Plans for Civil Defense

The recent tunnel failure at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and the reconsideration of National Monument status for the Hanford Reach are reminders of the legacy of World War II and the Cold War in Washington State.

Earlier this month, one of our researchers discovered King County’s 1959 civil defense plans for mass evacuation/relocation and for radiation decontamination of people and vehicles.

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Seattle Target Area Dispersal Plan and plans for decontamination of people and vehicles.  Operation Plan for Civil Defense of Seattle Critical Target Area and King County, March 31, 1959.  Series 32, Department of Public Works Correspondence Files.

Established in 1957, the Seattle-King County Office of Civil Defense cooperated with federal, state, and other local agencies in preparing the region for nuclear attack. It managed civil defense program activities including fallout shelters; chemical, biological, and radiological warfare defense; emergency communications and warning systems; and preparedness planning. In 1974, the joint agreement between King County and Seattle was dissolved and responsibility of civil defense and other regional emergency planning remained with King County (for current information, see King County Emergency Management).

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Cover of “Home Fallout Shelter: snack bar – basement location, plan d,” United States Department of Defense, 1966. Series 1216, Civil defense guides, Department of Executive Services Office of Emergency Management.

These and other Civil Defense records in the Archives collection help document an era when the threat of nuclear war was ever-present in daily life, as illustrated above in the plans for a basement snack bar that could be converted into a bomb shelter.

King County Archives receives the AKCHO 2017 Technology Award for its online exhibit, “Responding to AIDS”

The King County Archives was chosen as winner of the Association of King County Heritage Organizations 2017 Technology Award for its online exhibit, Responding to AIDS: The Seattle-King County Department of Public Health, 1982-1996.

The AKCHO Technology Award is “presented annually to an organization for an outstanding project that pairs technology with local history and provides an inspiration or a model for the heritage community.” We are honored to be among this year’s AKCHO award recipients, listed here: 2017 AKCHO Award Honorees.

About the exhibit

Responding to AIDS: The Seattle-King County Department of Public Health, 1982-1996 is a history of the department’s AIDS Prevention Project, from its formation in response to the emerging AIDS epidemic, to when effective AIDS treatment became widely available.

The exhibit presents archival records from the program and incorporates video clips from ten oral history interviews with current and former Seattle-King County Department of Public Health employees — leadership and staff from the AIDS Prevention Project.

Above: oral history interviewees, former staff and leadership from the Seattle-King County Department of Public Health. Top row: Hunter Handsfield, former Director of Public Health – Seattle & King County STD Control Program; Ann Downer, former AIDS Prevention Project Education Program Manager; Tim Burak, former AIDS Prevention Project Program Manager. Second row: Frank Chaffee, retired Manager of Public Health – Seattle & King County’s HIV/STD Program; Karen Hartfield, former HIV Prevention Project Planner (currently Health Services Administrator for the Communicable Disease Epidemiology & Immunizations Section of Public Health); Dr. Robert Wood, former Director of the HIV/AIDS Control Program. Third Row: Gary Goldbaum, former Assistant Medical Director for the AIDS Prevention Project; Patricia McInturff, former Regional Division Director for the Department of Public Health; Sharon Hopkins, former AIDS Prevention Project Senior Epidemiologist.

The oral history subjects describe professional, scientific, and political challenges in responding to the epidemic before HIV-AIDS was well understood, during a time of heightened fear and amidst widespread homophobia. They reflect on their personal experiences: the bonds between program staff; losing colleagues, friends, and loved ones; and living with HIV.

AIDS changed everything

The oral histories also discuss broader topics such as the effect of AIDS activism on medical practices and how the response to the epidemic influenced societal acceptance of LGBT individuals. As former AIDS Prevention Project Education Coordinator Anne Downer put it, “AIDS changed everything.”

Many other issues addressed in the exhibit remain relevant today. Examples include privacy rights; sex education in schools; the challenge to public health agencies in reaching disadvantaged and minority populations; overcoming fear of government among stigmatized groups; public panic around emerging epidemics; and civil rights protections for sexual minorities.

