Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Olympia Wedding Venue Violated Temporary Use Permit

Above: For a wedding scheduled on August 1, 2015, scores of guests parked at Marathon Park and along Deschutes Parkway, walked across the road through oncoming traffic, then crossed the railroad tracks, seen here, to reach their destination at the Grande Terrace. 

By Janine Gates

Grande Terrace on Capitol Lake, a downtown Olympia wedding and event venue, violated the conditions of a temporary use permit issued to operator Bart Zier last August, says the City of Olympia.

The city issued the permit to the properties at 915 and 1007 Deschutes Parkway SE in order to authorize five weddings scheduled for August 15, 16, 22, 29, and September 12.

According to the city’s letter which was sent to Zier yesterday, city staff inspected the property for compliance with the conditions of approval on the Friday before each event.  On each visit, staff confirmed that for each event, the same conditions of approval were violated.

The letter details several violations including the use of Burlington Northern Railroad property during the events, hours of operation and noise violations, lack of provisions for accessible parking, and a lack of written documentation of a current food handler’s permit, conformance of onsite septic requirements, and adequate restroom facilities.

The city was also provided a courtesy copy of a September notice of violation from the Thurston County Public Health Department outlining violations of Thurston County sanitary codes.

In addition, on July 30, work occurred within a known archaeological site that was not reported to the state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (DAHP), tribes, and other interested parties. That matter is currently under investigation by DAHP.

“This pattern of violations…together with violations that occurred during the summer of 2014, unauthorized site improvements and construction of a concrete pad in support of a commercial use, unauthorized improvements on railroad property, disruption of the peace and welfare of surrounding residences, and threats to public health – will be given serious consideration by the City should you apply for permits in the future.

“While the City allowed events to take place in August and September out of consideration to the wedding parties and their families, this will not be the case in the future as there are no active approvals for such uses at this time. Be advised that the subject properties used for Grande Terrace are zoned for residential use and are not to be used for commercial purposes. Because you do not have a conditional use permit, any related activities such as marketing and scheduling events must cease immediately,” says the letter written by city senior planner Cari Hornbein.

Above: A staff member directed people and traffic over the railroad tracks and to the wedding site on August 1, 2015.

Prior to the permit issuance, Zier did not have a permit to operate, and continued to market the venue, give tours of the property to interested parties, sign contractual agreements, and accept thousands of dollars from unsuspecting brides and grooms and their families.

Some brides were notified by Little Hollywood in advance of their weddings and were able to get out of their agreements and receive full or partial refunds. One lucky wedding party was glad to switch their event to the Indian Summer Golf & Country Club on Yelm Highway. 

Other wedding parties weren’t so lucky, and were hustled at the last minute to Zier’s other venue, the Grand Holiday Ballroom, on 4th Avenue. 

Above: Scores of guests parked along Deschutes Parkway and nearby at Marathon Park for a wedding on August 1, 2015 at the Grande Terrace venue. As parking nearest the venue grew scarce, some guests parked, crossed over Deschutes Parkway from cars seen here at the top of this picture, and walked the length of the railroad tracks to reach the main road up to the site. 

Video by Little Hollywood also shows a driver doing a U turn on the railroad tracks and resting there for some time after being told by a staff person stationed near the road that there was no more room to park closer to the venue.

For past articles about the Grande Terrace on Capitol Lake, including pictures and stories by upset brides, go to Little Hollywood, www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com and type key words into the search engine.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Going…Going…Gone! The Olympia Brewery Sold to….

Above: The auction sign as seen at the “modern” brewery on Sunday.

Auction Time for “Modern” Tumwater Brewery

By Janine Gates

It’s a diamond in the rough and the outcome of Tumwater’s land use future is in someone’s hands.

The sprawling “modern” brewery is hard to miss from any direction and it’s now up for auction. Dull beige buildings with broken windows boarded up with plywood, the vacant eyesore is taking up vast acreage in the heart of the City of Tumwater.

Four separate parcels are for sale with three buildings on 7.2 acres with frontage on the Deschutes River, two industrial warehouses on 22.2 acres with rail service via Union Pacific and two vacant lots are zoned multi family. The buildings were built anywhere from 1930 – 1973.

