Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Who Pays Port Protest Costs?


Above: The City of Olympia incurred about $40,000 in costs associated with the recent 12 day long railroad blockade in downtown Olympia. 


- Squaxin Island Tribe Writes Letter to Port, City

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood
https://janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com

A special Port of Olympia work session was initiated by Commissioner E.J. Zita who requested that commissioners consider reimbursing the City of Olympia for law enforcement costs related to the recent blockade of the railroad tracks by activists collectively known as Olympia Stand.

The 12 day rail blockade occurred November 17 – 29 and was in response to the Port of Olympia’s involvement in the acceptance of ceramic proppants and transfer of cargo to trains bound for North Dakota or Wyoming. Ceramic proppants are used in the process of hydraulic fracking for gas and oil extraction.

Zita participated in the meeting via speakerphone.

Precedent for reimbursement was set in 2007 when the Port of Olympia reimbursed the City of Olympia $70,000 for law enforcement related to protests involving the port’s acceptance of military cargo.

Port executive director Ed Galligan said that figure was arrived at through an “amicable discussion” between himself and Olympia city manager Steve Hall. The city had requested $100,000.

At a city council meeting Tuesday evening and again at Wednesday’s port meeting, Hall reported that the city spent about $40,000 - $45,000 related to the rail blockade.

While the numbers are preliminary, $18,000 was in direct cost associated with time spent by employees dealing with the blockade during regular work hours, about $21,000 spent in overtime and $1,800 spent in landfill and other costs associated with removing five tons of debris from the blockade site. There were also costs associated with graffiti removal from nearby buildings.

Costs from other law enforcement entities are currently unknown.

The question of who pays for the actions of protesters was debated by commissioners for nearly an hour.

In the end, Commissioner Downing wanted to wait until the city gives the port an indication of whether or not they want to be reimbursed and wanted Galligan to have that conversation with Hall and communicate the outcome to commissioners.

He said that the port is a lightning rod for a whole host of military, energy, and international trade issues.

“The bigger concern is how do we keep from having another protest? We could have protests against log exports next. Where do we draw the line? Downing asked.

Zita responded that the city has already given the port guidance on how to prevent future protests and referred to the city’s 2014 resolution which asks the port to reconsider its contract with Rainbow Ceramics and transfer of ceramic proppant cargo.

Downing said city resolutions cover a lot of bases, and that one in particular also makes requests of Hoquiam and Grays Harbor.

“That doesn’t mean we have the desire or ability to follow the resolutions coming from other entities,” he said.

Commissioner Bill McGregor said he is all for having a conversation with the city at a future time.

“What we don’t have is a reaction plan (in the event of a protest). Who pays?”

McGregor said a mutual aid agreement is needed between the entities so the “rule of law” is upheld faster than ten to twelve days after the initiation of a protest.

Galligan was tasked with additional research on a number of issues, including the amount of ceramic proppant that has been transported from the port since 2014, when the contract with Rainbow Ceramics was renewed. The contract expires July 14, 2019. 

At its peak in about 2013, the port averaged about 100 rail cars a month loaded with ceramic proppant, said the port at the time.

Downing also said he met informally with City of Olympia police chief Ronnie Roberts earlier on Wednesday for about 45 minutes. He said the two had never met before.

In November 2016, Roberts gave a tersely worded statement in front of Olympia city council members denouncing the Port of Olympia's ceramic proppant shipments. 

Squaxin Island Tribe Letter to Port, City

The chairman of the Squaxin Island Tribe wrote a strongly worded letter this week to Port of Olympia commissioners and City of Olympia council members disassociating the Tribe from recent port-related rail blockade and protesters.

The letter signed by Arnold Cooper, chairman of the Squaxin Island Tribe, is dated December 1 and was distributed to media and members of the public by Port Commissioner Joe Downing just prior to the special work session held by the port commission on Wednesday.

“The Tribe has become aware of protests concerning the transportation of fracking materials through the Port of Olympia. The main group reported by the media to be leading these protests, Olympia Stand, as well as their followers, has repeatedly implied that it is acting on behalf of the Squaxin Island Tribe to protect the Tribe’s ancestral lands.

“Please be aware that Olympia Stand does not represent the interests or agenda of the Squaxin Island Tribe nor is Olympia Stand affiliated with the Tribe. The Squaxin Island Tribe’s Tribal Council and those designated by the Tribal Council are the only entity and individuals with the authority to speak on behalf of the Tribe.

