Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Risky Business: Olympia Port Commission vs City of Olympia

Above: Part meeting, part trial, the Port of Olympia Commission met on Monday night with a capacity crowd present. The tenuous relationship between the City of Olympia and the Port of Olympia and county-wide community members involves risky business, and no dispute resolution seems to be in sight.

By Janine Gates

- Port tables discussion of City of Olympia’s hydraulic fracking, Standing Rock resolutions, meeting discussions with City

- 2017 Budget Passes, Downing sought to censure Zita for her role, conduct in rail blockade citing Little Hollywood, The Olympian news sources; McGregor refuses to vote for censure

- McGregor gives statement about Port's Role in Rail Blockade Raid, City of Olympia’s Chief Roberts’ statement 

Like a Thanksgiving family gathering gone bad, it was a Port of Olympia meeting that finally ended, after four hours and fifteen minutes of contentious, downright cringe-worthy, bickering behavior.

Much like the City of Olympia's council meeting last Tuesday night, the meeting room was nearly filled to capacity, and many wanted to speak or at least hear more information about the rail blockade of a Union Pacific train that ended November 18. 

The train, filled with ceramic proppants, was set to leave the Port of Olympia under contract with Rainbow Ceramics on November 11, but was forced to return to the port when protesters blocked the tracks. 

It was the first Port of Olympia meeting held after the multi-jurisdictional law enforcement raid on the camp, and like the council meeting, specific details were absent.

The 48 page agenda dramatically shape-shifted at the outset, with Commissioner Joe Downing dispensing with a discussion of the City of Olympia’s 2014 resolution concerning the oil-by-rail industry, hydraulic fracturing, and oil exports, and its October 2016 resolution in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s opposition to construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. 

Commissioners were also scheduled to discuss the details of a possible meeting with the city.

“(We need) to determine, what the city does, if anything, about Chief Roberts' statement. We need to know where the city stands on protecting individual's private property rights and businesses that operate within the city's jurisdiction before we meet with them. It may also make sense that the city initiate a meeting with the port since they mentioned the port in their 2014 anti-fracking oil-by-rail resolution, and one of their employees spoke publicly and negatively about the Port,” said Downing. 

The motion to change the agenda was seconded by Commissioner Bill McGregor.

Downing said he was open to a meeting with the city through established channels, which would be between Olympia city manager Steve Hall and port executive director Ed Galligan.

“So far, we have not heard that from the city or conditions for that meeting,” said Downing. 

Commissioner E. J. Zita said that no decisions were to be made that evening about the cargo shipments, and discussion should proceed. 

McGregor suggested waiting until a work session in January to discuss it again. That suggestion was met with some snickers from the audience. 

Zita wanted to extend public comment to the amount of time it would have taken to have that discussion.

“The Washington Public Ports Association...encourages us to allow as much public comment as the people ask for....We clearly have some damage control to do…by taking the Washington Public Ports' advice, we would be taking a step in the right direction....I think they are giving good advice,” said Zita.

Downing responded that he took exception to the phrase “damage control,” saying, “The port is hurting as well...both sides have taken hits.”

Extending public comment to accommodate speakers was denied, but speakers were given more chances to speak that evening. 

Former Olympia city councilmember T.J. Johnson was one of the first to speak at public comment. Now a farmer, Johnson said that Downing's previous comments that protesters should 'move on to the next issue' was ridiculous. 

In response to McGregor's desire to wait until January to speak with the city about future shipments of ceramic proppants, Johnson said, “...Climate change is the issue. Fossil fuel extraction is the issue. The Arctic is 30 degrees warmer than has ever been recorded in history...scientists this week talk about 19 critical tipping points that were just exceeded in terms of climate change. The idea that people are protesting because they just need an issue to protest, no, this is the issue today, tomorrow, and in January, when you get around to your tabled resolutions, and for the next 100 years.... 

Susan McRae also spoke passionately about the shipments.

“The Nuremberg Trials were clear: when facing a great wrong, each individual is responsible for doing the right thing and working to prevent the injustice.  This is why I am here this evening. I consider the Port’s complicity with the fossil fuel industry a form of genocide. Our earth as we know it is being destroyed by global climate disruption....

