Saturday, November 23, 2013

Coalitions Meet at the Capitol

Above: Senator Tim Sheldon (D-35th, Mason County) chats with medical marijuana activists at the State Capitol Building on Thursday. Legislators and lobbyists were in Olympia on Thursday and Friday for Committee Assembly Days.
by Janine Unsoeld
Seen Thursday at the State Capitol chatting with medical cannabis activists, Senator Tim Sheldon (D-35th) was asked today in a telephone conversation for his position on medical marijuana.
"I've been involved on the county level, and my position has evolved on the issue....We have a medical marijuana clinic in Potlatch. I was apprehensive about it at first, but it's been low-key and there haven't been any problems with it. I'm supportive of medical marijuana and don't want the implementation of I-502 to undermine its availability...." said Sheldon. Sheldon is a Mason County Commissioner and member of the Majority Coalition Caucus.
Sheldon said he told the activists on Thursday that Senator Ann Rivers (D-18th, La Center) has taken the lead on the issue for the Majority Coalition Caucus and is working on a bill to secure access for medical marijuana.
I-502 turned the distribution of recreational cannabis over to the state Liquor Control Board. There will be legislative hearings on the new regulations proposed by the state Liquor Control Board. In the second week in January, activists say they are planning a "Save Medical Cannabis" lobby day.
For more information, go to the Cannabis Action Coalition at 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Under Construction: Vic's Pizzeria and The Lucky Lunchbox

Local Businesses To Open On Capitol Boulevard

Above: Craftsman Joe Andreotti builds several tables with Vic's Pizzeria co-owner Rick Burdorff. Vic's will open a second restaurant in the space formerly occupied by Desserts by Tasha Nicole on Capitol Boulevard.

by Janine Unsoeld

Vic's Pizzeria is opening another Vic's Pizzeria at 2822 Capitol Boulevard, in the location formerly occupied by Desserts by Tasha Nicole.

The restaurant is scheduled to open by early December and will offer the same menu as Vic's on Division Street, including beer and Olympic Mountain gelato, but will also serve wine on tap.

Vic's co-owner Rachel Lee says they are currently hiring employees.

Lee's husband, Rick Burdorff, and Joe Andreotti, are creating the restaurant's interior by hand. Today they were building and sanding several bamboo plywood tables and counters. 

Above: The interior of Vic's Pizzeria on Capitol Boulevard.

"It's a fabulous location," said Lee. "I didn't really want to open a second store because it's a lot of work, but I knew if I ever did, it would be this location. So, when Tasha Nicole vacated the space, I called the landlord immediately."

Above: General contractor Dale DeForest at The Lucky Lunchbox, where he created the counter with recycled wood, a gymnasium floor.

In the same building a couple doors down, The Lucky Lunchbox is set is open in about a month, said general contractor Dale DeForest. The Lucky Lunchbox will assemble and serve hot and cold sandwiches, salads, yogurt, baked goods, and more. DeForest was busy today building a front counter out of a recycled gymnasium floor, bought from Windfall Lumber.

Jim Buttigan, owner of The Lucky Lunchbox and the Swing Wine Bar, said today, "Everyone in the building has been really supportive of each other in the products they provide." 

The building's tenants also include Olympia Coffee Roasting Company and Spud's Produce Market, a market featuring fresh and organic produce focused on local growers and artisans, including Kirsop Farm, Bagel Brothers Bagels, San Francisco Street Bakery, Britt's Pickles, Lattin's Cider Mill, and Johnson Smoke House Meats.

Above: The Wildwood Building, built in 1938, is located on Capitol Boulevard at the connection of four Olympia neighborhoods: South Capitol, Wildwood, Governor Stevens, and Carlyon.
Trivia: How many amazing local business names did you read in this article? If you don't know, go back and read it again! : - )

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Dollarocracy and the Movement to Amend the Constitution

Above: John Nichols, at the podium, and Robert McChesney visited Olympia earlier this week to discuss their latest book, "Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media-Election Complex is Destroying America," at The Evergreen State College.

