Monday, March 20, 2017

First Day of Spring 2017

Above, left to right: Reed Tomita, 5, with his cousin, Connor Stephenson, 4 ½, and Alexander Kahn, 4, had a blast creating and chasing bubbles on the first day of spring at Percival Landing in downtown Olympia.

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

Folks aged four to ninety braved uncertain weather to welcome the first day of spring at the 25th annual community bubble blow. 

Held near “The Kiss” statue on Percival Landing in downtown Olympia, the celebration goes on, no matter what the weather - come wind, rain, hail, sleet, snow, high tide, sea-level rise, or maybe even sun. 

Luckily, the rain held off during the noontime event and a good time was had by all.

Several batik windsocks from the nearby Procession of the Species studio added to the festive frivolity. Bubbles and bubble wands are provided.

Above: Connor Stephenson, 4 ½ , with his mom, Susan, is amazed by a monster bubble.

In contrast to the frenzied energy of several children, first-time bubble maker Dawud Al-Malik demonstrated a calm demeanor. His strategy served him well, earning his bubbles several ooh’s and aah’s from supportive bubble makers.

“The technique that I use to create the bubbles is being in harmony with the forces of the wind, he explained as he held his arm high. 

I was fortunate enough to get the right angle with the wind, turning the wrist slowly,” he added with a smile.

Above: First time bubble maker Dawud Al-Malik of Olympia was in harmony with the forces of the wind on Monday.

The annual event is sponsored by People-Who-Know-We-Live-In-A-Great-Place. 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Barner Fire Relief Efforts Begin After Home Loss

Above: George Barner, Jr. is helped to the scene by Olympia Deputy Fire Chief Greg Wright while his home was on fire on January 29. Fire relief accounts to help Barner have been set up at TwinStar Credit Union and GoFundMe. There are other ways to donate clothes and small items to help Barner get reestablished.

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

“They called it Stormy Monday, but Tuesday’s just as bad…Wednesday’s even worse, and Thursday’s awful sad…” goes the old blues song, “Stormy Monday.”

“….The eagle flies on Friday, and Saturday, I go out to play…Sunday, I’m going to church, where I’ll kneel down and pray, ‘Lord, Have Mercy On Me….’”

Former port commissioner, local rock n’ roller, and beloved community member George Barner Jr., 75, lost everything he had in a house fire January 29, and has often sung those lyrics on stage.

Barner is doing well, but he’s tired, grieving the loss of irreplaceable family and personal photographs and papers, antiques, rock n’ roll records and memorabilia, his collection of leather jackets, and an astounding collection of items of significance to Olympia and Northwest history.

He is also dealing with the harsh realities of complying with a city ordinance to clear his property of the home’s remaining debris, completing insurance paperwork, and replacing personal records and information.

People have been stopping by his westside property on 5th Avenue SW to look at the remains and friends have been calling to extend their condolences.

Barner appreciates the calls and knows his voice mail box is full. He says he needs some time and privacy to readjust and greatly appreciates the community efforts now underway to help him restart his life.

Barner had been staying at a local hotel at the time of the fire due to an attempted burglary at his home a couple of weeks prior, and had few clothes and items with him. The hotel provides a small continental breakfast, and since the fire, he has been going out to eat for lunch and dinner.

The green coat he’s been wearing this week was donated by a friend.

Barner’s home and property was insured. So far, there have been no hiccups in getting the appropriate paperwork completed, but processing the forms will take several months. In the meantime, Barner is still on the hook for paying his monthly mortgage and outstanding household bills.

The cause of the fire has not been determined.

Ways to Help George Barner Jr.:

A fire relief account to help Barner has been set up at TwinStar Credit Union. The account number is 474453. Deposits can be made at any branch.  

A GoFundMe account has also been set up at

Clean, new, or gently used donations for setting Barner up in an apartment are also being gathered.

Please do not contact Barner regarding these donations. For pick up/drop off arrangements, and for larger items such as a couple of bookcases, lamps, a microwave, and other items, please contact Janine Gates, or (360) 791-7736. 

Above: A donation box for small household items for Barner is set up with a sign near the checkout stand at Olympia Supply. Thank you Jeff and Tom Bean!