Over 300 brewing tanks are located throughout the buildings. The main brew house contains the former brewing operation, fermenting vat storage and cellaring. In the six story “M” Cellar building, each floor is devoted to large stainless fermenting vessel storage with the majority of vats still in place.

Real estate agent Troy Dana has been marketing the location for years as a possible mixed-use combination of brew pub, contract brewery, winery, distillery, office, restaurant, and retail space.

The auction will be held Wednesday, October 28, 11:00 a.m., at the Red Lion Hotel, 2300 Evergreen Park Drive, Olympia.

Above: The back of the RST Cellars building on Custer Way as seen from Tumwater Falls Park last week. The fence delineates the park and the thin, one lane road down to the Old Brewhouse. The widening of this road, required to meet current standards for transportation and emergency vehicles, would result in the loss of trees along Tumwater Falls Park.

Public Comment for Draft Old Brewery Plans Due October 30

Meanwhile, the historic Old Brewhouse is not readily visible unless you’re on top of it. It too is old and vacant except for occasional trespassers and sits like a medieval castle, deteriorating on the shores of the ever changing Deschutes River. 

Visible from Tumwater Historical Park, peek-a-boo views of the six story tower can also be seen from Tumwater Falls Park. 

Owner George Heidgerken has made public his desire to fully develop this property to the maximum intensity possible. 

The Old Brewhouse would never be allowed to be built at its current location today, according to current shoreline management and environmental regulations, and yet two out of three draft planning options presented by the City of Tumwater are to explore significant mixed-use redevelopment of the area.  

A deadline for the public to comment on these scenarios is October 30.

The first scenario, a “do-nothing” approach, assumes the development would occur within the site consistent with existing zoning and development regulations. Any development that occurred would require the repair of existing structures.

The second scenario, one that the Old Brewhouse Foundation prefers, is still an impressively built out design, and includes a parking garage for 600 vehicles.

The third scenario, preferred by property owner George Heidgerken, and his development company, Falls Development LLC, is a full build out.

At an informational public meeting last week hosted by Tumwater city staff, former Olympia Mayor Bob Jacobs suggested a fourth scenario, which is not in the city’s plan: move the historic, six story Old Brewery tower, brick by brick, and rebuild it in a different location altogether.

“All three of the alternatives they're considering all seem impractical to me…Another possibility would be where the newer brewery stands now. That building could be torn down and replaced by new development with the old tower as a centerpiece and visibility from the freeway would be excellent…other possibilities exist too, of course.  A public process would produce lots of ideas for evaluation. Even the airport area or the city center area,” says Jacobs.

City of Tumwater's permit manager Chris Carlson said that in the 25 years he has been at the city, he has never heard that approach suggested. As for the end-of-the-year limitations for the state Department of Ecology grant that funded the city’s planning action, Carlson said he did not think there was time to assess such a possibility.

Above: Tumwater Falls Park, owned by the Olympia-Tumwater Foundation. This view could change dramatically if a planned action proposal by the City of Tumwater is approved.

At the time the Old Brewery was built in 1906, Model T cars were popular. Today, the creation of any access to a proposed parking garage by the Old Brewhouse would require that the narrow road, currently about 15 feet wide, be widened to 32 to 36 feet. 

In a conceptual cross-section of the proposed road leading down to the old brewhouse, a sidewalk is also shown as being a minimum of six foot wide, but the preferred width is eight feet wide, with four foot planters on the other side, said city staff.  This will require a lot of trees to be cut down.

Nancy Partlow, a Tumwater resident, also attended the city meeting, and sees problems with many aspects of the scenarios presented by the city.

“For years I've heard Tumwater city staff and elected officials say that the Old Brewhouse would never be allowed to be built at its current location today due to the environmentally sensitive nature of the site....

The combined footprints for a parking garage, residential units, and access roads to the Old Brewhouse site constitute an excessive amount of forest destruction in Tumwater's most environmentally and historically important area.
“The access road to the Old Brewhouse appears to be nearly a third of a mile long.  For about two thirds of that length, the road parallels the Deschutes River and the Tumwater Falls Park fence line. Some of the trees seen above the river from inside the park aren't actually in the park itself, but on the Falls Development LLC property next door.  A great number of those would have to be cut down to widen the road.

