Another Snowy Weekend

Just when we thought Spring was around the corner, we woke up this morning to little white puffs from the sky.  This is what I found in my back yard:

Crocus in the snow

When will it end?

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Paul Guppy at Mercer Island Library

Washington State tax revenues for the current state budget ($30B) increased this year, just as revenues have increased for each budget in past thirty years or more. That’s right – in this economy, an increase in total funding for state government, about $1.4B more to spend than in the last budget.  When you read about “budget cuts”, it nearly always means a slow-down in growth, not an absolute cut.

That’s one of the takeaways from a talk last night by Paul Guppy, VP of Research at the Washington Policy Center, a 501(c)(3) non-partisan education organization based in Seattle. 

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So why do well-read people not hear more about facts like these?  and why isn’t there a more popular discussion of how to better allocate existing state revenue?  Paul thinks this is because of the narrow perspective shared by journalists in the traditional mainstream media, who in spite of their good intentions, tend to think alike, viewing and interpreting events from the limited point of view you’d expect from people who attend the same schools and live and work with the same community of journalists throughout their careers.

Paul thinks the failure of the Seattle P-I, for example, is simply the result of content competition, and the natural way people turn away from irrelevant information sources when given a choice. In a pre-internet world where news reporting was concentrated in a few hands, you had to read the newspaper – however bad it was at covering issues relevant to you.  But now, with so many rich alternatives available on line, why bother?

About 20 people showed up for the presentation last night, but I’m sure many more interested people would have come if they had known about it. To me, that’s the biggest problem in the post-newspaper world, particularly as the number of news sources multiplies and becomes more fragmented: how do you get the word out to potentially interested people who are not already on your list?  Although each individual news source may be spot-on to the information you want, it can be very hard to spread news and announcements that might be very relevant to you – but that you just didn’t know was there.

West Mercer Kids and McDonalds

This sign was posted at the West Mercer Elementary school science fair tonight.  In a class of 22 students, look how often they eat fast food:IMG_9033

Also see this report on a study of organic foods consumption among Mercer Island kids.

I don’t like to publish kids names on the internet without their parent’s permission, so I didn’t give attribution to the boy who did this chart, but he does great work!

Mercer Island Monthly

The City has a monthly TV news program.  This month’s episode includes discussion of the 40th street improvement project.

Kindda neat idea, except it’s basically just a talking head.  No video, no conversation. Just 5 minutes of somebody reading some bullet points you could have read more quickly on your own.

I like the idea of Youtube videos from the city. It’s so easy to do, and done correctly it makes for a much better way to communicate to the public.  This first episode isn’t worth watching, but it’s nice that they’re trying something new, and hopefully we can look forward to much more interesting content in the future.

Shovel Ready Projects on Mercer Island?

The proposed economic stimulus package supposedly places special emphasis on projects that are “shovel  ready”, and the Stimulus Watch web site lets see in real time which ones are being proposed.

Unfortunately there are no “shovel ready” projects for Mercer Island, though there are several million dollars proposed by Bellevue:

http://www.stimuluswatch.org/project/by_city/Bellevue/WA

Why doesn’t our City get some of the stimulus?

Another Farmers Market Video

Tantrichoops uploaded a short (90 sec) video collage of people doing hula-hoops outside the Farmers Market last summer:

Fred Jarrett talks about the Senate

A short video recently posted by the WA Democrats, with Mercer Island Senator Fred Jarrett talking about his new responsibilities at the State Senate.

Best High Schools Report Update

Mercer Island High School isn’t the best in Washington State.  That honor belongs to International Community School in Kirkland, according to Business Week’s new article on America’s best high schools.

Ballard: 5, Mercer Island: 2 ?

The Seattle neighborhood of Ballard has at least five blogs devoted to the local area.  As best I can tell, Mercer Island has only two: yours truly and Surrounded by Water

The Seattle P-I is going out of business.  Even the New York Times is running out of money and could be shut down by May (okay, a little far-fetched but read this article in The Atlantic Monthly). What’s going to replace the newspaper business?   It’s going to be online information from sources that produce content you really care about, which for most people will be highly skewed to hyper-local news about your neighborhood.

It’s not as though Mercer Islanders are doing nothing online.  There are local neighborhood Google groups, email discussion lists, Facebook pages, and more.  It’s just a matter of time before these online news sources catch up to the rest of the world.  Or Ballard.

Mercer Island rated “most educated” small town

Look who made number 20 in the new Forbes list of “most educated small towns”.  The article has a photo of a Blue Angels flyby and this summary of our fair city:

Total Population: 23,688
Advanced degrees: 37.1%
Bachelor’s degrees: 37.2%
Associate degrees: 2.3%

This idyllic island near Seattle is home to enormous houses, hiking and equestrian trails, and over 35 parks. That’s enough to attract the wealthy and highly educated staffs of Seattle University, University of Washington and Seattle Pacific University.

We’re the third smallest of all the towns listed (most of the "small towns” have populations double or triple ours.  But we’re also the only one in Washington State, and the only non-Silicon Valley one listed from the entire West Coast.

I can think of a whole bunch of jokes about some of my apparently under-educated neighbors, but I’ll shut up and go back to playing this fun new game I saw at the game store in Crossroads Mall a few days ago.

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