“The available evidence overwhelmingly indicates that fracking is incredibly harmful. The citizens of Olympia know this.  The citizens of Olympia do not want the Port to be facilitating fracking in any form.

Several longshoremen spoke: Dwayne Napolean commented that everything on the docks is controversial by somebody's standards, Michael Blocker said that his wages come from the cargo, not the taxpayers, and Richard Korn said he moved here in the late 80s as a young Evergreen State College student against logging. 

The Port has given me a great standard of living, benefits, my children are happy and healthy and have healthcare...I owe that to the port....The port makes it a much nicer place to live in Thurston County.... said Korn.

Above:  Protesters who participated in the blockade, and bystanders who came downtown to help, assist with cleaning up the aftermath of the blockade, while law enforcement continued to guard the tracks on Friday afternoon, November 18.

Downing Seeks To Censure Zita

Yes, the port passed their 2017 budget and capital investment plan with substantial public comment, with the marine terminal revenue and operations still being the most unstable. 

The port continues to operate at a loss in the millions while taxing homeowners nearly $40 on a $230,000 home. Commissioner McGregor said that while he too hopes the port would be off the tax rolls, that it won't happen in his lifetime. 

Then, accusations of misconduct were leveled by Port Commissioner Joe Downing against Port Commissioner E.J. Zita in what amounted to a spontaneous trial.

Downing sought to formally censure Zita on three alleged infractions: talking to the press or public about information learned in executive session, speaking poorly of port staff, and misrepresenting herself as a port liaison in the rail blockade situation without authority.

Downing said Zita violated the port’s 2008 resolution regarding ethical standards, and two articles of its 2015 code of conduct, on integrity and respect. He also added an alleged violation to RCW 42.23.070 under Prohibited Acts, which states that no municipal officer may disclose confidential information gained by reason of the officer’s position.

To support the merits of his case, Downing used excerpts of stories from Little Hollywood and The Olympian, dated November 15, 16 and 17, which were placed on the viewing screen for the public. He proceeded to pummel her for well over an hour.

Zita capably defended herself, pro se, on each point, saying that the information she learned about a possible raid on the camp was not learned in executive session, that port executive director Ed Galligan had, in fact, called her and told her that the camp may be broken up on Thursday. She said she did not know that this was confidential information.

“We should all share concern for public peace and safety. Your way is to keep secrets. My way is to…not keep secrets,” Zita responded to Downing.

Downing continued with his charges, citing a paragraph in a story posted by Little Hollywood on November 15, “Olympia Rail Protesters Given Notice to Vacate, Port Commissioners Respond,” to accuse Zita of speaking poorly of Galligan.

The paragraph he cited, quoting Zita, states, “Port commissioners are responsible for setting port policy, and the executive director is responsible for carrying out the policy. While the executive director may have played a key role in securing the Rainbow Ceramics contract to move fracking proppants through the Port, future decisions on this matter rest with commissioners.”

Zita responded that the statement was neither accusatory nor inflammatory toward Galligan.

“What are our policies on accepting cargo? We haven’t finished that conversation…This is part of a conversation that we have yet to finish…and it’s our job to do that….” she said.

Downing said he sees it as a pattern of belittling the executive director. Zita denied the charge.

Finally, Downing accused Zita of misrepresenting her authority as a liaison of the port in speaking with the protesters. In response, she presented a string of emails dated November 16 – 23 between her and Galligan.

The emails explain the roles she and City of Olympia Mayor Pro Tem Nathaniel Jones played as liaisons in order to seek a peaceful resolution to the situation.

Her email to Galligan dated November 17 clearly states, “All involved understand that none of the participants are authorized to make decisions on behalf of their groups – Olympia Stand, the City, or the Port.” (Bolded and underlines are in the original email.)

Commissioner McGregor seconded the motion, “so we can get to public comment.” His second required the public comment, as the censure would be an action item. Weigh in they did - nearly 20 speakers. More than one said that Downing’s accusations were a “witch hunt,” and “embarrassing,” and demonstrated a lack of civility.

