Friday, February 18, 2011

Olympia GLBT Eldercare Project Launched

Olympia GLBT ElderCare Project Launched

By Janine Gates

When Anna Schlect and her partner needed to take care of her partner’s mother, the issue of aging and GLBT elder issues were brought home to her. She decided that Olympia needed to recognize this issue and help GLBT elders.

As a result, the Olympia Eldercare Project is a pending “SAGE” affiliate. Founded in 1978, SAGE is the world’s oldest and largest non-profit agency addressing the needs of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) elders with about 15 affiliates nationwide.

The next meeting of the emerging local group is Tuesday, February 22, 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. in the Evergreen Plaza Building, 711 Capital Way South, second floor conference room, Olympia. An hour-long film “Gen Silent” will be shown during the meeting.

The group’s strategy is to tap local experts in eldercare who are GLBT and/or GLBT friendly and will work on education, fundraising, networking and outreach, referrals, research, and ultimately, explore local housing options.

Speaking to those gathered at the recent launching of the group, Schlect described the need for this new organization:

“Success in gay rights will be when our friends and neighbors recognize our daily presence throughout the community, including our work in senior services and housing. We have something important to offer, because across the board, senior service organizations are facing an "elder boom" that will overwhelm the existing network of services.

“As a society, we need to develop new models of care and housing for our elders. That's the value that GLBT organizations bring - if necessity is the mother of all invention, then discrimination is the Auntie of a heck of a lot of innovation. GLBT people know how to build resources out of adversity. We did it with HIV/AIDS, and we did it to build equal rights laws across the nation and employment policies in private sector. Working together, we can build the new models of care, housing and building community. That is what we in SAGE are passionately interested in doing,” says Schlect.

The key issue is education for local providers about GLBT issues, one-on-one mentoring of elders, and uncovering natural allies the GLBT community may not even know about.

“Where can I live? Where can my friend live? What are my resources? Those are our immediate goals,” says Schlect.

Beth Johnson and her partner are ambassadors of the group, serving as part of the networking committee.

“What are we going to do when we need care?” Johnson says, about her and her partner. About the group, Johnson says, “We don’t want to create a parallel network - our needs are the same as anyone else’s.”

The group hopes to be a clearinghouse for information and walk family members through the eldercare process. Group members are currently researching what people’s local experiences are - not to create a "bad" list - but to see where more work is needed to build relationships.

Partnering With Other Local Organizations

Kelly Cavenah is the local franchise owner and operater of Home Instead, a private care giving registry. She met Schlect at a Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) meeting about four or five years ago. They started talking about an eldercare project and held a panel discussion last year to talk about elder needs.

“There are people who are GLBT friendly and others who have not yet looked into their hearts about it yet,” says Kelly Cavanah.

Senior Services of South Sound is also a community partner with the group. Patrick Coolen, deputy director of Senior Services says, “We look for this to be a growing program in the community. Senior Services has always been committed to offering service to seniors without discrimination.”

Dawn Gilliam, Inclusion Coordinator at Senior Services, has a GLBT clientele. She is responsible for support services, community inclusion and activities for the 26 seniors currently in the program, which is partially funded with a grant from the Thurston County Developmental Disability.

Gilliam says, “I love my job - it’s the best job in the world because I get to help people - I do something meaningful every day.” Gilliam says she has worked really hard to get the lingo right so it’s not a label.

“It’s better to say, for example, a senior with a developmental disability rather than a developmentally disabled senior. The way we say things is important.”

Gilliam says one GLBT client of hers passed away recently. Openly gay and alone, Gilliam helped him get the dentistry care he needed prior to heart surgery and through a lot of red tape and paperwork. Not only that, she personally transported him to and from appointments and the hospital.

“He was one of those people who slipped through the cracks. Although he had been part of this community for years, he had no idea of the gay community. His life would have been so much different if he had had more support.”

About the GLBT Eldercare Project group, Gilliam says, “I’m excited this program has started. We need it so bad. It’s not easy to find the resources.”

Tony Sermonti, chair of Capital City Pride, recently presented Senior Services and Home Instead with awards, thanking them for their efforts in support of GLBT elders in the Thurston County area through programs and services.