For a short time only, community members may donate small household and personal items for Barner at Olympia Supply at 625 Columbia Street in downtown Olympia. Store hours are Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 6 p.m., Saturdays from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., and Sundays from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. 

Specific items that would be appreciated are kitchen items such as a coffee pot with an automatic turn off control, a whistling tea pot, aluminum foil and food storage containers, a cheese grater, an electric can opener, pots and pans, baking pans, a wok with a stove top ring, a cookie sheet, a blender, a colander and paper towels.

Other appreciated items include bedding sheets for a queen sized mattress, blankets, bed pillows, a large heating pad with an automatic turn off control, warm and waterproof coats, sweaters, warm shirts, socks, scarves, gloves, and hats.

Bathroom supplies may include a couple throw rugs, toilet paper, washcloths, and towels.

Other items include a flashlight, nightlights, a clock/radio, and cleaning supplies such as dish soap and laundry soap.

Any items received that cannot be used or don’t fit will be donated to a local homeless advocacy organization or shelters such as the Interfaith Works daytime warming shelter or Emergency Overnight Shelter.

Barner, who has diabetes and had all his toes on his right foot amputated in 2012, had several pairs of shoes and boots that contained specially made inserts that were designed for each pair. These will need to be replaced with the funds raised. He currently has one pair of shoes and no warm or waterproof clothing.

Barner has also set up a post office box address. It is P.O. Box 7157, Olympia, Washington 98507. Well-wishers may send him correspondence and gift cards and certificates to stores such as Fred Meyer, Target, Goodwill, or Value Village and local restaurants.

Besides his long careers in public service, which included work with the State of Washington and the Thurston County Commission, Barner has long contributed his musical talents for fun and worthy fundraisers to the community.

To watch George Barner Jr. belt out two of his favorite rock classics, “Lucille,” and “Louie, Louie,” go to and . Both tunes were recorded in October 2015 with the Lee Franklin Express Blues Band at Frankie’s Sports Bar in Olympia.

Editor’s Update, February 19: Thank you Olympia community members! It is difficult to express just how caring our community is, and how quickly we came together to support George. He now has pretty much everything he needs: warm clothes and coats, blankets and bed sheets, kitchen items, and household furniture. The quality of the donated items is simply heartwarming. All donations are much appreciated. Incredibly, there were few to no duplications and all are being used.

Due also to incoming financial donations to the TwinStar and GoFundMe accounts, George’s situation is stable and he has paid off some household bills. 

I’d especially like to thank Olympia Supply for providing a conveniently located space for folks to drop off their donations. It was a huge help. Not only that, Olympia Supply staff took a warm, personal interest in George’s situation and also provided donations. 

Again, thank you!

For more information about George Barner Jr. and his house fire on January 29, go to Little Hollywood, and type key words into the search button.

Above: Olympia firefighters responded to the scene of George Barner's home within minutes, but were unable to save it due to interior obstructions and ammunition stored inside that was heard to be going off for quite some time. The home was a total loss.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Barner’s Home a Total Loss Due to Fire

Above: The home of beloved community member George Barner, Jr. was engulfed in flames Sunday morning. Barner, who has lived at the home for several decades, was not home at the time. Barner arrived at the scene during the fire and was greeted and assisted by many friends.

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

The westside home of former port commissioner and beloved community member George Barner, Jr. is a total loss due to fire. 

The burning home, located in the 800 block of 5th Avenue SW, was first called into the Olympia Fire Department by a neighbor Sunday morning at 11:11 a.m. Barner was not home at the time.

Barner has been staying in a local hotel awaiting some repairs on the home, which was the scene of an attempted robbery two weeks ago. It took time to determine where Barner was located.

After that was determined, while the house was still on fire, Barner was brought to the scene and was greeted and assisted by many friends, who had also arrived and gathered on the street.  Barner said he had been home on Saturday and nothing was out of the ordinary.

According to a report by Olympia Fire Department Deputy Fire Chief Greg Wright, fire units reported seeing a smoke column at 11:14 a.m. before their arrival on the scene at 11:16 a.m. 

Several community members initially speculated that the nearby Capitol House Apartments, the former St. Peter’s Hospital on Sherman Street, was on fire.

