Monday, March 30, 2015

Thurston County's Oregon White Oak Preserve: Take A Walk on the Wild Side

Above: Lacey residents Ruth Smith and Felicia Carroll witnessed this owl on November 11, 2013, about 300 feet into the woods from 27th Avenue SE. “We spotted the owl near the end of our walk. Ruth went home to get her camera and went back to take the picture!” said Carroll. Photo Courtesy of Ruth Smith.

By Janine Unsoeld
Oak Tree Preserve LLC of Bellevue proposes to subdivide 258.5 acres of land in unincorporated Lacey into 1,037 single-family residential lots.

For many, the potential loss of Thurston County’s largest remaining stand of Oregon White Oak, just over 76 acres, and 177 total acres of wooded area, home to a wide range of animals and plants, would be a devastating environmental legacy.

Notification about the development's March 24 public hearing was sent out on March 9. Hundreds of homeowners in subdivisions who live along the site’s perimeter on Marvin Road, 19th Avenue SE, 27th Avenue SE, and Priority Street SE were not notified because they live outside of the required notification area of 300 feet, which is roughly the length of a football field.
Prior to the public even being informed of renewed activity by the applicant, an environmental Mitigated Determination of Non Significance was issued by the county in December, 2014.

On March 4, county hearing examiner Sharon Rice threw out the nearby McAllister Park Homeowners Association State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) appeal on stormwater and oak habitat issues saying it “lacked standing.”
On March 23, the Association dropped another SEPA appeal saying that stopping the Oak Tree Preserve development appeared virtually impossible to fight considering the cost to the association and the risks involved. In exchange, Association president Mark Quinn got assurances from the developer that traffic calming measures would be put in place in McAllister Park.
Above: The proposed Oak Tree Preserve LLC development in Lacey is noticed (yellow sign) at the end of 27th Avenue SE. Due to the rolling topography, neighbors have a hard time visualizing how thousands of drivers will use the current streets and intersections.
Oregon White Oak Habitat
According to the application, 177.2 acres of trees, out of the 258.5 acres, will be cut. The proposed “mitigation” calls for the planting of one tree for every 4,000 square feet of lot.

The largest Oregon White Oak stand is 64.6 acres but also extends onto adjoining properties. Forty-five percent of the Oregon White Oak, considered by the applicant to be “degraded,” will be destroyed.
Theresa Nation, habitat biologist for the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, gave strong testimony about the Oregon White Oak grove at the preliminary plat hearing on March 24. Her written testimony comprises seven pages.

In the county’s response, its attorney rebuked Nation for her strong words, saying that “very seldom are we this far apart…” and criticized her for judging the project and the Habitat Management Plan (HMP) under the new county Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO). She was cross examined at length by the applicant.
In part, Nation stated:

“…Significant and avoidable impacts to Oregon white oak habitat have not been addressed. We respectfully recommend that the Office of the Hearing Examiner reject the habitat management plan….”

“Oregon white oak is the only oak species native to Washington. Some individuals of this slow-growing species may live for up to 500 years. Trees typically do not begin producing acorns until they are about 20 years old. Mature oak woodlands are virtually impossible to replace once they are gone. Oak woodlands provide a distinct ecosystem that contributes to wildlife diversity statewide. They are used by more than 200 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. The woodlands provide feeding, breeding, resting and sheltering habitat. Many invertebrates...are found exclusively in association with this oak species. Oak habitat in Washington may play a critical role in the conservation of neotropical migrant birds that migrate through or nest in Oregon white oaks.

“The Oak Tree Preserve project as proposed would result in the permanent destruction of 35.6 acres of oak woodlands. This includes the total loss of two distinct habitat areas. The 64.6-acre stand would be reduced by more than a third (24.0 acres). It would become a divided 38.3-acre preserve area and a disconnected 2-acre park. The outright loss of more than 35 acres of Oregon white oak woodland is by far the primary impact to this critical area. It is an impact of enormous proportions not only for the site, but for all oak woodland habitat in Thurston County. The HMP fails to address the gross impacts of the loss.

“The preserve area would be further degraded by the construction of the main collector road directly through it. Road-related impacts include but may not be limited to direct wildlife mortality and an increase in adverse edge effects. Over time, some oaks along the roadway are likely to be declared hazard trees and subsequently removed. This is a particularly problematic occurrence in oaks because snags and dead portions of live oaks provide important habitat for invertebrates and birds.”

The HMP offers a conceptual plan for compensatory mitigation activities. We find that the plan falls egregiously short of the mitigation needs for this project. The primary focus of the plan is to apply enhancement actions to the retained woodlands. Enhancement activities, even if successful, will not compensate for the permanent loss of almost 36 acres of habitat. The entire coverage of the woodlands carries a high value even in its somewhat degraded state. Indeed, attempting mitigation for the proposed level of impact would be extraordinarily complicated, time-consuming and expensive, with an uncertain outcome at best. WDFW experts familiar with this case are in agreement that it is likely impossible....”