“An additional access road down to the proposed parking garage is being suggested from the north end of a parking lot owned by the Olympia-Tumwater Foundation. This road would also be built through a forested area, and next to the Union Pacific rail line, says Partlow.

Above: Another required access road for a proposed parking garage in the area of the Schmidt House would be located here, next to the Union Pacific railway. The parking lot drops off steeply to the railway and through the trees, the Old Brewery. 

The Olympia Tumwater Foundation has almost no comment on the Tumwater’s brewery planned action draft environmental impact statement or Heidgerken’s plans, says the Foundation’s executive director John Freedman.

The Foundation owns Tumwater Falls Park and the Schmidt House and related property. Heidgerken will need the Foundation’s cooperation to access a proposed residential area and parking garage through the Schmidt House’s back parking lot.

A heavily treed, steep ravine and the Union Pacific Railway is in that area of the property.  No conversations about access have taken place between the Foundation and Heidgerken’s company, said Freedman.

“We have not seen anything concrete that requires action on our part. We have no objections to any progress…we’d like to see it historically developed,” he said on Friday. 

As the Foundation expands its history program, Freedman has said that they would want to become involved in the proposed craft brewing and distilling center project in the area of the Old Brewhouse.

To comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Tumwater Brewery Planned Action, contact Chris Carlson, Permit Manager, City of Tumwater, 555 Israel Road SW, Tumwater, Washington 98501, ccarlson@ci.tumwater.wa.us, (360) 754-4180.

For more information about Tumwater, brewery district planning, the Old Brewery, George Heidgerken, go to www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com and type in key words into the search button.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Old Brewhouse Foundation Provides Solutions To Save History

Above: Structural repair and rehabilitation is needed in order to meet current building standards and prevent further deterioration and damage to Tumwater’s historic Brewhouse tower. The six story tower, as seen this week from Tumwater Falls Park, is 10,000 square feet in size with the entire facility encompassing 100,000 square feet. 

By Janine Gates

The Old Brewhouse Foundation was formed in 2008 as a nonprofit organization to bring together groups and individuals to develop a plan for the acquisition, restoration, and public use of the Old Brewhouse area.  

Their next meeting, which is open to the public, is Saturday, October 17, 10:30 a.m., at the Tumwater Timberland Library.

In August, the Foundation briefed the Tumwater city council at a work session on the group’s efforts. Among other suggestions, the group is proposing that the public purchase the entire brewhouse facility through a 20-year bond of $100 million over 20 years funded by a property tax. 

The Brewhouse tower and surrounding buildings are still viable structures, but need new roofs, seismic retrofits, and additional improvements.  At the very minimum, weather-proofing the buildings is necessary to include adding new roofs and windows to preserve the structures.

According to the Foundation, the initial brewhouse restoration is estimated to be $5.6 million, which reflects the cost of acquisition. The likely acquisition cost is a rough estimate of $2.5 million and includes some assumptions for project management costs.

No action is possible as long as the current owner, George Heidgerken, owns the building. Very little activity has occurred since his acquisition of the property about five years ago. The building's deterioration is reaching a point of no return, says the Foundation.

It is not known if George Heidgerken or his company, Falls Development, LLC, is interested in selling the property.

Above: The Old Brewhouse Tower and related buildings are in serious disrepair. Photo taken October 18, 2014.

Little Hollywood recently asked Rob Kirkwood, president of the Old Brewhouse Foundation, for specifics on the group's suggestions and interest in the property.

Kirkwood: George Heidgerken is still the owner of the Old Brewhouse property. The Old Brewhouse Foundation is asking the county to place the creation of a special purpose district and a property tax of about $0.35/$1,000 on the ballot.  The mission of the special purpose district would be to purchase and rehab the 1906 brewery complex into museums, art galleries, public gathering spaces and meeting rooms, large and small, over a period of many years.  We will ask Heidgerken about selling the property when we have a better idea about the county commissioners willingness to place the issue on the ballot.

Little Hollywood:  Please describe the group's idea of "rehab." Due to the condition, would the tower building be deconstructed and reassembled on site or in a different spot to accommodate this vision? It seems that everything you've described is similar to Heidgerken's vision. It seems there are multiple problems with that vision because of the location. Please explain.

