Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Spectacular Procession of the Species

A Spectacular Procession of the Species

by Janine Unsoeld

Artswalk weekend in Olympia culminated with the spectacular, 18th annual Procession of the Species. The mission of the Procession of the Species is to empower communities to engage in cultural relationships with the natural world as a means of sustaining efforts of environmental protection and restoration. For more information, go to

As is often the case, the weather held out and a good time was had by thousands people in downtown Olympia!

Thank you Procession director Eli Sterling and Earthbound Productions for all you do for the community!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Scott Yoos Trial Scheduled For August 13

Above: Scott Yoos, center, stands outside the Thurston County courthouse on Wednesday with supporters, prior to his pre-trial hearing.

Scott Yoos Trial Scheduled For August 13

By Janine Unsoeld

The Thurston County Superior Court trial date for Scott Yoos, an Olympia citizen accused of a felony assault against a police officer, has been scheduled for August 13.

Attorney Larry Hildes represented Yoos at the hearing held on Wednesday, April 18. Hildes took the Yoos case in February, and told Judge Carol Murphy that he needed more time to review his client’s information. Citing his existing workload and a recent vacation, Hildes said he had been unrealistic about the file he inherited from Yoos’ previous attorney and needed more time to gather information for the case. The judge issued an order of continuance.

Hildes submitted to the court a lengthy list of discovery requests, which includes disclosure of all police reports and logs related to the arrest, a map of the patrol area for the officer initially responding to the incident, and copies of all training materials for the police department on how to deal with deaf, hearing impaired and mute individuals, and disabilities of any kind.

Yoos, who pronounces his last name like “Yose” as in ‘Yosemite’ (National Park), is mute and typically uses a white board and marker or a pen and paper to communicate with other individuals. He can hear, and also uses sign language.

Before the hearing began, Yoos wrote a message to this reporter, saying, “…I’m hopeful and grateful that Larry and Karen (his wife) drove clear down from Bellingham.” About the new trial date, Yoos wrote, “We’re doing it several months in the future so that we have ample time to present motions.”

During the hearing's time frame in which several other cases were heard before Yoos’ case, prisoners in bright orange jumpsuits, tightly shackled with handcuffs around the hands and chains around their waists and feet, shuffled forward to the podium with their attorneys and were greeted and questioned by the judge about their cases. One prisoner wore a grey t-shirt that read, “Thurston County Sheriff’s Office Work Crew Inmate.”

Yoos, who is free and wore regular clothes, communicated with his attorney using a white board and blue marker and frequently used a rag stuffed in his left side pocket to erase his messages.

The Case Against Yoos

According to police records, Yoos was initially cited for criminal trespass and obstructing justice on June 1, 2011 at 2302 Fourth Avenue, Olympia, at 2341 hours. The property is the site of Twister Donuts.

The case originally was to be heard in the municipal court of the city of Olympia.

In his police report, Officer Randy Wilson writes that he saw Yoos enter the parking lot and go towards the Dumpsters and a fence by Curtis lumberyard.

“By the time I entered the lot, Yoos was behind the dumpster. Yoos tried to leave and I physically had to stop him. I learned he used sign language, so I assumed he was deaf. I began to communicate via notepad. I wrote down he was being investigated for criminal trespass. Yoos got agitated and refused to ID himself. While writing with him, he tried to leave on his bicycle at least 3 times. We tried to get him off his bicycle and he resisted. He was taken down to the ground and handcuffed. I later learned from Officer Watkins that on 8/10 Yoos had been trespassed from the property by Officer Hincichs. See C&I.”

Copies of Officer Wilson’s and Yoos’ handwritten questions and answers to each other include: Wilson's - “Do you have ID?" and "Write your name and birthday down” and Yoos' - “What have I done wrong?” and “I threw away a bag, is that illegal? You’d rather I littered?”

According to the police report, Yoos is 5’9 and weighs 155 pounds. Police reports detail the incident and actions by the four Olympia police officers who responded to the scene, Officers S. Costello, Jason Watkins, and Randy Wilson and Sgt. Paul Johnson.

Officer Costello’s report indicates that Yoos was “using sign language in a way that looked like he may hit one of us. He was slapping his hands and motioning wildly at us. I summoned Officer J. Watkins via police radio because I know he can communicate using American Sign Language.”