Above: These spectacular Oregon White Oak trees on Oak Tree Preserve LLC's land in Thurston County are in danger of being destroyed. 
Take A Walk on the Wild Side
Ruth Smith, a retired nurse, and Felicia Carroll, a state worker, live near the proposed development and attended the plat hearing last week but, caught unprepared and uncertain of what to say, did not provide oral testimony. They are long time friends and with many other neighbors, walk the acreage, which contains many well-worn trails, and appreciate its beauty on a near daily basis. 
Through the years, they have witnessed owls, coyote, pileated woodpecker, bear, deer, fox, snakes, newts and more. They’ve identified a wide range of flora and fauna, learning their names and have learned when to expect the first blossoms and critters.

During a walk through the woodlands on Saturday, they stepped over a wandering newt, excitedly pointed out new buds, and lamented the tenacity of Scot’s Broom, a noxious weed. They also expressed disappointment that the Oak Tree Preserve LLC habitat wildlife biologist, Curtis Wambach, only came to the property three times to make his formal observations, devoting just one day each on prairie plants, the Western Gray Squirrel, and the Mazama Gopher.

As he testified at the March 24 plat hearing, Wambach said he only observed facilitative species on the property, meaning species that would occur on the site, developed or not.  
One day last spring, Carroll says she encountered the biologist on the trail who warned her that he had seen a big cat, perhaps a cougar or mountain lion, up ahead laying on a tree branch, looking down at him.
Carroll, who attended the hearing, said she was waiting to hear Wambach mention this sighting in his report to the hearing examiner, but he did not.
Above: Ruth Smith, left, and Felicia Carroll look at a shrub of Red-flowering Currant, or Ribes sanguineum, one of South Puget Sound's most prized native species and a magnet for the returning Rufous Hummingbird and other pollinators, which were in abundance on the Oak Tree Preserve property on Saturday. Neighbors of the area appreciate the acres of natural habitat.

After our walk through the woodlands, neighbor William Koopman, who also attended the hearing, said:

“It is critically unfortunate that the largest housing development to be built in Thurston County is slated to consume one its last and largest forests....The loss of this habitat is irrevocable. Once it is gone, it will be gone forever. Surely, these trees are worth saving.”
Carroll agreed, and said she heard a number of people at the hearing mention that the goal is to achieve a balance. 
“Given the amount of development in our general area in recent years and the amount of forest we have already lost due to development, in my eyes, we would best achieve balance by leaving what's left of the forest as is. I am hoping for a Hail Mary pass - I would love it if we could develop a coalition of private citizens, various levels of government, and a few nonprofit groups to band together to offer to buy the property from the owner.  The woods are well loved by a number of people in the various developments nearby. Maybe offer a tax credit or find some other ways of making it palatable for the owner.  I'm hoping for a miracle.  Losing that forest and all of its inhabitants would be like losing a dear friend,” Carroll said.

Mobilized to act by what they heard at the hearing, and given the extended deadline for written public comment, Smith and Carroll and several other neighbors have started a petition at which will be submitted to the hearing examiner as public comment. The image used to illustrate the petition is a White Fawn Lily, Erythronium oregonum, located on Oak Tree Preserve LLC property.

Public comment for the proposed development was extended until 4:00 p.m., Friday, April 3.  Written comment may be sent to Cami Petersen, Land Use Clerk, Resource Stewardship Department, Thurston County Office of the Hearing Examiner, 2000 Lakeridge Drive SW, Building One, Second Floor, Olympia, WA 98502. Refer to Case: #2009103087.
For more information about the proposed Oak Tree Preserve development and hearing materials from March 24, go to or contact Cami Petersen at or (360) 754-2933.
A previous article about the Oak Tree Preserve development is dated March 24, 2015 is at Little Hollywood,

Above: Close-up of Red-flowering Current

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Massive Proposed Development in Lacey Draws Public Comment; Public Comment Extended to April 3

Above: Theresa Nation, representing the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife presents testimony today regarding the proposed Oak Tree Preserve development at a hearing held yesterday and today at the Thurston County Fairgrounds in Lacey. Numerous homeowners from the area attended and also provided comment. Written public comment has been extended to April 3.

By Janine Unsoeld
Oak Tree Preserve LLC of Bellevue proposes to subdivide 258.5 acres of land in Lacey into 1,037 single-family residential lots. Multiple tracts will also be developed for storm water drainage, preservation of some oak tree habitat, parks, open space, alleys, and landscaping.
The area is addressed as 3346 Marvin Road SE, which is generally on the east side of Marvin Road SE bordered by the Burlington Northern Railroad on the south and the McAllister Park subdivision on the north. It is within the Lacey urban growth boundary.
Through a process of four phases, City of Lacey domestic water and sanitary sewer utilities will be extended into the subdivision to serve all lots. A Mitigated Determination of Non-Significance (MDNS) for the project was issued on December 2, 2014. The MDNS establishes mitigating conditions for school impacts, soil contamination, traffic impacts, and timber harvest.
The project is proposed to be developed in Thurston County's largest oak stand of 64 acres.
The Washington State Department of  Fish and Wildlife comments called for preserving 100 percent of the oak habitat. Only 55 percent of the oak habitat is being preserved under the proposed plans.