Many longshoremen spoke in support of Downing and congratulated him for protecting the marine terminal interests and their jobs.

Kelly Atkinson, senior vice president of Talon Marine Services of Seattle, said he represents the ships and vessels and in all his 20 years of coming to Olympia for business, has never seen a meeting like this. He questioned Commissioner Zita and whether she supported the marina division of the Port, saying she spoke in political doublespeak.

Earlier in the evening, Atkinson complimented the port, saying that crews felt safe and welcome in Olympia. He said that 25 vessels came to port, and crew members spent between $10,000 - $12,000 per port of call, dispersed through various channels, including food provisions and Capital Mall, generating about $300,000 a year into the community.

In Zita's defense, Franz Kilmer-Shoultz said that he was one of the protesters at the camp for nine hours a day, and said it was not Commissioner Zita who alerted protesters that a raid was imminent, but that it was, in fact, a city councilmember who told him.

The evening was so dramatic that Downing’s wife, Myra, felt compelled to step up to defend her husband.

Finally, McGregor said that while this has been a difficult discussion, he commended Downing for bringing up his frustration that the port has not been operating as a body of unity.

Instead of voting to censure Zita, McGregor recused himself, and suggested that all three of them be given a verbal warning.

“Let the healing begin,” he said, in part.

Downing said he felt he got his message across, and that the port needs to run more smoothly.

More public comment by a healthy mix of witnesses to the rail blockade raid, community members, longshoremen, and local economic development representatives ensued. For some, it was their first time at a port meeting, and they used a wide range of adjectives to describe the evening.

McGregor Clarifies Port Role in Rail Blockade

Capping off the evening, McGregor had a few words of his own about City of Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts' comments to city council last Tuesday, and clarified the Port's role in the raid on the blockade.

Roberts’ statement was transcribed by Little Hollywood and published in a November 23 article here: http://janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com/2016/11/olympia-police-chief-denounces-port-of.html

McGregor said that Roberts took an oath of office on the responsibility of police chief and has a legal obligation to respond to those who violate the law. He said he was not going to second guess the appropriateness of the response, and commended officers for enduring taunts and intimidation tactics used by the protesters.

...While we were involved early on in the planning of the removal (of the protesters), the planning changed dramatically due to sensitive information being disclosed to the newspaper earlier in that week by Commissioner Zita. In a follow up meeting, Port staff and/or commissioners were then excluded and were not part of nor privy to the planned action, date, time, etc. of law enforcement plans that were put into motion....

An email from Commissioner Zita to Galligan on November 23 and copied to City of Olympia Mayor Cheryl Selby and city manager Steve Hall indicates that when Zita walked in on the multi-jurisdictional law enforcement meeting held at port offices on Thursday, November 17, the port's security lead was at the center of the head table. 

Zita says that after she noted the presence of the port security lead, he was then also escorted out.

For more photos and information about the Port of Olympia, the rail blockade of a Union Pacific train, the City of Olympia, Police Chief Ronnie Roberts' statement about the Port of Olympia and ceramic proppants, go to Little Hollywood, https://janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com, and use the search button to type in key words.

Above: There are more ceramic proppants at the Port of Olympia. Photo taken of the Port of Olympia on November 22, 2016.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Olympia’s First Poet Laureate: Amy Solomon-Minarchi

Above: Amy Leah Solomon-Minarchi was selected to be Olympia's first poet laureate. About the position, Solomon-Minarchi says, “It’s not about me - it’s about uniting people in Olympia. I can do this because I care about Olympia and people’s stories….” 

In an interview with Little Hollywood, Solomon-Minarchi explores her role, youth and military life voices, current events, and the culture of Olympia

By Janine Gates

The City of Olympia now has its first poet laureate, Amy Leah Solomon-Minarchi.

Based upon the recommendation of a city arts selection committee, the Olympia city council appointed Solomon-Minarchi to the new position on Tuesday. 

Solomon-Minarchi sat down with Little Hollywood on Friday to speak about the position, and share her thoughts about the meaning and purpose of poetry, youth and other voices that are not often heard, and the changing culture of Olympia. 