By Janine Unsoeld
Citing the influence money has in politics and the demise of true journalism, authors Robert McChesney and John Nichols fired up the crowd and lit fires under butts talking earlier this week about their new book, Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media-Election Complex is Destroying America, at The Evergreen State College.
McChesney, a graduate of The Evergreen State College, was introduced by his former professor, Tom Rainey, who called McChesney a socially committed student and scholarly hellraiser.
About 100 were in attendance, including 40 students from an Evergreen class called Political Economy of Public Education.
Providing multiple history lessons from the Founding Fathers and the writing of the U.S. Constitution right up to the current City of Seattle city council race between Socialist Kshama Sawant, who recently won the election over incumbent Robert Conlin, both speakers provided a hard hitting, keen analysis of the influence money has on American media and politics.
McChesney said he and Nichols came up with the idea for their latest book when a 2012 Princeton study of democracy and the federal government showed that the bottom 90% of people’s values and concerns were not acknowledged. The book’s introduction by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) says that nothing can pass Congress that is opposed by Wall Street.
McChesney noted that even Jimmy Carter, speaking in Germany in July when he thought he was speaking off the record, said America today is no longer a functioning democracy.
“Half the population is now considered to be at poverty level or low-income…we’re back to where we were in the 1920’s” said McChesney.
Citing a loss of 20,000 journalists since 2009, Nichols, a journalist and correspondent for The Nation, asserted that the ones that remain pretend they’re covering the news.
In reference to television ads passing as news, Nichols said, “The standard of news media now is whether the (advertising) check clears…As journalism disappears, it tries to do it on the cheap, talking about Michelle Obama’s work against obesity issues, talking about Ted Cruz….(but) there’s a grassroots activism - 16 states have petitioned to overturn Citizen United - and yet you aren’t told about it. It’s real, it’s happening, and you need to be a part of it…we’re at the tipping point.”
Move to Amend is a non-partisan coalition of over 300,000 individuals and organizations whose goal it is to amend the US Constitution to end corporate rule and get big money out of politics by overturning the U.S. Supreme court decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission. 
The proposed amendment would overturn court decisions that granted corporations the status of "personhood" which allows unlimited corporate campaign spending.
Nichols said that Washington State is the number one example of Dollarocracy and that their paperback version of Dollarocracy will feature Washington State, the GMO issue and the Grocery Association’s $23 million dollar contribution toward the demise of I-522 - the result of when corporations enter into politics.
“....Their profits were threatened by the reality of labeling. They succeeded in their effort to confuse people so much that people voted against it. That’s Dollarocracy in play. That’s not how it’s supposed to be….”
Nichols asserted that our Founding Fathers did not intend for the Constitution to be a static document. It was amended ten times in the first four years.
“Journalism is so fair and balanced, it treats a lie just like the truth!” exclaimed Nichols, “If we do not acknowledge what’s happening today, that will be our future. Amend the Constitution. Let’s eliminate the Electoral College….Can we do it?”

In closing, Nichols told a story:
“There’s a girl, seven or eight years old, and she’s walking up some steps. She’s going to work in a mill – she’s not going to school. Her fingers are small, tiny, and good at changing bobbins….sometimes the machines would start up while she was changing the bobbins, and take her finger or hand. And that was OK back then, because if that happened, she could go work in a clothing factory. Jews, Christians, Muslims, all working together. She would go to work on the 10th floor of the factory, and, sometimes, a fire would break out. They’d run to the door, but it was locked shut to prevent workers from sneaking a bathroom break…and they’d either burn alive or jump out the windows….
In the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York, they chose to jump. As mothers came to pick their daughters up off the sidewalks, their grief turned to anger. Women were not allowed to vote then….Over a 10 year period, women organized, and reforms took place. They amended the Constitution three times: to vote, to elect the Senate, and enact taxing and regulatory reforms to tell people they can’t lock the doors at factories, they can’t employ children. Child labor laws were enacted, unions began….
"We are in a similar moment today. Are you the equals of your grandmothers? Your grandfathers?....Five hundred cities have enacted resolutions to amend the Constitution. If you don’t engage now, you’ll be on the sidelines of democracy….”
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of March 25, 1911 killed 123 women and 23 men. The youngest victims were 14 years old. 
Move To Amend Efforts in Washington State

The movement to amend the Constitution is active in the South Sound area. Mike Savoca, of the Olympia Move to Amend group was present at McChesney’s and Nichols’ presentation.

“We testified last February before the legislature in favor of a bill, HR 4001 and SR 8002, in favor of a 28th Amendment and were successful in the House but the bill was killed in committee by the Senate Governmental Operations chair, Pam Roach,” said Savoca later.

