Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Stranger Reports Bullet Fired Into Nearby Home in Olympia Police Shooting of Two Men


City of Olympia - Police Guild Contract Ends December 2015

By Janine Unsoeld
According to an article by Ansel Herz posted May 22 in The Stranger, a Seattle publication, an Olympia police officer who shot two unarmed African American men also fired a bullet into a nearby home.  
Olympians Express Continued Shock, Anger, Concern
Conversations this weekend in most Olympia restaurants, coffee shops, homes, and social media sites continue to express a wide range of emotions about the shooting incident.
Reflecting the thoughts of many Olympians, many wonder why local corporate media has already seemingly moved on from the shooting.
Zoltan Grossman, a faculty member at The Evergreen State College, knows the young family whose window was said to have been shot out by the officer’s bullet and confirmed The Stranger's story for Little Hollywood.
“Why hasn't this angle been covered in the Olympia police shooting?  I know one of the young people who lives in the house that was struck by Officer Donald's bullet. The residents report that there were around 10 gunshots. I have seen other photos of the broken window on the second floor,” says Grossman.
Following the incident, Grossman says he wrote an email to The Olympian but has not yet heard back from the newspaper, and shared it with Little Hollywood:
“….You've covered every possible angle to support a pro-police point of view--the video from Safeway, the records of the victims, windows broken by protesters separate from the larger protests. But I haven't seen a word about the bullet breaking the upstairs window of an Olympia home, in what could amount to reckless endangerment by Officer Donald. The police themselves have recovered the bullet and interviewed the residents --why haven't you? It deserves a separate article and interviews with the residents,” wrote Grossman.
Wendy Tanowitz of Olympia spoke at a downtown community gathering last Thursday night at Temple Beth Hatfiloh.
Tanowitz has conducted much research into local and national law enforcement actions, and was asked by Little Hollywood today for more information.
“....I'm very concerned and hyper-sensitive to systemic and institutional abuse of power in all its forms….Many factors contribute to a culture of impunity among people who work in law enforcement, not the least of which is that they are almost never held accountable for their actions, and the criminal (in)justice system exists to protect and shield them from the legal consequences of shooting or killing someone,” she said.
In researching how many people are killed while in contact with police, Tanowitz learned that there is no national database where these figures are available. She says a grassroots-generated site exists at www.killedbypolice.net but it is incomplete.
That group estimates that 1,000 people were killed by police or while in police custody in 2014. Their Facebook page is:   https://www.facebook.com/KilledByPolice/posts/1026884260673044?_rdr
She said that the use of a Taser instead of a firearm and the officer calling for backup before he shot two men should have been considered.
“People who work in law enforcement should never take it upon themselves to act as judge, jury and executioner. Many hundreds of people - the number sometimes approaches 1,000 - are killed or injured in the United States each year by law enforcement who said they felt threatened. This must end. Police are hired to protect public safety and must held be accountable for their actions….There must have been other ways to have handled this situation short of using potentially deadly force. We need to know what happened Thursday morning in Olympia, but we have no video record. This can and should be remedied in the future by mandating that all Olympia police department officers wear body cameras.”
City of Olympia-Olympia Police Guild Contract
The three year contract between the City of Olympia and the Police Guild ends in December 2015, just in time for a new contract to mandate body cameras for the Olympia Police Department.
The January 1, 2013 - December 31, 2015 contract is located here: http://www.codepublishing.com/wa/olympia/mobile/?pg=labor/OlympiaLabor05.html
Although Article 22 of the contract details the use of dash-mounted video systems, it has not been implemented.
Related to a police incident involving local resident Scott Yoos, Tanowitz read the Police Guild contract and in an October 8, 2013 meeting of the Olympia City Council, she asked when the dash cameras would be installed.
In response, according to the minutes, Police Chief Ronnie Roberts addressed the council and the issues regarding record retention and additional staff needed to manage the large amount of data. He said body mics or cameras would also impact records requests.
In a vote of 6 – 1, the contract was approved at that meeting by Councilmembers Stephen Buxbaum, Nathaniel Jones, Jim Cooper, Julie Hankins, and Jeannine Roe. The only one who did not approve it was then-Councilmember Karen Rogers.
At the time, Mayor Buxbaum asked that a list of frequently asked questions regarding dash cameras be produced for the public and include the cost breakdown for records requests.
A search on the City of Olympia website, www.olympiawa.gov for that list brought up no results.
Future Police Accountability
The Olympia police department does not currently have a police auditor - the position was cut for budgetary reasons in 2009. The department has never had a citizen review panel, although there has been discussion about it.
In the past, a police auditor reported directly to the city council. The auditor, hired on an annual contract, reported on a quarterly basis, and conducted an internal affairs investigation, looking into use of force and other complaints.
In an interview with Little Hollywood in December 2014, Laura Wohl, who was then public information officer for the department said:
“It is very unusual for a department of our size to have a citizen review panel. If a citizen makes a complaint, a professional standards lieutenant does a complete investigation into policy and law. For some complaints, a dispute mediator is used, for example, if a complainant feels an officer was rude....it's different than any other employment situation. It's a full investigation when a complaint is made of any kind,” said Wohl.
“After the professional standards lieutenant makes his or her findings, it is reviewed by the commander and chief of police. If it is sustained, disciplinary action is taken. If somebody doesn't like the determination, and feels they have been harmed, they can make a claim with the city, or file a civil liability tort, and sue us.”
Little Hollywood has written many past stories about the Olympia Police Department, including the crisis intervention training of a police officer, police accountability, statistics on officer demographics regarding gender, race, and language diversity, the incident regarding Olympia resident Scott Yoos and more. For more information, go to www.janinelittlehollywood.blogspot.com and use the search button to type in key words.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Port of Olympia and ThurstonTalk: When “Journalism” Isn’t What It Seems