Project History

The project, under previous owners, was vested in 2009. The property changed hands in 2012. In May, 2014, Thurston County received a revised application listing the new owner and met with county staff.  Staff provided comments and thus the application was considered to be a revision of the original application. Written notice of the public hearing was sent to property owners within 300 feet of the site and others on March 9. Notice was also published in The Olympian newspaper on March 13.
The McAllister Park Homeowner Association had two appeals. On March 23, within 24 minutes of the beginning of the hearing held at the Thurston County Fairgrounds, Mark Quinn, president of the McAllister Homeowner Association, and the Association's attorney announced to Hearing Examiner Sharon Rice that the group had settled the SEPA appeals, surprising Rice.
Quinn and the attorney then left the building, leaving the rest of the time to the developer to explain the development.
One appeal challenged the county's decision to issue an MDNS. The appeal asserted that impacts to traffic conditions on area roads, Oregon white oak tree habitat, and storm water drainage were not adequately addressed. The Association stated that the proposed subdivision is likely to create significant adverse environmental impacts and asked that the issuance of the MDNS be overturned and that an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) be prepared. A motion by the applicant to dismiss the oak habitat and stormwater issues was granted by the Hearing Examiner on March 4.
The second appeal by the applicant challenges MDNS mitigating condition numbers 2 and 3. These conditions pertain to testing and possible cleanup of soil contamination including contamination related to the former Asarco smelter in Tacoma. The applicant believes these conditions are unlawful to the extent they impose requirements on the applicant that exceed state law.
The proposed development will impact children and families attending Evergreen Forest Elementary School, Nisqually Middle School, and River Ridge High School.
In a letter sent to McAllister Park Homeowner Association (HOA) members prior to the March 23 hearing, Quinn discouraged homeowners within his association from speaking at the public hearing, notifying them that the group had reached an agreement with the Oak Tree Preserve LLC owners.
“Late yesterday afternoon, the McAllister Park HOA signed a preliminary settlement agreement with Oak Tree Preserve, LLC, the applicant proposing to build 1,027 homes just south of McAllister Park.  The agreement provides essentially everything we asked for in terms of traffic calming in McAllister Park, including several features in OTP (Oak Tree Preserve) and a couple of other revisions to the plat not related to traffic like increasing the size of the buffer between the subdivisions and putting better controls on construction traffic….
“I believe the agreement is the best that we could have hoped for without stopping OTP altogether or closing the road, things that appeared to us virtually impossible considering the cost to the HOA and the risks involved.  Although few of us like the idea of a huge development just to the south, our main objective from the beginning was to insure adequate traffic calming in McAllister Park.   I believe we have achieved that.  After the dust settles, we plan to continue pursuing solutions to the larger Marvin Road traffic problem with neighboring HOA's.  
“We are not able to distribute the preliminary agreement (attorney's orders) but a more formal agreement should be available in a couple days.
“The agreement requires that we drop our SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act) appeal of traffic issues and voice no objection to approval of the preliminary subdivision. Based on our acceptance of the settlement, we ask all MPHOA members to refrain from participating in the Plat Hearing on March 24th.  The agreement further stipulates that the MPHOA will not appeal OTP land use approvals.  
“These restrictions do not apply to homeowners in adjacent subdivisions, who are still welcome to attend the public hearing and voice their concerns about the Plat and traffic….One thing that we asked for and the developer agreed to, not related to traffic, was to increase the buffer to 25 ft. between OTP and homes in McAllister Park and Evergreen States.   
For McAllister Park Residents we will be able to have a full discussion of the settlement and ramifications at our annual meeting in early May,” wrote Quinn.   
The hearing continued on Tuesday with public testimony beginning at 1:00 p.m. Theresa Nation, representing the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, spoke first, followed by residents from several nearby homeowners associations, including Evergreen Estates, The Seasons, Eagle Crest, Laurel Oaks, and Lake Forest.
About 20 speakers focused their comments on the traffic impacts of the massive proposed development that one person described as “out of sync with other developments in the area,” while others addressed the lack of proper public notification and environmental impact issues.  
Liz Kohlenberg, Olympia, commented that many of the materials needed to comment on the subdivision were not on the county’s website, such as the previous Critical Areas Ordinance. A couple of speakers asked how the county was planning to serve all these people, noting the current lack of law enforcement to handle current property crimes.
Elizabeth Rodrick, a wildlife biologist representing the Black Hills chapter of the Audubon Society, stated that in Washington State, 35% of pre-settlement oak habitat remains, and 16% of what remains is on private land.
“Local government plays an essential role in protecting oak habitat....several bird species are associated with large oak sites, and the roads for this development increase fragmentation and should be re-routed,” she said.
Rice closed public comment shortly after 3:00 p.m. Rice, the developer and staff, and county staff responded to public comment.
Rice said she will reach a decision on April 24. Acknowledging that county staff will need time to put additional materials on the county website, Rice gave staff through March 27 to post the needed documents, and extended public comment through 4:00 p.m. on Friday, April 3.  
Written comment may be sent to Cami Petersen, Land Use Clerk, Resource Stewardship Department, Thurston County Office of the Hearing Examiner, 2000 Lakeridge Drive SW, Building One, Second Floor, Olympia, WA 98502. Refer to Case: #2009103087.