Kirkwood: I agree there are multiple problems - all great community projects have challenges. Public recognition of the opportunities and challenges will create a facility that the community can be proud of.  The tower has been assessed by a structural engineer as actually in pretty good shape despite what you see.  It is built of concrete and brick, both materials that weather better than the wood roofs did.  It will require some major repairs and seismic retrofitting, but disassembly won't be necessary. Our project will be of a smaller scale than what Heidgerken is proposing. 

The Planned Action EIS that Tumwater prepared proposed three different levels of activity: 1. Do nothing; 2. Development within the existing foot print; 3. Expanding the foot print.

Heidgerken's published plans are at a strong Level 3 because the additional space is needed to create the synergy of commercial activities and support the private development of utilities, access and parking expenses. 

Our plan is closer to Level 2 - we would stay within the existing foot print other than building some level of parking facilities. Using public financing allows the triple bottom line of economic, social and environmental success. The atmosphere would be more like a college campus instead of the traffic required for commercial activity.  The site does present challenges, but also some incredible opportunities. Our outreach at community events keeps finding people that are excited about museums, art studios, the brewery distillery institute and large public gathering spaces. 

According to the Foundation, and the meeting minutes of the August 25 work session, the first element of their plan would cost approximately $45 million in investment that could be converted to a countywide levy at $.30 to $.35 per $1,000 of assessed valuation costing the average homeowner of a $250,000 home approximately $75 to $87.50 annually.

During information sharing at public events, the response has been positive with most people conveying a willingness to pay the levy, says the Foundation.

Cynthia Stewart, another Foundation member, reviewed the possibility for the councilmembers of a bond issue of $100 million for inclusion of the large warehouse to be paid at six million for the next 20 years. The bond presents some challenges and includes different options as there is no available special district option that fits this specific scenario.

One of the options is a Park and Recreation Service Area (PRSA). Categories allowed by state statute are broad and include park, recreation facilities, and senior centers. Under that scenario through a countywide financing option, it would require all Thurston County cities to agree to participate and it would require a separate vote by the public. It would require a super majority, 60 percent, to pass.

A second option is under the Cultural Access Program recently passed by the Legislature. The option allows a 1/10th of one percent increase in sales tax countywide. The option wouldn’t generate as much money. The PRSA statute is broad and could entail the entire complex to include trails. The option is more indirect as it focuses on culture and population.

Stewart said the county commissioners have expressed interest in the proposal.

Above: The interior of the long building on the property that was built as a pulp mill could be used for high school reunions, weddings, and other special events, says the Foundation. The facility is 21,000 square feet and is 300 feet long and 70 feet wide.

For more stories and pictures of the Old Brewhouse, go to Little Hollywood, www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com, and type key words into the search button.

Public Comment Sought for Tumwater Brewery Planned Action

Above: The Old Brewhouse property in Tumwater is located within the shoreline environment of the Deschutes River and encompasses critical areas such as steep slopes and wetlands. The City of Tumwater is seeking public comment on a draft environmental impact statement which addresses three proposed planned actions.

By Janine Gates

A handful of community members were present at an informal public meeting Wednesday evening at Tumwater City Hall to discuss a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for three land use scenarios that include the Old Brewhouse.

The City of Tumwater is seeking public comment on the document which addresses three proposed planned actions for the area. The public review and comment period for the document ends at 5:00 p.m., Friday, October 30.

Tumwater Mayor Pete Kmet opened the meeting for information gathering and questions.

“The (Old) Brewery is a very important part of Tumwater. Historically, it’s in the heart of Tumwater….We’ve been doing a lot to position this property for future development, updating our zoning and comprehensive plan related to the property and the neighborhoods around the brewery, and taking a comprehensive look at the transportation requirements and improvements that will need to occur along with any future redevelopment.

“….To make historic preservation work, it has to be tied to a feasible development for the property….The issue is trying to figure it out….” said Kmet. 

The specific area of the EIS is a 32 acre piece of property bounded by Custer Way to the south, Deschutes River to the west, Capitol Lake to the north and the Union Pacific Railroad to the east.

The city doesn’t own the property - it is owned by George Heidgerken of Falls Development, LLC who purchased it about five years ago for $1.5 million. 