Little Hollywood Investigation Reveals Paid Contract

By Janine Unsoeld
When the Port of Olympia put out an article on May 5 by Kate Scriven for ThurstonTalk called, “Port of Olympia: Snapshot of Current Projects, Recent Changes, Plans for Future,” via the Port’s list serv, I read it. The public and the media are invited to subscribe to this list serv in order to keep up on Port activities.
The article was an interview with Port of Olympia executive director Ed Galligan and read like a one-sided industry puff piece, so I discredited it, but then, I became curious.
The next day, I wrote an email to Port staff and commissioners:
“I think it is very strange that the Port of Olympia would select this story written by a blog called ThurstonTalk to send out to those who have signed up to receive Port related information. My blog, Little Hollywood, has written many timely, well researched Port related stories worthy of sending out via this list. I am wondering how you determined that this story was more worthy for broader public dissemination than any of mine. What is your policy for selecting articles?”
Kathleen White, communications director for the Port, was prompted to respond to my inquiry on May 15 when Port Commissioner Bill McGregor sent me an email on May 14 wondering if I had received a response and what the answer was to my inquiry.
White’s answer revealed that the ThurstonTalk article was not just one-sided journalism, but was, in fact, a paid piece of marketing disguised as journalism, the product of a Port-ThurstonTalk contract signed on March 5.
“….In an effort to reach a broad local audience, the Port at its discretion chose to contract with ThurstonTalk for the writing and publishing of a select number of articles about the Port which can then be forwarded to the Port's email list,” White wrote Little Hollywood in an email May 15.
I immediately expressed confusion and responded that I was not aware of ThurstonTalk’s business model:
“…I heard that they pay their writers. That's all I know…. It sounds like they are a public relations firm that the Port contracted with to promote the Port, but it's made to look like independent journalism.  So, how much is the Port paying ThurstonTalk for this contract and what are the terms of that contract? I would also like to know what articles the Port is paying to be produced. Was the one sent out by Ed Galligan the first one? As you can imagine, I am very alarmed and disappointed that the Port wasn't more transparent about this when it sent out the article. Future articles from ThurstonTalk should contain a clear disclaimer, something like, “The following message from the Port of Olympia is a paid advertisement,” I wrote.
White responded that ThurstonTalk was hired by the Port of Olympia to produce four such “articles.” The article sent out May 5 as a “Message from Executive Director Ed Galligan” was the first article.
“Thank you for drawing the Port's attention to the need for a disclaimer on the article written and published by ThurstonTalk. Should the Port send out any future such articles, the Port will indicate that the article was paid for by the Port of Olympia,” wrote White.
White said that in 2015, the Port will pay $1200 per year for publication of all its news releases and $600 for the writing and publication of four articles about the Port, for a total of $1800. White said that the topics for the other three have not yet been determined. 
The Port's contract was signed on March 5 by White and Martin McElliott of ThurstonTalk.
According to its website, ThurstonTalk calls itself an “information source” serving the Thurston County community and was launched on January 1, 2011.
It says, “A vibrant community needs an information source that has the ability to interact with community members through multiple tools, while adding a meaningful advertising platform for local businesses.”
Asked to comment on its business model and how a discerning reader could know which articles are paid for, McElliott responded, “All of our writers are contractors.  Not all of our content is paid for by our sponsors.  Generally the articles that have a business logo attached are sponsored.  We write positive feel good stories and showcase why we all live work and play where we do,” said McElliott in an email today.
Generally?
The Port-ThurstonTalk contract says that their package includes all news releases by the Port, but when asked today after the Port’s work session, White said she wrote the May 20 press release about Olympia Beekeepers Association members installing hives in an Olympia Airport field that will be full of flowering blackberries this summer, and was not related to the ThurstonTalk contract.
According to the contract, ThurstonTalk features a variety of marketing and content packages ranging in monthly prices for articles from $150 to $3,100. For example, customer driven articles cost $500 per article, or $900 for six short posts. An event focused article is $450 per article.
Eight Port of Olympia Candidates To Be Interviewed For Commissioner Position
At today’s work session, Commissioners Barner and McGregor agreed to interview all eight candidates for the open commissioner position on June 1 and June 2 between 1 – 5 p.m. at Tumwater Town Center, 7241 Cleanwater Drive SW, Tumwater.  Each interview will last about 40 minutes.
One candidate, Bill Wells, asked the Port to withdraw his name from consideration.
Port commissioners George Barner and Bill McGregor are expected to reach a decision by June 10, but have until June 30 to do so.
Full Disclosure: Janine Unsoeld does not write any article for her blog, Little Hollywood, in exchange for payment. A small sidebar on her blog asks for donations if folks appreciate independent journalism and like what they are reading. Janine works fulltime as a caregiver for seniors and while she appreciates the donations she receives, it is safe to say that she writes what she is able to as a community service.
Janine is also under contract to write a book, “Legendary Locals of Olympia and South Puget Sound,” through Arcadia Publishing/History Press. The publishing company found her through her blog and felt she was qualified. No money will be exchanged as a result of this contract until actual books are sold. Due to the ridiculously low royalties one receives from writing, unless you are someone like a certain Ms. Rowling, it can safely be said that both this blog and the book project are labors of love.