Even in an interview, Solomon-Minarchi’s words are eloquent, well-chosen, and quietly spoken, capturing powerful images. 

Solomon-Minarchi, an English, creative writing, and philosophy teacher for 11th and 12th graders at North Thurston High School, is also the advisor for the school’s “Write Club,” and advisor and publisher of the school’s literary magazine, “The Art of Words.”

She is also a choreographer at the school, designing and implementing dances with students for the school musical and Spring Arts Showcase productions. 

A member and student of the Richard Hugo House in Seattle, Solomon-Minarchi received her undergraduate degree from Rutgers University, and received her master’s in teaching degree from The Evergreen State College in 2010. She has won many honors and awards.

Solomon-Minarchi grew up in New Jersey and has lived in Olympia for eight years. She is expected to fulfill her duties for two years and will receive a $1,000 stipend per year.

“Olympia’s diverse populations are at a serious crossroads in which no one dare cross the road. Let poetry be the place where we enter the crosswalk,” Solomon-Minarchi said in her application. 

She proposed a program called, “I Hear Olympia Singing,” in which she says she will build community through poetry, offering literary arts workshops with the schools that have the least resources and highest need for art programs and enrichment.

She also envisions writing contests and readings with outreach to Community Youth Services and Olympians at large to elevate perception and engagement in the growing downtown arts core. 

Her Writing the City program would hold open calls for short poems, a semi-annual public art display, and a monthly walking tour and writing series that will take students to rotating spaces around the city to practice capturing sensory imagery and sound.

Ultimately, at the end of her term, Solomon-Minarchi says she would work toward editing an anthology of poems that captures Olympia “in all its burgeoning flux that will celebrate the local and rich working history of Olympia and the new, five-story culture of artist lofts, convention centers and Seattle transplants buying property in cash, who look with wide wonder at the eclectic promise of growing roots here.”

Solomon-Minarchi was chosen out of 10 applicants by a committee of five individuals who met for one and a half hours to discuss the applications. Little Hollywood was at the October 27 meeting to observe the selection process.

When they arrived at their decision, they said Solomon-Minarchi, “….has an energy that sets her apart from the others…she’s youth focused and very approachable and accessible. Her poetry is so place-based….She’s someone who will grow the (poet laureate) program and engage us….good presence….Her Writing the City program is so cool….”

The suggestion to have a city poet laureate arose out of a committee referral in 2015 and proceeded through the city’s arts advisory committee to promote poetry as an art form and contribute to a sense of place. 

Stephanie Johnson, city parks, arts and recreation program staff, facilitated the nomination selection and recommendation process. Applicants were referred to by number, not name, while they watched submitted video presentations and evaluated application strengths and weaknesses. The applicants were winnowed down to Solomon-Minarchi and her alternate, Cecily Markham.

Johnson and the committee looked at the selection process paved by other cities such as Tacoma, Fresno, and Reno. Outreach was done through the city website, the city’s Arts Digest email list, the Olympia Poetry Network, and the Old Growth Poetry Network. 

Solomon-Minarchi’s poem, Suburban Danger, was one of the poems she submitted to the arts committee for consideration.

It was inspired, she said, by a brief brush with a speeding car while walking a baby and big dog through the crosswalk at 7th Avenue SE and Boundary, in Olympia’s eastside neighborhood.

Suburban Danger

Cars speed past pedestrians in crosswalks
while babies stain Snugglies, dogs strain leashes
drivers yell, 900 points, and mean it.

Mount Rainier so majestic, could we climb it if
the tsunami hits? Better yet seek the water tower
pack the power bars, guzzle Powerade

and wait to be saved. Or if it erupts
could we outrun the lava flow in our
Prius? Would we run out of gas mid-flee?

If only my mother were here. We could
be generations until the white waves
Wash us out to sea, or the red hand claims us.

Above: Chum salmon make their journey back to spawn last week at McLane Creek Nature Trail in Olympia. Stream Team salmon stewards explained how baby salmon imprint on the water in their home stream. When they migrate back from their stay in the ocean, biologists believe they recognize the smell of McLane Creek by its distinctive smell.