“Additionally, the Squaxin Island Tribe does not associate with advocacy groups that use force, intimidation, or cause damage to personal or public property. The Tribe does not support the blocking of the Port of Olympia by Olympia Stand and other protestors nor does it condone the harassment of police or other government officials as a means to further its purposes.”

The letter also says the Tribe respects the government to government relationship that it has developed with the Port of Olympia and City of Olympia and appreciates the mutually respected protocol developed to work on common interests, resolve disputes, and determine solutions.


Little Hollywood has written extensively about Port of Olympia and the rail blockade issues. For more information and photos, go to https://janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com and type key words into the search engine.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

McCloud: "They're Not Honoring These Waterways"


Above: Nisqually Tribal council members Hanford McCloud and Willie Frank, Jr. listen to Kyle Lucas, Tulalip Tribes and Nlaka'pamus Nation, and Marles Black Bird, Standing Rock Hunkpapa Lakota and Cheyenne River Mnicoujou Lakota, of the Indigenous Caucus outside Olympia City Hall on Wednesday night.

- Port Rail Blockade Cleared
- Elected Officials Cancel Sea Level Rise Meeting
- Nisqually Tribal Councilmembers, Indigenous Caucus Members Meet outside Olympia City Hall

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

A confluence of events on Wednesday started with the multi-jurisdictional law enforcement raid on a direct action rail blockade that lasted 12 days in downtown Olympia. 

Then, after a meeting of elected officials to discuss sea level rise issues was abruptly cancelled Wednesday afternoon, indigenous members of the community marched from the LOTT Clean Water Alliance on Adams Street to Olympia City Hall Wednesday evening.

Nisqually Tribal council member Hanford McCloud and other indigenous community members addressed the crowd. Nisqually Tribal council member Willie Frank, Jr. and his wife, Peggen, were also present. 

McCloud said he has received calls from city council about wanting to sit down and talk. He said that while he wasn't sure what that meant yet, a councilmember who reached out to him this past week seemed scared of what was happening. McCloud said the action he was going to take right now is to speak with Olympia city council members. He said he doesn’t speak with them on a regular basis but has a working relationship with them.

“…The work you are doing is appreciated by a lot of tribal members…I see that a lot of signs you are carrying honor that (Medicine Creek) treaty. That is our goal. Some of the honor that needs to happen is with the land that we’re on, (and) the people who occupy the land….

“There’s a lot of issues, a lot of standing up, so we need to continue that message in that fight we have going on. My hands go up to each and every one of you here and the ones who have camped out and have sacrificed their time and freedom to go to jail…for these fracking materials….”

McCloud said that the Nisqually Tribe plans to host an indigenous environmental network and invited anyone to bring their issues to the council.

“These issues are concerning for us. We are fighting, at a legislative level, some of these issues. They’re not honoring these waterways, they’re not honoring these treaties….”

Above: Shouting “Mni Wichoni, Water is Life!” Indigenous members of the community marched from the LOTT Clean Water Alliance building on Adams Street to Olympia City Hall Wednesday evening.

Earth-Feather Sovereign, Colville Confederated Tribes and Okanagan from British Columbia, said she was “grateful that no one was arrested or suffered physical harm,” in the raid early Wednesday morning, “but there is emotional harm and there is an environmental harm….We are disappointed we have to fight our government for clean air, clean water, and land…this is not the way of love and understanding each other….”

The raid was carried out at about 5:00 a.m. by Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe special agents, the Washington State Patrol, Thurston County Sheriff’s Department, and the Olympia Police Department. There were no reported arrests or injuries.

Activists collectively known as Olympia Stand had blocked the tracks since November 17 in response to the Port of Olympia’s involvement in the acceptance of ceramic proppants and transfer of cargo to trains bound for North Dakota for use in hydraulic fracking.

According to Jennie Foglia-Jones, communications director for the Port of Olympia, the engine departed port property without any train cars with it. Cars filled with “sweetener” which were already staged on the other side of port property were then hooked up and went to L&E Bottling in Tumwater, she said to Little Hollywood.

Justin Jacobs, spokesperson for Union Pacific, said there were 12 Union Pacific agents involved, along with agents with Burlington Northern Santa Fe. It was a joint effort that ultimately involved safety and trespassing issues, he said.  

