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Ken Schram: 1947-2014

Today, our region lost one of its feistiest and most spirited broadcast personalities with the death of longtime KOMO commentator Ken Schram. Schram, sixty-six, had been battling an internal infection for many months, and finally succumbed to his illness today. KOMO anchor Eric Johnson, who just took over Dan Lewis’ duties last week, has a story up on the station’s website celebrating Schram’s life and legacy.

As Johnson put it:

[Ken Schram] talked tough, but if you knew him at all, you knew that he cared about people — all people: rich and poor; the lucky ones and the messed up ones too. He was constantly giving $5 to a homeless guy. “Go get something to eat,” he’d say.

Some tough guy.

Chief photographer Randy Carnell summed him up best.

“He’s funny and he’s mean and he’s nice… he’s crazy,” Carnell said. “He has everything going on in that head of his. He’s a nut.”

He was like creme brulee: All crusty on the outside, soft and gooey and sweet underneath.

Ken Schram and I didn’t always see eye to eye, but we did share an intense dislike of Tim Eyman’s destructive initiatives. To Ken’s credit, he saw through Eyman’s  persona from the very beginning, recognizing Eyman for what he was. During the more than ten years that Eyman’s foray into politics overlapped with Schram’s broadcasting career, Schram lambasted him dozens of times.

Here are some of his greatest zingers. First, from “A Grim Fairy Tale”, which aired on February 1st, 2002, after the Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran an expose by Neil Modie about Tim Eyman pocketing his own donors’ money for his personal use:

[Eyman] took the people’s money and didn’t spend it on THE PLAN they gave it for. Tim says he could use their money for a future PLAN, even if the people who gave the money don’t support it.

Or, he could just use the money to buy himself a big boat.

From “Eyman’s Biggest Lie Not About Money, But Measures”, February 4th, 2002:

Tim Eyman told the truth because the lies were catching up to him. He was going to get caught. He confessed. That doesn’t make him noble, just savvy… The initiatives are mostly a ruse. They hurt more then help us, and allow lawmakers to continually wiggle away from making tough, but necessary decisions.

From “Is Tim Eyman lying?”, July 2nd, 2002:

What Eyman deserves will ultimately be decided when Washington state gets him to court with its lawsuit against him.

And unlike his e-mail, in court Eyman must show proof that what he says is actually true. That could be a problem for Tim, who seems to have a tough time telling the difference between truth, and what he wants people to believe.

Is Eyman lyin’? Don’t know. Is the Pope Polish?

From “A Whole New Racket For Tim Eyman”, July 11th, 2002:

Let’s see if I got it right:

Tim’s asking people to send him money to bail him out of the trouble he’s in for taking money that at one time he said he never took.

Now, since Tim certainly couldn’t pay taxes on money he lied about taking, he’s in that hole.

And, since he got caught with campaign dollars stuck to his fingers, Tim’s also being sued by the state.

Which means he’s got legal bills and fines likely lurking in his future.

And so, that’s why Tim has come back to the people who’s money he took, asking them to send him more money.

From “The Road to Ruin”, July 23rd, 2002:

That’s because Tim Eyman is like an Enron accountant who wants to show you the bottom line, but doesn’t want to open the books so you can check all the math.

Eyman’s ‘new’ initiative is actually made up of recycled ideas that’ve already failed in the legislature.

They failed for good reason. They were bad ideas then and – except for opening carpool lanes to everyone during off-peak hours – they’re bad ones now.

Take Tim Eyman. Please. Okay. I know. It’s an old joke.

But so is Tim Eyman.

From “Let’s Talk About Tim”, September 17th, 2002:

I realize that the Eyman Mukilteo enclave is insulated from the world mere mortals live in, so I’m not surprised at the latest initiative that Tim will reap a personal profit from.

And I’m not surprised that Tim joyously noted what he calls the “sheer coincidence” that he mailed his I-267 petitions out on September 11th.