Officer Costello’s report goes on to explain that use of force was used to take away Yoos’ bicycle and take Yoos to the ground: “I laid the bicycle down and noted that Officer Wilson was trying to take Yoos to the ground. He’d become resistive at that point. As I got clear of the bicycle Officer Wilson was trying to use an arm bar technique to get him to the ground. As he was going to the ground I grabbed his right wrist area. Officer Wilson secured his left arm and I grasped his right wrist. Yoos was rolling on the ground and was still resisting us. I used my right knee on his neck and applied pressure, keeping him on the ground. Officer Wilson was able to secure Yoos in his handcuffs.

Officer Watkins’ report states that he knows American Sign Language, “…but I am only conversational and not certified as an interpreter or anything else.” He describes helping Officer Costello with standing Yoos up and subduing Yoos when he continued to resist the officers.

The Watkins report reads, in part: “While Officer Costello was searching Yoos I maintained downward preassure (sic) with my right arm along the upper portion of Yoos’ torso in order to keep him in the bent position and a position of disadvantage because he had been actively resisting. Yoos tried standing straight up a couple of times but I was able to maintain control of him. Yoos was screaming but not saying anything while he was being searched…."

Watkins later writes, “Yoos was placed into a temporary cell in preparation for booking and I re-contacted him there....I asked Yoos if he could hear and using only sign language he told me he was hard of hearing and in 1984, he suffered a head injury that made it so he was mute. Yoos told me he signed using English sign language rather than American Sign Language which is what I’m familiar with but we were still able to communicate….After I had cleared the Jail I was later called back by Corrections Officer Johnson. When I arrived Yoos had been released and was just outside of the Jail’s parking lot. I was told Yoos needed clarification regarding he had to go to court services tomorrow at 0830 hours, to obtain a court date and that is what I explained to him again using both my voice and sign language.”

Report by Sgt. Paul Johnson

According to a report, City of Olympia Sgt. Paul Johnson is the one who accuses Yoos of kicking him. His report is dated June 27, 2011. The incident occurred on June 1, 2011.

In part, his report reads, “Officer Costello transitioned to a gooseneck counter joint technique and applied pressure. Yoos at this point lunged toward me lifting his foot impacting my left thigh. The impact pushed me back at which point Yoos using the same foot kicked the headlight of a nearby patrol car attempting to break it. I advised the officers I was fine and suggested taking Yoos to the hood of patrol car. Yoos’ upper torso was then forced down onto the hood of the vehicle and was re-secured in handcuffs.” According to the report, Yoos was then transported to the Olympia police department for processing, booked, and released.

As a result of Johnson’s report, Yoos’ case was bumped up to the Superior Court of Washington in Thurston County. In a document dated August 8, 2011, Yoos was charged with three counts: assault in the third degree, a Class C felony; criminal trespass in the second degree, a misdemeanor; and resisting arrest, also a misdemeanor.

Yoos' Supporters Speak Out

On Wednesday, friends and supporters of Yoos met at the courthouse prior to the hearing to express their support for Yoos. About a dozen went into the courtroom with Yoos to witness his pre-trial hearing.

Yoos supporter John Newman said, “Being charged with assault at taxpayer’s expense is unjust. Scott’s been a great local volunteer in the city of Olympia for several nonprofits. I think he was innocent and wanted to go home.”

Aaron Zanthe also expressed support for Yoos. “I’m definitely supporting Scott. I’m a friend and an advocate for people of neurodiversity. He came to a community event I organized. I find his story very moving. I’m well-adjusted to listening to stories of people who face abuse and aren’t capable of defending themselves, and this is reflected in my work. I find it distressing that Scott was assaulted by anyone, especially those entrusted with public safety and that his sign language was interpreted as a sign of aggression.”

After witnessing the hearing, supporter Chris Stegman said, “The whole thing reeks of an unjust system gone awry, a cover up of police misconduct and an overreach of authority and inappropriate detention, the threat of which is what led Scott to try to escape the scene in fear for his safety. How would it feel to the average person to be detained by up to four armed police officers at 11 pm in a dark alley out of public sight, all for throwing some paper napkins in a city of Olympia Dumpster? I'm ready to peacefully riot if this case goes through and he gets convicted of any felony, for resisting arrest, obstruction of officers duties, or whatever. This is a gross miscarriage of justice that it has gone this far without being dismissed.”

An Interview with Scott Yoos

After arranging for an interview time and place through text messaging and email, I sat down with Yoos for an in-person, hour long interview today. I asked him about the police reports, showed him specific passages I had questions about, and asked him for his thoughts.