Graphical materials

The exhibit also features a rich collection of graphic materials, illustrating how the program reached out to the Gay Community and to racial and ethnic minorities with culturally relevant and sensitive campaigns, while educating a frightened public about the latest scientific understanding of the disease.

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Poster advertising the Be a Star study, ca. 1987. “Stars” (Mae West, James Dean, Judy Garland, Oscar Wilde, Billie Holiday, and Marilyn Monroe) were assigned to study subjects in a system designed to allow long-term, anonymous participation. [Series 1825, History files, Seattle-King County Department of Public Health: Prevention Division / HIV-AIDS Program. 1825-6-5.]

AIDS Prevention Project staff

Our archival collection helps document the history of King County and its people. AIDS Prevention Project staff and leadership are an amazing group of people, and it was an honor to learn from them. The archival record of their work and the oral histories capture their commitment to profession and to public service.

We are grateful to those whom we were able to interview, who were generous with their time as well as with their insight, corrections, and ideas.

Further research

By necessity, the exhibit was limited in scope and depth. We regret that we were unable to interview more program staff for this project, and we hope that our online exhibit might inspire others to continue documenting their story. There is also much more to be learned from the records of the program, and we encourage further research at the Archives. See the references and resources section of the exhibit or contact us at archives@kingcounty.gov for more information.

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At the AKCHO Award Ceremony, hosted by the Northwest African American Museum on April 25, 2017. Back row from left: Bob Wood; Tim Burak; Lawrence Knopp (oral history interviewer); Hunter Handsfield. Front row: Deborah Kennedy, Manager of Archives, Records Management, and Mail Services Section, Records and Licensing Division, King County Executive Services; King County Assistant Archivist Rebecca Pixler; County Archivist Carol Shenk; Patricia McInturff.

100 Years Ago in King County

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World War I, Tilling the Soil, Criminal Justice, a Jewel Heist, and Lowering the Lake

 

In this post we look back 100 years, through a small sampling of records from the King County Commissioners in the Spring of 1917.

World War I

On April 6, 1917, the United States officially declared war against the Imperial German Government. On that date, the King County Commissioners passed Resolution 120 offering County resources for the war effort, encouraging County staff to enlist and guaranteeing their positions upon returning from the War, and promising conservation “to meet, if necessary, the greater and higher needs of the Country.”  They also passed Resolution 121, offering use of the old County Courthouse as a depot for medical supplies.

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Helping Till the Soil

Earth Day is April 22. Much has changed in farming since April, 1917, when the Commissioners, in Resolution 125, directed County crews to cease road work so that their horse teams could be used to till the soil of farmlands to support food production.

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Criminal Justice: Night Court

In March of the same year, Resolution 109 funded a night court. Judge Wright’s letter requesting the funds showed compassion: his stated intent in creating the night court was not only to minimize economic impact on individuals appearing in court, but also to prevent their embarrassment.

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A Diamond Brooch is Stolen in North Bend

A locked trunk! Paste diamonds! Blaming the constable! To create a replica of a brooch must have required some serious scheming, worthy of an Agatha Christie novel. (Resolution 140, relating to the bond of Constable Shrewsbury.)

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A Lower Lake Washington

In the Summer of 1916, Lake Washington was lowered by nine feet as the Lake Washington Ship Canal project moved toward completion. This left shoreline structures “high and dry,” as stated in Resolution 105, which was passed in March of 1917 to revoke a permit for a Mercer Island passenger dock rendered useless by the lowering of the lake. The resolution cover and petition are shown below.

 

About Commissioners’ Resolutions

The Board of County Commissioners served as King County’s main legislative and executive body until 1969, when the County Charter became effective, creating our current Council-Executive form of government. The adopted resolutions of the Commissioners document decisions such as approval of expenditure of public funds, calls for elections, execution of agreements, enactment of regulations, and creation or restructuring of County government agencies. Specific powers and duties of county commissioners were set out in state law. Resolutions could also be general statements of intent or recognition.