Olympia Community Comes Together After Police Shooting of Two Men


Above: Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts gives an overview of the day's events regarding the shooting of two African American men at a forum tonight at Temple Beth Hatfiloh in downtown Olympia.

By Janine Unsoeld
Hundreds attended a public forum held tonight at Temple Beth Hatfiloh in downtown Olympia in response to the police shooting incident of two young African American men on Olympia’s westside early Thursday morning.
The forum provided an opportunity for community members to share their feelings about the incident and engage in dialogue. About 15 clergy members from various faith communities and City of Olympia officials, including Chief of Police Ronnie Roberts, Mayor Stephen Buxbaum and other councilmembers, and city staff were in attendance.
Over 30 speakers spoke for an hour and a half, voicing feelings of sorrow, fear, hurt, disappointment, anger and many other emotions. Reiko Callner, a local attorney, human rights activist, and member of the City of Olympia’s Civil Service Commission, facilitated the open mic session. Speakers had at least three minutes each to speak.
Rabbi Seth Goldstein welcomed everyone, saying that the purpose for the evening was to come together to hear diverse points of view in unity…with intention…open hearts, open hands, and prayers for peace, justice and healing.”
Speakers were eloquent, passionate, and spoke from the heart. Many called for an independent citizen advisory review board, police dashboard and body cameras, better training of police officers, and transparency and openness in the investigation process.
Below are some people’s thoughts:
“Police don’t get a chance to apologize because it would bring lawsuits like fleas on a dog…I wish we could include that without tearing them down…They’re just human….” said a man.
“I do support law enforcement…hindsight is 20/20, we all don’t know what happened last night…I believe we all need to stand together as a community…it’s sad when lives are lost and people are hurt….God be with us….” said a woman.
A man who heard the incident said, “This shooting incident happened about 100 yards from my house. I was awakened by the first three shots and…the shooting was all over in about 10 seconds. There were three quick, evenly spaced shots, then an interval of perhaps five to 10 seconds, and then four more shots again, evenly spaced. And, in between, I could hear shouting. I couldn’t hear voices or what was being said but there was audible shouting between the shots and after the shots. I certainly don’t know anything about the officer’s state of mind or to what degree he was threatened or felt threatened but I do feel that…there wouldn’t have been any time before that…it was swift and it was over. And, well, what that means to the investigation or anything, I don’t know. That is what happened, that is what I heard.” [Editor's Note, 5-22-2015: This reporter was in the back of the room. The man was questioning the police version of events. The ellipsis means the speaker went on to say more important information that I have not included here. This man's quote as included here is not to be used as fact in a court of law or to be used as evidence.]
A man said, “It was wrong to have those boys get shot, in my opinion…because they stole some beer….There’s a pattern going on in this country where the cops do these kinds of things and they walk away from it…and that bothers me a lot…The racial question cannot be avoided….It’s so clear…I don’t understand…I look at you (Ronnie Roberts) as the chief, what’s going on? People are getting shot, particularly black people and Hispanic people….This cannot be handed over to the police to investigate….”
Another man said, “My primary concern is that the process work for as many people as possible. The ideal process should find out the truth, a sense of fairness for all…and an outcome of compassion, justice, accountability…and a plan for moving forward….I want an investigative body besides Thurston County…I don’t know what that would look like…I am struggling with the issue of process going forward….”
A social worker said he is highly concerned that officers are not being held accountable when in his profession, he is held highly accountable to state standards.
One man admitted that he had shoplifted when he was young.
“…I was never in fear that I was going to be shot…I have one daughter who is perceived to be white, and one who is perceived to be black. I suspect that if they were caught shoplifting, they would be treated differently…I don’t trust the police after what I’ve seen in the last six months….” He lamented that he has not heard our local police say a word about the incidents that have occurred nationwide. '“Where are the police?'” he asked.
One woman said that she has felt sad all day, hearing helicopters over the westside neighborhoods all day.
“I watched the press conference and heard the tone of defensiveness (from the police) that maybe this officer was acting appropriately….That scares me that I live in a community that somebody can throw a can of beer and no one is saying, '“Wow, we made a mistake…a mistake was made…”' She expressed that there are too many police with military training.
“Military training is very different from community policing….What are we going to do to make sure this never happens again?” She said she was grateful that this gathering was happening and that, as a grandmother, she knows her blue eyed, Caucasian grandson is privileged, and her heart grieves for African American mothers who fear for the lives of their children.
