Laura Pierce

State Rep. Upthegrove keeps eye on local issues; sponsors bill to decrease wait times at DOL

State Rep. Dave Upthegrove acknowledges there’s a lot of energy in Olympia focused on fixing the huge gap in state spending. But even so, the Des Moines-based legislator said there are a number of local projects he’s putting the focus on this session. “There’s lots of focus on the budget,” said the state rep., now in his fourth term. But, “I kind of spend time on items that are big tickets to our community.”

Could changes be coming to Kent’s traffic impact fees? Council members talk to business community

It may not feel like a battle won, but for the Kent business community, a meeting Monday at Kent City Hall may have felt at least like a hurdle cleared. The meeting, attended by city staff, local business people and the City Council’s Economic & Community Development Committee, yielded a couple of results that could generate a future Council decision on a sticky topic: the city’s traffic-impact fees.

We support Upthegrove bill to cut down lines, hassle, at Department of Licensing offices: Editorial

Go to nearly any state Department of Licensing office in Puget Sound and you’ll see the crowds. Kent’s office is no different: if you need a driving exam, brace yourself for a long wait. It’s a poignant symbol of just how slow and painful Big Government can be. Take your number, sit in a plastic chair and wait for someone to summon you. You can spend the better part of a morning just sitting.

Kent’s Lopez Center falls on hard times, in spite of local need; seeking benefactor to assist

A fundraising dinner in December for Kent's Lucy Lopez Center raised nearly $3,000 - something for which Roberto Gonzales, a cofounder of the center, is thankful. "It went wonderful," said Gonzales, seated last month in a booth at his Mexico Lindo restaurant in Kent, and recalling the Dec. 5 Mexican festivities at the Kent Senior Activity Center. "We had about 100 people." But while the assistance is appreciated, it underscores what has become a harsh reality for the nonprofit center. It paid to keep the facility operating for just one month.

Self-Serve Garage in Kent offers space, tools, info for doing your own repairs

For George Patterson, it was the sticker shock. The former Army medic needed a tune-up for his Jeep Grand Cherokee, and learned it would cost the hefty sum of $600 at a repair shop. But if he did it himself, it would be only $200-$300.

I’m fat but don’t fix me: Editor’s Note

I was dumbfounded with the results of a reader survey on our Web site last week. We asked, “Have you ever successfully completed a diet?” Astoundingly (at least to me) 85 percent of respondents said they had, in fact, done so. For myself, I suppose the same could be said: I have successfully lost a total of 400 pounds.

State Rep. Tina Orwall speaks on challenges of 2011 session: Legislator feature

State Rep. Tina Orwall may be going into her second term in Olympia, but it’s a safe bet this session won’t be anything like her last. Although legislators had painful cuts to contend with last session, this go ‘round they will be balancing a biennial budget that has a $4.6 billion gap. And that’s in addition to making cuts in the remainder of this year’s budget, which ends June 30 and is $1.1 billion in the hole.

Road-rage lockdown at Kentwood High School lifted, investigation continues

Kentwood High School went on lockdown this morning, after a student reported being threatened in the school parking lot. The lockdown, which took place at 10 a.m., was lifted after 45 minutes, as local law enforcement and district safety officers investigated.

Kent Denny’s shooting culminates in $79.5 mil lawsuit

A 2007 shooting at Denny’s Restaurant in Kent is culminating in a $79.5 million lawsuit and the subpoenaing of the company’s top brass to a Seattle courtroom. In the trial, which starts Monday, Seattle attorney Ron Perey is representing Steve Tolenoa, a Kent resident who was left a quadriplegic as a result of the Jan. 21 shooting spree. In addition to the $79 million for Tolenoa’s estimated loss in pay and continued medical needs, Perey also is seeking $530,000 in damages for customer Lisa Beltran-Walker, who was shot in the knee, and her husband Carl Walker, for emotional distress and medical bills.

Denny’s refutes lawsuit’s claims

Although a company spokesperson said Wednesday the company doesn’t comment on pending litigation, Denny’s is making the following assertions in its legal filings: • That the shooting was a random act of violence “and we can’t control random acts of violence,” according to company CEO Debra Smithart-Oglesby in a videotaped deposition, which is summarized in a transcript, and actually included as an exhibit in Perey’s legal filing. “What we do is put together processes, procedures, programs that are intended to contribute to the safety and security of our guests as well as our employees.”