Firefighters were unable to enter through the front door due to obstructions inside but did make access from a side door.  Smoke was down to the floor of the second story as firefighters tried to enter. Unable to make any progress due to the amount of items inside and the heavy fire, crews switched to a defensive mode from outside the house at 11:30 a.m.  
Ammunition for guns in the home that Barner kept for target practice was stored in the house and were heard going off for a significant amount of time, also keeping firefighters back. The fire continued to burn despite water being applied from a crane on the fire engine.

Above: Firefighters were unable to enter the home while the home burned. A considerable amount of ammunition stored in the home, heard going off for quite some time, also kept firefighters and the public back from the scene.
The brick walls of the 1920’s vintage home held the fire in and firefighters kept the fire from spreading to nearby trees and other buildings.  An attached lower level garage was relatively undamaged by fire.

The Olympia Fire Department responded with four engines, one ladder truck, two medic units, and a command unit.  There were no reported injuries.

Fire crews worked the fire until about 3:00 pm. One fire engine and crew will remain on the scene to watch for hotspots and secure some vehicles that were in the garage and driveway. 

An investigation into the cause of the fire will begin on Monday.  

Above: George Barner, Jr. speaks with Olympia fire fighters Sunday afternoon. Barner's house, with the roof collapsed, is a total loss. Little Hollywood told Barner that he is loved and the community will help him with whatever he needs. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

A 24/7 Restroom for the Holidays

Above: A wreath made by Sean McCartney at the Ho-Ho-Hobos wreath stand in downtown Olympia earlier this week.

By Janine Gates

Continued conversation has resulted in a win-win for everyone.

The restrooms at three Capitol Campus locations – Heritage and Marathon parks and the Interpretive Center – have reopened, following talks with Just Housing, the group that was staging protests requesting 24/7 access to public restrooms in downtown Olympia, said Linda Kent, Washington State Department of Enterprise Services (DES) on Friday.

In addition, DES is keeping a portable restroom and hand washing station open at Heritage Park for 24-hour access while the agency works with community groups, the City of Olympia and other stakeholders to seek a long term workable solution.

The regular park restrooms will be open during park hours, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The agency says it does not have the funding to keep the regular park bathrooms open 24 hours a day.

The portable that had been placed near Olympia Supply has since been moved by DES to the side of the Heritage Park restroom.

“….DES is committed to keeping the portable restroom open while productive community conversations continue, provided the restrooms are not vandalized and remain sanitary,” said Kent.

Just Housing also issued a press release on Friday saying, “We take these negotiations very seriously and we are currently consulting with movement supporters, stakeholders, and attorneys about how to proceed with specific commitments….Generally speaking, we would like to see expanded access to the Heritage Park restrooms by the end of January in order to continue moving forward in trust and good faith.”

Above: A Christmas tree in the main lobby of Providence St. Peter Hospital. The tree, titled, Tree With A Mission, was one of those designed for the Christmas Forest fundraiser by the Providence St. Peter Foundation. Other words on the tree included Respect, and Stewardship.

Editor's Note: I would like to extend a warm thank you for reading Little Hollywood. It is an honor to provide a trusted source of news for our community. I’ll be taking a break to recharge, and look forward to 2017 with new perspectives. Please consider a donation to Little Hollywood if you appreciate independent journalism. See the Little Hollywood sidebar for more information.

Thank you also to all our first responders. For those who are not able to take a break, who are caring for those who are injured or sick, or for those facing serious life challenges, my thoughts are with you.  I wish everyone peace and happiness.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

State Closes Three Downtown Olympia Restrooms

Above: The Washington State Department of Enterprise Services has temporarily closed, day and night, three downtown Olympia area restrooms. Wheelchair accessible portables have been set up near each restroom. This portable restroom near Heritage Park is located near Olympia Supply on Water Street and Columbia Street.

By Janine Gates

Calling it a night of mourning, Just Housing activists and community members gathered at the now closed Heritage Park restrooms on Water Street Tuesday evening.

According to a press release issued on Tuesday afternoon by the state Department of Enterprise Services, restrooms at three Capitol Campus locations at Heritage and Marathon parks and the Interpretive Center, are now closed day and night.

The temporary closure follows three days of incidents at the Heritage Park restroom on Water Street in downtown Olympia.