One woman asked why a Taser couldn’t have been used instead, and expressed her support for the young men’s mother.
Another woman said, “Everyone is human, and racism is foundational to the creation of our country and continuation of systems of power….As a white person…I look at my own racism…It’s hard to sit through this stuff…As white folks we don’t know our own privilege, and we need to call it out, what’s happening.…(if we don’t) it’s the worst kind of racism….”
Another woman said, “I don’t trust the Sheriff’s Department to lead the investigation…listen to the audio recording….The militarization of police forces across the United States is a disease, and now we have this disease in Olympia….”
A man said, “….I have more questions than answers…a shift has occurred in me. I feel like I’m afraid of the police, and I’m not homeless, I’m not mentally ill, and I’m white. Why am I afraid? I don’t know. There is a disconnect and I don’t know how to fix it….”
One woman asked, “Why pursue in the first place? That started the whole sequence of events…What’s the outcome of this?”
A clergy member asked, “How will we heal? This is a good first step…Healing needs to be an intentional thing amongst the media and our community….”
Another clergy member asked, “….I wonder about a community that has trained its police and empowered people in the community to confront two people under suspicion by themselves without backup….”
A woman said she could pick out someone that she loves seated in every row. “We deserve better than this and we are better than this….”
A man who lives in the Goldcrest neighborhood said he was detoured this morning from his usual route to work and just got off work to attend the forum. “….This is hard to imagine in Olympia that unarmed people could be shot by police…I hope we’ll give benefit of the doubt as to motives until we know differently….I hope we’ll look at every way to learn from this….”
“I’m horrified this happened in Olympia…and it did….I have no faith that Thurston County officers are going to say it wasn’t a justified use of force…I want from the city council a clear and specific recognition that implicit racism is at play here…explain it, describe it, and hold people accountable for it…we are now a community that an officer shot two unarmed black boys….” said a woman.
A woman who identified herself as a member of the Christian community at The Evergreen State College said she is frustrated about the call to not rush to judge the police’s actions.
“What’s so frustrating is that these two black boys were not given the opportunity… to defend themselves….Black men are demonized…. I remember reading about...Officer Darren Wilson saying that Michael Brown was like a demon coming after him, and that’s how black lives are viewed…so I think it’s about more than body cams, although that’s a good start…I think it’s about how people with privilege and power choose to view…marginalized communities….What happened this morning is not an isolated incident….We need to model something different….”
A registered nurse with 20 years’ experience said that the young men deserve our prayers. “…Even if they recover, their spiritual and body wounds will be long….” She said the shooting was irresponsible in light of the national climate and oppression, and did not believe that race had nothing to do with the incident. “I don’t believe that…I’m the mother of a teenage boy who is light-skinned…I fear for his safety but I can’t imagine what it’s like for African American mothers who worry about their children….”
That woman’s son also spoke up, saying there is racial inequality at his school, eloquently closing by saying, “A color should not determine whether you live or you die….”
A woman who said she’s lived in Olympia for four years said, “I love Olympia…but I’m not surprised that something like this has happened in our community because people of color are harassed…We’re neck deep in right now….”
Another woman said, “If I accidently hit somebody with my car, I’m held accountable….Everybody is responsible for what they do….”
A clergy member said, “There’s one truth – love is greater than fear…As we embrace and resist fear that is out there and fight the fear and find the treasure of love, people will look at Olympia and say, 'We do things different here….'”
Another clergy member, Rev. Amy Walters, of First Christian Church, said, “I am troubled and hurt for our city but I’m going to leave here with some hope to continue to take steps forward to have dialog and we’ll work things out together – we are better – and clergy are committed to this process…While my heart is heavy, I’m going to leave with hope.”
For more information about the incident from the City of Olympia, including the 911 audio recording of the incident, go to www.olympiawa.gov
For previous articles about the City of Olympia Police Department on Little Hollywood, go www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com and use the search button to type in key words.

Olympia Police Shoot Two African American Men

 
Above: Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts answers questions from the media and the community at a press conference in Olympia City Hall this morning about a police shooting of two African-American men early this morning in Olympia. Mayor Stephen Buxbaum, to his left, also addressed questions.