The process was time intensive, as I do not know sign language. I had to be patient and let Yoos write his answers to my questions, and not interrupt him if I thought I knew what he was going to write. A few times, I did interrupt. Sometimes it helped, sometimes it didn't. Yoos often nodded and laughed if I guessed what he was going to write. When I didn't guess correctly, Yoos seemed to hide what he was writing until he was finished, then showed me his complete thought. He used two full sized pieces of paper and covered both sides, twisting and turning the pages around, covering the white space.

This is what we were able to accomplish:

I looked at Yoos directly and asked him if he was hard of hearing. He wrote, "Never. I've been mute since 1984 due to a severe head injury."

I referred to Office Watkins' report where Watkins wrote, "I asked Yoos if he could hear and using only sign language he told me he was hard of hearing and in 1984, he suffered a head injury that made it so he was mute. Yoos told me he signed using English sign language rather than American Sign Language...."

In response, Yoos wrote, "He misinterpreted my sign - I'm most comfortable with S.E.E., not A.S.L."

Yoos then wrote, "There is really so much to say. I've been stewing in this for nearly a traumatic year."

Yoos pointed out the words Officer Costello used in his report, "He was slapping his hands and motioning wildly at us." In response to this, Yoos wrote, "I really resent their choice of words. Anything to make me sound crazy and violent. I was merely trying to communicate via sign."

Yoos also took issue with Officer Costello's report and the words, "I laid the bicycle down..." In response, Yoos wrote, "He tore my bike from underneath me and threw it to the side."

When I asked Yoos why he and Officer Wilson shared the same notebook, Yoos wrote, "They took my pen."

When I asked Yoos how long it took for Officer Watkins, who knew sign language, to arrive to the scene and if he helped, Yoos wrote, "By the time he arrived to "help" I was handcuffed."

Yoos also wrote, "What happened to me that night was entirely undeserved, and too many half-truths and bald faced lies have been told about my behavior, to allow it to remain unchallenged. This is why we need to push for video surveillance of arrests. There needs to be something to "police" the police! It's a matter of public safety. I believe that video coverage would have entirely vindicated me and would have gotten the O.P.D. (Olympia Police Department) in trouble."

Yoos also wrote, "I'd like to point out/emphasize that I was merely a bicycle commuter headed home. I was wearing a reflective orange vest and had a red blinking light on the rear of my bike. If I'd been doing something criminal, I wouldn't have been dressed to be seen!"

Finally, Yoos wrote, "I'm so grateful for your interest! There are so many people and things which I love about this town. A militarized police force and their stormtrooper mentalities is not one of them!" Yoos also wrote that he has a support group address on Facebook and wanted me to include that information in my article.

A legal defense fund has been set up to cover attorney's fees for Yoos' defense. Donations can be endorsed to "Scott Yoos - LDF" and walked in or mailed directly to: Scott Yoos – Legal Defense Fund, c/o Washington State Employees Credit Union, 2302 Harrison Ave NW, Ste 201, Olympia, Washington 98502. Donations can also be made online at Supporters say 100% of the amount donated will go to the Scott Yoos Legal Defense Fund.

A Facebook account has been set up at or you can just type Scott Yoos Legal Defense Fund.

Supporters have organized a fundraiser for Yoos on Sunday, May 20th at 7:00 p.m. at Traditions Fair Trade, 300 5th Avenue, in downtown Olympia, for an event with singers, spoken word artists, and musicians. Pie and food will be provided for free.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

LOTT Has Come A Long Way - But Has A Long Way To Go

Above: Mosaic artwork outside the LOTT Clean Water Alliance will be open to the public in June. This one says, in part, "The health of our waters is the principle measure...."

LOTT Has Come A Long Way - But Has A Long Way To Go

By Janine Unsoeld

Bob Wood, Olympia street superintendent, said Tuesday digested sludge is now available free to the public at the sewage treatment plant located at the north end of Adams Street.

“It makes excellent fertilizer for flower beds,” he noted, adding that a loader will be on hand from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday for the convenience of the public.

“We load, you haul,” Wood said, adding, “and this has no odor to it.”

Yes, the above information is for real, but it isn’t an announcement from this week. While digging around in her attic, this reporter recently found a copy of The Daily Olympian, dated August 28, 1973, that included this little tidbit of news and brought it to a recent LOTT board meeting to show staff. As expected, they got a kick out of it.

“Good heavens! Did we really do that?” exclaimed Karla Fowler, LOTT community relations and environmental policy director.