For more information, contact go to or contact Cami Petersen at or (360) 754-3355 ext. 6348 or TDD Phone: (360) 754-2933.

Full Disclosure: Janine Unsoeld is a board member of the South Puget Environmental Education Clearinghouse (SPEECH) and presented written and oral testimony on behalf of the SPEECH board of directors opposing the Oak Preserve Development proposal. Presenting a variety of points, SPEECH believes that the Mitigated Declaration of Non-Significance should be retracted and a full Environmental Impact Statement prepared.

Friday, March 20, 2015

First Day of Spring 2015

Above: Jamal Briscoe, Olympia, shows off his two-fisted bubble blowing technique.
By Janine Unsoeld
As predicted, the first day of Spring brought almost everything, especially wind, rain and smiles. Undaunted by the weather, some were silly enough (of course!) to continue a 22 year tradition by greeting Mother Nature on her terms. Welcoming the day at noon on Percival Landing, passersby were encouraged to take a wand and create bubbles. Of course, the weather cleared just as folks packed up their wands.
Above: Dave Loyie, of Slave Lake, Alberta, Canada, was the first to stop by “The Kiss” statue in Olympia this morning. Representing the Aboriginal Alliance of Alberta, Loyie will be speaking at a conference called, “The Future of Railroads: Safety, Workers, Community and the Environment,” at The Evergreen State College this weekend. For more information about the conference, go to
Above: A good time was had by all!


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Zombies Take Over Olympia

Everyone knows that the legislative session can get a bit grueling, but the zombies seen today on the state Capitol Campus in Olympia were not legislators.
Zombies took over while children from Columbia Adventist Academy in Battleground and Gateway Christian Schools in Bremerton and Poulsbo arrived along with other school groups to tour the Capitol Building.
The actors, complete with realistic blood and gore, were working with members of Keep Film in Washington.
Production crew members were in Olympia to educate legislators about the industry, its positive impact on the local economy and encourage passage of Senate Bill 6027, which would phase in an increase for Washington's film program.
According to Heather Weiner of Keep Film in Washington, every one dollar invested in keeping film and television jobs in Washington generates more than $10, an economic boost and jobs for our communities.
Members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 488 were also on hand. The group represents more than 600 carpenters, electricians, set decorators, grips, hair and makeup artists, and other skilled workers in the Pacific Northwest.
Abby Dylan, Washington State Chair of the national board of SAG-AFTRA, a film organization which represents about 1,200 actors in the region, was also on hand this morning providing interviews to regional television stations.
"Last year Washington turned away more than $55 million of economic activity and jobs people who rely on the film industry to support their families - they cannot afford to lose more good film jobs and economic benefits to our competitors."
The film they were producing this morning on the Capitol Steps, a promotion for the bill, was scheduled to be completed in a couple of hours, said Dylan.
Legislators and their staff occasionally came out of the Capitol Building to observe the scene and take pictures, including Senator Karen Fraser of Olympia.
For more information go to:
Below: Seattle actor David S. Hogan looks pretty realistic as a zombie.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Port of Olympia Citizen’s Advisory Committee Work Continues