By Janine Unsoeld
Thurston County Critical Incident Team Investigating
A formal Olympia Police press release, below, was issued shortly after 7:00 a.m.:
“At about 1am this morning, Olympia Police responded to a call from the Westside Safeway store at 3215 Harrison Avenue West.  Store employees reported that two black men had attempted to steal beer and, when confronted by employees, threw the stolen items at them then fled.  As police investigated the matter, an officer found two men matching the suspect descriptions a short distance away.  A few minutes later, the officer notified dispatch that he had been involved in a shooting.  Two men were shot by the officer.  Preliminary reports indicate the men were both shot in the chest.  Both men were transported to St. Peter’s Hospital in critical condition.  Both men are in their twenties and believed to be from the Thurston County area.
The officer, who has been an officer for 3 years, has been put on administrative leave while the incident is investigated, following Olympia Police Department policy.  The Thurston County Critical Incident Team is investigating the shooting.  The Critical Incident Team is composed of detectives from five local agencies.
More details will be released as they are available.  An initial briefing for the media will be at 6am at the Olympia City Hall Council Chambers, 601 4th Ave E.  A second briefing is anticipated at 10am this morning.”
For more information, contact Paul Lower, Public Information Officer, 360.753.8410, plower@ci.olympia.wa.us

Press Conference
The 10:00 a.m. press conference in Olympia City Hall lasted about 40 minutes. Several regional television stations and reporters were present, as well as many city staff, Councilmember Cheryl Selby, and members of the public.
Mayor Stephen Buxbaum, City Manager Steve Hall, and Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts answered questions.
Mayor Buxbaum, when asked by a reporter why he was present, and whether or not he thinks this incident is going to “blow up,” responded:
“We don’t experience this every day. Unfortunately, what’s happening across the nation makes these kinds of incidents compelling, to meet in an honest, direct, and forthright way. Olympia is a community that cares deeply about social justice and I think that it’s important that anytime there’s a dramatic incident like this – and I call this a dramatic incident – that we stand together as a community and model respectful, thoughtful, inclusive dialogue, so I’m standing here because I want to represent those values and I think our community, I believe can, learn from events like this and become stronger as a result, so I’m here to support the young men that are in the hospital, to support the police officers involved, and I’m here to support the families that are involved, both directly and indirectly, and I’m here to support our community at large. I think that’s the role of the mayor….”
Buxbaum continued:
“I believe Olympia is going to heed this – honoring the values and principals we hold dear as a community – nonviolence, inclusive dialog, and good, solid relationship building. I believe in this community. We have had challenging times, and certainly this is one of those times. Being proactive in these situations, I think is another way of representing our values as community. I think it’s my responsibility to be here. And I do want to emphasize talking with Interfaith Works and members of our clergy that we are committed to open dialog where people can gather and share their perspectives, feelings, show their compassion and stand up for what I think, again, represents our values, is learning from things that are challenging.”
Copies of CDs of the initial 911 call were made available, as well as copies of the Olympia Police Department policies on use of force, equipment and proficiency, and the Washington State Legislature statute, RCW 9A.16.040, on Justifiable homicide or use of deadly force by public officer, peace officer, person aiding, and RCW 9A.16.020 Use of force - when lawful.
More will be added to this story by Little Hollywood as time allows. For past stories on the Olympia Police Department, go to Little Hollywood at www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com and use the search button to type in key words. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Family Shelter Residents OK After Morning Fire


Above: Kids and adults, many of them barefoot, waited for firefighters to arrive at the Family Support shelter on 7th Avenue in Olympia this morning.

By Janine Unsoeld
Earlier this morning, shortly after 10:00 a.m., Olympia firefighters responded to a report of a fire at the Family Support shelter called Pear Blossom Place, located at 837 7th Ave SE.
The shelter, formerly the city-leased Smith Building, is across from the old city hall and opened in June 2014.
After the alarm went off, residents and onsite staff came streaming out of the building and waited outside for over two hours. Many children were barefoot and without coats, including a mother and her baby, who was clad only in a onesie. The weather was relatively mild, but became cool at times. Some held onto their dogs, and one woman held her 17 year old cat safe and cozy in a backpack.
Olympia and Lacey Fire Dist. 3 crews arrived to find the fire controlled by the buildings automatic sprinkler system. According to a fire department press release, firefighters ensured the fire did not extend beyond the apartment and evaluated two patients, one for a minor burn injury and the second for smoke inhalation. Both patients refused further aid and were released at the scene. No other injuries were reported.
Above: Firefighters arrive at Pear Blossom Place.
 
The Olympia Fire Department responded with four engines, one ladder truck, two medic units, and a command unit.  Lacey Fire District 3 also responded and assisted by covering additional emergency responses within Olympia.  One minor firefighter injury was reported and was expected to be seen at Providence Saint Peter’s Hospital for a minor laceration.
The Olympia Fire Department remained on scene to assist the residents, remove smoke, water, and investigate the fire.  The American Red Cross was contacted to assist the families.  At this time the cause of the fire appears to be accidental.  Total fire loss is expected to be $20,000.
Schelli Slaughter, executive director of the Family Support Center, arrived onsite soon after the firefighters to assist and determine individual needs. She said about 15 families and 60 individuals total are currently living at the shelter, which provides housing for local homeless families with children. She said some units were perfectly fine, others will take more work, and that two units were most affected.
A company that deals with water damage was seen onsite late this afternoon.
For more information about Pear Blossom Place, and how you can volunteer or help the shelter, go to the Family Support Center of Sound Sound at www.fscss.org.
Above: Kids are excited to receive stickers from firefighters while they waited until they could get back inside the building.
 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Nine Compete for Appointment to Port’s District #3 Seat


According to a press release issued by the Port of Olympia, the Port has received applications from nine District #3 residents vying for appointment to the open District #3 Commission seat. The deadline to apply was May 8 at 5:00 p.m.