“Very neat,” said Tim, that his efforts coincided with the anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

Yep, ‘very neat’ Tim. Nice of you to ‘honor’ the date by ‘coincidentally’ using it to promote your transportation initiative.

From “Tim Eyman’s Scam… Er, Plan”, May 20th, 2003:

Tim Eyman might call it ‘soliciting donations’, but fact is, he’s begging.

Tim has once again become the equivalent of those folks we see standing forlorn alongside freeway exits.

‘Send money’ Eyman’s letter read — personal money, not political money — money that Tim won’t have to publicly account for, or pay taxes on. Me? I figure if Timmy’s gonna panhandle, he should go at it like everyone else: holding a cardboard message, standing by the side of the road.

From “Eyman Sure Is A Character–Several, In Fact,” April 2nd, 2004:

Of all the Tim Eyman characters, “Indignant Tim” could be my favorite.

Beats the hell out of “Contrite Tim”, the one who tearfully admits lying, and trounces all over “Arrogant Tim”, who proclaims himself to he the champion of all taxpayers.

“Greedy Tim” is my least favorite character.

“Greedy Tim” recently took a $46,000 chunk-a-change in payment for what he called “effective lobbying”, then even more recently announced he’s going to be drawing $3,100 a week in salary while pushing his “gambling is better than taxes” initiative.

From “Initiative Amoeba Is On The Move”, November 4th, 2004:

Three of Timmy’s last 4 initiatives didn’t even make the ballot, and the one that did went down in flames this week.

Timmy paid himself $3,100 a week for that debacle.

I’m sure he’d say it was a bargain. But hey, as long a Timmy can get people to write him checks, he’ll keep writing e-mails about all he’s done, even if he hasn’t really done squat.

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the jelly-like cytoplasm of an amoeba.

If not, train your eyes on Tim Eyman and let me know if you can see right through him.

From “Timmy Is Turning To God”, May 22nd, 2006:

Timmy is turning to God.

I guess Mr. Eyman figures that since Jesus turned water into wine, the Lord would be willing and able to transform church-going Christians into bigots. That, and maybe he’d made an extra buck or ten.

And so on the 7th day, Timmy helped orchestrate “Referendum Sunday.” Timmy describes this as an “opportunity” for 500,000 voters in 5,400 churches to sign a petition to cancel out gay rights legislation passed in Olympia earlier this year.

Timmy says it’s all about ending “preferential treatment.”

I say it’s all about legalizing discrimination against gays and lesbians.

And I think that Timmy’s just trying to turn conservative Christians into another tool in his money-making initiative arsenal.

From “My ballot is in the mail”, November 5th, 2007:

Initiative 960: Tim Eyman’s latest smoke and mirror measure. I wish I could have voted “no” on this several times.

If it passes, look for a gridlocked Legislature doing battle over things like raising hairdresser license fees.

From “Schrammie: Eyman goes ape over P-I demise”, March 18th, 2009:

Little Timmy makes a mighty fine living off the public’s discontent and doesn’t take kindly when his bully pulpit is challenged, as the [Seattle] P-I was almost always inclined to do.

And since he always blames everyone but himself for a succession of initiative failures, he took particular glee in the P.I. folding.

So Timmy, it’s not for your political antics that you get this award, it is for your lack of class; it’s for your small-minded, petty and spiteful nature that I say, take a bow, because this “Schrammie” is for you.

From “The Schrammie: You’re a scoundrel”, April 14th, 2010:

With not one whit of thought given to the economic disaster to the state’s programs and services should that happen, Eyman is as Eyman does: Manipulating circumstances to his own advantage.

Playing off people’s disdain for increased taxes, Timmy gets to make splashy headlines in an effort to paint himself as a champion of the people as he pushes for donations to accomplish the near impossible: Gathering several hundred thousand signatures on each one of his eight measures by July 2.

Timmy, you’re a scoundrel.