“The protesters were on live tracks which is a very dangerous situation. Thankfully, after we gave them the warning to clear the tracks, protesters cooperated. It was a cooperative effort all the way around,” he said in a telephone interview with Little Hollywood.

Elected Officials Cancel Meeting

Representatives of the City of Olympia, LOTT Clean Water Alliance, and the Port of Olympia were going to meet for a workshop at the LOTT Clean Water Alliance to review a consultant’s work on downtown Olympia’s sea level rise flooding vulnerability and risk assessment plan. The public was also expected to be in attendance. 

At Tuesday night’s city council meeting, Indigenous Caucus member Earth-Feather Sovereign told city council members during the public comment period that she was going to attend the sea level rise meeting, and had invited Squaxin and Nisqually Tribal council members to attend as well.  

Sovereign told them that the Indigenous Caucus does not represent the Medicine Creek Treaty tribes, but are advocates for the interests of the indigenous people who include the Medicine Creek Treaty tribes and environmental issues and their impacts. 

Her comments were acknowledged and Councilmember Nathaniel Jones thanked the Indigenous Caucus, saying it helps the conversation to have more folks at the table.  

Then, the meeting was unexpectedly cancelled Wednesday afternoon, leaving some members of the indigenous community feeling snubbed, especially since so many were coming from far distances. 

The opportunity to meet would have been timely in light of recent events.

“We have chosen to postpone this week’s sea level rise meetings, to a day when the community is quieter and we can more certainly support meaningful talks. It’s important that discussions take place when our leaders and residents can focus on the topic of sea level rise,” said Andy Haub, City of Olympia’s water resources director, in an email sent at 12:08 p.m.

LOTT Clean Water Alliance responded to an inquiry from Little Hollywood as to why the meeting was cancelled.

“With all the attention over the last few days focused on the Port and shipments of fracking materials, workshops focused entirely on the sea level rise planning effort did not seem timely. Climate change and sea level rise are related, of course, but the sea level rise planning effort is focused on how to deal specifically with rising seas, rather than how to prevent or minimize climate change. It is important that our elected officials and community members lend their attention fully to the topic of sea level rise at the workshops, and this week, their attention is elsewhere. The workshops will be rescheduled, tentatively in January,” said Lisa Dennis-Perez, director of environmental planning and communications.

Little Hollywood writes extensively about Port of Olympia issues. For more information and photos about Wednesday morning’s raid on the rail blockade, ceramic proppants, Rainbow Ceramics, sea level rise in downtown Olympia, and more, go to https://janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com and type key words into the search engine. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Olympia Port Rail Blockade Over


 Above: The rail blockade in downtown Olympia was raided by a multi-jurisdictional law enforcement action in the early morning hours on Wednesday. Initial reports indicate that there were no arrests or injuries.

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

There were reportedly no arrests or injuries in an early morning multi-jurisdictional law enforcement action against activists blocking the railroad in downtown Olympia on Wednesday. 

The blockade began November 17 in response to the Port of Olympia's involvement in the acceptance of ceramic proppants and transfer of cargo to trains bound for North Dakota. Ceramic proppants are used in the process of hydraulic fracking for gas and oil extraction.

The raid was carried out by Union Pacific railroad police, Washington State Patrol, Thurston County Sheriff’s Department, and Olympia Police Department.

Above: The Thurston County Sheriff's Department assisted in breaking up the encampment on the railroad tracks and remained on site hours later. Thurston County's Tactical Response Vehicle weighs 50,000 pounds. Thurston County procured the vehicle through the nation's military surplus program. It was used in Afghanistan and has been used in Thurston County during several incidents.  

“We’re feeling very strong and satisfied,” said Shelly Robbins, a member of the jail support team for Olympia Stand. Robbins said the police didn’t set up their police line right and had a baton pressed against her back as the police moved people forward too quickly. 

There is a 5:30 p.m. meeting on Wednesday at the LOTT Cleanwater Alliance, 500 Adams St. NE, Olympia, with the City of Olympia, the Port of Olympia and the Indigenous Caucus for Olympia Stand.  

There will also be a 4:30 p.m. gathering at LOTT in support of the Indigenous Caucus before members enter the meeting.


Little Hollywood has written extensively about the Port of Olympia and this blockade. For more information and photos, go to https://janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com and type key words into the search engine.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Native Voices Address Olympia Port Commissioners


Above: Earth-Feather Sovereign of the Colville Confederated Tribes and Okanagan from British Columbia addresses Port of Olympia commissioners on Monday night.

