apartment on Perry Avenue. That would have been a common-sense solution that would have also negated the entire issue and elevated Josh's stature as an honest politician.

This begs the questions:
• Was Josh in a position to do that?

• What would we have found had Josh done that? An empty apartment perhaps?

A second challenge to Brown’s residency was also filed by Capt. James M. Olsen of Bainbridge Island on Jan. 9. Olson’s action, which can be filed by any registered voter in the county, challenges Brown’s eligibility to vote in the upcoming Feb. 6 election, based on his residency.

According to Olsen’s complaint, Brown resides with his parents in Silverdale — in Commissioner District 1 — Commission Chair Chris Endresen’s district, not in the district he was elected from.

Olsen says it isn’t his intention to drive Brown from office, but says he takes issue with what he termed “perjury and misrepresentation.” He also said he is not acting in concert with Ross.

That matter will be heard by the Kitsap County Canvassing Board, which consists of Endresen, County Prosecutor Russ Hague, and Flynn. All three are Democrats, as is Brown and his attorney. Endresen, Hague and Flynn all contributed money to Brown’s election campaign. In fact, Flynn contributed twice.

Endresen and Hague both have stated they will recuse themselves from the Canvassing Board, and will each appoint a representative to take their places. Flynn has made no public statement on the issue as of yet. According to the Auditor’s office, Olsen’s complaint must be heard prior to the Feb. 24 certification of the Feb. 6 election.

Endresen has been quoted as saying she views Olsen’s action as, “harassment from sore losers.” Olsen has refused to engage in a war of words, saying, only that the truth will become obvious when he presents his evidence.

Like I said, this is getting real interesting. Stay tuned.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

They've Only Just Begun

After just a week in Olympia, you have to wonder if this is what the people of Washington wanted when they handed over control both legislative chambers to the Democrats.

As I recall, at election time, the top agenda items were things like the transportation budget shortfall and education. It appears they may have taken a backseat to a very different agenda — one that includes a state income tax, gay marriage and pay raises for state legislators.

Queen Christine's budget includes a $1 billion shortfall in the transportation budget. What I want to know is, where is the money to fund the key transportation projects that we were promised with the increase in the gas tax? It appears Gregoire and the Democrats would rather add 3,800 bureaucrats to the payroll than keep their promises on transportation.

Here's what we got during week one of the Democrats in control of the legislature...

• Sen. Rosa Franklin has introduced a state income tax

• Sen. Majority Leader Lisa Brown and other Democrats are actively lobbying for higher pay from the citizens panel that oversees pay raises for the governor and state legislators. The panel is already recommending the largest pay increases in the past 20 years — including a 10 percent raise for the Queen. But they still want more!

• Sen. Ed Murray and Rep. Jamie Pedersen have introduced a gay marriage bill

I just don't believe this is what we voted for when we gave control to the Democrats. At least I know I didn't. Did you?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Is Josh "Moving In?"

It's my understanding after numerous phone conversations today, that Josh Brown has been seen "moving in" to the apartment he claims to have been living in since he filed for election. From what I can gather, there are several reliable witnesses (read, neighbors) who have given legal depositions stating this as a fact.

Also, a Bainbridge Island resident has filed an eligability challenge based on Josh's residence, and it's my understanding that both of Josh's Democratic primary opponents are close to doing so as well, although there is is no verification of that - yet.

Since I am in Scottsdale, Arizona at the moment and was in Detroit from last Sunday until Tuesday when I arrived here, it's been difficult keeping up with this. More as it develops.

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Bottom Line On Josh Brown

It's no secret that Josh Brown was elected by a big margin because Jack Hamilton was so completely unacceptable to the majority of local voters — including me. Josh was unacceptable to me as well, so just for the record, I didn't vote for either of them, and wrote in Jimmy Buffett instead.

That said, if Josh and his lawyer — a former Democratic Party chairman — will stop hiding behind legal technicalities and just be honest with the voters who elected him, we can all put this behind us.
The only questions he has to truthfully answer are really pretty simple.

• Does he or does he not live at the address he gave on his Declaration of Candidacy? This is a simple yes or no question.

• If not, even if we forget that knowingly giving a false address is a crime, where exactly is it that he does live?

• If he doesn't live at the address he gave, is wherever it is he does live in the district he was elected from or not?

The citizens of Kitsap County — including ALL of the ones that voted for him — have a right to know the answers. For people to be defending his actions without demanding he give honest answers to these questions is simply unconscionable. This isn't about party politics. It's about honesty and integrity. If the situation was reversed and Hamilton did what Josh is alleged to have, the Democrats would be screaming about his ethics — or lack thereof — until we were all covering our ears in self-defense.

It's time for the Democrats hold their own accountable to the very same standards they demand.

If Josh lied, he needs to face the music and let the chips fall where they may.

If he didn't, he needs to step up like a man and prove it .

Doing either will allow all the citizens of Kitsap County to get this behind us. Does it get any simpler than that?

So how about it Josh? Will you be a man and answer the questions — or not?

Monday, January 01, 2007

No Denial From Brown

In a story that appeared in the Kitsap Sun this morning, Josh Brown doesn't come out and outright deny the charges that he never occupied the residence he gave as his address. He does say, the lawsuit is wrong and that, "Obviously, I consider myself a resident of the CK district."

There's a very real difference between "considering yourself a resident," and actually living there.

The story was written by Brynn Grimley, who is seemingly Brown's personal press agent. During the campaign, she wrote absolutely nothing but glowing reports about the 25-year old commissioner, while completely ignoring questions brought to her attention concerning Brown's ethics and qualifications for the job as well as the issue of his residency.

In the story, it's obvious she didn't talk to anyone but Brown. Unbiased journalism would have dictated she at least call Robert Ross, the CK resident who brought the suit for a comment, in addition to trying to reach the attorney who filed the action. But in my view, Grimley hasn't done anything in reporting on Brown that would present him in anything but the most positive light. Frankly, if I were Sun Editor Scott Ware, I would remove Grimley from covering him since she has what appears to be a personal bias favoring Brown, and put a more seasoned, unbiased reporter on it — someone like Travis Baker perhaps.

The bottom line questions for Josh are this:

• Do you live at the address you gave on your Declaration of Candidacy, or not?

• Have you ever lived there, and if so, on exactly what date did you move in?

• If you do live there, why have your neighbors given legal depositions saying they've never seen you, and believe the apartment you claim to occupy is vacant?

• Would you be willing to open the door to the press today so we can see furniture in the apartment as well as other obvious signs of occupancy?

• If not, where exactly (meaning a bona fide address) is it that you actually do live, and for how long?

As I said in my earlier post, I don't believe the plaintiff's in this suit would go as far out on the limb they have without a pretty solid case. Frankly, if Brown were willing to open his Perry Avenue apartment door today, he would put ALL this to rest immediately. If not, he will only fuel the speculation that he blatantly lied. That's certainly not the best way to begin a political career...

So, how about it Josh? Can we come visit today?