And finally, from “Handcuffing the Legislature,” October 18, 2010:

If you want to impede economic growth, protect special tax breaks for big corporations, put children’s programs and education at further risk, then jump right in and vote yes on I-1053.

But if you’re not interested in buying into the “cut off your nose to spite your face” charge led by Tim Eyman, then by all means be sensible. Vote “no” on initiative 1053.

Ken Schram retired from KOMO prior to the qualification of Initiative 517 last year, Tim Eyman’s most self-serving initiative ever, which voters overwhelmingly defeated in November (NPI helped organize the opposition). Had Schram still been on the air, I have no doubt he would have eviscerated I-517 more than once.

Tim Eyman was hardly the only target of Ken Schram’s commentaries. But, in looking through Ken’s body of work over the last few years, I was surprised by just how many Eyman references there were. Schram periodically found ways to work slams of Eyman into his commentaries, even if his ire was trained on someone else. That’s how much he detested Eyman’s toxic politics and his initiative factory.

Politically, Schram was an independently-minded biconceptual, meaning that in some areas of his political thinking, he used the progressive value system, and in others, he used the conservative values system. From watching his commentaries, I always got the sense that he enjoyed being an unpredictable contrarian.

Sometimes Ken was spot on with a commentary, as he was when he lambasted Tim Eyman’s initiatives. Other times, he made no sense to me at all, as in 2005, when he complained about women breastfeeding in public. (As The Seattle Times’ Erik Lacitis noted, it generated more than 1,000 angry emails).

Ken always invited KOMO viewers and listeners to respond to his commentaries and on-air rants. Periodically, he would read from responses on air, and thank people for writing in. For many years, he co-hosted a radio show on KOMO AM 1000 with conservative talk show host John Carlson called “The Commentators”.

Schram left KOMO in 2012 when his contract was bought out. He still had a year left to go, but station management had by that time evidently decided to dispense with airing any more of his “Schram on the Street” commentaries. (KOMO, long owned by Fisher Broadcasting, was sold to the Sinclair Broadcast Group in 2013.)

After leaving KOMO, Schram began communicating more directly with fans, occasionally sharing upbeat messages and alerts when he was filling in on the radio. On July 29th, 2013, he posted the following message to his Facebook page:

Another day back in radio fun!

Filled in for Luke Burbank today on KIRO 97.3FM 9- Noon. Will be doing so again tomorrow and Wednesday. Then, on Thursday and Friday, I’ll be filling in for Tom Tagney; same time slot. Following that, 2-weeks vacation with the family!.

Love what you do; do what you love! Keep thinking of the Beach Boys: “Fun, Fun, Fun” Hope your world is treating you the way you deserve!

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell remembered Schram as colorful and fierce.

“Ken Schram had a forceful presence that could be felt right through the TV or radio. He was a legend in Northwest broadcasting – and his voice will never be forgotten,” she said in a statement. “Ken was a force of nature that we will long remember for his passionate views and opinions. My deepest sympathies go out to his wife, Sandi, to his family and his friends at KOMO-TV and radio.”

We join Senator Cantwell in conveying our condolences to Schram’s family.

So long, Ken, and thanks for all the commentaries… myopic and brilliant alike.

3 Comments

  1. Posted May 29th, 2014 at 8:17 PM | Permalink

    My guess is his mo was firing at sacred cows. He hated what he felt was phony and hypocritical.

  2. Reggie Nickerson
    Posted June 4th, 2014 at 7:04 AM | Permalink

    RIP Ken. You’ll be missed.

  3. Mimi Michaels
    Posted June 7th, 2014 at 2:03 AM | Permalink

    Ken may have been a curmudgeon, but he was *ours*. RIP Ken, you’ll be missed.

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  1. By Open Thread (6/2) | HorsesAss.Org on June 2nd, 2014 at 8:01 AM

    […] – I was never much of a fan of Ken Schram, but Andrew at NPI has a nice remembrance. […]