The vacancy is a result of Commissioner Sue Gunn’s resignation due to health issues. The person appointed will serve until the county-wide election is certified in late November. At that time, the seat will vest in the person duly elected by a majority of the residents who voted.

Applicants for the Port Commissioner District #3 appointment are (in alphabetical order):

·         Jerry Farmer
·         Frederick Finn
·         Lawrence Goodman
·         Bob Jones
·         Michelle Morris
·         Dick Pust
·         George Sharp
·         Bill Wells
·         Elizabeth (E.J.) Zita

Commissioners George L. Barner, Jr. and Bill McGregor are reviewing the applications. They will decide which persons they will interview for the position at their regular public work session on May 21, 2:30 p.m.


Interviews of the selected candidates will occur during public meetings on June 1 and 2, 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

The Commission anticipates appointing the new District #3 Commissioner at their regular meeting on Wednesday, June 10 (which is a reschedule of their typical 2nd Monday meeting date). The next step will be the swearing in of the appointed Port Commissioner at the Thurston County Courthouse.

Once sworn in, the appointed Commissioner will participate in all Commission meetings and business, including the regular study session on June 18 and the regular meeting on June 22.

All the Commission meetings described will occur at Tumwater Town Center, 7241 Cleanwater Drive SW, Tumwater.

For information about the process, please contact Jeri Sevier, jeris@portolympia.com , 360.528.8003 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Port of Olympia candidate E.J. Zita Applies for Seat on Commission


Above: E.J. Zita has applied for appointment to Port of Olympia position #3, previously held by former commissioner Sue Gunn. Zita will also file this week for election to the position.