Series 124 contains Commissioners’ resolutions from the early 1900s into 1969. The titles of Commissioners’ resolutions for the years 1919-1969 are searchable through our online collection database. A representative box of resolutions is linked to here: Commissioners Resolutions, 1948.

As with other records in our collection, these records are available for the public to view in our research room by appointment. We are continually updating our series descriptions to improve online searching. Please feel free to contact us with questions. We are here to help!

 

…Speaking of the Ship Canal

In June and July, a new exhibit commemorating the centennial of the ship canal’s opening will be on display in the underground pedestrian tunnel between the King County Courthouse and the County Administration building in downtown Seattle. The exhibit will feature drawings, maps, and other records from the King County Archives and photographs from the Seattle Municipal Archives. It will focus on Ballard’s sawmills, which were impacted by the canal.

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Detail from one of the drawings to be featured in the June/July exhibit. (Cedar Mill Cross Section, Series 276, Salmon Bay Waterway Condemnation Survey No. 1255, 1915. King County Archives.)

Other Ship Canal Centennial Events and Resources

Across King County, local heritage organizations are recognizing this historic engineering project, which significantly modified our region’s geography. To learn about resources and events relating to Ship Canal Centennial, see Making the Cut.

Celebrating International Women’s Day: a look back at the King County Women’s Program

Announcing a new online exhibit: The King County Women’s Program: The First Years (1978-1985)

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Clipping from a south King County newspaper covering the Women’s Program’s “Displaced Homemaker” job training program, 1979.  Women’s Program Coordinator Files, Series 1901, Box 2, Folder 10.

Archives staff recently completed processing a collection of records documenting the establishment and evolution of the King County Women’s Program. A new online exhibit, The King County Women’s Program: The First Years (1978-1985) highlights these records.

The exhibit begins with a timeline that places the Women’s Program in the context of the national and international women’s movement and second-wave feminism.

In the program records, we see both local support and local objection to the women’s movement. Yet the services provided by the program were more practical than political, and they addressed the needs of women throughout the County.

Earliest priorities centered on women’s self-image, confidence and assertiveness; jobs, training, and vocational planning; child care; dissemination of community resource information; and programs for women of color. Over time, priorities shifted to providing specific, targeted programs intended to increase the safety of women victims of domestic violence and/or sexual assault.

Today, the King County Women’s Advisory Board continues to make recommendations to the County Council and the County Executive to ensure that the needs, rights and well-being of women are taken into account by King County government.

About the Archives’ Online Exhibits

Online exhibits allow us to provide broad public access to the King County Archives collection. Relatively few people will ever visit an archives, but we can make these public assets, the County’s historical records, more widely accessible by sharing some of the collection online. We also encourage researchers to visit us and see the records in person.

Check out more exhibits on our Web site at www.kingcounty.gov/depts/records-licensing/archives/exhibits.

Leadership and activism: the King County logo honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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By guest-author Rochelle James, King County Records Management Specialist

Celebrating Black History Month: King County’s logo

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King County logo adopted February 27, 2006.

Dr. King fought for Black Americans to be treated equally by their government. He envisioned a world where “little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and little white girls as sisters and brothers” and where justice, peace and equality were afforded to all people.

As County employees, we hope serve our communities in a way that is just, fair and inclusive of all of our residents. We proudly display the image of Dr. King on our websites, written materials and buildings. But Dr. King’s likeness was not always the County logo. So, how did we get here?

 

History

The King County Archives has a collection of records related to the events that led up to adoption of the current logo on March 12, 2007.

Originally, in 1853, King County was named after Vice President of the United States William Rufus DeVane King, a slave owner and supporter of the Fugitive Slave Act. For 134 years, King County carried his name until 1986 when Councilmen Ron Sims and Bruce Laing introduced proposed Motion 86-66 (adopted as Motion No. 6461) to the Council.

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King County Council Motion 6461, adopted February 24, 1986. Series 306, King County Council Motions, Item 306.101.37, King County Archives.