-Activists, Sheriff John Snaza also speak at port meeting
-2018 Budget Passes, Taxes Raised
-Rail Blockade Continues

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

Due to the continued direct action rail blockade by activists in downtown Olympia, Port of Olympia commissioners provided community members an extra half hour of time to speak at its Monday night meeting.

A standing room only crowd of about 65 people packed the port’s meeting room.

Several speakers were activists involved with blockading the railroad tracks in downtown Olympia. Other speakers included Native community members, Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza, who was not in uniform, longshore workers, and community members supportive of the blockade.

The four hour meeting also included a vote to increase taxes to support the 2018 budget and the purchase of two new log loaders. Commissioner E.J. Zita voted no on the budget, suggesting other ways to raise needed funds.

At the outset of the meeting, commissioner Joe Downing suggested that commissioners make extra time in their agenda to allow activists who are specifically blocking the railroad line time to speak. He said he went to the blockade two times over the weekend and spoke with activists. 

“Dialogue is the start to a solution…I’m hoping for a peaceful resolution,” he said.

Collectively known as Olympia Stand, the group is demanding that the Port of Olympia cease all fossil fuel and military infrastructure shipments. They also demand “horizontal and democratic control of the Port of Olympia, including participation from area indigenous tribes,” according to a press release. 

The blockade began November 17, outlasting a similar blockade for the same reasons in November, 2016. That blockade lasted seven days and ended by a multi-jurisdictional law enforcement action.  

Commissioner Zita said she was told by port staff that corn syrup, not ceramic proppants, was currently needing to leave the port in train cars.

Commissioner Bill McGregor said the soda pop bottling companies at Mottman Park in Tumwater such as L&E Bottling Company are being adversely impacted as a result of the rail blockage and will make production decisions within the next few days.

Commissioner Zita asked for a commissioner discussion on the situation but that was denied by Commissioners Downing and Bill McGregor. She then asked for a work session to meet with the City of Olympia and others to peacefully resolve the situation before law enforcement is involved. She said that Sheriff John Snaza had reached out to her and shares a concern for public safety. 

“We have an opportunity to do better this time than we did last time,” she said.

Commissioners McGregor and Downing were non-committal in their desire to meet.

Many speakers asked for a halt to the port's contract with Rainbow Ceramics. Ceramic proppants are used in the process of hydraulic fracking in North Dakota.

Kyle Lucas, Tulalip Tribes and Nlaka’pamux Nation, called for an end to the port’s Rainbow Ceramics contract, and requested port consultation with Indian tribes. She said many different groups have come together at the blockade and although no one group speaks for the blockade, she speaks for the Indigenous Caucus.  

“As land defenders and water protectors, we as the Indigenous Caucus formed last year…to stand up for the Standing Rock Sioux to help support them defend their water…from a terrible practice called hydraulic fracturing….We have been fighting for our land and water against corporate and government oppression for 200 plus years. We don’t always agree among ourselves but tribes and indigenous peoples gathered at Standing Rock to make a stand for months in the most unbelievable weather conditions because we feel so strongly about this….

We feel silence would be tantamount to aiding and abetting the carnage in one of the most dirtiest, most wasteful, reckless and wasteful industries in the world…We ask for your support in ending that complicity by ending the contract. We also ask that you please consult Indian Tribes…please end this deadly practice of contributing to climate change, global warming whose ravages we have witnessed with unprecedented wildfires, hurricanes, storms, flooding and mass displacement of peoples, many of them brown peoples….Migwetch….thank you for hearing me,” said Lucas.

Earth-Feather Sovereign of the Colville Confederated Tribes and Okanagan from British Columbia asked that port staff start the public comment clock after tribal members are done introducing themselves. She said she was very disappointed to not see the flags of the Medicine Creek Treaty Tribes of 1854 displayed in the port room or at Olympia City Hall or the Capitol Building. She was also disappointed that tribal council members weren’t present as part of port conversations.

“When it comes to these port blockades, not only are they (the activists) protecting our environment and our Mother Earth, they’re also protecting our women and children who are being sex trafficked, being stolen and brought to these men camps and they’re protecting our women who are the backbone of this nation and if we are to uplift our nation, we need to uplift our women. We need to protect our children because not only are we protecting our children of our next seven generations, we are protecting your children and your seven generations….What’s going to happen when all the trees are cut down and we can’t breathe? What’s going to happen to the water when we can’t drink?” she asked.