Capital City Pride, an event that has grown to over 10,000 people, will be a two day festival this year, June 11-12.

“Gen Silent”

The unique demographics of GLBT elders make them highly vulnerable to slipping through the cracks. Social security and veterans make up the largest revenue stream for elders, and yet, due to discriminatory laws, many same-sex couples cannot draw upon their partner’s pensions and benefits. Members of the GLBT community also typically do not have children, and do not have a good relationship with their family of origin.

“Baby boomers now outnumber their children. Children get you to appointments and are your advocate. This is one way to look at it as a family issue. We need to accept and embrace youth, and continue to strengthen our relationship with GLBT youth,” said Schlect.

A growing number of films highlight senior issues, including “Gen Silent” by producer Stu Maddux. Released last year, the film follows five households as they face eldercare issues. The group played the powerful film trailer during a recent meeting.

“You just know when they don’t want you there,” says a GLBT elder in the film about a nursing home. The film features GLBT elders, some of whom have been out of the closet for years and are forced to go back into the closet when faced with the fate of entering an unwelcoming nursing home for care.

“We want this film to change hearts and minds…we need to treat all our elders with respect and dignity,” said Cavenah.

Schlect said it was a matter of discussion whether or not to extend the local organization’s reach beyond Thurston County.

“Our goal is to do what we do well. We can’t go beyond Thurston County right now, but we hope to in the future. Our philosophy is to slowly and methodically build relationships. My ultimate goal is to create GLBT friendly housing and have it serve as a model for how it can and should be across the county. We have to work smart and slow - we’re committed.” In New York, SAGE is responsible for creating hundreds of housing units for the GLBT community.

The group is looking for funding and is grateful that the Olympia Rainbow Center, a local 501 c3, gave the group a small start-up grant. Checks to support the group's efforts can be made out to the Olympia Rainbow Center and mailed to: Olympia Rainbow Center, PO Box 7221, Olympia, WA 98507-7221. Be sure to put "GLBT Eldercare Project" in the memo section of your check. Donations are tax-deductible.

For more information: Anna Schlect,, 943-7469 or Kelly Cavenah,, 570-0049.

Regarding parking for the February 22 meeting: The guest parking entrance is located on the south side of the building. Look for a red clearance beam. Park in an unreserved spot. If no spots are available, there is parking available along Capitol Way as well as behind the building. Do not park in a reserved spot or you will be towed.

Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE): 305 Seventh Avenue, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10001, (212) 741-2247 or

National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, a project of SAGE:

To view the film trailer for “Gen Silent,” go to:

Senior Services for South Sound: 222 Columbia St. NW, Olympia, Washington 98501, 586-6181 or

Olympia Rainbow Center:

Other upcoming local GLBT events:

Pride honors Stonewall Youth
Thursday, Feb 24, 5:30 p.m.,
UCAN Community Room/CoLab, 317 4th Ave. East, downtown Olympia
Free parking after 5 p.m. Light appetizers and refreshments

Please join us! As a part of Pride's 20th Anniversary series of community events, we honor Stonewall Youth as an integral part of our community and 20 years of partnership between Stonewall and Capital City Pride.

Pride Annual Sunday Brunch & Dessert Auction
Sunday, Feb 27, noon - 2 p.m.
Ramblin Jack's event room
520 4th Ave. East, downtown Olympia

Complimentary champagne & orange juice and a special menu from 'Jacks. This annual, casual and very fun event features desserts! Local celebrity auctioneer Carol Watson will emcee. Bring your friends! Win fabulous things! Support the 20th Anniversary of Capital City Pride! For more information, contact Anna Schlect at 943-7469.

There are lots of other Pride events coming up! Pride Idol shows take place the second Saturday of every month. So You Think You Can Drag is in March @ Jake's on 4th Ave. Go to for more information.

Editor's Note/Full Disclosure: Janine Gates is proud to be a GLBT friendly caregiver for seniors and works as an independent contractor through Senior Services for South Sound.

Lots of fun and dancing at 2009's Capital City Pride in downtown Olympia.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

DNR Biomass Report to Legislature Challenged by Scientists, Activists

Above: New biomass activist Nate Johnson is interviewed by local reporter Mike Coday.

