Tuesday, August 17, 2004

This article has caused some controversy

Sale of Boy Scouts' cabin stirs uproar

By Katherine Sather Seattle Times staff reporter

PORT TOWNSEND — For more than 70 years, Port Townsend Boy Scouts earned their badges in a log cabin.

The Scout House was built with Douglas fir on nearly an acre of wooded, view property, and its rafters bear felt banners of achievement stitched with dates as far back as 1938.

But it may be demolished this month amid a controversy that's caused one local Scout leader to step down and some former Scouts to threaten to burn their Eagle badges.

The Chief Seattle Boy Scout Council, with no fanfare, sold the cabin and property in April for $480,000 to a buyer who has since divided the land into six lots and is listing the site for a combined price of $2.2 million.

There's been a strong backlash against the sale in the community, particularly from a group of neighbors who organized as Friends of the Scout House (FOSH) and are leading an uphill effort to get the property back. The neighbors are upset the transaction took place after they tried to preserve the cabin and its parklike setting — the largest undeveloped view property left on Morgan Hill — and say the council did a disservice by selling it so cheaply.

"The community feels the BSA has really let them down," said Judith Bird, of FOSH. "We thought it was fiscally irresponsible for them to sell something that obviously had so much value, at that price."

The Scout House was built in 1932 on property donated to the Port Townsend Scouts. Since then, it's been looked after by the town's Elks Lodge, which sponsors the community's two Boy Scout troops and about 30 Cub Scouts.

"Other clubs meet in places that are generic — firehouses, churches, community centers," said Kevin Amo, Cub Scout leader. "When kids walk in here, they know they're in a place where their parents used to be."

Last fall, the Elks announced they could no longer care for the structure, which needed repairs, and recommended that the Chief Seattle Boy Scout Council sell the property. While there was concern then about the fate of the cabin, some people say they were assured that the Scout council moves at "glacial speed" and wouldn't put the property on the market for some time.

FOSH was formed, and its members vowed to save the landmark. Within two months the group had $70,000 in cash and pledges for repairs, including promises of free labor from former Scouts. The group says it applied to have the Scout House listed on the National Register of Historic Places and contacted the Seattle Scout council weekly for updates on the property.

"When kids walk in here, they know they're in a place where their parents used to be," Port Townsend Cub Scout leader Kevin Amo said of Scout House.

Amo, other Scouting leaders and members of FOSH said they heard nothing about the pending sale until after it was completed in April.

"They ignored us," Bird said. "Not only did they ignore us, they sold it."

The Chief Seattle Boy Scout Council, which oversees Boy Scouts of America operations in five counties in Western Washington (King, Kitsap, Clallam, Jefferson and north Mason), defends the sale and says it's confident it got a good deal. Spokeswoman Alicia Lifrak said the council consulted with Scout leaders, members of the Elks Lodge and Port Townsend community leaders while the deal was being negotiated, although she declined to say who had been contacted.

"We're not really in the real-estate brokerage market," she said. "Our priority is maintaining a good program for kids in safe locations, and our decisions are made accordingly."

Lifrak said the council accepted an unsolicited offer of $480,000 from local developer and former Port Townsend City Councilman Vern Garrison, who says his son-in-law Charlie Arthur, a local real-estate agent, represented him. An appraiser hired by the council, Lifrak said, estimated the value of the property at $420,000.
"There are a lot of people talking about the property being worth more," she said. "Appraisals are very inaccurate sciences and very subjective. We don't really have an opinion on any other appraisals."

Realtor Barbara Bogart, who's worked in Port Townsend since 1986, said the $420,000 appraisal was completely off-base.

"I just don't know why they weren't prudent enough to get a second opinion," Bogart said. "I'm sorry the Scouts didn't realize all they needed to do was get a reliable person to get a market analysis and put it on the market."

Arthur, who has now listed the property for $2.2 million, said the site is valuable because it's so secluded and has views of the water. "Anyone who purchases real estate and turns around to sell it again wishes to make a profit," he said.

Garrison said he was surprised the property could be worth so much more than what he paid.

"It appears I did get a good deal," he said.

But the sale caused a commotion. About 700 people signed petitions to save the site. A Seattle attorney with a home in Port Townsend offered Garrison $800,000, promising to hold on to the property until FOSH could buy it. Garrison did not respond.

FOSH then implored the City Council to help, and options such as trading surplus city land for the Scout property were floated. Famed Mount Everest climber Jim Whittaker, who lives in Port Townsend, joined with those trying to keep the land from being developed.

Most recently, the City Council couldn't agree on a proposal in which the city would have acted as facilitator in a purchase agreement, with FOSH paying Garrison $32,000 up front and about $1.2 million later.

With the property's price tag now more than $2 million, "it seems like every time we're getting somewhere, something else happens," Bird said.

Garrison has given FOSH one month to move the cabin before he'll demolish it. Amo, the Cub Scout leader, fears that's not enough time to find a new location. "It feels like a losing battle at this point in time, but we're still kicking," he said.