The “men camps,” Sovereign referred to are the energy company–built barracks that have been built around fracking sites in North Dakota.

Marles Black Bird, Standing Rock Hunkpapa Lakota and Cheyenne River Mnicoujou Lakota, elaborated on the oil field camps and culture of sex trafficking, illegal drugs and violence, and increased alcohol use that impacts not only the surrounding towns but indigenous tribes.

“By enabling these (fracking) companies who are just turning a blind eye…is just being complicit,” she said.

Several speakers directly involved with the blockade strongly suggested meeting with the Indigenous Caucus. One speaker said that the Indigenous Caucus has the best perspective on economic hardships.

“There is a chance here to heal from the wounds enacted by generations of exploitation of land and water,” he said.

“There’s real potential to resolve the port blockade peacefully. You need to show good faith and prove yourself around this issue,” said a woman who identified herself as Emma. 

Sovereign spoke to the commissioners again, saying, “The Indigenous Caucus is a good beginning but we’re only here as advocates. The people you should be reaching out to are the tribes. I’m sure there are lots of businesses here who are supposed to have liaisons…but we are glad to be here to help bring in these people and help start these conversations,” she said.

Sheriff John Snaza also addressed the commissioners and the audience saying he appreciated all the comments he heard. He encouraged continued communication.

“I don’t get to pick and choose which laws I want to enforce and which ones I do not. The hardest part I’ve seen at the blockade is…the individuals I’ve contacted don’t really want to talk to the sheriff but…I wish they would be willing to speak with us and explain what their intentions are.”

He said that last year, there was a lack of communication “from the city to the port, from the city to Union Pacific, the port to the city, oh, and by the way, there’s no communication with Sheriff’s Office.”

Addressing the audience, he asked, “Please sit down and talk with us. Last year, unfortunately, when we broke up the blockade, individuals caused damage….(By doing so) you’re losing the point of your cause. Please make the point of your cause so we can understand….We may not agree on everything…but we have an opportunity to come to some sort of agreement without individuals being hurt or harmed.”

In the end, Commissioner McGregor said he believes in the rule of law, and state and federal laws are being broken. Instead of responding to the concerns of those who spoke at the podium, he quoted unsubstantiated demands and extreme comments he found on social media.

Commissioner Zita again suggested a work session on Wednesday to discuss meeting with the City of Olympia and the rail blockade’s Indigenous Caucus. Commissioners McGregor and Downing said they would check their schedules.

Above: Activists continue their blockade of the railroad tracks in downtown Olympia at Seventh and Jefferson Streets. The tracks are used to transport a variety of products, including ceramic proppants used in hydraulic fracking. Community members addressed Port of Olympia commissioners at their meeting Monday night.

Little Hollywood writes extensively about Port of Olympia issues. For more information and photos, go to https://janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com and type key words into the search engine.

Correction, November 28: Port commissioners voted to increase the amount of taxes collected from the current $5 million to about $6 million. It's complicated. See page 25 of the Port of Olympia meeting agenda packet, slide number 19 for Tax Levy Uses at https://www.portolympia.com/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/3028

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Olympia Port Budget Proposes Raising Taxes


Above: The port meeting room was packed for a community conversation held by Port Commissioner E.J. Zita on Tuesday afternoon. Citing the Washington Open Public Meetings Act, Zita refused to attend a port executive session scheduled for 12:15 p.m. about a log loader contract. Commissioner Joe Downing said the executive session would be rescheduled.

Zita Refuses to Attend Port Executive Session on Log Loader Contract

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood
https://janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com

The Port of Olympia has a lot on its plate: controversial cargo, a direct action rail blockade that continues in downtown Olympia, a 2018 budget that proposes to raise taxes to the highest extent possible without a public vote, and transparency issues over missing and edited video of public meetings.

To discuss any or all of those issues, Port Commissioner E.J. Zita held a public “commissioner chat” session at port offices Tuesday afternoon, just 45 minutes before she was scheduled to participate in an executive session with fellow port commissioners Bill McGregor and Joe Downing.

She said the turnout was the largest crowd for one of her commissioner chats that she’s ever seen.