“Enterprise Services is closing the restrooms because the actions taking place over the last three days create significant risk to the community and those responsible for the care and custody of the Capitol Campus, and do not support a productive path to come together and resolve the issue.

“Enterprise Services staff had hoped to focus on constructive dialogue at the park Monday evening and through the week, and to achieve a two-week pause in the protests to have community meetings and seek solutions.

“The bathrooms will be closed temporarily until Enterprise Services can productively pursue a collaborative solution with community groups, the City of Olympia and others,” says the release.

Portable bathrooms compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as hand washing stations have been placed at Heritage Park near Seventh and Columbia streets and at Marathon Park adjacent to the regular bathroom.

Above: Renata Rollins lights a candle at a gathering Tuesday night in front of the now closed Heritage Park restrooms in downtown Olympia.

A quiet group of about 35 community members, including children, met Tuesday night outside the closed restrooms to discuss the week’s actions, lessons learned, and the decision by the state to close the restrooms.

The group was somber as they listened to Renata Rollins and Tye Grundel each explain why they co-founded the Just Housing group last spring. As community outreach workers, they became discouraged while turning people away from needed services because they were not available.

The lack of options weighed heavily on them and they decided to explore other options, speak the truth, build relationships, and take direct action.

Gundel said Just Housing activists underestimated how state and city law enforcement would respond to what was intended to be a one night, symbolic action that would demonstrate what a 24 hour access bathroom would look like.

She participated in civil disobedience and was one of the four arrested Monday night. She said she didn’t originally expect to do that, but gained strength to do so by thinking of the personal conversations she has had in the last three years helping people work through the social service network. She felt that what she was doing was right.

“…Those people have changed my life, and the way I see the world….it was their words and their courage that I was thinking about that gave me a lot of strength, and gave me a lot of peace and a lot of certainty about what we’re doing here. I never doubted that ….”

She said she was saddened by the state’s decision to shut down the state controlled restrooms in the city as a result of their actions.

“This has never been just about bathrooms for the last three days. It’s about basic dignity, this is about humanity, love, for people that have been shown day in and day out and told day in and day out that they don’t deserve that.…and to show them that there are those in the community who are willing to stand by those who have been pushed to the outside of our society….”

Gundel said that the closure of the restrooms punishes the people they most wanted to help.

“…A lot of us are really torn about what we could have done differently to make sure that didn’t happen…. Maybe some things could have been done differently....It’s a really big burden to bear, but that’s on them...they made that choice….We’re here to contrast that….punishment with community and love and coming together….we’re going to come together stronger and I’ve never had more faith in a community to be creative and come up with responses to help people when they need to the most. I’m excited to see what we’ll do….”

To hear all the speakers Tuesday evening, including Rabbah Rona Matlow,  go to

Matlow said she visited with Tony Aitken, Enterprise Services program manager for state capitol visitor services, to see what she could do to help on Monday morning.

A retired Lieutenant Commander with 22 years in the Navy, Matlow wore a coat with military medals on her lapel. Matlow, now a transgender woman and Jewish pastoral counselor, offers veteran and LGBTQ+ support.

She said she wears her medals to show that even mainstream people are concerned about significant social issues. She is hoping to organize an interjurisdictional, interfaith homelessness task force with state, city and local community leaders.

Just Housing activist Jeff Thomas listed recent successes with homelessness issues and said he spoke with City of Olympia city manager Steve Hall a few weeks ago, who had proposed to the state that the city rent out the Heritage Park restrooms.

According to Thomas, the state said the city would have to pay for an all-night State Patrol agent, making the idea a “no-go.”  Still, Thomas said he is cautiously optimistic.

“We are going to get bathrooms soon, one way or another.”

Above: The portable at Marathon Park on Deschutes Parkway is near the closed restrooms.

Olympia Protesters Demand 24 Hour Restroom Access

Interfaith Works receives temporary use permit, opens warming center

Above: A lot of people have to go to the restroom after 7:00 p.m. Washington State Patrol Captain John Broome speaks with protesters outside the men’s restroom at Heritage Park on Water Street in downtown Olympia Monday night. Protesters are demanding 24 hour restroom access. Some participated in civil disobedience and successfully held the restroom open until 8:41 p.m. There were four arrests.