Amo's Cub Scouts can no longer meet in the cabin, and he says the local Boy Scout troops' leader has resigned in protest. Amo said the situation has caused bitterness among some former Scouts.

"A couple of former Eagle Scouts were going to burn their badges over this," he said. "These were the same guys who said, 'I'll do the rewiring for you for free.' "

FOSH has persuaded the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation to put the cabin on its list of most endangered historic properties, distributed "Save our Scout House" bumper stickers and started its own Web site.

"The cabin is not glamorous — it's old and run-down," Bird said. "But there's something about having this private little thing. People come here because they know it's here."
Katherine Sather 206-464-2752 or ksather@seattletimes.com

article about Bosnia

For some locals from Bosnia, rebuilt bridge a peace symbol

By Katherine Sather Seattle Times staff reporter

There is a small bridge in the city of Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina, that connects people as far away as Seattle.
It's known simply as the Old Bridge, and today thousands of Bosnians, along with a few from this area, will gather there to celebrate its reconstruction.

The 500-year-old landmark was destroyed in 1993 during the country's civil war, furthering the division between the mostly Catholic Croats, who lived west of the bridge, and the Muslims who lived in the east.

Its reopening today is symbolic of growing peace between the two groups. It's a time for celebration for Bosnian families, including that of Dragan and Amra Kondzas in Redmond, who fled their home in Mostar after the war began. Bosnian refugee Hava Jazvin, who works at the Refugee Federation Service Center in Seattle, returned to Mostar this week to witness the event in person.

"I feel obligation to be there just to see," said Jazvin, whose English is halting. "I just think this is kind of birthday for Old Bridge. I believe now it's starting to build trust between people."

Jazvin is from the town of Capljina, just a short distance from Mostar. In 1993, she and other Muslims were forced to evacuate the city by former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's nationalist forces, who sought to create a "Greater Serbia." Jazvin said her brother and nephews were initially taken to concentration camps, while she hid in a greenhouse. She later helped her family escape to Croatia.

It was in Croatia, on the television news, that she watched the Old Bridge fall as Croats and Muslims, who had worked together to battle Bosnian Serbs at the outset of the war, fought for control of Mostar. Croats hit the stone structure with artillery fire on Oct. 9, 1993, sending it crumbling into the Neretva River.

"I can hardly control myself. I just put my hand over my mouth. I want to scream," Jazvin said. "I was thinking, 'We cannot have peace no more. We broke the bridge.' "

That morning, Dragan Kondza, a Croat, heard the artillery shells strike the bridge from miles away. The attack lasted until the afternoon. His wife, Amra, was staying with his family in Croatia.

"Nobody believed that would happen," she said. "We were all in a state of shock for days, even months."

Though it's not the only bridge in Mostar, the Old Bridge is the most treasured. It was constructed in 1566 and is known as one of the finest examples of Turkish Ottoman architecture in the Balkans. In the five centuries it arched over the Neretva, it withstood wars, invasions and earthquakes, said Marie-Paul Roudil, a spokeswoman for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

The city of Mostar was named after the bridge. "Stari Most" means old bridge in Bosnian. After the Dayton Peace Accords were signed in 1995, UNESCO pledged to restore the landmark. The $16 million project, which began in 2001, gained sponsorship from the World Bank and five donor countries.

Political leaders and heads of state from throughout Europe will attend today's opening ceremony.

"This is also a reconstruction of the link between the two populations from each side of the river," Roudil said.

The Kondza family revisited Mostar last summer, when all but a small gap in the middle of the bridge was left to be rebuilt. They recalled the times they'd taken their daughter across the stone surface, which had grown slippery over the centuries, to shop at the market.

"The goal with rebuilding the bridge is there is hope some connection might develop over time, but it won't be easy," Amra Kondza said.

The couple immigrated to Tukwila in 1995 because Mostar had become too dangerous for their family. They later moved to Redmond. They plan to watch today's ceremony as it is broadcast on the Internet. Amra Kondza said there's still tension in Mostar.

"People can't relax and live like we do here, thinking about daily routines," she said. "They can't relax and for one second forget about what happened."

Jazvin immigrated to Seattle in 1995, where she lives with her two nephews. She now helps other Bosnian families make their homes here. Her desk at the refugee center is surrounded by crayon-colored drawings of rainbows and smiling faces created by Bosnian children she's helped.

She wants to return to Bosnia for good someday.

"I miss the river," she said last week. "I close my eyes and imagine I can see everything. I can't wait to be there."
Katherine Sather 206-464-2752 or

my second front page article

Miss Seafair contest one of talent, community service and smarts

By Katherine Sather Seattle Times staff reporter

They say that in the early years of Miss Seafair competition, the women wore such elaborate outfits that people wondered if there was a costume party going on.