By Janine Unsoeld
The Port of Olympia citizen's advisory committee will be missing one member when it meets on Tuesday, March 17, at 7:00 p.m. in Tumwater. Port advisory committee member Patricia Pyle unexpectedly passed away on February 21.
Pyle’s passing will be missed by community members in many ways. She was in active communications with Little Hollywood about several issues important to her, including her role as a new member of the Port’s citizen advisory committee.
Pyle was a City of Olympia senior program specialist in the Storm and Surface Water Utility section and helped edit the StreamTeam newsletter. She was a founding member of the South Sound Estuary Association and the Olympia Coalition for Ecosystem Preservation, and also a member of the Native Plant Salvage Foundation, the South Puget Environmental Education Clearinghouse (SPEECH), and other organizations.
Her interests in being on the port’s citizen advisory committee were many.
In her application for the Port position, Pyle wrote that she wanted the Port to be a leader on emergency preparedness, security, health and safety, and environmental management. As a City of Olympia employee, she had given presentations on her knowledge of the historic shoreline.
“The Port of Olympia is an important economic driver of our community…The hard decisions that are made by Port officials to either “ship” or “not ship” (military equipment and fracking materials) will always have an opposing side. In these situations, it’s important to have absolute transparency about the decision making process and involve the community in the decision, such as through the Port Advisory Committee….”
For directions to the next Port citizen advisory committee meeting at 7241 Cleanwater Drive, Tumwater, go to
Committee Questions Answered
It took the Port of Olympia from February 19 to March 12, 15 working days, to provide answers to Little Hollywood’s three questions about the Port of Olympia's citizen advisory committee (POCAC). On March 12, Port staff member Jeri Sevier responded.
Little Hollywood: How are the tasks for the POCAC created and assigned to the Port's citizen advisory committee? It was clear last night (February 17) that they had to accept the tasks, although they clearly had no enthusiasm to revisit the one about the naming protocols. It seemed to me that the process is backwards - the tasks should originate from the committee. Ken Adney told me that the committee, indeed, created a list with about 20 suggested tasks that they were interested in. Where is that list, and why are they not allowed to choose and explore their own topics? 
Port of Olympia: The tasks are created and assigned from the Commission to the POCAC - the POCAC is appointed by the Commission and reports directly to the Commission.  In the past the Committee has had a list of items they've shared with the Commission to consider when assigning tasks - see attached list, however the tasks have always been assigned by the Commissioners therefore the Committee does not come up with their own work plan.  
Little Hollywood: If the public wanted to contribute ideas on a Port vision statement, or provide input on any other task given to the committee, what would be the best way for them to do that? 
Port of Olympia: All of the Commission and POCAC meetings are open to the public so any citizens are welcome to observe and provide comments to the Commission or POCAC during public comment period on the agenda. Any citizen can also send an inquiry to the Port's inquiry email:  which will be passed along to the appropriate Port Staff or Commissioner for a response or they may send an email directly to the person they wish to communicate with.    
The last meeting minutes for the POCAC that I can find on the website is July 15, 2014. Was that the last meeting of 2014? Was last night's meeting the first one of the year with new members? How often do joint commissioner-POCAC meetings happen? 
The last POCAC meeting in 2014 was August 19 which are now uploaded on the website.  The POCAC and Commission typically have two joint meetings each year, one is usually held at the beginning of the year to assign tasks and the other is usually in the fall when the POCAC is usually wrapping up the tasks reporting back to the Commission.    The January 20, 2015 meeting was the first joint meeting with the newly appointed POCAC members.  Joint Commission/POCAC meeting minutes are officially Commission meeting minutes and therefore listed on our website under Commission Minutes.
Recommendations for Future POCAC Assignments
Below is a list compiled on September 7, 2014 of citizen advisory committee recommendations for work:
1. Sea Level Rise
2. Earthquake Risks
3. Military Shipments
4. Use POCAC volunteers as meeting observers or for other individual assignments relating to public issues (like the Strategic Plan Update in progress)
5. North Point
6. Passenger Ferry Berth
7. Sustainability (proposed by Frank Gorecki Jan 2012)
8. Renewable Energy Opportunities (proposed by Commissioner Davis 11-16-11)
9. Live-a-boards in Swantown Marina (proposed by Commissioner Barner 9-18-12)
10. Potential uses of SW Airport area outside fence, including off-leash dog parks (proposed by Commissioner Barner 9-18-12)
11. Fuel Dock Merits (proposed by Commissioner Barner and Bill Garson 9-18-12)
12. Collaboration with educational institutions on workforce development (proposed by Commissioner Barner 9-18-12)
13. Improving public understanding of Port (proposed by Commissioner McGregor 9-18-12)
14. Inventory potential facilities in Thurston County available for use in Foreign Trade Zone 216 (proposed by Clydia Cuykendall 9-18-12)
15. Impacts from Panama Canal widening and other Port strengths/weaknesses (proposed by Jim Olson 10-16-12)
Little Hollywood notes that for the January and February 2015 meetings of the port’s citizen advisory committee, there was no formal opportunity listed on the agenda for the public to speak.  Janine Unsoeld did speak to the group at length in February when introduced to the committee by Commissioner George Barner.
The meeting agenda for March 17 does list a formal opportunity for public comment. The agenda does not mention a process for replacing Patricia Pyle on the committee unless it is scheduled to be covered under “Other Business.”
Four work topics for 2015 were provided to the citizen advisory committee at their February 17 meeting: transparency, naming protocols for Port owned facilities, vision statement, and a committee self-evaluation. For the February 22 story about that meeting, go to Little Hollywood,
For more articles related to the Port of Olympia, go to Little Hollywood,

Port of Olympia Commissioner Sue Gunn Resigns for Health Reasons; Petition for Replacement Begins

Above: Aerial of the Port of Olympia marine property and the Olympia Farmer's Market, which sits on Port property, as seen here in December 2014. Under the blue tarps is a shipment of ceramic proppants, used in hydraulic fracturing operations in the North Dakota Bakken Oil Formation. This is just one issue that greets an incoming port commissioner who will replace Commissioner Sue Gunn. Last March, Gunn cast the lone dissenting vote against seeking bids for construction of a warehouse for the shipments.