Heidgerken has yet to submit a formal proposal to the city but has presented the public with drawings of a massive mixed use development which includes a hotel, restaurants, residential units, and a 1,000 vehicle parking garage located directly behind the historic Schmidt House.

Above: The maximum build out development scenario proposed in the Tumwater Brewery Planned Action Draft Environmental Impact Statement. 

The EIS addresses the natural environment such as geology, wetlands and shorelines, and the built environment such as land use, transportation, historic, and cultural resources.

Community members asked questions about seismic retrofit of the buildings, floodplain areas, the trail system, transportation and access to and size of a proposed parking garage, stormwater collection and discharge, tree removal, the nearby Union Pacific Railroad, and more.

There are no specific projects formally submitted to the city, but three land use options have been identified, ranging from no action to a full build out for the site, the latter of which is the development vision of Heidgerken. 

Above: The RST Cellars building, left, on Custer Way in Tumwater is not considered historic and could be remodeled or demolished. In previous conversations with Little Hollywood, the current owner, George Heidgerken, has said he would start redeveloping this property first. Transportation improvements are needed in this area.

The EIS refers to two areas of the Brewery Planned Action Area: 1) the upper portion of the site where the RST Cellars building is located near the historic Schmidt House, and an existing parking lot already there, and 2) the lower portion of the site on which the historic brewhouse is located adjacent to the Deschutes River and Capitol Lake.

It is anticipated that the final EIS will be completed by the end of 2015 although City of Tumwater councilmembers do not necessarily need to choose and adopt a preferred land use alternative by the end of the year.

To provide comment on the EIS or for more information, contact the City of Tumwater, Community Development Department, 555 Israel Road SW,  Tumwater, WA 98501 (360) 754-4180, or cdd@ci.tumwater.wa.us .

Jon Potter, project manager for Falls Development LLC attended the Wednesday night meeting, and said that the planned action process and outcome will give Falls Development, LLC certainty as they progress with their plans for the area.

For more information and photos about the Old Brewery and Brewery District Planning, go to Little Hollywood at www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com. Articles dated October 12, 2014, “Tumwater Seeks Public Comment on Old Brewery Proposed Development,” and October 16, 2014, “Developer Heidgerken Shares Old Brewery Vision,” are just two stories. Many more related articles can be found by using the search button on this blog and typing in key words.

Tumwater's Old Brewery Stop Work Order Update

Above: Aerial of the Old Brewhouse property in Tumwater, after cleanup and straw waddle remediation. Property owner George Heidgerken of Falls Development LLC received a stop work order last year from the City of Tumwater for unpermitted construction activities in this area. Heidgerken recently received a permit to fill a hole, visible here in the southeast corner of the property, upper right, where the road curves. Photo taken on December 18, 2014.

By Janine Gates

After a stop work order was placed by the City of Tumwater at the historic Old Brewery exactly a year ago this month, the property may soon see some progress.

Chris Carlson, permit manager for the City of Tumwater, said that a permit was issued last month to Falls Development LLC on September 17 and the city approved a plan for the owner to fill a hole with 644 cubic yards of fill at the southeast corner of the Brewhouse building.

The property is owned by George Heidgerken of Falls Development LLC.

Construction equipment and maintenance debris was witnessed by Little Hollywood around the Old Brewhouse building on October 8 and October 18, 2014, indicating a dramatic difference in road construction and water diversion efforts between those two dates.

Multiple areas with black tubing were seen in place, diverting water which was streaming from the nearby hillside. The illegal, unpermitted activities were reported by Little Hollywood to authorities and a stop work order was placed on the property on October 28.

The city said this week that filling the hole is necessary to install groundwater monitoring wells, required as a part of soil remediation work associated with a paint shop that was formerly in that area. Groundwater monitoring results need to be reported to the state Department of Ecology.

Jon Potter, project manager for Falls Development LLC, said he and city representatives had a pre-construction meeting on site late last week and are ready to get started as soon as possible. He said he is working with engineering companies MC Squared Inc. and Associated Environmental Group, both of Olympia.

As for mitigation for the damage done last year to wetlands on the property, the city is waiting for the owner to submit a Joint Aquatic Resource Permits application and a SEPA checklist, which should be in shortly, said Carlson yesterday.