DNR Biomass Report to Legislature Challenged by Scientists, Activists

by Janine Gates

Biomass activists and some guerrilla theatre came to the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) today in downtown Olympia. Protesters highlighted a recent letter sent to state legislators by climate scientists refuting DNR's recent biomass report and hoped to personally serve Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark a "cease and desist order" to stop all state biomass projects.

Nate Johnson, who works nearby, came to participate in the protest. He lives in Mason County and said he just became aware of the biomass issue a couple weeks ago when he attended the Olympic Region Clean Air Agency's (ORCAA) hearing on the proposed Adage facility and listened to public testimony for three hours.

"What I learned about the biomass issue convinced me to resist it....the health risks aren't understood...and there's no history of humans showing restraint in using the supply. We're poor stewards of the land. Twenty years from now, I don't think we'll be looking at this as a positive chapter."

Johnson is also a 2002 graduate of The Evergreen State College, and expressed concern about the college's proposed biomass gasification facility.

February is Not For Love Letters: Activists, Scientists Challenge DNR

Duff Badgley, who recently had a biomass opinion piece published in The Seattle Times on February 7, was dressed in a mock-police uniform as an "Earth Cop" to serve Goldmark the "cease and desist" order. Goldmark was unavailable, so the order was delivered to DNR supervisor Leonard Young.

Goldmark, in response to Badgley's editorial, had his own published by the Seattle Times on February 11.

In another war of words, three internationally acclaimed climate scientists have refuted DNR's recent biomass report to the Legislature and policies supported by Washington Governor Gregoire and Goldmark. The letter, written directly to all members of the Washington State Legislature, was not directly addressed to Goldmark or his agency.

At a recent meeting at DNR between DNR representatives and Olympia area anti-biomass activists, key parts of the letter were read to DNR policy director Craig Partridge, who said he was aware of the letter. Partridge welcomed civil dialogue, and said he would speak to Goldmark about their concerns.

Bonnie Phillips, who runs a regional biomass list serv, said her message was simple: carbon neutrality, and concerns about health and fuel supply issues. Partridge agreed with her, saying "those priorities are absolutely on our minds as well, and we probably share a lot of your values and perspectives...."

Activist Pat Rasmussen, in that same meeting, told Partridge, "This is not a movement of environmentalists, it's average, everyday people. It's not the same scenario as a year ago. These are people scared about their health and their children's health...this is a people's movement."

Phillips agreed, saying, "I've been astonished at how people are being educated and educating themselves."

The letter by scientists Mark Harmon, Timothy Searchinger and William Moomaw, in response to DNR's report to the legislature, is available at

Mark Harmon, a professor at Oregon State University who came to The Evergreen State College (TESC) in Olympia to speak on carbon neutrality last November, is one of the scientists the TESC Sustainability Council hopes to tap to do research into its own biomass gasification feasibility study.

Searchinger is a research scholar and lecturer at Princeton University and Transatlantic Fellow, The German Marshall Fund of the United States. William Moomaw is a professor of International Environmental Policy at Tufts University.

Their letter expresses great concern about the accuracy of DNR's report, strongly challenging DNR's approach to carbon accounting.

"A critical conclusion of the report is that biomass of all kinds, including harvested trees that would otherwise remain standing, should be treated as a "carbon neutral" fuel, an assumption the authors ascribe to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). However, this conclusion is based on a misinterpretation of IPCC accounting, and is inconsistent with the best science of forest carbon accounting."

The letter also states, "The amount of new biomass generation currently proposed in Washington would amount to less than one percent of the state's electricity generating capacity. Yet even this relatively small amount of power generation seems likely to put new demands on Washington's forests and their delivery of multiple ecosystem services, including timber. This will transfer standing forest carbon into the atmosphere, thereby increasing carbon emissions from Washington's power sector. Simply declaring biomass power to be carbon neutral does not make it so."

Yesterday, at Enviromental Lobby Day in Olympia, Goldmark addressed about 500 people who gathered at a nearby church prior to meeting with their local legislators to speak with them about a variety of environmental issues. In his comments, Goldmark expressed concern about the scale and inefficiency of the proposed Adage biomass facility in Mason County, while also expressing his commitment to biomass.