The Olympia Move to Amend statement says:
As we work for peace, sustainability and human rights, over and over again, we are opposed by the corruption of our political election system by big money and big, multinational, corporations
A corporation is not a person, it does not live, breath, bring forth children nor die.  The first and primary objective of multinational corporations is profit and the acquisition of shareholder wealth.   Nowhere in the US Constitution does the word "corporation" appear! 
A corporation is an invented legal entity. Like all inventions , corporations are not necessarily good nor bad. The regulation of our inventions determines if they will be the source of prosperity…... or our demise. 
The unlimited power of multinational corporations and big money in our electoral  system threatens our very survival as a society, and as people around the planet.
To learn more about local efforts to amend the Constitution, contact Michael Savoca, Olympia Move To Amend, at or go to or

Friday, November 15, 2013

2013 Willi Unsoeld Seminar Presents "High and Hallowed: Everest 1963"

Above: Lightening up the evening at a 50th Anniversary of Americans on Everest event in San Francisco in February 2013, sponsored by The American Alpine Club and Eddie Bauer, Willi Unsoeld is indeed present when Tom Hornbein produces a jar of Unsoeld's mummified toes. Unsoeld lost nine toes after his summit of Mt. Everest.

by Janine Unsoeld

"Risk is the heart of all education." - Willi Unsoeld

A film and discussion about the greatest Himalayan climb in American mountaineering history will be the feature of this year's Willi Unsoeld Seminar Series on Wednesday, November 20, 2013 at 7:00 p.m. at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts in Olympia.

High and Hallowed: Everest 1963 tells the story of Willi Unsoeld and Tom Hornbein's pioneering ascent of the West Ridge of Mt. Everest on May 22, 1963, and examines the commitment and passion that helped them succeed.

Hornbein and Unsoeld were the first to attempt an ascent of the West Ridge. Previously, ascents of the mountain had been made only via the South Col and Southeast Ridge or the North Col and Northeast Ridge. They climbed up the West Ridge and down the Southeast Ridge/South Col route.
This ascent was the first traverse of an 8000 meter peak in the world. Being caught out on the descent resulted in establishing an altitude record for surviving a bivouac at 28,000 feet.
Moderated by Krag Unsoeld, filmmakers David Morton, Jake Norton and Jim Aikman will join Tom Hornbein onstage after the film to discuss the film focusing on the theme of Risk and Uncertainty: Adventures in Life and Learning. This event is free.

Tom Hornbein, a physician and American mountaineer with whom Unsoeld accomplished the first ascent of the West Ridge of Mt. Everest, studied human physiological limits and performance at high altitude. He was professor and chair of the Department of Anesthesiology at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle from 1978 to 1993. His work and research has resulted in more than 100 journal articles and book chapters.

The Everest climb with Unsoeld is recounted in his classic book, Everest: The West Ridge, published by The Mountaineers.

Jim Aikman, a filmmaker and photographer specializing in adventure film and promotional video. Jim says he "recognizes the need for compelling stories and cutting edge imagery amidst a market saturated with mediocre content, where integrity and innovation sets you apart from your competitor more than ever."

Aikman participated in the six-part TV series "First Ascent," co-produced with National Geographic International and worked as a producer with the Reel Rock Film Tour, which tours in more than 40 countries around the world.

Dave Morton, a professional guide and photographer, has reached the summit of Mt. Everest six times. A long time Northwest mountaineer, he has guided and climbed throughout the Cascades, Andes, the Himalaya, the Altai, Alaska Range, and Caucuses in Russia.

Working as a full-time guide since 2000, Morton has led expeditions to all of the Seven Summits as well as climbs and expeditions in Mongolia, Mexico, Bolivia, and other Himalayan peaks. He has guided to the top of Carstensz Pyramid on the island of Papua on four occasions.

Jake Norton, a world-renowned climber, photographer, filmmaker, philanthropist, and inspirational speaker, has summited Mt. Everest three times and has participated with expeditions on all seven continents. His photography has appeared in publications such as Vanity Fair, National Geographic, Forbes, and Oprah, while his film footage has been used in documentaries and television series.

In 2011, Norton founded Challenge 21, a multi-year climbing and fundraising project dedicated to the global water crisis, and its solutions. To date, Norton has launched four Challenge 21 expeditions, and has raised over $250,000 for his non-profit partner, Water For People.