By Janine Gates

A woman was hit on her right side at close range by a pepper ball shot by an Olympia Police Department officer Monday night. She said the officer aimed right at her. She has a welt.

“Over a bathroom protest. It’s BS,” she told Little Hollywood later that night, admitting she was in the way of the men’s restroom door. Another person was also reportedly hit with a pepper ball.

For the third night in a row, about 25 protesters successfully kept the restrooms open at Heritage Park on Water Street in downtown Olympia past the time it was scheduled to be closed. Several supporters stood nearby.

Like previous evenings, Washington State Department of Enterprise Services staff arrived at closing time, 7:00 p.m., to lock the doors, forcing those needing access, such as the homeless, to pee and defecate in alleys and bushes in and around downtown Olympia. 

Protesters occupied the restrooms.

The Washington State Patrol and Olympia Police Department arrived. After warnings to clear the area, four were arrested in acts of civil disobedience. The men’s restroom was locked at 8:41 p.m.

Above: Olympia Police Department officers, armed with pepper ball guns, assist Washington State Patrol officers at the Heritage Park restrooms on Monday night about 8:35 p.m.

An Olympia area group called Just Housing has been advocating for justice in housing issues. 

The group wants the city to designate suitable public property for a legal tent encampment and to repeal laws that criminalize homelessness.

Most urgently, because everyone has to pee and poop, the group demands that the city and state open its public restrooms for 24 hour, seven days a week access. The homeless in particular have nowhere to go at night, every night.

The group has met with city staff and councilmembers for the last couple of months. 

On Saturday night, the Heritage Park restroom was open until about 7:35 p.m. and there was one arrest. The Thurston County Sheriff’s Department participated with the WSP and OPD that evening.

The men's restroom stayed open a full two hours past the time it was scheduled to be closed on Sunday night and there were no arrests.

For the last three evenings, community outreach worker and Just Housing advocate Renata Rollins has become an engaging citizen reporter, covering the events on Facebook Live, providing constant commentary and explanations for what the viewer is seeing and hearing.

Apparently without watching any of her online video, The Olympian newspaper and a Seattle television station reported that on Sunday evening, officers were locked in the restrooms, as if trapped by protesters. It was fake news.

Anyone present or watching the video live could see that the officers closed and locked the doors themselves to speak to the protesters inside and keep other protesters from entering.

“The Olympia city council has been debating public restrooms downtown for four years with no results yet....We have people sleeping outside in cold and isolation, and the authorities haven’t even been able to get us a bathroom. How are we going to solve the real problems our community faces?” Rollins said on Sunday.

Rollins said members of Just Housing had a meeting Monday afternoon with Washington State Department of Enterprise Services deputy director Bob Covington and other staff. He asked for time to come up with a “workable plan.” 

When asked how long, the response was two weeks, said Rollins.

“They wanted us to stop the protests and sit ins. I told him (Covington) that there are people really fired up and angry about this, especially after the outrageous escalated police response on Saturday night. Even if I’m not organizing people, people are going to be showing up,” she said.

Protesters chanted, “An injury to one is an injury to all – open up the bathroom stall!” and “Why are we here tonight? Bathrooms are a human right!” and Same time, same place, same time, same place,” as they dispersed Monday evening.

Just Housing welcomes anyone of goodwill to attend their meetings on Mondays from 3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. at United Churches, 110 11th Avenue SE, in downtown Olympia, including the next two Mondays - no holiday break.

Above: No footsteps in the snow here. The restroom near the LOTT Clean Water Alliance and the Hands On Children’s Museum is just one of eight public restrooms in downtown Olympia. It is closed day and night due to problems with excessive drug paraphernalia, and is only open from May through September and for special events.

In related news, Interfaith Works received a temporary use permit to open a daytime winter warming center at 408 Olympia Avenue NE and opened on Monday. 

It served nearly 190 individuals when Little Hollywood stopped by at 4:30 p.m., a half hour before closing. The spacious building contains two restrooms inside, and two port-a-potties outside, which are locked at 5:00 p.m.

Guests were quietly resting, sleeping on mats, drinking hot coffee, and watching Pirates of the Caribbean.” 