She and LOTT public facilities manager Ben McConkey chuckled about it, saying that such activities happened before state and federal standards were in place. McConkey added that the sludge – now known as digested biosolids – would have had quite a bit of trash in it, especially little plastic pieces.

“By today’s standards, we were a Class B treatment facility, before the secondary treatment process. Sludge was treated in anaerobic digesters.” Fowler eagerly made a copy of the yellowed newspaper article for her files.

Flash forward to 2012, and the LOTT Clean Water Alliance has come a long way since 1973, but, as evidenced at LOTT’s recent board retreat, it has a long way to go.

LOTT is a regional Class A water and wastewater treatment facility, and regularly receives national wastewater treatment industry awards and recognition. On a local level, the public appears to lack an understanding or trust LOTT’s mission.

LOTT is composed of the cities of Lacey, Olympia, Tumwater and Thurston County. Representatives to the board are newly elected chair Cynthia Pratt, Lacey city councilmember, vice president Sandra Romero, Thurston County commissioner, Steve Langer, Olympia city councilmember, and Tom Oliva, Tumwater city councilmember, represent the city and county.

Current positions were chosen at last week’s LOTT meeting. As a new board with varying degrees of knowledge, Pratt is considered the most senior member of the group, with two years experience on the LOTT board.

As a result of recent turnover, LOTT board members and staff are having new conversations on a whole set of industry and organizational development issues as they embark on the development of a new six year long range strategic plan and a four year groundwater recharge study.

LOTT Board Retreat

LOTT held its day-long annual board retreat last month, broadly reviewing its history and examining its future.

The show of politics on public policy quickly became apparent as board members asserted their positions. Polite tension was evident as board members actively peppered LOTT executive director Mike Strub and staff with questions about long-held assumptions, and challenged business-as-usual routines. Board members did not tiptoe around the issues – they poked holes into every staff presentation, questioning the overall board-staff relationship, the legal definition of the organization and LOTT’s use of about 40 specialty consultants.

The agenda, set by LOTT staff, was ambitious. A wide range of issues was discussed and prioritized by board members, and will result in many work sessions throughout the year. Issues ranking highest in priority went to three areas: citizen involvement, the groundwater recharge study, and septic tank conversions.

“It’s like starting a whole new relationship,” said Strub in his opening remarks. “LOTT is a complex organization and people have a hard time understanding what we do – we’re not a high profile organization.” Strub said that LOTT has spent $100 million building capacity and Lacey’s entire future, for example, is based on that capacity.

Strub outlined the board’s relationship to staff and the internal workings of LOTT’s technical subcommittee, reclaimed water task force, and septic workgroup. In mentioning just a sampling of contemporary issues facing LOTT, he set the tone for the serious work ahead for board members, staff, and the community.

“The impaired health of Puget Sound and Budd Inlet, the recommendations offered by the ongoing Deschutes Total Maximum Daily Load advisory committee study, the county’s update of the critical areas ordinance, compounds of emerging concern, and the groundwater recharge study are all issues that are going to change our worldview….We’re at a bellwether moment in LOTT’s history and future. With a population of 100,000 in three cities, we cannot stop, we cannot fail. Failure is not an option – the implications would be an unprecedented disaster,” said Strub.

Public Involvement Issues

It was emphasized by board members that while LOTT, a nonprofit, is not technically a public agency, it should act as a public agency, especially with regard to the public meetings act. Strub told board members that both the Washington State Department of Ecology, and the Washington Cities Insurance Agency, almost immediately recognized LOTT as a public agency.

The upcoming groundwater recharge study generated a great deal of comment about public involvement. A consultant will soon be hired to determine what citizen involvement will look like. A citizen’s advisory committee could be formed.

However, for all the concern expressed about LOTT being misunderstood by the public, and the desire for more citizen involvement, LOTT board meetings are not televised, and minutes for the board retreat were not taken, nor was it audiotaped. This was discovered by board members when, at the last LOTT board work session held April 11, board member Tom Oliva asked if meeting minutes were taken at the retreat. The reply by staff was no. It was then half-jokingly suggested by someone that this reporter’s notes could be offered. She stayed the full six hours of the retreat and took over 11pages of detailed, raw notes.

Board work sessions, open to the public, are held from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. and are held just prior to each monthly board meeting. A boxed dinner is provided to board members by LOTT and board members and staff often eat together in the LOTT cafeteria prior to the meeting. Board meetings start at 7:00 p.m.