Solomon-Minarchi was asked what she feels South Sound youth need to express, and what poetry might mean to them.

“Young people have a lot to share. They have a treasure trove of stories to tell. Poetry is an efficient way to get out their emotions. Students are working on how their voices have meaning, because, as they are growing and developing, at 16 - 17, this is the time they are playing with their voice. They are saying, ‘What does this mean?’ And once they graduate, they are just like little fish in a huge ocean. 

What poetry might mean to them is finding a way to look around themselves, ground themselves, and face the emotions they are feeling and chronicle the new experiences they are having, whether it is college, a job, relationships…it’s all funny, strange, and new.

“They are also figuring out when to tell their stories, what’s relevant, and how much to share. You know, you’ve got students that just want to tell you every little thing, and others hold it all in and lock it up in a box. 

The role of poetry, or a teacher of writing, is to give them space to be able to sort out those emotions together. They are in a community. They are not alone. Storytelling is powerful and the cultures that last have stories to tell, pass on, and are meaningful. Then there’s the question of how to tell the story. There’s not just one way….”

Asked what local or national poetry she appreciates, Solomon-Minarchi mentioned the art of Elizabeth Austen, a recent Washington State Poet Laureate, who wrote the chapbook, Every Dress a Decision, a finalist for the 2012 Washington State Book Award in poetry. 

She also mentioned the poetry of Brian Turner, a noncommissioned officer in the Iraq War.

Solomon-Minarchi says she will capture the voices of veterans, not because she is one, but because her husband is, and she wants to honor them with an open heart.

“For those who care for veterans, it’s not an easy job – there’s heartache, longing, uncertainty. I’d like to provide a counterpoint voice to say, ‘Hey, this is what it was like back home….”’

There’s also a place for Walt Whitman. “When I ask students to read his poetry, I get groans,” she laughed. “They ask, ‘How do I relate to him? Solomon-Minarchi says that is a valid response.

“I know that my love of poetry comes from the generative process of writing, and writing together with people, being able to see the same thing – going to Percival Landing and looking out onto the Sound. 

My poem might be very, very different from the person sitting next to me, and yet we both share that experience and that brings us together. Part of what I want to do is have open-mic at the Olympia Farmer’s Market. It takes courage to say it in front of others and celebrate our voice in the moment.”

Briefly touching upon the city’s current events, Solomon-Minarchi said she was watching Tuesday evening’s city council meeting from home, and heard Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts’ comments about the Port of Olympia and the recent rail blockade of a Union Pacific train by protesters in downtown Olympia.

“Being in this position right now will be very interesting. We have stories, but we are also making stories together. There is fear in the unknown, and what kind of direction Olympia is going to go in….We see the tall buildings going up and we’re missing our small town….

The culture will change, and there’s a lot of emotion about that, whether it’s anxiety about how that will play out, and whether we’ll be able to keep the things that make us different, like being able to go down to the railroad track at 4:00 a.m. and say, ‘This is not ok.’ This is real. Over the next two years, we want, through poetry, to capture the identity of Olympia, the changing of Olympia, and what brings us together.”

Above: Children and parent volunteers from Roosevelt Elementary School observe the salmon run at McLane Creek Nature Trail last Thursday afternoon in Olympia. A group of older children from North Thurston High School were also on the trail, and were being encouraged by a teacher to “....zoom out and sketch the greater ecosystem....

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Barb O'Neill's Family and Friends 47th Annual Thanksgiving Meal

Above: Rodney O’Neill greets friends as he carries on his mother’s legacy with Barb O'Neill's Family and Friends Thanksgiving event. Barb O’Neill started the meal for family and close friends out of her home in 1969. Eventually, it became a community event.

By Janine Gates

Rodney O’Neill, 50, suffered a stroke on January 31, but says nothing could keep him and a whole lot of friends from pulling off the 47th annual Barb O’Neill’s Family and Friends Thanksgiving community meal. The event was held at First United Methodist Church on Wednesday.

