NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

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.

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

    # by Mike Barer :: May 29th, 2014 at 8:17 PM
  2. RIP Ken. You’ll be missed. 

    # by Reggie Nickerson :: June 4th, 2014 at 7:04 AM
  3. Ken may have been a cur­mud­geon, but he was *ours*. RIP Ken, you’ll be missed. 

    # by Mimi Michaels :: June 7th, 2014 at 2:03 AM

One Ping

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

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