Brief summaries, not minutes, of work sessions are available. Work sessions started to be audiotaped last month, Karla Fowler said today.

In terms of LOTT’s strategic business plan, the public’s values and level of expectation for the utility was discussed. Accurate measures of success can be determined if public values translate into board actions, board goals, LOTT core values and levels of service.

LOTT staff outlined areas they value and discussed related challenges in four performance areas: business management; environmental resource management and stewardship; education, communication and partnerships; and human resources and workplace environment.

Strub said that they do a thousand things a day to prevent a LOTT permit violation. He mentioned, as an example, that during the recent winter storm, power outages and blips caused havoc. Staff worked hard to prevent the dumping of raw sewage in Budd Inlet and a dumping was averted with 15 minutes to spare.

Basic questions were addressed and explored, such as how rates were set and whether or not there should be a flat rate for residential service, and if low income discounts could be provided. LOTT staff told board members that they field several calls a day from the public who ask questions like, “Why do I pay the same as my neighbor when I’m single and my neighbor has seven kids?”

LOTT is a wholesaler, billing the cities for treatment costs. The cities set the rates. If LOTT goes down the road of being the provider, LOTT will become a retailer. Discussion ensued about city responsibilities, whether there could be incentives for conservation and volume based rates being difficult to manage and expensive. Langer said metering is expensive, and is happy with the current system. Romero commented that there is increasing pressure for a volume based rate structure as the population ages.

Throughout the day, board members were fully engaged in the process and constantly provided staff feedback on their wishes with respect to their roles, internal structure, and core values. By the end of the board retreat, friction between board members and staff seemed to mellow.

In discussing how LOTT moves forward, Langer said, “We want to make sure we’re doing the right thing as well as being told what to do.”

Oliva commented on the wording of how to describe themselves. “Right now, it’s LOTT this and LOTT that. That’s the old way of thinking, like a corporation, not as a public entity,” said Oliva.

Romero agreed, and wanted entire language about how LOTT describes itself reworded.

“If you talk about its community values, the organization becomes the animal. We can reframe this to show our collective values. What’s missing is the relationship between LOTT and its partners. This is about good faith, communication and cooperation. Let’s pause to figure out who we are. The word ‘Alliance’ is more inclusive of who we are. It shifts the control…the acronym removes people from the entity," said Romero.

Michael Pendleton, facilitator for the day’s discussions, wrapped up sentiments by saying to the group, “You don’t have the luxury of being just a utility anymore. You have core needs, but the public may demand more.”

Langer agreed. “The environmental constituency has gotten louder about Budd Inlet and Puget Sound and our connection with the public has to change.”

Clearly, there is significant work ahead for LOTT partners, and it won’t be easy to change entrenched ways, but optimism reigned by the end of the day.

Eric Hielema, a LOTT senior wastewater engineer who attended the board retreat, commented afterwards, “I was a little scared to do things differently, but now I’m excited.”

For more information about LOTT Clean Water Alliance, 500 Adams St. SE, Olympia, call (360) 664-2333 or go to

Above: This mosaic at the LOTT Clean Water Alliance continues from the picture above, "...of how we live on the land." The full ribbon says, "The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land."

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ecology Requests Comments on Hardel Site Cleanup Plan - Reliable Steel Cleanup Still On Hold

Above: The site of Hardel Mutual Plywood at 1210 West Bay Drive, NW, Olympia overlooks a stunning view of Budd Inlet and the city of Olympia.

Ecology Requests Comments on Hardel Site Cleanup Plan - Reliable Steel Cleanup Still On Hold

by Janine Unsoeld

The Washington State Department of Ecology is seeking comments from the public on a draft cleanup action plan for the Hardel Mutual Plywood site at 1210 West Bay Drive NW in Olympia. Ecology began accepting comments on March 22 and will do so until April 20.

Guy Barrett, Washington State Department of Ecology site manager for Hardel, said in a telephone interview late Tuesday that he has only received one official comment so far.

Past business activities at the Hardel site contaminated soil and groundwater. The plan documents include three reports. One describes the nature and extent of contamination, another describes Ecology’s investigation of the site and evaluates cleanup options, and a third describes cleanup options, how Hardel cleaned up the site, and why Ecology considers the cleanup to be complete. The documents are available for review at the Olympia Timberland Library, at the Department of Ecology, or online at

While investigating the site, Hardel found that some contamination was moving toward Budd Inlet.