“Without the community support and help of everybody, we would be sunk,” he said, crediting support from local nonprofits, the Washington Federation of State Employees Local 443 union, NW Realty and the Van Dorm family, and many more.

About his stroke that affected his right side, O’Neill said, “It happened so quickly -there were no warning signs.” O’Neill has worked hard to recover, and has progressed from using a wheelchair to walking with some difficulty. 

“It slowed me down but it definitely didn’t stop me. I have a purpose. I have been given the right tools to do what I do with knowledge, faith, and a genuine passion to want to help people….” he said, as well wishers and friends constantly caught his attention.

O’Neill estimated that about 150 volunteers turned out to assist with the meal, including a lot of high school students from Olympia High School and Timberline High School, who also provided musical entertainment.

Logistically, volunteers started planning on Tuesday at 8:00 a.m.

“Being prepared and working all day yesterday gave us an advantage,” he said. O’Neill was prepared to serve about 1,500 meals, but by 4:30 p.m., only about 550 meals were served. Each meal was deeply appreciated.

An evening dinner rush before 5:00 p.m. is typical, and volunteers were ready. Robert Johns, who has assisted with the Thanksgiving dinner for four years, wore a festive turkey hat as he stood behind the serving line, ready to replace empty serving food containers with hot, full ones. 

The total number of those served was down, perhaps due to the fact that the event was changed this year from United Churches in downtown Olympia to First United Methodist Church on Legion Way, in Olympia’s eastside neighborhood. 

The new location provides more room for folks to eat, sit, enjoy musical entertainment on a stage, and make new friends, or see old friends. O’Neill is confident people will find and get used to coming to the new location.

“It’s just amazing….Look, there’s no stress on their faces. They are happy to be here,” O'Neill said of the crowd. 

Not only were folks able to eat a traditional Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings, a resource room was set up to provide information about local social services, and a clothing room provided clothes, blankets, coats, and paper bags filled with soups and soap. The YMCA provided free shower passes to those in need. 

Providing enough clothes and warm coats for men is a perpetual need and donations are accepted year round.

Describing how he had worked on the meals by his mother’s side since he was little, O'Neill said that taking over the event was not as easy as he first thought.

“In the last three years of her life, it was like I was in ‘Training Day.’ It was always so intense with everything she was trying to tell me, and I was like, ‘OK, Mom, I got it, I got it,’ but the whole time, I didn’t have it.”

But by the looks of how shifts of volunteers were kept busy and smoothly rotated between stations, and plentiful, hot food, drinks and desserts were served with smiles, with friendly conversation heard throughout the church’s Great Hall, it would seem Rodney O’Neill has got it.

O’Neill’s Family and Friends will have a Christmas meal on Saturday, December 17, from 12 – 6:00 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, and provide toys and gift baskets.

For more photos and stories about Barb O’Neill’s Family and Friends, go to https://janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com and type key words into the search engine.

To donate food, gifts, gently used clothing, or supplies such as sleeping bags or coats, or to find out how you can get involved in this event or other community events sponsored by Barb O'Neill's Family and Friends, contact Rodney O'Neill at (360) 485-9931 or barbssoul@yahoo.com.

Olympia Police Chief Denounces Port of Olympia, Proppant Shipments

Above: In an early Friday morning raid on the rail blockade, about 17 law enforcement officers moved several protesters back with flash bang grenades. This photo was taken at about 5:50 a.m. outside the Fish Tale BrewPub on Jefferson Street.

Longshoremen, City Offer Some Information on Raid 

By Janine Gates

The Olympia city council chamber was packed to capacity with community members wanting to speak at Tuesday evening’s council meeting, or at least hear a detailed report about the rail blockade of a Union Pacific train that ended last Friday. 

Port staff was in the audience, as well as Thurston County Commissioner Bud Blake.

Instead, they first heard a stunning, tersely worded statement by City of Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts, who strongly denounced the Port of Olympia and its acceptance of ceramic proppants, stating, Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

The train was blocked on November 11 by protesters taking direct action to prevent it from leaving the Port of Olympia with 15 cars of ceramic proppants. 