The 1950 pageant included thrones, crowns and a re-enactment of King Neptune rising out of the ocean to select a Queen of the Sea. Costumes were sewn with wax beads that were known to melt under the hot lights of Seattle Center's Civic Auditorium.

The title of Seafair queen came with a Hollywood screening test. Winners traveled to Paris to promote Seattle and hydroplane racing. They were community icons, whose wardrobes and travel were paid for.

The modern coronation, which takes place tonight, caps off five weeks of competition that's come a long way over the past five decades. The winner among the 22 contestants will receive a $5,000 college scholarship and a diamond-studded pendant for demonstrating community service, public-speaking skills and academic achievement.

Participants stress that the competition is no longer a beauty pageant. Instead, they are seeking to burnish their résumés and earn cash for college. They also want to engage their communities in summer's Seafair events.
"Physical beauty has all but been eliminated from the competition," said JoAnne Ludwig, a longtime coordinator of what is now the Miss Seafair Scholarship Program for Women. "The coronation is really an acknowledgment of who the valedictorian of the group is, so to speak."

On Sunday, this year's Miss Seafair princesses put in a 12-hour day of appearances. They arrived early in the morning dressed in tiaras and gowns, adorned with sashes, for a parade in Des Moines. By that afternoon they were salsa dancing on stage at the Hispanic Seafair Organization Festival in Seward Park, and by evening they were cruising in the Chinatown Seafair Parade, smiling and waving from red, blue and yellow Corvettes.

They've seen each other almost daily, to rehearse for tonight's coronation and prep for various events. They're mostly college students representing various ethnic groups as well as Puget Sound-area communities. They say that they've grown to be friends, and their camaraderie is more important than who wins the title.

Still there is the competition.

"In the back of our minds, sometimes during rehearsal, we're probably thinking about who's in the top eight," said Teddy Rupp, an 18-year-old from South Seattle who's headed to Seattle Pacific University in the fall.

Miss Seafair will be chosen tonight from the eight finalists. The winner will receive a "schooling" from Seafair officials on public speaking and helping represent the festival across the Northwest, Ludwig said.

Caroline Phan, Miss Seafair 2000, traveled as far away as Japan during her reign. The first year she competed was 1999, but she quickly realized that other competitors were more than familiar with the routine.

"It was scary. I was competing against some girls who'd done pageants all their lives," she said. "They had this down pat. How could I compete with girls who knew exactly what they were doing?"

Phan graduated from the University of Washington in 2000 with degrees in international studies, European studies and German language and literature. She earned a master's overseas in contemporary European studies. She said she was motivated to be Miss Seafair because she wanted to be a role model.

"I thought Miss Seafair was the coolest thing on Earth. She had the perfect poise and grace and was such a great speaker, and everyone looked up to her," Phan said.

The scholarship money also was a draw, she said. This year, the program will give away $10,000 in college scholarships. In addition to the $5,000 grand prize, scholarships will be given for talent, community service and academics. Since 1950, the program has given more than $300,000 to more than 1,400 women.

Back in the '50s and '60s, judging was done undercover by a group known as the "Secret Seven." During the 10-day Seafair festival, they'd observe the competitors as they interacted at various events, looking for poise and speaking ability, said Ludwig, who worked as director of the Miss Seafair program from 1994 to 2003 and now directs the coronation ceremony.

Half of the judging is already done. The women completed an interview and a talent competition, which was recently renamed "creative expression" to encourage competitors to try something other than dancing and music. Judges also reviewed their academic records, community service and participation in Seafair events, which included trips to children's shelters and veterans hospitals.

"Yeah, you're a good student, and yeah, you have a résumé that's a mile long, but if you're a good citizen, you'll be a good Seafair representative," Ludwig said.

At tonight's coronation, judges will select the top eight finalists who will then be interviewed on stage and participate in round-table talks.

Coronation-night judging will last only a few hours, but many competitors are surprised at the amount of commitment required in the five weeks of competition.

Tina Faulkner, last year's first runner-up, commuted to Seafair events three or four times a week from Bellingham. The 20-year-old has competed in pageants for years. She is the reigning Miss Whatcom County and recently competed in the Miss Washington competition.

She thought it was unusual, and refreshing, that Miss Seafair judging wasn't based on appearances.
"It's a lot different because none of it is based on beauty," she said.

"To be honest, I was concerned about that. I'd never done it. It's neat to find out I was still a well-rounded person without that aspect."

Phan, Miss Seafair 2000, said she was sometimes criticized by people who thought the program was demeaning to women. But, she said, there's no swimsuit or evening-gown competition.

She said she felt rewarded chatting at events with children, who'd often ask if she was really a princess and lived in a castle.

"These princesses are role models for these little kids. There are not that many role models out there that are positive, and celebrate being smart, being involved in the community and being an active person," she said. "It's exciting to be all these things to other people and realize 'hey, I'm a role model; now I'm the girl who's Miss Seafair.' "
Katherine Sather 206-464-2752 or