Willi Unsoeld was a philosopher, educator, mountaineer and founding faculty member at The Evergreen State College. His climbs included a first ascent in 1960 of Masherbrum, 25,660 feet, and served as an in-country director of the Peace Corps in Nepal in 1963. He served as executive vice-president for Outward Bound to help spread its philosophy of adventure, risk and learning for three years prior to joining the planning faculty at The Evergreen State College.

As a founding faculty member of The Evergreen State College, Unsoeld embodied the spirit of the new institution: its emphasis on student-directed learning, interdisciplinary programs, collaboration and personal responsibility.

The Unsoeld Seminar series is endowed as a living memorial to Willi Unsoeld, whose spirit continues to influence and guide people every day. The Unsoeld Seminar series is endowed as a living memorial to Unsoeld's interests in wilderness and human values, ethics and human behavior, effective learning and experiential education, philosophy and environmental awareness, nature and culture.

Since 1986, the series has offered lectures, workshops and performances that engage and involve participants, and reflect Evergreen's emphasis on collaboration and personal responsibility.

To be sure, the event will generate inspiration, and more questions than answers.
For more information about the Willi Unsoeld Seminar, contact Janine Unsoeld at or (360) 791-7736 or Krag Unsoeld at, (360) 250-9982.
Above: Mt. Everest 1963 Living Legends, left to right, Tom Hornbein, Norman Gunter Dyhrenfurth, David Dingman, and Jim Whittaker in February 2013.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Planning for Spring

by Janine Unsoeld
Above: Washington State Department of Enterprise Services gardeners Kevin Battin, left, and Dan Kirschner were busy today planting tulips outside the Water Street public restrooms in downtown Olympia. The tulips "Magmatism" were planted in the center and "Lava" were planted along the border. The colors of red, orange, and red with yellow will be eagerly anticipated by all!

Doing Something About Homelessness

Above: The Smith Building, across from the former Olympia city hall, is served by Intercity Transit buses #60 and #64 on 8th Avenue.
by Janine Unsoeld

The Family Support Center of South Sound is rehabilitating the Smith Building located at 837 7th Avenue SE from a vacant office building to six emergency shelter and seven permanent affordable housing units for families with children.

The building was formerly owned and occupied by the City of Olympia. The improvements will include remodeling the interior of the building to include the units and onsite social supportive services.

Heavy equipment operators and construction workers were already well under way during today's groundbreaking and had to pause while dozens of local elected officials and supporters held a ceremony today that didn't actually involve the use of their ceremonial golden shovels.

The Family Support Center will be holding a local "Extreme Makeover" type contest for the design of the new rooms, said Schelli Slaughter, executive director of the Family Support Center, and residents are expected to be able to move in by April 1st.

The current family support shelter is located at First Christian Church. Currently, 26 individuals, including at least 13 babies, are staying at the temporary shelter offered by First Christian Church, said Slaughter,"...and because of First Christian Church, they have a place to stay tonight."

Glenn Wells, architect for the shelter, described his passion for the project after seeing the Will Smith movie, "In Pursuit of Happiness."

Olympia city councilmembers Mayor Stephen Buxbaum, Mayor Pro-Tem Nathaniel Jones, Julie Hankins, Jim Cooper, and councilmember elect Cheryl Selby, were present at the ceremony.

The shelter will serve homeless and low income families with children under age 18, and will not serve single men or women. The majority of children served by the Family Support Center are under five years of age. Management will be on-site to respond to any issues that may arise.

The cost of the project is $1.9 million dollars, funded through grants from local, state, and federal sources including the Washington State Housing Trust Fund, the City of Olympia, Thurston County, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The City of Olympia sold the property and building to the Family Support Center through a competitive grant process for $1 in 2011. If the building stops being used for the purpose of a shelter, ownership reverts back to the city.

Olympia Mayor Stephen Buxbaum gave a few remarks explaining how the community got to this point, saying that, "Today, we are both acknowledging homelessness and doing something about it. Two years ago, we could have simply ignored that we were sitting on a seriously deteriorating building, but we didn't. Instead, we are putting it to use....The Smith its new use, will provide significant public benefit by giving homeless children and their families a safe place to sleep and pull their lives back together...."

The Family Support Center is encouraging the community to help fund the project with an opportunity to buy a personalized brick for $100. Bricks will be used to pave the entrance to the new shelter.