The Port of Olympia has had a contract with Rainbow Ceramics for several years to accept ceramic proppants from China, offload the cargo, and prepare it for rail transfer to North Dakota and Wyoming for use in the hydraulic fracking process for oil extraction.

The raid which began Friday morning at 4:00 a.m., was conducted by Union Pacific special agents, Washington State Patrol, Thurston County Sheriff’s department, and the Olympia Police Department. 

The train was able to leave Olympia under Washington State Patrol officer escort at 7:00 a.m. 

Above: City of Olympia Chief of Police Ronnie Roberts speaks to city council members Tuesday evening. It angers me to have to put our officers in combat gear to face off with members of our community over something I don’t believe in myself,” said Roberts. 

Chief Roberts was invited to speak by Mayor Cheryl Selby at the outset of the council meeting, who gave a statement:

“Good evening Mayor and Council. I would like to take a few moments to share a few comments and thoughts that are on my mind.

I’m struggling to understand why the Port is not aligned with our community values we hold so dear. I care about our climate and our environment and the impact of products coming into our port for the sake of money. 

I do not agree with the confrontational behavior with police who are simply trying to protect the entire community. I understand these actions are based on fear and a sense of hopelessness with the system where they can’t make change. Where the people don’t trust the process, they will resort to other processes that will be more destructive and harmful overall. 

We are all facing uncertainty and concerned with where the county may be going. I am focusing on love and compassion for our community and a desire to be a steward of the land God gave us so it is available for all our children and grandchildren. 

I don’t want to be a part of this and I don’t want my department to be a scapegoat for the decisions the Port made or is making. They have choices and options should they choose to use them to eliminate proppants coming to the Port. 

Continued shipments will only erode more trust of our people and businesses and put our community at risk. If the Port has to accept any cargo, then price your services out of the market so vendors can go somewhere else where it is more acceptable. 

I’ve spent the last five years empowering our department to build trust and to build relationships with our community. I don’t want to lose these efforts. It angers me to have to put our officers in combat gear to face off with members of our community over something I don’t believe in myself. 

The Port is putting me between a rock and a hard spot and I don’t want to be part of it but I don’t have a choice to not protect our community. It is a mandate for police. 

I implore the Port to look for options that are compatible with our community values which have been stated by council. Part of the thing I talk with officers about is, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. 

Tonight, this is sage advice for the Port.

Thank you.

Cheers and applause from the audience erupted. It is unknown if council members knew what Chief Roberts was going to say.

Instead of responding to Chief Roberts’ remarks, or moving straight to a formal report about the raid, Mayor Cheryl Selby cheerfully moved on with the agenda, without comment, giving special recognition to Senator Karen Fraser. 

The missed opportunity caused some emotional whiplash, but was picked up somewhat when the agenda moved to public comment. Selby informed the audience that 33 people had signed up for public comment and not everyone would be able to speak at the first opportunity of the evening.

Keith Bausch, representing the members of ILWU Longshore Local 47, was the first to speak. About 10 other longshoremen were in the audience.

He expressed concern that had the protest been handled by law enforcement at the outset, the blockade never would have happened and the train could have left Olympia.

“Because of the delayed actions (by law enforcement), more radical elements were able to step in and take over the protest….We hope that plans will be put in place to stop future attempts to blockade rail movements before they get out of hand,” said Bausch.

Bausch said that the train was not going to North Dakota, that it is headed for Wyoming to be used for drilling natural gas wells.

“We need natural gas as an interim fuel to help wean ourselves off of coal and oil….There seems to be a belief that the fracking process is dependent on ceramic proppants. This is a false premise. The U.S. has an abundant supply of silica sand and the oil companies will use it if they can’t get proppants….Stopping this cargo here will have no impact on fracking in the U.S. whatsoever. However, it will impact the job opportunities and future registration for our local. It will reduce needed income for the Port of Olympia, it will also affect the ability of the port to market itself for future cargoes,” said Bausch.

Above: Chris van Daalen, in orange and yellow reflective jacket, observes the situation between law enforcement and protesters outside the Fish Tale Ale on Jefferson Street early Friday morning. Officers held the line while Union Pacific workers and law enforcement cleared the railroad tracks nearby.