It read in part, “NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT MOVED by the Council of King County: The King County Council, Hereby, sets forth the historical basis for the ‘renaming’ of King County in honor of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a man whose contributions are well-documented and celebrated by millions throughout this nation an world, and embody the attributes for which the citizens of King County can be proud and claim as their own.” Motion 6461 passed on February 26th, 1986.

 

 

The Imperial Crown

King County’s imperial crown logo, 1968 and 2004

 

The imperial crown remained the logo for our County, and over the next two decades, with a significant movement beginning in 1999, community members and County leaders worked to make Dr. King’s image the official logo of King County.

 

Activism and civic engagement

The records of Councilmember Larry Gossett document the movement.

“at the 17th annual Martin Luther King Celebration Rally and March at Garfield High School, a crowd of 2,000 people challenged me to sponsor an ordinance to change the logo” — Councilmember Larry Gossett letter to constituents, September 13, 1999.

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Letter from Councilmember Larry Gossett, September 13, 1999. Series 555, Larry Gossett administrative working files, Box 4, King County Archives.

 

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Clipping from The Facts Newspaper January 17, 2000. Series 555, Larry Gossett administrative working files, Box 4, King County Archives.

 

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Clipping from The Facts Newspaper, February 9, 2000. Series 555, Larry Gossett administrative working files, Box 4, King County Archives.

 

Making the case

The effort to change was not without controversy. Some people questioned the need to spend tax dollars to pay for a logo change when the name change was adopted back in 1986. In a letter to supporters, Councilman Gossett warned of the potential for an uphill battle.

Fact sheets were provided to help supporters advocate for the change.

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Detail from fact sheet from Councilmember Gossett’s Office for use in advocating for the logo change, circa 2000. Series 555, Larry Gossett administrative working files, Box 3, King County Archives.

One flyer argued that the three-million dollar estimate for the logo change did not account for new low-cost printing technology and a plan to use up existing printed material.

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Informational flyer, circa 2000. Series 555, Larry Gossett administrative working files, Box 4, King County Archives. [Left box appears to have been a lighter version of the image that did not reproduce in photocopy.]

Diverse support

Known as a bridge builder, Councilmember Gossett over time was able to secure support from a diverse group of community members and politicians.

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Detail from first of six-pages listing individuals and organizations supporting the logo change, circa 2000. Series 555, Larry Gossett administrative working files, Box 3, King County Archives.


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Clipping from the Seattle Gay News January 7, 2000. Series 555, Larry Gossett administrative working files, Box 4, King County Archives.

 

State recognition

Another issue that needed to be addressed was the State of Washington’s formal recognition of the 1986 name change. After mounting public pressure, the State of Washington made it official on July 24, 2005.

Adoption

With the name change recognized at the State level, the public continued to pressure the King County Council to adopt Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s image as the new County logo. On February 27, 2006, King County Ordinance 8227, sponsored by Councilmembers Larry Gossett and Larry Phillips, was passed. The intent of the ordinance was “to promote Dr. King’s legacy of nonviolent social change and to effectuate the prior legislative policy decisions of Washington state and King County to honor Dr. King’s memory by renaming King County.”

Because of the work of elected officials and our diverse community members, we are able to work for a County whose values can be recognized and understood by simply looking at our logo. Archival records document this history.

To quote Maya Angelou, “The more you know of your history, the more liberated you are” and for that reason, we must protect and preserve it.


For more on the history of the King County logo, see King County’s page, background about the logo.

See also proclamations of February, 2017, as Black History Month by the King County Council and by King County Executive Dow Constantine.

Knute Berger on journalism and history

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Knute Berger at the Nordic Heritage Museum, AKCHO Annual Meeting, January 31, 2017. Photo by Teresa Anderson.

 

At the annual meeting of the Association of King County Heritage Organizations, in a keynote address he described as a “love-letter of a kind,” Crosscut columnist Knute Berger reminded AKCHO members — historical societies, preservation organizations, archives, libraries, and museums from around King County — how their work supports journalism.


Journalists need facts, you have them. The public needs context, perspective, and together we can provide it.

– Knute Berger, AKCHO keynote address January 31, 2017

In his address, Berger warned that growing economic pressures and technological change are straining both journalism and heritage organizations, and that we face these challenges at a time when our physical and social environments are also rapidly changing, when preserving and remembering our history is especially important.