By Janine Unsoeld

In a letter to the community on March 13, Port of Olympia Commissioner Sue Gunn resigned for health reasons. Her full letter is reprinted, below, in its entirety.
Little Hollywood reached out to Commissioner Gunn twice since late February and wishes her a full recovery.
Questions from Little Hollywood to Port of Olympia staff on February 18 about Gunn’s absence such as, “Should a replacement be appointed until she (Gunn) comes back?” and “What would be the process for this?” never received a response.
Paul Pickett, 58, Olympia, an environmental engineer who works for the State of Washington and teaches classes at The Evergreen State College, was considering a run for the Port against Commissioner George Barner, but recently decided against it, due to the recent, unexpected resignation of Commissioner Sue Gunn.
“Members of the community had approached me about running for the Port against George Barner and now Joe Downing. Their goal was to have another Commissioner with a vision of the Port similar to Sue Gunn’s.  I saw this potential race as a contest between “business as usual” and a different vision of a Port planning for a 21st century where our community and world is rapidly changing.
“Unfortunately, Sue’s health forced her resignation. That leaves our community in limbo regarding what happens next. Without the certainty that I would be working with Sue should I be so fortunate as to win the seat, I’ve decided to end my planning for a possible campaign.
“The community should monitor the next steps closely. Many questions remain. Who will step up to apply for the vacant position? Will George Barner and Bill McGregor agree on the candidate to fill the seat? If they don’t, who would the County Commissioners pick? And who will file in May to run for election to fill the final two years of that position?
“There are discussions roaring through community networks about this situation. We shall see how it shakes out,” says Pickett.
Petition to Port
One person who decided to make her voice known is Sherri Goulet, who is circulating an informal petition requesting that Port Commissioners George Barner and Bill McGregor appoint someone who shares the values and vision of Gunn and her supporters. 
“We have about 10 days to gather as many signers as possible. I am beyond sad to lose Commissioner Gunn at the Port,” says petition organizer Sherri Goulet, Olympia.
“Since we don’t have a Move On type petition vehicle online and since we have a very short time frame, we’re doing it the old fashioned way.  If people email me that they wish to be included on the list of signatories, then they are included.  It’s not a formal petition that will be used in a legal fashion; it’s a statement of the facts, expressing support for Commissioner Gunn with a request that voters be included in the selection process for her replacement. The petition was created with a group process.  We did our best to convey the facts with perhaps a little editorializing included. Signatures will be solicited through Friday, March 20, and will be presented at the Port meeting on March 23,” says Goulet.
Those who would like to be added to the petition can email her at  
“Send me an email saying that you wish your name to be on the petition and pass this petition on to those you know who care about the environment, transparency in government and judicious use of taxpayer funds, and be thinking about a replacement for Sue—someone in District 3 who would be willing to run for her position,” says Goulet.
The petition reads:
Port Commissioner Sue Gunn was elected by the voters of Thurston County in November, 2013, beginning her term in January, 2014.  She’s been a strong advocate for an environmentally responsible port and has worked diligently to improve the Port’s relationship with the public, increase transparency, make the budget more comprehensible to all, apply Port funds more equitably across the county, support the Farmers Market and agriculture in Thurston County and see that a thorough analysis accompanies any decisions.  These are the issues she campaigned and won on, and she has been doing what she promised.
Currently Commissioner Gunn is recovering from open heart surgery.  In what appeared to many to be an effort to remove Sue Gunn from the Port Commission, Commissioner McGregor refused to excuse her from the February 27, 2015 Port meeting, saying she’d been absent “long enough.”  The failure to excuse a Commissioner from a meeting is a procedural maneuver that started a clock on a presumed 60-day deadline for Sue Gunn to return or be eliminated from the Commission.
Commissioner McGregor’s action was surprising, as there had been no direct communication with her from the Port.  In addition, this procedure was not invoked with the extended absence of Commissioner Barner several years ago.  This unprecedented maneuver occurred just when Commissioner Gunn had begun to recover from a series of health events following her surgery.  We denounce this act as not only lacking compassion, but also as undoubtedly causing increased stress to Commissioner Gunn.
The idea that one Commissioner attempted to undo the results of a democratic election is appalling.  Commissioner McGregor’s action undermines the voters’ will.  Although Commissioner Gunn has now announced her resignation, a personal choice driven by her health, Commissioner McGregor’s action remains unacceptable to us.
We strongly request that Commissioners Barner and McGregor involve the supporters of Sue Gunn in choosing an appointee who represents the views and values of the voters who put Commissioner Gunn in office.
Gunn’s Letter to the Community
Port Commissioner Gunn’s full statement, in her open letter to the voters of Thurston County distributed on Friday, March 13, is as follows:
Thank you for electing me over a year ago to the Commission of the Port of Olympia.  During that time, I have tried to serve your interests by working to make the Port an economic engine for all of Thurston County and to improve the transparency of Port operations and finances.
I have also worked to uncover faulty logic that has supported fiscally unwise decisions that would require taxpayers to subsidize expensive projects.  One example is the proposed construction of a fuel dock that would negatively impact existing local businesses that sell fuel, such as Boston Harbor Marina and Zittles without a return on investment for the taxpayers.
Environmental sustainability has been a high priority for me.  Importing fracking sand headed for the infamous Bakken oil field has been a primary concern.  With your help, we were able to force the Port to do the appropriate environmental studies prior to attempting to expand that operation and run more rail cars through Olympia.
In an effort to have your voices heard, I have been a strong proponent of strategic planning with extensive outreach into the community.  This type of outreach has not been done since 1996 and is long overdue at this public institution.  Strategic planning is the path to new economic development endeavors by the Port, such as supporting agriculture.  I have also endeavored to create new oversight committees, one for the Marine Terminal and one for the Airport, to improve relationships between these enterprises and the community.
I regret to inform you that I have decided to resign from my position on the Commission effective April 1, 2015, to allow myself the time I need to heal from recent heart surgery and associated complications.  There has been considerable pressure on me from the Port, and from one of the Commissioners, to return rapidly, which is not conducive to the extensive healing needed.  It’s necessary to take the time required to recover from this complex medical event.