For more information about the lack of 24/7 public restrooms in downtown Olympia, go to “Public Restroom Realities in Olympia: Challenges to a Human Need, a Human Right,” at or type key words in the search button at Little Hollywood, or go to the City of Olympia website for current conversations.

For more information about the Interfaith Works warming center, go to Little Hollywood,­olympia­winter-­warming­-center.html

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Olympia Port Votes for “Acceptable Cargo”

Above: The meeting room was packed with community members wanting to provide comment to Port of Olympia commissioners on the topic of acceptable cargo, Monday evening. The commissioners passed a resolution affirming their continued acceptance of ceramic proppants and other safe and legal cargo, such as military cargo, energy products, forest products, and agricultural products.

By Janine Gates

The Port of Olympia may need to find a larger room for its commission meetings as community interest increases in its policies, finances, and business decisions.

At least six Port staff willingly gave up their seats to accommodate the crowd. Jeff Smith, port finance director, rolled out more chairs as community members continued to file in and sit in chairs and on the floor or stand lined up along walls for the three and a half hour long meeting Monday night. 

Among other business, on the agenda was a discussion and vote on acceptable cargo. 

The resolution was written in response to the week-long November rail blockade of a Union Pacific train leaving the Port of Olympia carrying ceramic proppants and centered on the Federal Shipping Act of 1984 that states “terminal operators cannot unreasonably discriminate in the provision of terminal services.”

The resolution also makes several statements regarding its expectations for law enforcement agencies with jurisdiction to promptly take appropriate action in the event protest activities violate local, state and/or federal laws.

Port staff, rail blockade protesters, water protectors, longshore workers, Vietnam veterans, tribal members, students, youth, and elders all spoke to their perspective on the issue. 

Throughout the evening, 46 individuals spoke at public comment opportunities.

Many urged the commissioners to not rush to a vote, while others, many of them longshore workers, urged them to make a decision, get on with other issues, and enjoy the holidays.

Addressing port safety issues, Port of Olympia human resource staff member Jeri Sevier read a prepared statement detailing current working conditions for port staff, foreshadowing possible future legal implications if the situation does not improve.

“….As leaders of this Port, I am sure you find it to be very concerning – that your employees are enduring intimidation and harassment. Protesters have broken our windows, sprayed graffiti on our building, an employee being attacked and harassed while driving Port vehicles through town.

“Almost daily I am getting reports of employees being flipped off, being yelled at while entering the Port building or by driving a port vehicle. You as our highest leadership at the Port understand the impact your actions – or inactions have had on the hard working loyal employees that are doing their jobs day after day – all to make the Port successful. 

“The Port staff feels unsafe in our current working environment in the City of Olympia. We as employees set aside our personal beliefs to fulfill the mission of the Port.  I ask that you, as a Commissioner, set aside your personal beliefs and start doing what is right for the Port of Olympia and its employees.”

Later in public comment, port citizen advisory committee chair Frank Gorecki suggested that staff travel in pairs with cellphones, call 911 as needed, and take photographs of any threatening behaviors. He also wanted to know the City of Olympia’s response to city police Chief Ronnie Roberts’ statement.

Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts denounced the Port of Olympia and its acceptance of ceramic proppants during a council meeting on November 22.

As discussion began on the resolution, Commissioner Joe Downing added an amendment, adding brief language for the inclusion of alternative energy products as acceptable cargo, along with conventional energy products, such as the ceramic proppants, military cargo, forest products, and agricultural products. The addition was approved by all commissioners.

Above: Port Commissioner E.J. Zita reads prepared remarks at Monday night's meeting. Zita illustrated her points against the resolution’s passage with a PowerPoint presentation.

Susan McRae spoke and presented the commissioners a stack of papers which she said contained over 800 signatures of residents of Thurston County.

The title of the petition is, “No Oil Fracking Sands at Our Port,” and reads, “We, the residents of Thurston County, demand the Olympia Port Commission no longer allow oil fracking sand or any cargo related to the extraction of fossil fuels to enter our Port. We want a port that doesn’t significantly contribute to climate change, the single greatest national security threat to the United States. We urge the Port to protect our climate. Native treaty rights, communities, water and wildlife and transition to sustainable economic practices that will not devastate the beautiful planet we live on.”

McRae, as did many other speakers, took issue with the resolution, and its phrase “safe cargo.”