According to Ecology, Hardel has cleaned up the site through an interim cleanup action approved in 2010. After completing the interim action, Hardel sampled groundwater for one year. Since they found no contaminants above cleanup levels, Ecology now considers the cleanup to be complete.

In a fact sheet, Ecology says Hardel found dioxins and phthalates in Budd Inlet sediments but that the contaminants do not seem to be from the site.

Beginning in 1924, the site was used for logging and lumber related businesses. Hardel operated a plywood manufacturing business on the site from 1951-1996. The company ceased operations in Olympia after a fire severely damaged the buildings. The site has nine groundwater monitoring wells and three sediment sampling locations.

Ecology will review all comments received during the comment period, respond, finalize the cleanup action plan, make changes to the plan if necessary, and possibly remove the site from the Hazardous Sites list. Ecology will hold a separate public comment period before removing the site from the list.

There are no known future restrictions for the Hardel property for redevelopment, except those identified by current land use zoning.

There are currently eight sites deemed by Ecology as contaminated throughout the area of Budd Inlet.

Next Door: Reliable Steel

Above: The Reliable Steel site at 1218 West Bay Drive NW, Olympia.

One of the eight contaminated sites is the property next door to Hardel Mutual Plywood, a site known as the former location of Reliable Steel. Owned by Triway Enterprises, the 4.25 acre site is currently being cleared of debris by workers.

Steve Teel, Washington State Department of Ecology site manager for Reliable Steel, says a formal environmental cleanup is still on hold. Ecology was last actively involved with an environmental cleanup plan for the site in 2007-2008 when progress stalled.

"Tri Vo went broke, then we had an agreement with the former owner regarding a remedial study but the corporation dissolved, then Ecology lacked the money to continue," says Teel.

"I'm hoping we can get money July 1st - I'm waiting until the new biennium to use state funds to work on the site. But as far as cleanup goes, we're on hold. We've done the remedial investigation - we know what kind of contaminants are there - we've done the feasibility study as to what the options are to clean it up, and we have a draft cleanup action plan - we just need to revise it," said Teel.

The site was originally developed as a lumber mill. Since 1941, it was used for boat building, welding and steel fabrication.

In 1993, Ecology inspected the site and found levels of arsenic and copper above Ecology standards for marine sediment quality. Ecology requested that welding debris on or near the shore of Budd Inlet be removed.

Ecology was notified in 2006 that total petroleum hydrocarbons and heavy metals had been found above acceptable cleanup levels in soil and groundwater on the site, and deemed contaminated. The site entered into a voluntary cleanup program, but was later removed from the program due to inactivity. The site was then entered into the formal Washington Model Toxics Control Act cleanup program.

In an email dated March 28, Teel asks Triway Enterprises representative Tori Cookson about the status of the demolition at Reliable Steel, and when the company will be ready for a site inspection.

Ecology did not order the demolition, however, Ecology, the city of Olympia, and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) were all involved in the planning of the work. Permits for it were issued by the city and DFW.

Cookson promptly responded to Teel, saying, in part, "We are behind schedule...The wood stacked around the south end of the site has been sold and is being taken off site in increments."

In an email yesterday that appears to be prompted by this reporter's inquiry about the property, Teel again asks Cookson for a site update.

Through email, Cookson responded today to Teel:

"The party that purchased the wood is moving quickly now to remove all from the premises. Everything is down that was contracted to be demolished but cleanup appeared to be at a stand-still. I am now seeing some cleanup moving forward...."

A call from this reporter to Cookson requesting more information late this afternoon was not returned.

For more information about the Hardel Mutual Plywood draft cleanup action plan and to comment, contact Guy Barrett, Site Manager, Department of Ecology, SW Regional Office Toxics Cleanup Program, P.O. Box 47775, Olympia, WA 98504-7775, or phone, (360) 407-7115, or email,

Public involvement questions can be referred to Diana Smith, Public Involvement Coordinator, Department of Ecology, (360) 407-6255 or email,

For more information about the Reliable Steel site, contact Steve Teel, Washington State Department of Ecology, at (360) 407-6247 or or go to Ecology's toxics cleanup website at

Above: The Reliable Steel site, now with a couple buildings removed, daylights a stormwater pipe. Water flows freely between pipes. "I don't know what feeds that pipe - probably stormwater up the hill," says Steve Teel, state Department of Ecology site manager for Reliable Steel. Teel, a hydrogeologist, says the water there has been sampled and copper showed up, but the source was likely from the stormwater runoff. "Other than that, it was pretty clean," says Teel.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Our Stories Are Our Power: Businesswoman Kelly Cavenah

Above: Local businesswoman Kelly Cavenah outside her office building on Capitol Way today.