It is a dangerous time if journalism flounders—and it *is* floundering, faced with disruptive technological change, shifting business models, and downsizing. That is no good for our democracy. We need a literate, informed, and motivated electorate, and constitutionally protected media that speak truth to power.

It is a dangerous time if we are not informed by the past, by actual history. Many of the most precious resources that feed democracy—libraries, historical societies, archives, museums—have barely recovered from the knife cuts of the Great Recession and require more resources to modernize. Our built environment is now symbolized by cranes and the wrecking ball. Heritage groups have been impacted by technological changes and changes in the public’s attention span now too often limited to Facebook feeds or messages of no more than 140 characters, your Twitter handle excluded.

Establishing facts

Berger described using local repositories to research several recent stories, including a series on racist place names in Washington State (see for example, “Racist Names to be Scrubbed from Washington Maps“).

I have looked at maps, mining claim documents, photographs, and probed databases, read reports from local historians and historical societies to understand how our names on the map came to be, and why they are important, why changing them might or might not be a good idea.

The variety of sources Berger consults in his work speaks to the importance of wide and deep research in establishing facts and in understanding and interpreting history.

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Detail of map showing Coon Creek, one of the racist place names discussed in Berger’s series. Snoqualmie National Forest Cedar Lake Road No. 222, 1938. Series 488, Department of Transportation Road Services Division Maps and plans: Virtual Map Vault. King County Archives.

Historical records as evidence

In discussing maps, Berger pointed out that even some original, historical records, in so far as they are products of a given culture, don’t necessarily describe reality.

Maps are a mix of facts and alternative facts. To be on a map is to be, to exist. Remove a village from a map and its inhabitants will cry foul. But the politics of how places get named and after what or whom is important. How maps can reflect our best and worst selves is good to understand. Maps are where the rubber of regional and national identity hits the road, and a reassessment of values and history takes place.

 

Historical records can reflect cultural or other bias. They can also capture a record-keeper’s arbitrary decisions or mistakes. And, not insignificantly, they are limited by the technology employed to establish facts and to record them. Thus, piecing together multiple perspectives and cross-checking assertions from multiple sources, both primary and secondary, is critical to creating an accurate historical picture.

At the King County Archives, our primary role is not to interpret history, but to preserve and provide access to records that help establish and explain it. Our clients include teachers and students, business owners, homeowners, academics, attorneys, government employees, hobbyists, genealogists, engineers, policymakers, journalists, and others, from all walks of life.

It is our job, along with other heritage organizations, to record what was and what is, to preserve a sense of place, to document rights and obligations, and to invite newcomers to join in our region’s shared history.

Both Berger’s address and the AKCHO meeting served as a reminder that although we have different missions, institutions such as schools, news organizations, museums, libraries, and archives all share in common the desire to promote interest in and understanding of the past to inform the present.

Thanks to Knute Berger for permission to quote his keynote address here.

Join us at the Northwest Film Forum’s second Archival Screening Night!

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The King County Archives is delighted to be participating in a second archival screening night at the Northwest Film Forum, hosted by Moving Image Preservation of Puget Sound (MIPoPS). The event takes place on Friday, February 17 (doors open at 7pm, showtime is at 8pm) and promises to offer an interesting and entertaining mix, with contributions from the Sally Sykes Group, Scarecrow Video, the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Public Schools, the Wing Luke Museum, the Seattle Municipal Archives, the University of Washington Libraries Special Collections, and the King County Archives.

The screening will feature videos that have been converted from analog formats to digital for preservation and access using equipment, software, and expertise provided by MIPoPS. The King County Archives is fortunate to be a MIPoPS partner, allowing us to conserve our at-risk archival videos.

Why digitize video?

Videotape — magnetic media like Betacam, VHS, and Umatic — in many cases is the original format of moving image recordings dating from the 1970s into the 1990s.  In other cases, videotaped copies are our only versions of original film. These materials are increasingly at risk, as magnetic tape deteriorates over time. Sadly, we have already discovered one significant tape in the King County Archives collection that has become unplayable.