Coffee for the morning's ceremony was provided by next door neighbor Casa Mia restaurant, and pastries were provided by the Bread Peddler.

For more information about the Family Support Center, the new Family Shelter and Affordable Housing Project, or buying a brick, contact the Center at or (360) 754-9297.

Above: Celebrants paused for a photo at this morning's groundbreaking ceremony of the Family Support Center's new family shelter at 837 7th Avenue SE, Olympia.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Growing Process at the Olympia Food Co-op

Above: The Eastside Store on Pacific Avenue.
By Janine Unsoeld

While most local elections were settled November 5, one election continues until November 15.

The Olympia Food Co-op board has four openings and a slate of 12 candidates, most of whom showed up to mingle with members at the Co-op’s general membership meeting on October 27 at the Olympia Ballroom.

At the meeting, staff gave a financial update, a description of its upcoming strategic goals, news about the Westside and the Eastside stores, and heard from most board candidates.  

Two candidates, Kim Chaplin and Casey Kilduff, dropped their candidacies after the Co-op newsletter was printed. Alex and Audrey Daye did not attend the annual meeting.

In addition to board elections, members may vote on several proposed changes to the Co-op bylaws.

In light of current economic conditions and a pressing plethora of natural and organic shopping venue choices now available in the South Sound region, Co-op annual meeting members struggled with key issues in small groups and debated serious questions: Who are we really? Do we really own the Co-op? Do new members know what a Co-op is? What does the Co-op uniquely have to offer its members? How do we increase revenue?
Above: Writings on butcher paper at the Co-op annual meeting captured many thoughts.
The Co-op, which is actually structured as a non-profit, is also researching possible reincorporation issues. Discussion about the definition and activities of an actual cooperative created significant discussion.

Theresa Young, an organizational development specialist with the Northwest Cooperative Development Center addressed the members, giving a report on the issue, and said that 60% of all food co-ops function exactly like the Olympia Food Co-op. Co-op staff and board members say they are not advocating for any change or preference, but are gathering information on the topic.

Kim Chaplin, who is no longer a board candidate, said that she appreciates that the Co-op provides a service for low income people. If the Co-op moved to a patronage system, rewarding its members based on the amount they spend, it could create a two-class hierarchy. And, she added, she would not be excited about her purchases being “tracked” by the Co-op.

The Co-op has 22,000 members. A member is defined as one whose dues or low-income membership and mailing address is up to date. A regular lifetime membership card is $29. About 150 volunteers, all of whom perform vital functions, such as cashiering and stocking of product, receive a significant discount on their food purchases for their efforts.

One volunteer cashier lamented the difficulties in welcoming and signing up new members while others wait in line to be served.

“What are the benefits of being a Co-op member beyond lower prices? The cashier line is not the place to sign up new members – we’re doing them a disservice – they don’t know what they’re signing up for and they don’t care.”

Members pay the price shown on products; non-members pay 10% more on their purchases. The Co-op holds a series of food related classes and the board took a stand in support of I-522 which would have labeled genetically modified foods.
Above: The Westside Store on Rogers Street. Be sure go to the Free Store, adjacent when it’s open. Yes, it’s really free. Take what you need and help out by bringing your free books, clothes, working kitchen items, and knickknacks when it is open to accept your gifts.
Size Might Matter

Although staff and many members were exploring options for a downtown store, it is unusual for a small city like Olympia to have two economically thriving food co-ops. Some large cities, like Denver, don’t even have one food co-op.

The original Westside store on Rogers St. is about 5,000 square feet, and the Eastside store on Pacific Avenue next to the Ford All-Star dealership is about 7,500 square feet. Each store has its own vibe, quirks, products, and loyal customers.

In September, at the Westside store, the produce department alone reported sales of $79,736; the Eastside store reported $145,065.