Our Stories Are Our Power: Businesswoman Kelly Cavenah

by Janine Unsoeld

At a recent strategy meeting in Olympia, Washington United for Marriage advocates urged local supporters to gather pledges for the approval of Referendum 74. The pledge card asks for contact information, and is just one way supporters seek to identify potential allies, volunteers, campaign donors and establish connections in our community.

“We have been able to defeat every attack on our rights and we’ll beat this too!” exclaimed Anna Schlect, co-chair of Capital City Pride and local gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender (GLBT) rights leader. “But it’s going to take work….We’ll have fun, build close relationships, and plan on winning,” she said.

The Washington United for Marriage campaign is supported by several organizations, including Equal Rights Washington, the Human Rights Campaign, the Service Employees International Union, the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood Northwest, Legal Voice, and UFCW21, a union composed of grocery, retail and health workers.

Referendum supporters are mobilizing throughout the state, city by city, through door to door canvassing, phonebanking, community education, endorsements and fundraising. Locally, Referendum 74 supporters plan on being visible at community events such as Capital City Pride in June, and Lakefair in July.

Opponents to the marriage equality legislation signed in February by Governor Christine Gregoire were able to start collecting signatures against Referendum 74 on March 13. They will need 120,577 signatures, which they’ll likely reach soon. They have until June 6 to qualify for the ballot and are expected to deliver those signatures by the first week of June.

If the referendum passes in November, the first day gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender (GLBT) persons can be legally married in Washington would be in December.

Kelly Cavenah, and her partner Kim Vandewater, are anxiously awaiting that day to make their upcoming September wedding legal in the eyes of the state.

“Kim and I met about seven years ago, when I was 26, struggling with my identity in Seattle. Kim had just come out and we fell in love. It wasn’t the right time for us. I was out to my friends but not my mother and brother. It wasn’t the right time,” explained Cavenah.

“In 2007 my mom and I decided to move to Olympia to start a business. It was important to share with her who I am. I was so nervous about telling her – I was surprised about her support! Now we are active supporters in the GLBT community.”

“So, about two years ago, Kim and I reconnected. The love never left. It grew and it was our time to get together. I’m so proud and happy to say that in January she asked me for her hand in marriage. We’ll be married in the fall. So, like any relationship, we have our ups and downs and struggles, but we’re partners....”

Cavenah owns Home Instead Senior Care, a private duty non-medical home care agency for seniors. A franchise organization, the agency helps people stay in their homes for as long as possible by providing assistance such as companionship, meal preparation, light housekeeping and errands. Duties also include personal care such as bathing, toileting and grooming.

“I have a staff of over 50 employees - I pay Labor and Industries, business and occupation taxes, and all state, local, and federal taxes. Our staff provides sustainability to the community – we work hard to provide quality services for our seniors.” Cavenah currently employs six staff members in her cramped Olympia downtown office and 50 caregivers who provide service to 65 clients.

Above: Kelly Cavanah, left, confers about a client with her Home Instead Senior Care office manager Jaime Robinson.

As past chair of the South Sound Alzheimer’s Council and previous board member of the Senior Action Network, Cavenah strives to educate the community about the senior community and their needs.

Cavenah is committed to helping GLBT elders in the South Sound community and helped co-found SAGE-Olympia. SAGE-Olympia, which she currently co-chairs with Anna Schlecht, is a multi-faceted gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender eldercare project for Thurston County. SAGE-Olympia’s mission is to promote the wellness of GLBT elders in the area with a range of referrals, services and social activities.

Cavenah continues with her story, saying she and Kim just bought a house in Lacey.

“As homeowners, we take weekend trips to Home Depot and Lowe’s, we pay our property taxes, which helps support local schools. So, I’m not that different from my mom…or any other average American. We’re a lot more similar than not.”

“And I’m a registered voter,” she adds for emphasis.

Bottom line, Kelly says, “I’m a dedicated partner and daughter…my point is, please don’t treat us as second class citizens….”

Her mother Bertha adds, “You never lose by loving. You always lose by holding back.”