King County’s Waste Away

At the February 17th screening, we will be contributing a shortened version of Waste Away (1966) a lighthearted and optimistic look at advances in solid waste management. The film captures a time when public awareness was just beginning to form around the problem of garbage in a consumer society.

Above: stills (Adam and Eve, early waste management, and illegal dumping) from Waste Away, 1966.
Below: animated gif created from stills (engineer designing “The Mole”).

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The Mole

Waste Away highlights King County’s experimental mobile trash-compactor, affectionately known as “The Mole.” Sold at auction in the early 1970s, the Mole is rumored to have been purchased by George Lucas’s film company and to have served as the model and/or inspiration for the Star Wars Tatooine sandcrawlers.

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Sandcrawler

Top: The Mole. Series 400, Department of Transportation, Road Services: Photograph and Moving Image Files, Box 57, #1316, ref ID 400.123.70. King County Archives. Bottom: Tatooine Sandcrawler from Star Wars (Image courtesy of Wookieepedia: The Star Wars Wiki).

Get your tickets!

Advance warning: the October 2016 Archival Screening Night at the Northwest Film Forum sold out.

We hope to see you there!

Event details

An executive transition in King County

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Tim Hill’s county identification card. Record Group 140, County Executive Tim Hill, King County Archives.

In 1993 King County Executive Tim Hill was campaigning for a third term.  King County government was verging on a transition: the merger with the Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle (METRO), to start on January 1, 1994.  Tim Hill had put in much groundwork for this day.  He appealed to voters that he was the best person to continue overseeing the merger.

Excerpts from promotional video on the King County-METRO merger, Architects of Change, 1993. Series 1423 Office of Information Resource Management, photographs, audio/visual material, King County Archives.

 

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Gary Locke

On November 3, 1993, King County voters chose popular state legislator Gary Locke as County Executive; and Tim Hill found himself stepping down after eight years in office.

The Seattle Times and cartoonist Brian Bassett commented on the challenges facing the Executive-elect on the day after the election.

Gary Locke. Series 473, Box 3, Folder 1
Below: newspaper clippings, Series 1931, Box 2, Folder 3, King County Archives.

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Also on the day after the election, Gary Locke wrote to Tim Hill.

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Series 1880, Box 7, Folder 18

 

Gary Locke: from campaign to public office

Records of Joan Yoshitomi, transition manager for Gary Locke, provide insight into the democratic process of peacefully transferring elected authority. In the first days after the election, the Locke team had to:

  • Conclude business arrangements regarding its rented campaign office space
  • Arrange for the new executive to receive attorney-client briefings from Prosecuting Attorney Norm Maleng
  • Plan and cost inauguration
  • Raise funds for inauguration from donors
  • Hire a management consulting company
  • Develop a communication strategy for the Executive; solicit speechwriters/ assistant
  • Solicit input regarding Locke Administration priorities
  • Develop a “first 120 days” action plan that could be communicated to the public
  • Receive instructions for operating Executive Office computers
  • Solicit suggestions for new department directors and executive staff
  • Request resignations of the current administration’s Executive Office staff and department directors

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Letter of resignation by Parks, Planning and Resources Department Director Lois Scwennesen.  Series 1880, box 7, folder 13, King County Archives.

 

Tim Hill: from public office to private citizen

At the same time, Tim Hill and his Executive Office staff were:

  • Arranging transition materials from County executive departments
  • Arranging exit counseling, making vacation leave arrangements, and holding unemployment briefings for persons who were being asked to resign
  • Making arrangements with the Locke team for paying transition personnel

Tim Hill retired from elected politics but continued public service in the Seattle-King County area as a teacher and as a board member for various nonprofit organizations. He remains involved in politics as a private citizen.

Tim Hill’s records to the Archives

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Detail of handwritten notes, Series 435, Tim Hill management work papers, King County Archives.