Thrill of the hunt draws crowd to Kent auction

The excitement at Kent's Door-to-Door Storage on Dec. 16 was palpable. The weather was cold and damp, and topping it off, there was a cutting wind. But that didn't deter the crowd of about 60 who showed up, hot for a treasure.

Willow’s Place: Serving help and hope to the homeless of Kent

Angus Wilson had worked his way up in the trucking world. He drove for 20 years, and was pulling in $80,000 a year as a driver trainer. But the wheels, quite literally, came off for Wilson, due to a lapse in judgement. He was arrested for drunken driving. “One night turned my life upside down,” Wilson said. He lost his job. Eventually, he lost nearly every material possession he had. Already going through a divorce at the time of his DUI, he lost his wife and two children, too. One Thursday in December, a now-homeless Wilson was queuing up for dinner and a respite from the winter cold. Along with his friend Joey Smith, also homeless, Wilson was getting a hot meal from a group of kindly volunteers in the basement of Kent Unity Church.

Family anxiously awaiting outcome in Kent teen’s stem-cell transplant

Time is the only thing Joey Sexton is counting these days. The hours and minutes that unfold as her daughter, Jayne Johnson, lays asleep in her hospital bed. Those hours are the key to a process slowly unfolding in Jayne’s body. While Joey sits in that hospital room, the clock ticking away, it will only be more time before the answers finally come. “Her body’s healing; she’s sleeping; I’m watching,” Joey said.

Thanks to readers, Kent Christmas-card campaign will bring joy to area veterans: Editor’s Note

Earlier this month, Pamala Heydt was telling me about her dream for Christmas. The veteran - who can best be described as “effervescent” - wanted to collect a major batch of Christmas cards to take on a goodwill call to injured veterans receiving care at our local V.A. hospital. “It’s Christmas time and it’s my way of giving back to soldiers what they’ve given to me,” said Heydt.

Toys for Joy could use more joy – and more donations

A Kent Fire Department tradition that has been helping families for years could now use some help itself. The clock is slowly ticking toward Christmas, and the Kent Toys for Joy Program is slowly plodding along. Donations to this family-friendly program are down – and considerably.

Music to their ears: East Hill student musicians in a band – and a family

You’ll probably never see an African marimba on MTV. Make that the same for any Taylor Swift offerings. For a group of student musicians at East Hill Elementary School, however, the African marimba permeates their consciousness in more ways than a Top 40 ballad ever could.

Lunch brings warm feelings, warm clothing

A community lunch to talk about the plight of the homeless last week netted more than 1,000 articles of winter clothing for Kent’s neediest citizens. That was the word from Sally Goodgion, organizer of the Kent Kiwanis Club’s “Hope for Families 2010,” a fundraising lunch Dec. 9 that asked audience members to each contribute warm winter clothing as part of their admission.

Kent businessman Paul Morford left an indelible mark

Mike Miller remembers the first time he met Paul Morford. “It was 1977 and I walked up to his construction office as a young banker on his muddy walkway,” said Miller, now president of Valley Bank in Kent. “I had on my wingtips and my three-piece suit.” Miller quipped wryly, “He always told people I loaned him money when I shouldn’t have.”

How you can help transplant patient Jayne Johnson with her gift of life: Editor’s Note

If Jayne Johnson gets her wish, she’ll be watching the Seattle New Year’s fireworks from a very special vantage point. It won’t just be the room she’s in. It will be because Jayne, 16, will have survived the most intense medical procedure of her life.

Richard LeMieux, best-selling author of ‘Sally’s Place,’ and advocate for the homeless, coming to Kent

Richard LeMieux, by anyone’s standards, had it all. “All” meaning a home on the water, boats, trips to Paris. “I had all the toys a 56-year-old was supposed to have – I thought,” said LeMieux, now a deceptively young-looking 67, clad in a purple beret and a turtleneck, speaking over a slab of pie Tuesday at the Renton IKEA store. But fate, God, or the universe – whatever you choose to call it – had a different plan for LeMieux, who had worked his way up from a reporting job in the Midwest to ownership of a publishing company in the Puget Sound area. In 2002, the toys, and nearly all the pieces of LeMieux’s successful life – including his wife – were gone for good, leaving him with nothing but a van, a dog, and a dire sense of failure. His publishing business had been vaporized by an Internet-driven market. And nearly everything that it bought – right down to the pictures on his walls – was sucked down the rabbit hole with it.