Taking a glance from the fourth floor at the demonstrators gathered in the DNR lobby today, Bryan Flint, DNR director of communications, commented, "It's democracy in action."

Above: The DNR interior lobby, from the fourth floor.

For more information about biomass issues, see other articles on this blog at

'Views on 5th Hotel' Land Use Application Approved by City

File photo: A quiet Spring morning along a then-unfenced Capitol Lake, before we knew about New Zealand mud snails, and the proposed 'Views on 5th Hotel' building, seen here.

By Janine Gates

'Views on 5th Hotel' Land Use Application Approved by City

The vacant downtown Olympia office building best known as "The Mistake on the Lake," and the former Capital Center Building, now known as "Views on 5th Hotel," was given land use approval and a state environmental policy act (SEPA) determination of nonsignificance, according to city planning and development department manager Todd Stamm.

There is a public comment period, which closes Wednesday, March 2, at 5:00 p.m.

The nine-story, 75,000 square foot building is proposed to be converted from an office building to a hotel with up to 140 rooms.

According to the land use approval notice, the city has determined that "this action probably will not have a significant adverse impact upon the environment," and an environmental impact statement is not required. The environmental review and SEPA threshold determination was based on the application submitted by architect Glenn Wells, on behalf of a Seattle-based applicant on December 1, 2010.

For more information about the hotel application, see original story on December 1 at

The application was approved on February 16 by the city's site plan review committee. The only application condition the committee specified is that, prior to occupancy, the applicant will install a bicycle parking facility for guests. If the hotel is to include public meeting rooms, public bicycle parking must also be provided.

Wells, the architect for the proposed hotel, says the project is a "go" once the comment and appeal period has expired. The project is moving ahead in the permitting process. Wells says that there isn't anything particularly unusual about the project, but (Stamm) wanted the applicant to submit a land use SEPA checklist because "he wanted to do everything right."

Stamm, who is also the lead SEPA official for the project, agrees.

"Very few rules apply in commercial to commercial building interior remodels. What was unique about this project is that proposed remodels are usually much smaller," said Stamm. Stamm also acknowledged that there is great public interest in this particular building and its location.

When asked about traffic considerations, for example, both Wells and Stamm agreed that peak hour trips are fewer with a hotel, as compared to an office building. According to an analysis by Dave Smith, city transportation staff, an office building there would generate about 135 trips per hour, as compared to an estimated 100 or less trips per hour generated by a hotel. Traffic generated by a hotel is dispersed at different times, too, as opposed to an office building.

In an interview late today, Jerry Reilly, chair of the Olympia Capitol Park Foundation, said that while he has not had a chance to review the land use notice just issued, "this is not simply a normal location - the building has a long history of public concern." The Olympia Capitol Park Foundation is raising funds to acquire a portion of the isthmus between Budd Inlet and Capitol Lake for a public park.

Public comment on this application, Project #10-0140, can be directed to Todd Stamm, Planning Manager , City of Olympia Community Planning and Development, PO Box 1967, Olympia, Washington 98507-1967, or, (360) 753-8597.

The comment deadline is March 2, 2011, 5:00 p.m. The appeal deadline is March 9, 2011, 5:00 p.m.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

County Commissioners Maintain Biomass Moratorium

by Janine Gates

County Commissioners Maintain Biomass Moratorium

Thurston County commissioners Sandra Romero, Cathy Wolfe and Karen Valenzuela today maintained their year-long moratorium on new biomass facilities. The commissioner's decision took just minutes - all quickly agreed that they didn't hear anything during Monday night's public hearing that would persuade them to change their minds and lift the moratorium.

Valenzuela said she just attended a meeting of the Olympic Region Clean Air Agency (ORCAA) and questions were posed to her about the difference between incineration and gasification that she was unable to answer in detail.

Instead of referring the issue immediately to the Thurston County Planning Commission, the commissioners will form a technical advisory group of interested parties. Suggested participants would include the Thurston-Mason County Medical Society, state agencies, The Evergreen State College, and a group concerned with biomass issues, Concerned Citizens of Thurston County, to continue the dialogue and address the commissioner's outstanding questions. Group membership and the parameters of the continued conversation will be determined at a later date.