By Janine Unsoeld
E.J. Zita, best known as Zita, has applied for appointment to Port of Olympia position 3 previously held by former commissioner Sue Gunn.
Zita submitted her application by the May 8 deadline and said she will also file for election for the permanent position. The filing deadline for that process is May 15.
As reported in The Olympian on May 9, local radio station sales manager Jerry Farmer has also applied for the appointment and will seek election to the position.
Zita, a 20 year faculty member at The Evergreen State College with a PhD in Physics, teaches and researches energy physics, solar magnetism, sustainability, and climate change.  She also serves as chair of the Thurston County Agricultural Board and is vice president of her Salmon Creek Basin neighborhood association.
Zita’s application to the port lists extensive recent grant-supported research collaborations, published papers, presentations, and leadership activities, all indicating a forward-thinking vision.
Serving as a commissioner on the Port of Olympia is an opportunity to advance goals that are shared by Thurston County citizens and the port. Sustainable development and environmental responsibility can be profitable, provide jobs, and protect our future. Open processes and responsive public relations can facilitate useful exchanges of ideas, reduce legal challenges, and restore public trust. I have the vision and the skills to help the port reach these goals,” Zita states in her application.
Zita was directly recruited by some supporters of former commissioner Sue Gunn, who recently resigned from her position due to ongoing health issues and says she will carry forth Gunn’s issues of openness and transparency.
Zita also wants change at the port, and for the port to spend public money for the public good and move into the 21st century.
“I have more to learn but I know what my values are. Observing port operations for the last ten years, I know what’s not working and I have a vision for what can work,” she said in an interview at her home this past weekend. Her partner, Nancy Armstrong, owns and operates a health clinic in Olympia and is a 23 year retired veteran of the Army Medical Corps.
Zita, who was first interviewed in 2010 by Little Hollywood about her neighborhood’s relationship with the port, says her concerns about port operations began in her neighborhood about 10 years ago.
Salmon Creek Basin neighbors, concerned about increased air traffic and environmental issues, went to the port in good faith.
“We assumed we could talk about it with them in a neighborly way, but we were soon disappointed. They weren’t concerned. So, neighbors got organized. We had never had an association before….We learned a lot about the public process, appeals, environmental reviews, port finances, and public hearings. We helped pass a sensible warehouse ordinance in Tumwater that helped protect our neighborhood, and here we are, ten years later, and they are trying to get around that law….”
Above: Aerial of the Port of Olympia Marine Terminal and Northpoint taken in December 2014.
Asked how that experience translates to her larger vision for the port, she said the port is not interested in working on smart development that is needed for Thurston County.
“We’re not the only ones who have tried to work with the port….When people go to them and try to talk about these things, their practice is to try and shut them down, hire more lawyers and fight the people who are concerned. I don’t think that’s a good way to use taxpayer money….The port should be using our money for the public good. The port should be listening and working with people for the future and the benefit of Thurston County,” she said.
Zita once applied to be on the port’s citizen advisory committee but her application was not accepted. She is currently serving as an advisory board member on the port’s New Market Industrial Campus and Tumwater Town Center Real Estate Development Master Plan, coordinated by the Thurston Regional Planning Commission.
The port owns about 1,540 acres of real estate in Tumwater. It owns 265 acres of property in Olympia.
“I’m glad they appointed me, but I’ve been on five months now, and while I’d still like to think the citizens on the board can make a difference and do some good, I’m seeing some familiar patterns…and it seems like they have their mind made up about what they want to do,” said Zita. The board is expected to study the issues until November. Their next meeting is scheduled for June 11.
Asked how she would work with the county and the City of Olympia in master planning and environmental efforts, Zita praised the city for its leadership on climate change issues and encouraged stronger relationship with the city.
“We have a lot of good people and great resources and a lot of expertise in the area that we should be tapping into to work together.”
Zita was asked about her position on several specific port issues, such as the possible creation of a Berth 4, the recent purchase of a crane, and the port’s acceptance of ceramic proppants used in the fracking industry.  She said she found out long ago that the port does its own environmental reviews.
“The ports are granted a lot of freedom to do what they want to do without much public oversight... Just because they have that freedom doesn’t mean they should use it without consulting the public, and without consulting the experts. The questions I’d ask (for any of these issues) are: Is it good for the environment, is it good for the economy, is it good for local people, and is it good for the community? The port has made mistakes for not consulting more broadly on its plans and I would encourage the port to consult more broadly before making decisions,” she said.
About the port’s financial accountability, she said, “The port is losing $2 million a year. It has stopped including depreciation in its reporting, but we need more financial accountability. The port resists that. We need to hold the port accountable….They have been very creative in its reporting.…If the port is losing funds on projects that are not benefitting the public, then we need to ask why.
“External environmental reviews are needed – the port is like the fox guarding its own hen house….We need good, careful studies done before the port says, ‘We’re going to do this project and nobody can tell us otherwise.’ If we take a closer look, we can prevent big, expensive mistakes that are going to damage the environment and pay a lot of money down the line to fix it.”
Asked about her vision for the port, Zita said she’d like it to be a food hub. Zita says she recently began a formal collaboration with the Conservation Biology Institute in Corvallis, Oregon to model impacts of climate change on agricultural lands in the Pacific Northwest.
“We can create a bigger Tumwater farmer’s market, and create a place where farmers could bring their food for distribution and processing and value-added products. Farming in the county and urban areas is one the fastest growing segments of Thurston County’s economy…. This can create jobs and support people locally, and contribute to our food security….Renewable energy projects is another idea…it’s an investment in the future,” she said.
The 15 acre Armstrong-Zita ranch is located near port property south of Tumwater. Besides their professional careers, the couple offers organic grass-fed beef each summer, taking orders in spring. They have six Angus-Hereford cattle, born and bred on the farm, and are sustainably rotated on lush pasture. Never fed hormones or antibiotics, the animals are slaughtered on-site. They slaughter about three or four cattle a year, serving about 12 families. They also have fresh eggs from free range hens, 38 meat birds, and three horses. They donate beef, eggs, and cash to the South of the Sound Farmland Trust.
Above: On the farm with E.J. Zita and her horses Rusty and Ada this past weekend.
For more information about the Port of Olympia and the subjects discussed in this article, go to Little Hollywood, www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com, and use the search button to type in key words.
For more information from the Port of Olympia, go to www.portolympia.com.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Approved and Appealed: Thurston County’s Oak Tree Land Use Case

 
Above: Liz Lyman, center, looks at the maps of the proposed Oak Tree Preserve development before the hearing held at the Thurston County fairgrounds on March 23, 2015.