In front of about 35 members of the public, including several longshore workers, Commissioner Zita did not attend the executive session, and explained why she believed doing so would be in violation of the Washington Open Public Meetings Act.

The hot button issue of the day was about the port’s proposed purchase of two front end log loaders for $3 million and the legality of the contract to purchase them. It was also the purpose for the executive session. 

A contract for the log loaders signed in June by the port’s executive director, Ed Galligan, appears to have exceeded his delegated authority. The executive director is authorized to sign agreements for up to $300,000 in one year without a vote of the commissioners but unbeknownst to commissioners, the contract was a one year lease to own commitment totaling $720,000. 

Zita said the commissioners were told the lease would be for $60,000 a month starting in November. The log loaders cost $1.8 million to purchase, but the financing arrangement balloons the price to $3 million over a period of 20 years.

A June email to the commissioners from Galligan states, The rental agreement gives the Marine Terminal Director, Longshore labor and the Port's maintenance crew time to properly test the equipment without an obligation to purchase. The agreement involves the trade-in of the two existing log loaders.

“....The port commission needs to figure out what to do about this and staff suggested the executive session,” she explained to the group.

The Executive Session That Didn't Happen

The executive session was publicly noticed to discuss potential litigation and was expected to last 45 minutes, with no actions or decisions to be made.

Executive sessions are not open to the public and limited to pending lawsuits, personnel actions and setting minimum prices for real estate. All three port commissioners must be present.

At 12:15 p.m., conversations with just a couple flare-ups around the issue were well underway when Commissioner Downing arrived in the back of the room and informed Zita, who was in the front of the room, that it was time to go into executive session.

Zita informed him that she was not going to do so.

“Yea, I can see you have a great meeting going on,” he said, with more than just a touch of sarcasm in his voice. He started to leave.

Heads swiveled back and forth between the two as Zita asked Downing not to leave until she had her say, stating that she has formally noticed commissioners and staff of the inappropriateness of holding a private meeting. 

She requested that the meeting be held in public.

“Then it wouldn’t be an executive session,” Downing said, adding that the executive session would be rescheduled. He left the room.  

Zita continued the meeting explaining that she was not required to go into executive session. Her interpretation of the law was that if she had attended the executive session, it would be illegal, quoting RCW 42.30.110, which prevents commissioners from discussing the matter in executive session when it has already been brought up in the public.  

The need to hire outside counsel may be necessary since port counsel is present in the meetings.

If there were adverse legal or financial consequences to the Port, those consequences would result from Galligan’s lease authorization in excess of his delegated authority, not from public discussion about it, she said.

While Zita did not question the need for the log loaders, she questioned the manner for their purchase.

“We do not have the funds for the log loaders. We have yet to pass a budget and allocate funds,” she said. Zita says the budget is tight and the commissioners are about to raise taxes as high as legally allowable without public approval.

Several community members questioned why the port hasn’t budgeted in advance for machinery needed to do basic business and suggested raising the rates to the three primary marine terminal tenants so the higher rates could pay for the equipment.

“I think it’s an option worth exploring,” said Zita.

Speaking of a backlog of deferred maintenance, Zita said the marina office has mold in one of the offices making it unuseable. The 2018 budget also is proposing to cut janitorial services and repaving projects.

“The marine terminal needs at least half a million dollars a year to repave port property due to wear and tear. It’s currently budgeted at $450,000 and that amount is proposed to be cut to $300,000….We shouldn’t have to do that. We’re already behind on deferred maintenance and trying to meet our financial goals….We’re not meeting that goal,” she said.

Log Loader Use

Logs from Washington State are exported to Japan, China and South Korea. According to the port, it takes about 1,200 truckloads of logs to fill one vessel arriving in Budd Inlet. 

The front end log loaders are used by three primary marine terminal tenants: Weyerhaeuser, Holbrook, and Pacific Lumber and Shipping.

In an email to Little HollywoodGalligan said that all the port's loaders are “governmental property,” and used for a broad range of cargo handling, operated by the longshore union ILWU, Local 47, and billed at an hourly rate per the port's tariff.  

He said the loaders were used for the movement of corn and gold ore that the port handled earlier this year. 
 
Longshore workers present at Zita’s meeting said they could use better equipment and ships can be loaded quicker and more safely. Zita questioned whether or not the economics of better productivity with the new log loaders is beneficial for the longshore workers

Chris Swearingen, a longshore worker, said it takes Olympia longshore workers five days to load a ship, compared to seven to ten days in Aberdeen and eight days in Tacoma. 