Quoting a portion of the resolution, McRae said that while the port cannot unreasonably discriminate in the provision of terminal services, “it is not unreasonable to reject fracking sands. Fracking sands are unsafe because of how they are used and what they are used for. They cause great harm to our environment and endanger our national security….We need the Port to have a long term vision, looking to a sustainable future. We need an open dialog about the Port’s operations and the future.”

One longshore worker called the petition a slippery slope.

“…I’m just trying to make a living, send my kids to college, and retire with dignity.…(all this divisiveness) is jeopardizing our abilities to provide for our families.

Helen Wheatley presented testimony saying that the resolution is a misinterpretation of the Federal Shipping Act and illogical that the port could accept and handle any and all cargo that is safe and legal. She also took issue with the Commerce Clause, and the cited RCWs, which she said are irrelevant to cargo.

She said the purpose of the Shipping Act of 1984 was to regulate shipping practices, not cargo.

“It was an effort to create sustainable competition and discusses the relationship between the port to the carrier or person, not the carrier’s cargo. This law is no threat to the Port, as Rainbow Ceramics would have to press its case and risk the possibility that the Federal Maritime Commission or a judge might well find the port’s refusal to take its cargo is “reasonable.

“If you want to require openness to certain forms of cargo, be honest and say that you are choosing this path, and allow the public to consider the matter on its merits. Don’t hide policy making behind a cloud of statutes that dissolves under scrutiny….”

Speakers pointed out that port executive director Ed Galligan has declined cargo in the past, such scrap metal. In that case, the port did not have the adequate infrastructure to contain it, it was oily and would have caused environmental contamination of the terminal, and the noise that would have been produced in its processing would have been disruptive to nearby neighborhoods.

“When we say we don’t want fracking sands to come through the Port of Olympia, he (Galligan) says that we have no choice - the Port has to receive any cargo that is “safe and legal,” as if the ships carrying proppants just show up. The truth is that it was on the Port’s own initiative that Rainbow Ceramics, the proppant company, was solicited,” said Pat Rasmussen, who has repeatedly asked for Galligan’s resignation.

“The Port is not an island, the City of Olympia is not an island…you should have turned down the proppants due to inadequate infrastructure…If you needed an additional warehouse, the shipper would have to put up the money for that. Environmental concerns are paramount but somewhere along the lines, economically reasonable, adequate considerations need to be made,” said Denis Langhans.

Langhans was referring to the need for an additional warehouse to store the proppants. A port request in 2014 for $50,000 to build a warehouse was refused by a previous commission, with Commissioner McGregor in the minority of the three member commission. Proppants currently sit outside in bags on marine terminal property under black tarps.

One Vietnam veteran spoke to the port’s past acceptance of military cargo.

“When I see a Stryker going down I-5, I see a trail of bodies. When I see proppants, I see villages being destroyed, the climate being destroyed….” He urged the commission to appreciate what water protectors are doing.

“If Olympia wants to be competitive in the future, it needs to invest. We cannot be left behind. We need to start making these shifts to make Olympia an economically viable place to invest in the future,” said Marles Blackbird, a Hunkpapa Lakota tribal member of the Standing Rock Lakota Nation.

Longshore worker Jim Rose said that if the Port of Olympia doesn’t accept the cargo, they will go to Everett, Seattle, or Grays Harbor to do the job. 

If that happens, we’ll get in our cars, burning fossil fuels, running up and down I-5,” he said.

After hours of debate, Mike Cox, a lifetime resident and graduate of Tumwater High School and The Evergreen State College, urged the commission to make a decision. 

“There’s no reason to talk about this anymore…Make a decision! Don’t sit there and let them fight each other,” he said, motioning to the crowd. “Do your jobs, worry about other issues, and get through the holidays….” 

The final resolution passed, with Commissioners Bill McGregor and Downing voting yea, and Commissioner E.J. Zita voting nay. 

Galligan said that the port is in the process of scheduling upcoming discussions with both the Squaxin and Nisqually tribal councils.

It was the last port meeting of the year.

Above: With no time left on the clock, Olympia resident T.J. Johnson rushes to present commissioners and port executive director Ed Galligan with glasses of water and urged them each to drink it if they thought fracked water was safe.