Asked later what type of products produces the most income for the Co-op, Co-op bookkeeper Corey Mayer responded that the year-to-date income by category, in decreasing order for the two stores combined are:  $3,053,000 - Packaged Grocery; $2,275,000 – Produce; $1,693,000 – Bulk; $1,399,000 - Chill (refrigerated/dairy); $805,000 - Health and Body products (supplements and body care), followed by, in decreasing order, meat, taxable groceries, such as cleansers, paper products, mercantile and garden supplies; frozen foods, cheese and deli products.
Above: Jim Cubbage shops at the Eastside Co-op last Sunday.
Jayne Rossman, outreach and expansion staff representative to the board, explained at the annual meeting that while their cash flow is improving, the Co-op’s health plan for staff is currently overspent by about $150,000 and they have had to cut labor and expenses to offset this. Staff budgeted $600,000 for medical for the year total and expect to hit $750,000. While this “donut hole” gap does not happen often, she said staff are looking into changing their medical plan. The Co-op offers medical insurance to all staff who work more than 30 hours a week.

She also said a weekly cash analysis, instead of a monthly one, will keep track of all cash in and all money spent. Co-op staff will be setting up benchmarks for when they can start spending money again for purchases and future expansion efforts.

For now, long desired projects, such as a garden center for the Eastside store, are on hold. A freshly brewed coffee station has long been requested for the Westside store, and is also on hold. New to the Westside store, however, is an eight foot grab-and-go deli freezer.
Above: Mural at the Denver Airport by Leo Tanguma, Leticia Tanguma, Cheryl Detwiler, John Oshsner and Bill Meredith, created in October 2005.
The Boycott of Israeli Products

While the Olympia Food Co-op has many issues on its plate, one issue in particular continues to divide its members: the three year old boycott of Israeli products.

Staff gave annual meeting attendees a very brief update on the lawsuit relating to the boycott, currently on appeal to the state Supreme Court, only when prompted by the public comments of board candidate Nancy Koppelman.

In her comments, Koppelman responded directly to an article written by Phan Nguyen in the October issue of Works in Progress:

“You may have read Phan Nguyen’s Works in Progress article calling my candidacy “peculiar….” I hope to convince you that, even if you disagree with my views, my candidacy honors the best of what the Co-op stands for. Although Nguyen belittles “process,” processes associated with self-rule are fundamental to justice worthy of the name....."

Koppelman continued, “The Co-op board compromised its mission when it made a deeply controversial decision….To get back on track, the Co-op should embrace criticisms. That’s what democracies do….Thoughtful engagement with controversy can enable us to see beyond one of democracy’s lowest standards: the passions of the moment, no matter how compelling they are. In such a moment, the Board made the Co-op join the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement. Like all of you, I am free to question that decision. Until we revisit it together, genuine self-governance will elude the Co-op.

“The Board continued to set aside its duty to the full membership in its response to the lawsuit….Empathetic Co-op members on all sides know that the boycott hurt our community. I want to help address the open wounds. For example, it’s worth exploring a “fair trade” approach, favored by many other businesses, as a better way to enact an inclusive commitment to social justice. The Board should lead the main responsibility….”

Disruptive catcalls during Koppelman’s speech from a few audience members prompted staff to ask for respect to all candidates. Koppelman did not mention or explain her position on the boycott in her candidate statement published by the Olympia Food Co-op newsletter.

The issue has indeed dogged the Co-op members, board, and staff.

Recently, 20 boycott supporters attended a Co-op board meeting and voiced their support for the Co-op’s position on the Israeli boycott.

In the July Co-op’s board meeting minutes, JT Scott addressed the Board as a member since the 80s, an active volunteer and a former board member. Saying he has seen “a lot of hurt in the community and within himself,” his feelings about the Co-op have changed and he doesn’t feel comfortable in the store anymore. By his reading of the bylaws the boycott policy is to be decided by staff consensus. He is less concerned about the board making the decision, but how it affected the community and how the community feels about the Co-op. He said there has been no attempt at reconciliation in three years.

The board noted that a letter to the editor was published in The Olympian and Works in Progress about the Co-op and the lawsuit ,which prompted a lot of conversation by the board on the possibility of some sort of community dialogue/reconciliation process.

Questions brought up from this discussion included: How hindered are we by the lawsuit that is still active? What can/can’t we do? Can we have a peace & reconciliation committee to work on this? What does the word “reconciliation” mean? How do we “maintain free-flowing communication” and “resolve organizational conflicts” in this situation?

Apparently, while there is a wide variety of feelings among board members on the specifics of this topic and a general feeling about wanting to move forward, they are uncertain how to do so, due to the lawsuit.

Board candidate Kitty Koppelman, sister of Nancy Koppelman, is a 26 year staff member of the Co-op. When asked by this reporter at the annual meeting about her position on the boycott, she responded that she did not have an opinion.