For more information and photos about the stop work order and the Old Brewery in Tumwater, go to Little Hollywood, www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com and type key words into the search button.

Above: The Old Brewhouse tower, built in 1906, as seen this week in Tumwater.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Black Alliance of Thurston County Has Message

Above: Karen Johnson of Olympia is spearheading the Black Alliance of Thurston County.

by Janine Unsoeld

Many individuals and community groups are working harder than ever on issues and conversations about race, racism and police issues ever since the Olympia police officer involved shooting of two young African American men on May 21.

An Olympia Police Department shooting review board issued its conclusion earlier this week that no policies had been violated by Officer Ryan Donald during the incident. Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts reviewed the board’s decision and concurred.

The Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office is pursuing assault charges against the men, Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin. Subject to change, their pre-trial date is scheduled for November 4.

Along with over 30 other community members, Dr. Karen Johnson, Olympia, spoke out in front of the Olympia city council about the shooting on May 26.

“I was invited to come to that meeting to speak about these issues from my perspective. So, I accepted the invitation. I went to listen to what others had to say and spoke my truth.”

Johnson read the poem, “The Cold Within,” by James Patrick Kinney, and said that she fundamentally believed that she was there to speak because of unconscious bias on the part of Officer Donald. She referred to a book published in 1952 called, “The Invisible Man,” by Ralph Ellison, which talks about the phenomena of not seeing or hearing people of color.

“….We, in this city, have an opportunity…. In the words of a book by Dr. King, ‘Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?’ I would encourage us to go ‘community.’ Build a place where people are heard, valued, and respected, and then it doesn’t matter what the color of our skin and we can really live out the content of our character,” concluded Johnson.

Later, she and a group of African American community leaders formed the Black Alliance of Thurston County. 

The Black Alliance of Thurston County has met with Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts several times since the officer involved shooting and issued a press release on September 2 calling Thurston County Jon Tunheim’s decision to not charge the police officer as “lawful, yet unjust.” 

Drawn by her faith to a life of service, Johnson is also president of the Olympia Capital Centennial Rotary Club, whose vision is to reduce homelessness in Thurston County by 50 percent by 2020 and to put a book in every child’s hand.

The Rotary motto is to put service above self and Johnson lives out that motto. The Rotary group has given substantial financial support to the Family Support Center, SafePlace, South Sound Reading, Madison Elementary School for after school enrichment programs, and more.

For her day job, Johnson is employed as a strategic initiatives executive for Washington State’s Department of Social and Health Services.

“Chief Roberts asked me, probably towards the end of July, to set up a meeting with Black leaders of Olympia and Thurston County to discuss plans for holding community conversations about race and racism, more than just within the police department. In that meeting, we also talked about addressing implicit and explicit bias and the use of body and dash cameras,” she said.

“Fundamentally, while body and dash cameras will be helpful to record excessive use of force, cameras alone won’t solve the problem.  Case in point, in July 2015, we watched Eric Garner get beaten to death…and the Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict the officer. Recordings alone won’t stop the behavior. We have to deal with the unconscious bias that automatically and unconsciously results in the merciless beating, unjustifiably shooting and killing of Black and brown boys and men at a higher rate than white boys and men.”

Asked whether or not the Black Alliance is commenting on Officer Donald’s actions, Johnson said the Black Alliance officially informed Chief Roberts that the comment he made after the shooting, that race was not an issue, was not helpful.

“Since our subconscious controls 96% - 98% of our perceptions and our behaviors, and since we live in a country where it was once lawful to enslave, lynch, beat and kill Black men simply because they are Black, we can only wonder whether Officer Donald’s behaviors and perceptions would have been the same if he had encountered two young white males. It is time to have the public dialogue since this behavior has been occurring across the nation,” Johnson explained.

“We’ve had several conversations with Chief Roberts about addressing implicit and explicit bias among the police officers….We envision police officers and community members participating in fair and implicit bias training. We will use the information we learn from these trainings to frame community conversations around unconscious bias, institutional and structural racism and concrete steps police officers can take to systematically ensure that their behavior results in Black and brown people receiving ‘guardian’ instead of ‘warrior’ treatment from police officers, ” said Johnson.