For more information about the Washington United for Marriage campaign, go to or on Twitter: @WA4Marriage or on Facebook,

For more information on local Referendum 74 organizing meetings or to collect pledge cards, contact Anna Schlect at

For more information about Home Instead Senior Care, go to or contact Jaime Robinson, Office Manager, at 570-0049. The office is located in the Evergreen Plaza Building at 711 Capitol Way South, Suite 707, Olympia.

For more information about SAGE-Olympia, go to The next SAGE-Olympia meeting is in May. Monthly meetings are open to the public.

Full Disclosure/FYI: Janine Unsoeld is a caregiver for seniors by profession and has not worked for Home Instead Senior Care, nor does she necessarily endorse the agency.

“Our Stories Are Our Power” is a periodic series of GLBTQ related stories by Janine Unsoeld at Little Hollywood,

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Olympia Local Foods Receives Grant To Fulfill Dream

Above: Tom Husmann, center, owner of Olympia Local Foods, accepts a mock check this morning from Carlotta Donisi and Mario Villanueva, both with the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development program.

Olympia Local Foods Receives Grant To Fulfill Dream

By Janine Unsoeld

Business owner Tom Husmann of Olympia Local Foods held a celebratory grand opening event this morning to acknowledge his receipt of a $300,000 “value added producer” grant from the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development Program. The program helps agriculture producers increase use of their products.

Representatives of that agency, as well as several others who assisted Husmann with receiving the grant, were on hand to congratulate him and speak to the niche he and his wife Celia are filling in helping local farmers find new markets for their products.

“It was a pleasure to work with Tom on this grant opportunity made available through USDA. Accessing available grant programs is a function of matching goals with the purposes and the rules of potential grants. In Tom’s case, we helped him match his intentions - and his grand vision - with our grant,” said Diane Gasaway, executive director of the Northwest Cooperative Development Center (NWCDC).

The NWCDC became involved because of Husmann’s purpose to benefit numerous small growers and producers through his business, including a shared kitchen cooperative venture which is still in the initial planning stages.

“I’m sure Tom would agree there were moments of frustration while writing this grant, but his motivation to make his business move forward helped keep us focused, and promises to benefit not only his pastured raised poultry business, but the small producer community in Thurston County. He’s very good at keeping his eyes on the prize,” said Gasaway.

Husmann thanked those involved in helping his business receive the grant, and described the partnerships created throughout the process. In 2008 he and his wife bought a farm outside Chehalis with the dream of producing quality food. He said the process brought up a lot of questions, but he took a scientific approach, and created a website as a virtual farmstand to find out what local products were available and what people were willing to pay.

He also discovered that poultry was an underserved niche in the area. “Now we know who the customers are, what they’ll pay, and how we’ll get it to them. Without the assistance of the rural development program, we wouldn’t have realized our dream, heap the reward of a sustainable farm, and raise our family the way we want to,” said Husmann.

The mock check presented to Husmann is made out to Tachira, Inc. Tachira, Husmann said, stands for Tom And Celia Husmann Inspiration for Rural Agriculture.

Above: Zena Edwards, left, Washington State University's Thurston County interim director of food safety and nutrition, speaks with Lisa Smith, executive director for Enterprise for Equity today at Olympia Local Foods.

Husmann is a 2010 graduate of the Enterprise for Equity program. Lisa Smith, executive director for the program, attended the event, and was enthusiastic in her praise for Husmann.

“When we have funding, a vision, and connections, you have a way of providing the synergy to move things forward,” she said.

Husmann has worked with as many as 50 farmers and local businesses in the last year. To match available products with customers, farmers log onto the Olympia Local Food website and post their available inventory. Customers then place their orders online from Thursday evening through Tuesday morning at Tickets are sent to the farmers letting them know what sold, and the farmers deliver the product to the store. Customer pickup is on Thursdays between 3:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.

Available products at Olympia Local Foods vary week to week, but generally include meats, dairy, deli items, eggs, mushrooms, seafood, and herbs. Produce is currently unavailable. Husmann says, “It’s hard in the winter to come up with fresh produce, and we didn’t want people to be greeted with produce from California at our grand opening, but we will be carrying it.”

Olympia Local Foods is located in a sunny, spacious building at 2010 Black Lake Boulevard, Building B, in West Olympia. Near the Black Lake/Cooper Point Road intersection, take the driveway tucked between Sushi House restaurant and a Texaco gas station to find the building.

Starting April 16, the store will be open for regular walk-in retail service 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. everyday except Saturday.

Above: Local businesses show a sense of humor...this hot sauce at Olympia Local Foods was...cluckin' hot!