“I don’t know. I want to see change happen, voices to be heard, a more inclusive engagement and that doesn’t mean changing the decision that was made, but maybe it does. Current relations are strained. I want to bring a willingness to improve relations.”

Kitty Koppelman said that she would remain a staff member if elected to the board, and that there is nothing in the bylaws that says this can’t happen.

Olympia Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Organization Endorsements

Prior to the annual meeting, the Olympia Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions organization sent out an email:

“We were all heartened when Superior Court Judge McPhee sided with the defendants in the lawsuit filed against Co-op board members and staff in February 2012, hoping that the costly drama of court proceedings would finally be put to rest. However, after a failed effort by the plaintiffs to make the Co-op pay for the fines imposed by state statutes which protect free speech then appealed their suit to the Washington State Supreme Court. The Supreme Court kicked the case back down to an Appeals court where it languishes.

“In fact, as another Co-op board election opens, supporters of the lawsuit are once again working to make the election a battleground. Nancy Koppelman, a vocal supporter of the lawsuit whose testimony was actually used in court proceedings, is one of this year’s board candidates….

“Now is a very important time to ensure that we not only protect the Olympia Food Co-op from people who are antagonistic toward it, but that we help elect board members who will carry on the Co-op’s mission and continue to make the Co-op thrive for the community.”

The BDS organization says it endorsed four candidates, Mohamed El Sokkary, Sally Brownfield, Michael Snow and Josh Simpson, based on their long-term commitment to the community; their unique assets that strengthen the Co-op’s diversity; knowledge of the implications of the lawsuit against the Co-op; and possession of a range of commitments to food and social justice.

After the annual meeting, Rossman was asked by this reporter if there was any immediate or lingering economic impact, gain or loss due to the Co-op boycott of Israeli products on overall revenue.

Rossman responded, “Little to none….None of the nine products we took off the shelves due to the boycott were high sellers. Membership and sales have continued to grow from the time of the boycott’s enactment. However, given how much else we do and change in the stores, it’s difficult to absolutely determine whether the bump in sales was caused by the boycott itself, rather than other factors.”

Alcohol Sales at the Co-op

Although it is not a question on the ballot, the sale of alcohol at the Co-op is another issue long debated. All candidates were contacted by this reporter to respond to the question of their position on the issue of alcohol sales at the Co-op. Four responded – and their responses are indicative of the diversity of opinions expressed by members, staff, and board members.

“I would support the sale of locally-produced - at least not having to be transported very far - beer and wine only. I understand there are some wineries developing in Washington State, and I know there are some micro-breweries.  I think it would be fine to support them, particularly if they are also working to create products that are organic, and using sustainable agricultural practices, said Desdra Dawning.

“If given good enough reasons that I can’t think of I may change my mind, but in general I would not support selling alcohol because I think the shelf space can be better used by other products,” said Sally Brownfield.

"Regarding alcohol at the Co-op, this question, like many others, is an opportunity for the co-op leadership (staff and board) to create a forum for the membership to consider the co-ops values together.  There are compelling cases to be made in both directions for and against selling alcoholic beverages.  The cases must be made publicly in order for a decision, one way or another, to become part of the Co-op's culture," said Nancy Koppelman.

“I would have to say no, I do not think having alcohol available in the Co-op would be a good idea. I have noticed that some of our volunteers are under age. How would that affect them? Would that mean you would have to be 21 or older to volunteer? Or would we have a “special” place that we housed the liquor? If so, where? We are short on space as it is….Perhaps we can refer our customers to some local brewers or local wine places. We can still help support local business but also acknowledge the fact that it isn’t something we offer but do offer a solution," said Ally Koeber.

How To Vote

The process and method of voting is old school.

A ballot and voting envelope is included in the Olympia Food Co-op's latest printed newsletter members received in the mail. Ballots and newsletters are also available in each store. First, make sure your membership is current and that your address is up-to-date in the Co-op's database. Ask a cashier for a form to update your address if needed.

To vote, write your name and address on one of the envelopes provided and vote for only four candidates. If you check more, your ballot will not be valid. Put the ballot in the envelope, seal the envelope and drop it in the ballot box in one of the stores.