By Janine Unsoeld
The proposed development called the Oak Tree Preserve was approved on April 24 by Thurston County Hearing Examiner Sharon Rice, and that decision was appealed by concerned citizens by the deadline, May 8.
Several citizens living near the property stepped up to appeal the decision, including Liz Lyman, who is now acting as the official spokesperson for the appeal.
Contacted this weekend by Little Hollywood, Lyman says she appreciates all the efforts of concerned neighbors and community members to save a 258.5 acre wooded area in Lacey’s urban growth area of Thurston County.
Other appellants are Liz Kohlenberg, Robert Self, Bonnie Self, the Black Hills Audubon Society, William Koopman and Felicia “Lisa” Carroll.
Oak Tree Preserve, LLC is seeking to develop the property into 1,037 small, single family residential units. The project is proposed to be developed in Thurston County’s largest stand of Oregon White Oaks - just over 79 acres. It is also home to a wide range of birds, animals and plants.
The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife designates the Oregon White Oak as priority habitat. If this development is ultimately approved as it is currently proposed, 36 acres of that priority habitat  - 45 percent - will be destroyed to build houses and infrastructure.
The remaining oak stand will be fragmented. The developer proposes to build one of the two main connector roads through the remaining oak stand. That road will be the only road from the site to Marvin Road for the first two phases of the development, significantly impacting the habitat.
The area in the unincorporated area of Lacey on Marvin Road is bordered by the Burlington Northern Railroad and the McAllister Park and Evergreen Estates subdivisions.
Few neighbors were notified of the proposed development. Those who were took to the streets, informed others, and created an online petition against the development that garnered nearly 300 supporters in about four days.
Carroll and Koopman have also created a Facebook page, Facebook.com/pages/Save The Thurston Oaks. Both are fresh Thurston County environmental activist voices, and learning the process as they go along.
After the hearing examiner’s decision but before she decided to become an appellant, Carroll said she and the neighbors of her Evergreen Estates subdivision were saddened, but then felt empowered to do more.
“The fact is, Evergreen Estates will bear the brunt of it - we only have 27th Avenue as our main road and there are going to be 300 homes added at the end of 27th....The size of this project makes it all that more unfortunate that 20th century standards were applied to a 21st century world.  We must do better.  And it looks like it’s up to us citizens of Thurston County to make that change.”
Koopman agreed, lamenting a wide range of environmental concerns:
 “…The effects of the new development on the communities and homes bordering Marvin…cannot be underestimated….The entire area drains into the Nisqually Watershed, by way of McAllister Springs, McAllister Creek and thus the Puget Sound. The additional pollutants - herbicides, pesticides, plastics, storm water runoffs - will undoubtedly further impact the health of the watershed, Puget Sound, the shellfish, and of course, the salmon.
“There is also the issue of oil train-traffic, which is growing exponentially in this area. This new development is bordered by the railroad. All of the homes located therein are in an area considered by the U.S. Department of Transportation as a potential evacuation or impact zone in case of an oil train derailment and/or explosion. If coal trains start their travels through the county as well, what of our air-quality, especially of those developments bordering the tracks?
“There are indeed a host of further items of interest….Amazingly, all of this has been approved without an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) having been performed. Through a series of Mitigated Determination of Non-Significance (MDNS) the EIS has been out-maneuvered and rendered mute. The EIS is the people’s voice of safe, responsible and sustainable environmental practices that assure all Thurston County residents of an accountable, transparent mode of responsible stewardship of our County’s land use and the safety of our population through enforcements concerning proposed land use developments, clean water and clean air. I believe our county residents require more from the Thurston County Resource Stewardship Department than a rubberstamp of approval on such a highly contentious development project,” said Koopman.
Liz Lyman, who lives in The Seasons subdivision, served on the Thurston County Planning Commission from 1999 to 2007, including two years as chair and two years as vice chair. She also has experience with land use planning for protecting wildlife habitats and nearshore water quality in Puget Sound's urbanized areas.
“I've only met Lisa and Bill once, but they seem deeply and genuinely committed to protecting habitat for wildlife -- birds in particular. I applaud them for all of their efforts. It's truly heartening to meet people like them,” said Lyman.

Appeal Claims
The funds contributed for the appeal filing were from homeowners in Evergreen Estates, The Seasons, and the Black Hills Audubon Society.
In the appeal, appellant’s claim that the hearing examiner’s decision erred by not requiring avoidance of removing oak trees as the primary method of protecting the oak woodlands as required by Thurston County regulations.
They also say she erred by not using “best available science” to evaluate the Oregon White Oak woodland, determine if any of the acreage can be removed without causing irreparable harm to the habitat, and determine the mitigation strategy for the oak that must be removed.
Petitioners are requesting the collection of a more robust record on avoidance and best available science, and a new hearing examiner review after that record is created.   
They also request that the new record include testimony from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the state agency charged with protecting priority habitat including oak woodlands, and several other topics.
Next Steps
Lyman says she continues to turn away people who want to contribute to the nearly $900 it took to appeal the land use decision in Thurston County.
“I have spoken with homeowners in The Seasons and Eagle Crest, which is a neighboring subdivision….Many homeowners are simply incredulous about the hearing examiner's decision on the Oak Tree Preserve preliminary plat. The issues they're concerned about may vary, but the common thread is that they're very unhappy….and are feeling let down by the county. The board of The Seasons considered appealing, but decided against it because the odds of prevailing are not in its favor and it's entrusted with the homeowners' funds. The Seasons' board was wonderful, though, in getting the word out to our homeowners through the association's own website,” she said. There are 215 homes in The Seasons.
“We have many avid birders who are keenly interested in the outcome of this appeal. Many of us have worked hard to create a bird-friendly environment, something that will be impacted rather dramatically and negatively if the Oak Tree Preserve development proceeds….The destruction of the Oregon White Oak habitat will be devastating to the bird population,” said Lyman.
As for the appeal, the next step is to wait for the county to post the documents filed on May 8 on its website, which should occur early next week. Then, the developer has 14 days to file their response to the appeal as well as to others that may have been filed. Then, the appellants have seven days to file their responses or rebuttals.
The County Commissioners have 60 days to make their decision from the date an appeal is posted. A decision on the case could be made before mid-July.
For three previous articles on the Oak Tree Preserve case, go to Little Hollywood, www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com and use the search button using key words.