We’re a good port,” she said.

“You’re already highly productive,” Zita interjected.

“….When a machine breaks down it takes us six days sometimes…we’re not losing hours or pay when we get good equipment and good machines. We’re going to keep to that five days. It’s about safety. We want safe equipment. We’ve been trying to get new log loaders for four years. I’ve been trained on a log loader. It scares me. They’re big machines, they’re breaking down....It’s like a car and it starts getting miles on it. You don’t say, 'I can’t afford it' when the tires are on treads - you go for the safety….The machines are wearing out. We need to get them taken care of....The company is getting more hours when the machines break down….” said Swearingen.

The port commission is set to vote on its 2018 budget on November 27, 5:30 p.m. at 626 Columbia St. NW, Suite 1-B, Olympia.

Above: Robert Rose of the longshore union ILWU, Local 47 and other longshore workers attended Commissioner Zita's community chat on Tuesday afternoon. Rose complained that the meeting wasn't posted on the port's website and accused Zita of illegal use of port property for campaigning. Zita said port staff did not have time to post a notice of the meeting on its website and trusts that will happen in the future.

“If you want to talk about transparency, a lot is being dropped by the port,” responded audience member Robert Jeffers, referring to recent videotapes of public meetings that have not been recorded or have been edited. Zita said she knows staff is working on solving those problems as well.

Little Hollywood writes extensively about Port of Olympia issues. For more information and photos, go to https://janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com and type key words into the search engine. 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Port of Olympia Woes: Proppants, Logs and Videotape


Above: Log exports are the primary line of business at the Port of Olympia marine terminal, as seen here from Rotary Park on Sunday afternoon. The Washington Public Ports Association says the log export boom was over as of 2014, with no future growth in sight. A 2018 Port budget proposal includes $3 million to purchase two new log loaders.

-Rail Blockade Continues
-2018 Port Budget Vote Set for November 27
-Port Staff Describes Missing Public Meeting Videos a “glitch”

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

There is still no clear mandate for the Port of Olympia’s marine terminal operation located in downtown Olympia, just days after an election in which a progressive candidate for port commissioner apparently lost by a few hundred votes.  

Despite significant public outcry, port commissioners and staff appear entrenched in business as usual, seeking out contracts that cater to the fossil fuel industry, and continuing the export of raw logs to Asia well into the foreseeable future.

By doing so, they ensure continued controversy, protests and lawsuits well into 2018.

Above: Activists continued a railroad track blockade near Seventh and Jefferson Street in downtown Olympia this weekend. The blockade began on Friday.

Ceramic Proppant Rail Blockade

It was a quiet weekend for activists who began a railroad track blockade on Friday near Seventh and Jefferson Street in downtown Olympia. The blockade continues.

Their goal is to prevent another possible trainload of ceramic proppants from leaving the Port of Olympia. The ceramic proppants are used in the process of hydraulic fracking for gas and oil extraction in North Dakota.

The process of hydraulic fracking is messy and degrades the environment, contaminates groundwater and causes earthquakes. Each time a well is fracked it uses two to eight million gallons of fresh water.

The activists, collectively known as Olympia Stand, have used their time without law enforcement intervention this weekend to fortify barriers on and around the tracks.

Last year’s eight day rail blockade may have been the longest, continuously occupied direct action disruption of a fossil fuel industry shipment in state history.

Above: Activists took the opportunity to project a message on a train car, This Train Shall Not Pass! for Port of Olympia officials on Saturday night. The train car is parked at the Port of Olympia and is one of several cars allegedly containing ceramic proppants.

2018 Budget Includes New Log Loaders

Keen eyed port activists are also filing citizen complaints about other issues as well, such as the Port’s upcoming 2018 budget, a questionable expenditure for new log loaders and a failure to videotape public meetings.

The 2018 Port of Olympia budget proposal will be explained by port executive director Ed Galligan at a special commission work session on November 21, from 1:00 – 3:30 p.m. at port offices, 626 Columbia Street NW, Suite B in Olympia. He is scheduled to speak for two hours.

The budget includes the purchase of two new log loaders. The loaders cost $1.8 million if they are bought outright, but $3 million with financing over 20 years. 

Of further concern to port watchers is that Galligan signed a legally binding lease agreement in June for the log loaders that cumulatively exceeds the amount he is authorized to sign for, $300,000, without a vote of the commissioners. 