"Evergreen is a big player in this...we're flailing by ourselves right now and this all part of the learning process," said Commissioner Romero.

Some interested state agency and college representatives were in the audience, observing the meeting. Afterwards, when asked by county associate planner Jeremy Davis if they could participate in future discussions, some agreed, albeit reluctantly. Most expressed a need to know more about the scope of the discussions and what time commitment was to be expected.

The commissioners will meet with representatives of the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) on March 3 for a briefing on their permitting process.

For more information about the biomass facility moratorium, see other articles on this blog at

Monday, February 7, 2011

"Courageous" County Commissioners Hear Biomass Testimony

“Courageous” County Commissioners Hear Biomass Testimony

By Janine Gates

The word “courageous” was repeated over and over in public testimony tonight to describe the Thurston County commissioner’s action in late December to adopt an emergency ordinance for a one year moratorium on new biomass facilities.

Commissioners Karen Valenzuela, Sandra Romero and Cathy Wolfe heard testimony from tens of community members, several of whom came from Mason County, where the proposed Adage biomass facility is in a permitting process.

Over a period of several days last week, the commissioners, who also serve as the county board of health, heard biomass related information provided by state agencies, The Evergreen State College, and a citizen’s group concerned with the environmental, economic and public health consequences of Evergreen’s proposed biomass facility.

Of the 45 people who testified in support of the moratorium, two spoke directly in support of lifting the moratorium. The county staff recommendation is in support of affirming the moratorium ordinance and referring the issue to the Thurston County Planning Commission.

The Evergreen State College, which is currently studying a proposal to build a biomass gasification facility, has not yet submitted an application to the county.

Alicia Le Duc, an Olympia resident studying energy and sustainability in The Evergreen State College’s master in public administration program, said she has spent about 200 hours of research on the biomass issue. Le Duc said her father has worked at TransAlta coal plant in Centralia her whole life. Her sister has worked there too, and both have health issues. She supports Evergreen’s efforts to get off fossil fuels and has looked into the alternatives.

“I have done my homework and I’m willing to provide it,” she said. “The biomass facility is the best option, most economically feasible, and uses natural, local resources.”

Phil Shulte, president of a westside neighborhood association, spoke for himself, stating that fossil fuels are an unsustainable resource.

Above: Patrina Walker signs in to testify tonight at the Thurston County Commissioner's public hearing on their biomass moratorium ordinance.

“We All Share The Air”

Several Mason County residents praised the commissioners for doing what they say Mason County commissioners did not do: represent the people.

Patrina Walker, of Mason County, has owned a business at the Olympia Farmer’s Market for 23 years and described herself as an “appalled alumna,” of Evergreen as did Bonnie Phillips of Olympia, who received her masters from Evergreen and now runs a regional biomass related list serv.

Beth McBain, spokesperson for Concerned Citizens of Mason County, lives in the neighborhood of 100 homes and a K-8 school in Shelton where Adage hopes to build its biomass plant. She urged the commissioners to keep the moratorium in place.

“Sadly it seems that many of our elected officials have drunk the green Kool Aid that has been offered up by Big Energy, the forest products industry, and their highly paid lobbyists….We would hate to think that one of our most respected state institutions located right here in Thurston County would be forced to change its name to the Never Green State College.”

Mary Moore, representing the League of Women Voters, spoke of the League’s support for moratorium.

Susan Macomson, representing the South Sound Sierra Club, also supported the moratorium.

Olympia City Councilmember Steve Langer spoke as a private citizen in support of the moratorium, calling it “good public policy.” Langer, who said he suffers from asthma and heart disease, said he was concerned about the health effects of biomass, questioned whether or not biomass gasification is carbon neutral and wondered how much biomass belongs in the forest for the forest to be healthy.

TESC Testifies

Ken Tabbutt, interim vice-president for academics, spoke about TESC’s Sustainability Council’s process in examining its proposed biomass gasification facility. "If TESC chooses to go ahead with the project, we hope to partner with the county to implement responsible standards,” said Tabbutt.

Ted Whitesell, an Evergreen faculty member for 18 years, serves on the TESC Sustainability Council. He's also the director of TESC's master of environmental studies program, and is conducting an applied research class on biomass this quarter, involving 26 students.