If these ideas resonate with you, my hope is that you, the voters, will continue to articulate these priorities to the Port and insist that thorough analysis and accurate reporting accompany all Port decisions and that the Port find new, sustainable economic opportunities in the county.

Thank you for your past support and for all the good wishes I have received since undergoing my surgery.


Sue Gunn

For more information about the Port of Olympia and the absence of Commissioner Gunn, go to Little Hollywood, and view Port of Olympia meetings, particularly March 9, at:

Monday, March 2, 2015

Journalist Chris Hedges Comes to Olympia

By Janine Unsoeld

Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and columnist for Truthdig, spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans, with fifteen years at The New York Times.
Hedges will be speaking on Monday, March 9, 2015, 7:00 p.m., at South Puget Sound Community College’s Minnaert Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are $10 for community members and free with SPSCC student identification. Tickets are available online at or by calling (360)753-8586 or at the Washington Center or the Minnaert Center box offices. The event is sponsored by B.R.I.C.K.
Hedges, who said he has never been to Olympia before, took the time to respond this morning to a few questions posed by Little Hollywood.

Hedges is the author of numerous bestselling books, including Empire of Illusion, Death of the Liberal Class, War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, and Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt. His latest book, Wages of Rebellion, will be released in May.
According to Hedges’ press release:
Revolutions come in waves and cycles. We are again riding the crest of a revolutionary epic, much like 1848 or 1917, from the Arab Spring to movements against austerity in Greece to the Occupy movement. In Wages of Rebellion, Chris Hedges—who has chronicled the malaise and sickness of a society in terminal moral decline in his books Empire of Illusion and Death of the Liberal Class—investigates what social and psychological factors cause revolution, rebellion, and resistance. Drawing on an ambitious overview of prominent philosophers, historians, and literary figures he shows not only the harbingers of a coming crisis but also the nascent seeds of rebellion. Hedges’ message is clear: popular uprisings in the United States and around the world are inevitable in the face of environmental destruction and wealth polarization.
Focusing on the stories of rebels from around the world and throughout history, Hedges investigates what it takes to be a rebel in modern times. Utilizing the work of Reinhold Niebuhr, Hedges describes the motivation that guides the actions of rebels as “sublime madness” — the state of passion that causes the rebel to engage in an unavailing fight against overwhelmingly powerful and oppressive forces. For Hedges, resistance is carried out not for its success, but as a moral imperative that affirms life. Those who rise up against the odds will be those endowed with this “sublime madness.”
Interview with Little Hollywood:
Little Hollywood: You have a Master of Divinity degree from Harvard University. In secular media, do you notice a bias against people who share their thankfulness or faith in God? How does your religious training influence your writing?
Hedges: I worked at The New York Times for 15 years where they looked any anyone who expressed any appreciation for religious thought as slightly unhinged.  I would say all my writing is rooted in my theological studies and my reverence for the sacred.  That said, I am no friend of institutional religion.  The theologian Paul Tillich got it right.  All institutions, including the church, are inherently demonic.
Little Hollywood: Regarding terrorism, ISIS is a gang and seems to be effective in attracting disaffected young people – it gives them a purpose, an identity and a feeling of belonging. Is there a way to attract people toward good motives and purposes? 
Hedges: We created ISIS.  We did it by dropping missiles, artillery and carrying out air strikes for 13 years in the Middle East.  We did it with our militarized drones.  We have decapitated far more people, including children, than ISIS.  During the Vietnam War we carried out saturation bombing of Cambodia and got Pol Pot.  This is the modern equivalent.  When you brutalize people they become brutal.  And we would be no different.  ISIS burns a pilot in a cage because our air strikes burn whole families in their homes.  What ISIS did is cruder, but it is morally no different.  Employing more violence to solve a problem caused by indiscriminate violence is idiotic.  But it makes the merchants of war rich.
Little Hollywood: You are currently teaching prisoners at the maximum security prison in New Jersey and just posted a story about Siddique Hasan, a man on death row in Ohio. What are you teaching the prisoners, how often, and what are you learning?
Hedges: I teach college credit level courses to prisoners at the maximum security prison in Rahway, New Jersey.  I teach something different every semester.  This spring I am teaching a course on conquest so we are reading The Open Veins of Latin America, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Black Jacobins and Roll Jordan Roll: The World the Slaves Made.  Last fall I taught W.E.B. Du Bois, James Baldwin, Black Boy and Invisible Man.  The year before I helped prisoners write a play about prison called “Caged” (see my column "The Play's the Thing) that will be performed by a theater in New York in January.  Mass incarceration is the most important civil rights issues of our time.
Little Hollywood: You’ve won awards for your online journalism. In a question about online vs. print journalism, how do citizen online journalists get their stories noticed by a wider audience than the already converted? Do you read anything in print?
Hedges: I write a weekly column as if it was for a print publication.  I do not like social media -- I do not have a television, a web page, a Facebook page or tweet -- because I see it as a form of self-promotion and intellectually shallow. I remain rooted in a print-based culture.  There are 5,000 books in my house and I read for a few hours every night.  I wrote a book about the importance of remaining rooted in the world of ideas called Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle. 