In a May press conference, the Thurston County Prosecutor Attorney Jon Tunheim stated that police officers cannot be prosecuted for excessive use of force under Washington State law when they operate in “good faith and without malice.”
In a statement issued on September 2, the Black Alliance called the standard imprecise, immeasurable, and impossible to prove. 

Johnson said the Black Alliance will work to change the state law.

“Now is the time to set precise and provable legal standards when dealing with human life.  It’s time for us to speak up and step up to change this law and other laws, statutes, policies, procedures and practices until it becomes self-evident…to all…that all people are indeed created equal and endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights: the opportunity to live an abundant life, liberty without oppression, and the opportunity to pursue happiness.”

Asked about the internal review process by the Olympia police department, Johnson said, “We plan to question the whole police review process, especially as it relates to deadly force. The recent internal review process led by the Olympia police department basically requires law enforcement officers to sit in judgment of each other.  This does not provide the public with true police accountability.  It is time to change the relevant laws, rules, and civil service procedures governing police conduct.  It is time for independent oversight and review of police conduct in cases where excessive use of force may have occurred.”

Little Hollywood noted that Johnson has not attended any meeting of the city’s Ad Hoc Committee on Policing and Community Relations.

“There are many voices and many groups addressing the issues they see as important. The Ad Hoc group has its charge and we have defined our charge. We will connect with them when it makes sense to do so,” she said.

“Soon, we will hold a community meeting to talk about why we formed, what we are about, what we seek to achieve, and invite others to partner with us to take action and be a catalyst for change. The May 21 incident may have been the catalyst that brought the Black Alliance of Thurston County together…but it is not what keeps us together.

“….Just look at any statistic…educational achievement, suspension and discipline rates, incarceration rates, home ownership, employment, health disparities, board rooms…Black people are either disproportionately, adversely impacted or severely underrepresented or non-existent. So, although all lives do indeed matter, this is a situation that we believe is our responsibility is to change…to be that village that helps Black people achieve optimal excellence and prosperity.

“Now is the time and Thurston County is the place…We’re not doing this work for show, for the press, or for personal ambition. We’re doing this work because our foremothers and forefathers have shed too much blood to get us where we are…We must take up the mantle for this generation and the generations yet unborn,” said Johnson.

As for next steps, Johnson said, “We’ll be meeting with Chief Roberts to discuss the internal review process, to define the parameters of a deadly use of force citizen advisory board, connect with the facilitator who will be conducting the fair and impartial trainings and to schedule our police and community forums around race and racism.”

“It is time for the people of Thurston County to help the Olympia police department achieve its mission: to consistently earn the trust of the residents and visitors to our community. The department will need ongoing investments in training, technology, and solid community partnerships. The Black Alliance of Thurston County stands ready to support them in this important work.”

The Black Alliance of Thurston County is committed to building trust and promoting fair and impartial policing in Thurston County.  They support courageous and respectful conversations between communities and law enforcement about race, ethnicity, and income status.  

For more information about the Black Alliance of Thurston County, email Dr. Karen Johnson at BlackAllianceThurstonCounty@gmail.com

Above: Karen Johnson carries the United States Constitution with her at all times. Here, she is reading the 13th Amendment.

The Cold Within by James Patrick Kinney

Six humans trapped by happenstance
In bleak and bitter cold.
Each one possessed a stick of wood
Or so the story’s told.

Their dying fire in need of logs
The first man held his back
For of the faces round the fire
He noticed one was black.

The next man looking ‘cross the way
Saw one not of his church
And couldn’t bring himself to give
The fire his stick of birch.

The third one sat in tattered clothes.
He gave his coat a hitch.
Why should his log be put to use
To warm the idle rich?

The rich man just sat back and thought
Of the wealth he had in store
And how to keep what he had earned
From the lazy shiftless poor.

The black man’s face bespoke revenge
As the fire passed from his sight.
For all he saw in his stick of wood
Was a chance to spite the white.

The last man of this forlorn group
Did nought except for gain.
Giving only to those who gave
Was how he played the game.

Their logs held tight in death’s still hands
Was proof of human sin.
They didn’t die from the cold without

They died from the cold within.