Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What’s In A Name?

The Town Toyota Center has been in the news quite a bit lately. Things have not gone as planned for the Public Facilities District (PFD) or the City of Wenatchee who has guaranteed the bonds to build it. Things are and will continue to go better in the months ahead as some major changes in management are taking place. But that’s another story for later. What I would like to ponder today is the name.

The PFD is a separate government entity, a special district like schools, fire, library and others. It operates under the laws of the state of Washington and has it’s own board of directors. It is NOT a subsidiary of, or a department of the City of Wenatchee. While the City was a lead player, the PFD was formed with the support of all the cities in Chelan and Douglas Counties except Leavenworth. That support was not just, “yeah, its a great idea”, but financially. Each city pledged .033¢ of its sales tax each month to the PFD. In 2008 that was nearly $700,000. and this year will be approximately $550,000. That is not “chump change” as they say. Which is why, when the district was formed, it was named, the Greater Wenatchee Events Center Public Facilities District. The center truly serves the Greater Wenatchee area (Leavenworth included). It isn’t just the “City’s” center.

It used to be that we named things like buildings, parks, bridges, etc. after people who donated or endowed them with substantial amounts of cash, or as a way to honor or memorialize them.

Yankee stadium used to be referred to as, “the house Ruth built”. Babe Ruth put “butts in the seats” to use a promoters term (still in use today). That meant money, and lots of it. But, it was still called Yankee Stadium, right up until the day George Steinbrener tore it down to make way for a more money producing facility, not necessarily a better place to play baseball.

So, while we still have Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and so on, today it is mostly corporate names like Key Arena, Safeco Field, Quest Field, and of course, the Town Toyota Center.

The center originally took on the name, The Greater Wenatchee Events Center; but not for long. In our world of continuous self promotion it has become the norm for public facilities, short of cash as they always are, to sell naming rights. It became the Town Toyota Center for $1 million for 5 years. A million dollars isn’t what it used to be, but in today's economic climate, nobody is going to turn it down either. Naming rights are certainly in keeping with the entrepreneurial spirit that drives the American economy. And, I guess that’s ok. But, it does a disservice to all those communities that gave up (in today's retail climate it amounts to a real sacrifice) some revenue to help make the center happen, and to feel a real connection the region as a whole.

In five years, or ten, who knows what it will be called. Most people I talk to just call it the “center”, or the “events center”. I still think it should be called the The Greater Wenatchee Events Center, because that is what it really is.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorial Day Reflections

(These are the remarks I gave, representing the City of Wenatchee, at the Memorial Day Service sponsored by the Central Patriotic Council at the Wenatchee Cemetary, Monday, May 25, 2009)

“On this morning, a beautiful sunny day, alive with promise, we pause to remember the fallen, those who answered the call of their nation, and made the ultimate sacrifice. “It is right that we do so”, said Lincoln, “to remember those who gave the last full measure of devotion”.

It is days like today for the last 144 years that a grateful nation has stopped to remember and commemorate the fallen. In 1865 recently liberated slaves sought to honor the deaths of those Union soldiers buried in a mass grave at the Confederate prison camp in Charleston, South Carolina. They dug them up and re-intered them in individual graves, face up, in anticipation of the Resurrection, to commemorate their deaths, that they would not be forgotten. They came back a few years later, bringing flowers to decorate the graves and to attend to their care. This, according to Professor David Blight of Yale University, may have been he first Memorial Day.

So to today, in this place, in just one small corner of this great nation, are the graves of those who did in fact, “give their last full measure of devotion.” Almost all did not die in the classic Hollywood fashion; they died doing what they were asked to do; to serve their country to the best of their ability, to protect and defend the ideals that have made this country the envy of the world. Most died suddenly, and alone. They died at the familiar places; San Juan Hill, the Ardennes, Omaha Beach, Pork Chop Hill, Ke Sanh, and Baghdad. And the not so familiar; at places most of us have never heard of or can even pronounce correctly.