On leaving public office Tim Hill also took care to make arrangements with University of Washington Libraries for the transfer of some of his executive working papers to its manuscript collections. The papers were returned to the King County Archives a few years later as Series 435, Management work papers, and Series 436, Project files.

 

Governor Locke

Gary Locke was sworn in as King County’s fifth county executive on January 3, 1994. After a year in office, Executive Locke addressed the Council about his vision for a new way of governing, challenges facing the County, and how to work through differences between governmental branches and political views. Below is the conclusion of that speech, in which he embraces the political cartoon with him as “Captain Locke” of the starship U.S.S. King County.

Conclusion of King County Executive Gary Locke’s State-of-the-County Address to the King County Council, (ca. 1995) Series 1423 Office of Information Resource Management, photographs, audio/visual material, King County Archives.

Locke served until 1996 when he was elected Washington State governor. He later served in the Obama Administration as Secretary of Commerce and ambassador to China.

County Executive Records, 1981-1996

The Locke transition records are a small part of a large collection of King County Executive records processed by King County Archives staff between 2008 and 2016. The twenty-three series, from the administrations of Executives Randy Revelle, Tim Hill and Gary Locke, include county agency files, board and commission files, chronological correspondence files, legislative files, news releases, proclamations, studies and reports, and Metro transition files. Taken together, the records document a wide range of important policy issues, including:

  • Expansion of the Farmlands Preservation Program
  • Construction of a new county detention facility in downtown Seattle, and a Regional Justice Center in Kent
  • Onset of AIDS in King County, and the county’s response to the epidemic
  • Ongoing discussions with the Seattle Mariners over their continued tenancy in the Kingdome stadium
  • Beginning of efforts to replace the Kingdome with new stadiums
  • Land use planning under the Growth Management Act
  • Approval of the Regional Transit Authority, later known as Sound Transit
  • Merger of the Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle with King County government

The King County Archives invites researchers to contact us regarding this significant collection.

Getting creative with eight tiny reindeer (and a free coloring book!)

In this post we begin by presenting a happy discovery for the season: a pop-art take on Santa’s “eight tiny reindeer” as named in Clement Moore’s poem, “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

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Collage by graphic design firm Wilkins & Peterson, 1979. Series 278, King County Arts Commission, Earthworks Symposium administrative files, box 5, folder 7, King County Archives.

 

This collage is the work of artists Tommer Peterson and Warren Wilkins, who contracted with the King County Arts Commission to provide graphic design for its 1979 Earthworks Symposium.

Reimagining landscapes

The Earthworks Symposium commissioned internationally recognized artists to develop designs for large-scale sculptures, transforming “blasted landscapes,” such as former mining sites and landfills, into public art that would double as open space.

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Model for Untitled Earthwork (Johnson Pit #30) by Robert Morris, 1979. Series 1747, King County Department of Transportation, Road Services Division, Project files: Robert Morris earthwork 1979-1999, King County Archives.

 

Ideas

One Earthworks artist proposed digging into the earth and installing a thick glass wall to reveal a cross-section of a half-century’s worth of garbage accumulated in a former landfill, near what is now Seattle’s University Village.

Another envisioned an earthwork that would be sculpted out of a gravel pit in south King County as it was being excavated, with cooperation from the mining company.

A third artist proposed transforming part of the former Sand Point Naval Air Station, in the area that is now the Magnuson off-leash dog park, into a large-scale, sculptural metaphor for generating ideas — a “thought factory.”

In the spirit of play

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Regardless of how, or if, each of us celebrates this season, let’s root for a 2017 that brings some room for play and imagination.

In that spirit, we are happy to share our first-ever King County Archives coloring book, featuring some of our favorite line art from the collection. (Here’s your chance to do what you would never be allowed to do in an archives: color the records!)

Happy Holidays from all of us at the King County Archives.

 

Learn more about King County Earthworks

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Earthworks poster designed by Wilkins & Peterson, 1979. Series 278, Arts Commission Earthworks Symposium Administrative Files. box 5, folder 3, King County Archives.

The King County Archives’ 2013 exhibit, King County Earthworks: Land Reclamation as Sculpture, describes the history of the Earthworks Symposium and presents images of artists’ drawings and models along with photographs of proposed earthwork sites, artists, and construction of the Morris earthwork.