Helen Wheatley of Olympia spends a considerable amount of time researching the port’s budget expenditures. 

She thinks Weyerhaeuser should pay for the log loaders or, if that's not possible, the commissioners should delay their decision and continue to lease them instead of purchasing them. Since this is a “lease to buy” arrangement with delayed penalties, it would cost very little to postpone this purchase even for a year. 

A delay could be used to gather better information and financing options. The current plan of ten years of low payments and ten years of high payments contributes to the additional $1.2 million over the named price,” she said in recent public testimony in front of the commissioners.

The long-term viability of the log export market is also questionable. The Washington Public Port Association says that demand for log exports will remain flat or even possibly decline in the foreseeable future.

“In March, Weyerhaeuser said it is ready to bring its extensive Southeastern timber holdings into production. Meanwhile, Washington’s timber looks increasingly like toothpicks. Who do the commissioners expect to pay for this? The taxpayers. They claim that it will somehow lead to even more log exports, and that is good for us all, but Japan, for example, is growing its own trees now….

“Port commissioners never seem to think strategically about the future, or think about where our own trees are in these global cycles of timber extraction. They pretend that ‘if you build it, they will come,’ and instead of expecting the timber exporting business to pay for itself, they expect Thurston County taxpayers to pay for it with promises that miracles will happen,” says Wheatley.

Commissioner E.J. Zita is looking for alternatives to Galligan’s budget, as Galligan has not yet provided any other options.

The commissioners are set to vote on the final 2018 Port budget on November 27.

Missing, Edited Videotape

And if you wanted to binge watch Port of Olympia meetings and catch up on all the drama, there's a problem:

Since February 2016, the Port has recorded its own meetings, taking the contract away from the well-respected services of Thurston Community Media who contracts with the cities of Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater and Thurston County to cover official meetings. The results have been dismal.

For well over a month, port staff has only videotaped their meetings for a couple of hours. Some port meetings last over four hours. And, the port is also apparently editing its own meeting video through an outside vendor. From the beginning, audio quality is also a persistent problem.

Bev Bassett of Olympia, another avid port watcher and budget cruncher, recently wrote a formal complaint to the port about inadequate and unsatisfactory citizen access to meeting videos from the Port's website. She says only the most recent 40 videos can be accessed.

“The October 20, 2017 Budget Study Session video will not stream beyond two hours, 22 minutes. Additionally, the video for the marathon five and a half hour commission meeting on October 23, 2017 is completely unavailable on video - only audio is available,” she wrote to port staff.

About heavy video editing, Bassett says that the first part of a video from a meeting where the public content section included a skit parodying Galligan and Commissioners Bill McGregor and Joe Downing, plus a six minute presentation about Port involvement in climate change by Bassett and another port activist remains unavailable. 

“It seems an unlikely coincidence that the Port's video system usually malfunctions when there are contentious meetings about difficult and controversial subjects.  These are only a few examples of these recurring problems with video access to records of public Port Commission meetings,” says Bassett.

Port staff responded to Bassett’s complaint on November 16 saying they regretted the “glitch,” saying the meeting minutes serve as the official public record for Commission meetings.

“Audio recordings are not required, but rather a value-added service we provide in order to facilitate public access to Port discussions and decisions.  In other words, we regret the glitch and will work to resolve it promptly, but can assure you a formal record is being taken,” said port communications manager Jennie Foglia-Jones.

At the same time the port took over its own video recording, Commissioner McGregor initiated and successfully changed the format of meeting minutes so that a brief synopsis of an individual's public comment was eliminated from the minutes. 

His stated reasoning, at the time, was that the public could go to the videos to hear what was said. 

Above: The rail blockade in downtown Olympia continued on Saturday and Sunday with little to no obvious law enforcement presence. Activists used their time to fortify their blockade.

Editor's Note, November 21, 2017: Previous versions of this article said that the 2018 Port of Olympia budget meeting was set to be voted upon on November 28. The date is actually Monday, November 27. Also, port executive director Ed Galligan signed the lease agreement for the log loaders in June, not July. Little Hollywood regrets the errors.

Little Hollywood has written extensively about Port of Olympia issues, including last year’s rail blockade, ceramic proppants, Rainbow Ceramics, sea level rise, and more. For more information and photos, go to www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com and type key words into the search engine.