“Ballots are verified by name and membership in a two-part process that preserves anonymity….We separate and keep any envelopes with a problem (can’t find the member in the database, dues not up-to-date, no information on envelope) and keep them separately. We try our best to resolve any uncertainties and make sure that every vote that can be counted, is counted. Just the ballots, then, are passed on to the people counting the votes, so the people counting don’t know whose vote it is,” explained Rossman.

Rossman says, “I sincerely hope that, at some point in the next few years, we will move to online voting.” She says if you have already voted, and you didn’t follow the directions exactly, your vote will not be counted, and you may vote again the correct way.

It is also possible to mail in your ballot. Make sure your full name and address show on the return address. Mail to: Olympia Food Co-op, 3111 Pacific Ave SE, Olympia WA 98501.

To read the history of the Co-op, official statements of all Olympia Food Co-op candidates, and proposed by-law changes, go to

To read the article by Phan Nguyen in the October issue of Works in Progress, go to:

Full Disclosure: Janine Unsoeld became a Co-op member in 1988. As a vendor since 2005, she currently sells her photography greeting cards at the Eastside Co-op. She did not vote correctly at the annual meeting, and will vote again, the correct way.
Above: The beloved #4000 bin at each store means whatever is in there is only 50 cents a pound. It might be something you’d want to eat or make into a meal right away. What a deal. Yep, I got one of these bunches of lettuce, but passed on the eggplant. When you take your haul to the cashier, tell them you got it from the #4000 bin, and they’ll be just as excited as you are.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Olympia Farmer's Market: Open for Winter Season

Above: Evan Adams, left, of Sound Fresh Clams, and his granddaughter, Kate, 11, help a customer on Sunday at the Olympia Farmer's Market.
 By Janine Unsoeld

The Olympia Farmer’s Market will be open on Saturdays, from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. starting January 11. This comes as welcome news for some vendors, 22 of whom have submitted applications to participate in the new 2014 winter season.
At a board meeting October 21, the market’s board members decided to try the new season, which is especially welcomed by craft and seafood vendors. The shellfish industry is at its peak in January, February and March.

“Participation is voluntary - vendors don’t have to be here but if they fill out an application to participate, we’ll expect them to be here,” said Charlie Haney, general manager of the Olympia Farmer’s Market. She said she has received applications from about 22 vendors, including two shellfish and seafood vendors.
“We have a pretty good mix – farmers, food vendors, and crafters.”

Haney says the market has tried different ideas like being open on Wednesday evenings, and Friday evenings, with limited success, and said about 30 vendors were present at the October meeting. The winter season idea was suggested by a farmer who received a grant for more hoop houses to grow more food.

Above: Barb at Sea Blossom Seafoods helps a customer on Sunday at the Olympia Farmer's Market. Sea Blossom Seafoods, which specializes in fresh and smoked salmon, will also be open during the new winter season.
“I’ll be here…It’s good for business and it’s good for the community,” said Ross Paddock of Sea Blossom Seafoods.
Evan Adams of Sound Fresh Clams says he’ll be there in January too.

“It’ll keep me out of trouble!” Adams joked on Sunday afternoon as his wife Fran, and granddaughter Kate, 11, helped with customers.
Adams started his business in the mid 1990’s. When his son came back after the first Gulf War, the family looked for something they could do together – and started the one and a half acre business on Little Skookum Inlet. Shellfish production is dedicated primarily for his business at the farmer’s market, which offers Pacific, Olympia, and manila clams. He also offers extra small Pacific oysters, provided by the Squaxin tribe.

“People like something to eat that they have confidence in,” said Adams.

Above: Kim Baxter of The Fresh Approach produce stand helps a customer at the Olympia Farmer's Market on Sunday. Baxter is retiring after more than 15 years at the market, but the produce stand will carry on with new partners in January.
The Fresh Approach produce stand at the corner stall next door to Sound Fresh Clams will also be open during the new winter season, although co-owner Michael Kinnick laughed, saying he’ll be in Hawaii.

“Whatever we have in supply, we’ll sell. We won’t have Fuji’s (apples), but we’ll have cranberries!” said Jeremy Daws, a new partner with the company. Founder Kim Baxter, who started the stand 15 years ago, is retiring this year.

Kinnick said he hopes the community will come on down to the market during the winter season.
“We’re team players – we’ll participate, but it’s going to be work. I’d like to see some follow-through. We’ve tried different things before – but a lot of regular customers will come down.”

The farmer’s market is currently open Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The last day of the regular season is December 23.