Little Hollywood: You left The New York Times after being issued a formal reprimand for denouncing the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq in a graduation speech. In an interview, you said The New York Times acted as nothing less than a stenographer for the Bush White House pumping out lies used to justify the war. What stories is The New York Times currently getting wrong? 
Hedges: The New York Times is an elitist publication.  Its unwritten credo is: do not significantly alienate those on whom we depend for money and access.  That said, it can still do great journalism.  But it is an establishment organ.  Its biggest sin right now is that it continues to treat centers of power, both political and financial, with respect and deference when they have become criminal.  This includes Wall Street, the courts that defend wholesale surveillance and a system where money replaces the vote and our political leaders who are corporate puppets.  The longer they continue to play this game the more credibility they lose.
Little Hollywood: You’ve been fortunate to travel to get first-hand source information and interviews, especially since you know three languages in addition to English: Arabic, French, and Spanish. In a 2007 interview, you said that you don’t own a television. Is this still true, and for how long have you not had a television? How has this influenced your children’s development and understanding of the world? 
Hedges: I have never had a television.  I did not grow up with one.  Neither have my children.  This is why they are readers.  We spend a lot of time outdoors.  We unplug from the electronic hallucinations of modern culture.  And we are much healthier for it.  As a writer I do not want to speak in the language the corporate state gives to us.  This is why reading is so important.  You cannot challenge systems of power unless you understand those systems -- including the nature of capitalism -- and this requires you pick up, for example, Marx's Capital Volume I and read all 940 pages.  There is no short cut to knowledge.
Little Hollywood: Many environmentalists seem to arrive upon an issue too late, or chase the latest issue du jour. A lot of energy is wasted participating in structured public hearings that are designed to involve the public too little and too late. How can activists work smarter on issues that really matter, and really make a difference?
Hedges: By realizing that the system is gamed.  The corporate forces that are destroying the environment are writing the regulations.  This is why after the three decades-long struggle by environmental groups things are worse.  We can't halt the destruction of the eco-system by asking those who are destroying it to regulate themselves.  This is ridiculous.  We have to create acts of mass civil disobedience to make this destruction difficult for them.  Not one in the Democratic or Republican parties at this point is going to help us.    
Little Hollywood: I’ve told you a little bit about the types of issues local environmental activists are interested here in Olympia: land use, climate change, growth, food sustainability, Puget Sound water quality, the Port of Olympia’s acceptance of ceramic proppants from Asia used in the fracking industry and the export of raw logs to Asia, proposed oil train-to-marine transfer terminals in Washington State, and more.  In general and environmentally, what types of stories do you feel are most underreported that, if covered, will help progressive citizens get to the root of making a difference? What would that look like?
Hedges: No one writes about the poor, now about half the country.  They have become invisible.  What is being done to the poor, especially the poor in our sacrifice zones, such as the coal fields of West Virginia, is key to understanding what corporate forces are now doing to us.  Joe Sacco and I wrote a book out of the poorest pockets of the United States called Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, that tried to show what unfettered capitalism looks like.  When there are no impediments to capitalism it becomes, as Marx wrote, a revolutionary force.  People and the nature world become commodities to exploit until exhaustion or collapse.  We are all being sacrificed now and we better wake up and overthrow the corporate state or we will be complicit in the extinction of the human species.
Little Hollywood: You wrote about a hike you took in 2010 on the Appalachian Trail. It sounds like you appreciate nature and turn to it where you live to unwind and help you process the atrocities you have seen in so many war-torn areas of the world. How do you keep from getting overwhelmed with all the world’s issues and how do you choose what to write about?
Hedges: I unplug from the world, go into the woods for days on end with my backpack, look at the stars at night and connect with the vastness of the universe.  This gives me peace.
Little Hollywood: I read in your column, “Saving the Planet One Meal at a Time,” that you became a vegan three months ago.  You wrote:My attitude toward becoming a vegan was similar to Augustine’s attitude toward becoming celibate—“God grant me abstinence, but not yet.” But with animal agriculture as the leading cause of species extinction, water pollution, ocean dead zones and habitat destruction, and with the death spiral of the ecosystem ever more pronounced, becoming vegan is the most important and direct change we can immediately make to save the planet and its species. It is one that my wife—who was the engine behind our family’s shift—and I have made.” How is it going?
Hedges: I remain a committed vegan.  No one who cares about saving the planet, and who believes life is sacred, can eat animal products.
Little Hollywood would like to thank Chris Hedges for taking the time to respond to my questions.
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If you require disability accommodations for this event, please contact the Office of Student Life at or call (360) 596-5306.