The exhibit also incorporates video clips from interviews with artists Beverly Pepper, Richard Fleischner, Dennis Oppenheim, and Lawrence Hanson discussing their concepts, as well as artist Robert Morris’s symposium keynote address. The complete videos, converted to digital format from 1″ analog tape, are available on our Vimeo site.

A theater near you

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Advertisement from The Seattle Times, Friday, September 27, 1968.

The holiday season has begun, and November’s soggy weather inspires many to head to the movies with visiting relatives, ready to take in the latest blockbuster films.

In this post, we look at records from the archives that document perceptions of a once-popular venue, the drive-in theater.

Communities facing change

Records of land use applications, hearings, and appeals can provide a view of individuals and communities responding to growth and change. The King County Commissioners’ zoning files, dating from the 1950s and 1960s, document the public response to several proposed developments, including a golf course, an air strip, and a drive-in theater.

A quiet life

The rezone file that documents approval of a drive-in theater includes snapshots of the affected rural neighborhood, with its modest homes, small businesses, a trailer park, and a nursery.

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[Views of neighborhood around 86th Avenue South and the East Valley Highway, 1965. The first set of photos above was taken using a Polaroid camera, the second is on Kodak paper.]

 

In my back yard?

In 1965 when a new drive-in theater was proposed for this community, local residents objected. Petitions and letters expressed concern over traffic, diminished property values, noise, light, and litter that the theater might bring.

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One letter to County Commissioners recognized that new businesses would inevitably come to the neighborhood — just off the East Valley Highway between Kent and Auburn — but warned that a drive-in might define the area’s character and limit the type of commercial growth.

Moral character

Along with practical concerns came strong moral objection to the movies themselves and worry over their potential negative influence on local children and youth.  Some lamented that drive-ins had changed from being family-oriented venues to showing “unwholesome” films to an “unwholesome” audience.

Reports of alcohol consumption, fighting, and young couples behaving inappropriately at existing area drive-ins added to the concern.

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The Kent Police Chief responded that behavior at drive-ins was manageable.

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Planning and growth

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The Planning Department’s logo represented a balance of industrial, agricultural, business, and residential uses, connected by highways and roads, seemingly pulled into an asymmetrical shape by the natural form of a waterway.

Facilitating development while maintaining quality of life is the perpetual challenge for local planners. And, in spite of the residents’ objections and appeal, the department recommended approval of the rezone.

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[Sketch of the proposed theater as it would appear from the road.]

The Valley Drive-In

The Valley Drive-In opened in 1966 and became a popular destination, expanding over time from a single, sixty-foot-high screen, to a six-screen multiplex.  It outlasted other drive-in theaters in King County, staying in business until 2012. Feliks Banel’s article from May of this year, “Auburn’s abandoned Valley Drive-In is a spooky ‘graveyard‘” provides a nostalgic view of the theater and drive-ins generally.

While researchers at the Archives most frequently use land use and zoning records to answer a specific technical or legal question, the records also document how neighborhoods change over time and how people respond to that change. The records of this rezone show a small community’s assertion of its values, which they felt were threatened by a new venue that might allow uncontrolled behavior and exposure to what were regarded as negative social influences. Parents today, concerned over youth’s access to the unlimited content of the Internet and unsupervised time, might relate to these fears. As with many archival records, this zoning file reminds us that what seem like new issues might in fact be perennial themes, reemerging in new forms.


Sources

King County Commissioners’ Zoning Files, Series 129 (129.20.2) (1965).

Valley Drive-In advertiesement from The Seattle Times, Friday, September 27, 1968, page 31.

“Fifty years: Adapting to change keeps drive-ins alive,” The Seattle Times, Sunday, June 5, 1983, page G-1.

“Auburn’s abandoned Valley Drive-In is a spooky ‘graveyard’,” MyNorthwest.com, May 12, 2016, (http://mynorthwest.com/291115/auburns-abandoned-valley-drive-in-spooky-graveyard)