But what does this sacrifice really mean? It is not just the loss of life, precious as that is. It is much more. I would like to share with you briefly the moment that I truly recognized what that sacrifice was.

The former Fort Worden, located near Port Townsend,
Washington, is a popular State Park today. Built to guard the the shipping lanes of the Straight of Juan de Fuca prior to WW I, time and technology soon rendered it obsolete after the war. In the southwest corner of the park is the Fort Worden Military Cemetery, some 435 graves, the earliest dating from the 1890s. Today Ft. Worden is known for its tourist attractions, jazz, art, and student workshops. In 1974 I was a young teacher at Wenatchee High School and I took a group of students from WHS to a student workshop on local history there. While the kids were working on their projects I had some time to wander around the Fort and that inevitably led me to the cemetery.

It was a spring day much like today; so I wandered up and down the rows of graves. I was first struck by the number of graves of whole families; father, mother, children; the year 1918; the great pandemic influenza that killed 50 million people world wide.

Then I came to a relatively new grave that stopped me dead in my tracks. The white marble headstone read:
Lt. John Edward Maidel, 1st Marine Division, 3rd Battalion, born December 10, 1941; 4 years older than me, but roughly my age. Died January 17, 1967, my birthday. He was killed in Vietnam. He was 26 years old.

It could have been me. As I stood there looking at his grave, I’m thinking: Here I am, married to a loving wife, with 2 wonderful children (the third won’t be born for another year), I have a college degree, teaching history at a great high school, a nice home, a mortgage, a car payment. . . The American Dream.

And Lt. John Maidel will never have any of those things; a wife, children, career, dreams, aspirations; today he would have been 68 years old; probably retired and enjoying the golden years of a successful and rewarding life; those things all ended on my birthday in 1967 in the jungles of Vietnam.

Oh, yes, we can debate endlessly the philosophical, and the ideological pros and cons of the Vietnam War. But the reality is that wars and individual sacrifice are not philosophical and ideological; they are very real and personal, they are hard and violent; and those that die give more than their lives, they give up their future.

Between the two Gulf Wars my youngest son joined the Marine Corps and was assigned to the 1st Division, John Maidel’s old unit. He served 2 tours in the Gulf, and came home; to get married, go to college, start a family, have a mortgage, a car payment, the American Dream. I am very proud of my son’s service to his country. Yet, as a father, I am deeply, and certainly selfishly grateful that he did not become one of those we remember today.

The good fortune we have enjoyed in the past, the opportunities we have before us came at a high cost. So let us keep alive the memory of that sacrifice; not to feel guilty but eternally grateful.

So Thank you Lt. Maidel, and the tens of thousands like you. May you truly rest in peace, remembered by a grateful nation.”

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

First Steps

My name is Jim Bailey and I’m on the Wenatchee (Washington) City Council.
This is my first journey into the blogosphere. I suppose I should have started a blog when I first went on the council a year and a half ago. But I am not a techie who is interfaced with the entire universe with a dozen high tech toys and spends hours a day typing or texting (that I do not do). I have a computer and a cell phone and that’s it. I’d rather read a good book, actually talk to a real person, or be hiking in the beautiful hills behind the city, enjoying nature in all its wonder.

So, doing a regular blog is going to be a stretch perhaps. But, I hope it can be a forum for you and I to exchange ideas. Since going on the council it has been frustrating at times to not have more citizen input.

And, as of this morning, I am officially running for election for a full four year term. In the weeks to come I will share my thinking about our community and the issues that face us. I want to also share my reflections about my role as a city council member. I welcome your thoughts and response to what I write. I’ll keep you posted on my campaign but I promise I WILL NOT use this forum to ask for campaign contributions. If you have items that you would like me to respond to as your representative to the council e-mail me at

Well, I guess that’s it for now. This thing will evolve over time and I hope will be a useful tool for better government. I will post something more substantive by weeks end.