Several speakers with first-hand experience visiting the blockade site said the protesters were polite, caring, and thoughtful.

Chris van Daalen spoke, saying he went down to the action to act as a peacekeeper. He was present during the raid, wearing a reflective vest. 

He said he is now involved with a new affinity group that will work to prevent future violence and find common ground and build community with the longshoremen, the police department, and others.

Pat Holm also spoke, and said she made many new friends there. She said that at age 80, she couldn’t risk taking direct action and block the tracks, but was appreciative of the young people who did. She said many protesters have bruises as a result of baton jabbing by officers.

“People were hurt. I feel really sad about that,” said Holm.

Christopher Donnelly spoke, saying that unnecessary force was used against the protesters and the city should ban the use of concussion grenades to suppress protests. He commented that law enforcement was taking surveillance video during the protest, but weren’t wearing body cameras during the raid.

After public comment, city manager Steve Hall spoke, reminding the audience that council unanimously passed a resolution in October in support of Standing Rock. Two years ago, council asked the Port of Olympia to reconsider cargo related to climate change.

Hall said he heard some things in public comment that were not true. He continued, making the following points, some based on his own observations: 

·        The Port has not yet changed its criteria for cargo.

·        Hall saw no injuries related to the clearing of the tracks – “this was my biggest fear that someone would get hurt.”

·        The Union Pacific railroad police asked for assistance from all local law enforcement (Washington State Patrol, Thurston County Sheriff's Department, and Olympia Police Department (OPD).

·        OPD’s main objective was to get people to leave the camp next to the rail lines so that Union Pacific special agents could clear the tracks. The city provided perimeter support so that more people did not get onto the tracks.

·        “In Olympia fashion, the Olympia police provided many, many opportunities for people to leave...Of the 30 or so campers, about 20 left without arrest. Hall observed patience and lack of aggressiveness by OPD. Considerable aggression, taunts and objectionable language by the protesters was observed.

·        Arrests were handled very carefully  with no scuffling that I observed.

·        The issue of the closed track closure is complex.

·        Representatives of the city and Port of Olympia communicated with the protesters on multiple days.

·        The city advised the protesters that other cargo and equipment was also blocked.

·        The city told the protesters that local businesses including L&E Bottling, two metal companies, the independent locomotive operator was trapped, and others were not only inconvenienced, but losing work and work hours.

·        The manager of L&E indicated she would have to lay off 25-30 people at the plant this past weekend due to lack of product getting to them. That means a lot of people who were counting on holiday wages will not receive them.

·        Council members Jim Cooper and Clark Gilman, Mayor Pro Tem Jones and Port Commissioner E.J. Zita each talked with protesters about options to resolve the issue. All ideas were rejected by protesters.

·        Hall spoke with members of the group on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday by phone about ideas to avoid law enforcement. “As often happens, the individuals said that no one speaks for the group and all act on their own accord.”

·        The city offered to let the camp stay near the tracks after the train cleared, spoke about a press conference with elected officials in solidarity with the protest, and spoke about joint statements about the fracking sands.

·        The individuals the city spoke to rejected all these ideas and indicated they would not talk any further.

·        The tracks were cleared on Friday morning.

Hall also said that on Friday afternoon, he and Mayor Selby met with the owner of Rainbow Ceramics and told him that he needs to understand our community and the concerns of our citizens.

Hall said the mayor asked the owner about the environmental impacts of the product. The answer, Hall said, was confusing.

“I told him that he should expect protests in the future. If tracks get blocked, the city will do everything we can to avoid use of law enforcement. We are in a difficult spot but we will continue to do our job,” concluded Hall.

“We are not done talking to the Port,” said Hall. 

For more information about the Port of Olympia, ceramic proppants, the blockade of the Union Pacific railroad tracks in downtown Olympia, go to https://janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com and type key words in the search button.

The Port of Olympia website is www.portolympia.com

Editor's Note: The city issued a press release about the raid, conducted by multi-jurisdictional law enforcement, on November 18. An earlier version of this article said that the city had not issued a press release.