“I would not consider myself an expert on biomass but the research allows me to conclude that the moratorium was a wise and reasonable decision on your part…your decision was a courageous act. What we have not heard tonight is a compelling argument for why you should change your mind. It’s not about TESC or Adage, it’s about the moratorium and biomass gasification. Maintain the moratorium,” said Whitesell.

TESC student Dani Madrone also spoke in support of the moratorium. Madrone, a student advisory member of the TESC Sustainability Council who works with the Office of Sustainability as a paid intern, recently excused herself from further involvement in the biomass project process.

In a recent letter to TESC college president Les Purce, Madrone says that “the current path we tread in search of sustainability is intrinsically wrong….The biomass gasification project has comprised Evergreen’s relationship with the campus and surrounding communities....”

“With the full support of the school, I had promised ideas of collaboration, told people that their concerns would be addressed, and insisted that the school would be transparent. However, the college has violated all of these promises,” the letter says. Madrone, a senior, will soon receive her bachelor of applied science degree in advanced chemistry, renewable energy systems and community development.

The letter, which was sent to the county commissioners late last week, calls for TESC to honor the Thurston County moratorium, revisit the campus Climate Action Plan, return remaining biomass gasification feasibility study monies back to the Clean Energy Committee, and adopt a formal policy on public process.

The letter is signed by four members of the TESC Clean Energy Committee, one member of the TESC Sustainability Council (Ted Whitesell), several Sustainability and Justice program faculty members and other faculty members, students, and community members.

The commissioners closed public comment tonight but will review public comments in a work session on February 9, from 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. at the Thurston County Courthouse, Room 280. The work session is open to the public.

Jeremy Davis, county association planner, said prior to the hearing tonight that the commissioners have received a total of 294 comments regarding the moratorium, with one of those comments against the moratorium. The county moratorium on biomass facilities is thought to be the first in the country, and comments have also been received from outside the county, statewide, the United States and outside the United States.

These comments and tonight’s testimony will be posted on the Thurston County Planning Commission website at

TESC Sustainability Council

TESC Sustainability Council members are now meeting weekly to gather information in order to provide a recommendation to TESC vice presidents by early March about the project. The group is under pressure: TESC vice-president John Hurley has promised the Washington State Department of Commerce an answer in March as to whether or not they will continue with the project. If they don’t, TESC must give back a $3.7 million grant dedicated to building the project.

The council was not specifically charged to deal with a biomass feasibility study at all. The group deviated from its own Climate Action Plan to pursue the study now, influenced by state-funneled federal stimulus “clean energy” funds, instead of in a couple years from now.

The group does not have an official process to determine how decisions are made, or whether quorums are needed at meetings to move forward with key decisions. Member attendance is spotty and one long-time sustainability council member, faculty member Rob Cole, is now on academic leave for the quarter. Meeting minutes are taken sporadically. Community meetings are quickly planned and sparsely attended due to the short notice provided. The last community meeting, held at Evergreen in late January, was publicly noticed to some community, elected officials, and neighborhood associations just six days prior.

Another opportunity for the community to meet with McKinstry and Nexterra representatives last week was noticed only to TESC faculty, students and staff. McKinstry and Nexterra are two of the companies Evergreen is working with to finance and build the biomass facility.

A couple group members – those who have an actual vote on the direction of this project – have expressed serious reservations about the study’s quickened pace. Last week, the council struggled to define the project boundaries for carbon emissions and the scope of the college’s responsibility to carbon neutrality.

High Cost to Woo Biomass

In related news, The Evergreen State College spent a total of $1,940 to send two college representatives, Sustainability Council member and director of facilities Paul Smith, and Sustainability Coordinator Scott Morgan, to the recent Pacific West Biomass Conference in Seattle last month.

The keynote speaker for the conference, Washington State Department of Natural Resource’s Commissioner of Public Lands, Peter Goldmark, announced a jet biofuel initiative, that is now pending legislation before the Washington State Legislature.

The registration, hotel, mileage reimbursement cost, which came out of their respective department budgets, provided TESC the opportunity to attend workshops and meet a variety of biomass related vendor representatives.

For more information on TESC and regional biomass issues, see other articles at