Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Port of Olympia Seeks Clearer Vision

Above: The Port of Olympia has launched a new initiative, Vision 2050. A 27 member task force, which includes Chris Richardson, Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation, and Rhys Roth, Center for Sustainable Infrastructure, above, met for the first time on Tuesday.

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

Eager for a fresh start after ousting executive director Ed Galligan last month, the Port of Olympia has embarked upon a public outreach initiative called Vision 2050. 

A 27 member task force is charged with helping port staff and consultants interpret public feedback that will help shape how the port will look, feel and function in the years ahead.

Task force members were handpicked by port staff, its project consultant, and Thurston Regional Planning Council staff. They met for the first time Tuesday afternoon at the Lacey branch of South Puget Sound Community College. Eighteen task force members were in attendance, and one called in on speaker phone.

The public process is off to a rocky start. 

Notice for the meeting was sent out at 2:20 p.m. on Monday afternoon only to those who were already on the port commission agenda email list. A press release, social media postings, and links on the Port's website announcing the initiative will be posted Wednesday, said staff.

“While I understand the short notice wasn't ideal, it still fell within the 24-hour notice required for public meetings,” Jennie Foglia-Jones, Port of Olympia communications manager, told Little Hollywood on Tuesday morning.

The port's website for Vision 2050 is and is expected to go live on Wednesday.

No port commissioners were in attendance, but acting executive director Rudy Rudolph was present throughout the meeting. One member of the public was present. 

Vision 2050 Purpose

The meeting agenda included an overview of port functions and financing by Eric Johnson, executive director of the Washington Public Ports Association.

“We are fundamentally about community control of important assets such as waterfronts, airports and industrial areas,” he said.

Throwing the doors wide open, Johnson said ports have a lot of flexibility in what they choose to do, adding that ports now have the authority to own and operate tourism facilities.

It was Marc Daily, executive director of Thurston Regional Planning Council, who asked about the elephant in the room – port acceptance of controversial cargo such as military cargo and ceramic proppants - and asked whether or not the port has a choice in what it decides to accept.

Johnson walked back his comments saying the port has to abide by certain laws such as the Federal Shipping Act of 1984 which states that terminal operators cannot unreasonably discriminate in the provision of terminal services.

Throughout the two hour meeting, task force representatives asked questions, obviously unclear about their role, what they were being asked to do, and why.

Staff responded that the project’s scope of work was approved by the commissioners. 

While the commissioners adopted its current strategic plan in 2017 and like it, they are open to feedback. Depending on the feedback, the commissioners may go back and revisit the plan, said Foglia-Jones.

“The primary responsibility of the task force is to ensure we design a comprehensive and inclusive engagement process, interpret community input accurately and translate those ideas into a vision and action plan that ensures the Port remains prepared, impactful and sustainable in the years ahead,” she said.

The task force is anticipated to meet approximately five times between June 2018 and August 2019 and will be responsible for presenting a recommended vision plan, with strategies and actions to the commissioners for consideration and adoption.

It is unclear when the group will meet again, but it may be several months or up to a year.

The consultant and his team will interview selected community members, conduct an online survey, offer presentations and forums, and use social media to collect public feedback.

Questions posed will include: 

When you think of the Port today, what's the first thing that comes to mind?

The Port funds operations through multiple business lines. What do you consider priority areas for future revenue growth?

Looking forward, what do you perceive as the Port's most significant barriers to success?

Over the longer term, where do you think the Port should focus direction and/or investment?

Public Involvement

With fifteen minutes to spare in the agenda, task force members were asked to review and endorse the consultant’s proposed public engagement plan.

Helen Wheatley of Olympia holds one of the four public-at-large positions but was unsure of her role and hesitated to endorse the process. She said more time is needed to ensure representational community engagement.

She wondered about the methodology for identifying stakeholders and expressed concern that the group wasn’t being asked to provide input into the study or the outreach methods.

“The actual request for proposals for this project says the Port of Olympia is seeking assistance in the development of a community vision for the Port of Olympia. It also says it would be in alignment with the update to the Port’s Strategic Plan, she said.

Referring to a 2012 citizen survey conducted by the Port of Olympia, she wondered what the port plans to do with the information it gathers about community values and preferences if it is not in alignment with the port’s current strategic plan.

She is requesting that the public make suggestions about organizations that should be on the task force.

“Organizations that should really be on this committee list need to be alerted that this is happening,” she said.

Above: Helen Wheatley, in pink, provides feedback to Thurston Regional Planning Council staff during a meeting of the Port of Olympia Vision 2050 initiative.

Task Force Members

Travis Matheson, Task Force Chair, Vice-Chair, Port of Olympia Citizens Advisory Committee
Stephen Bramwell, WSU Extension/South Thurston Economic Development Initiative (STEDI)
Michael Cade, Thurston Economic Development Council
Jeff Choke, Nisqually Indian Tribe
Josh Cummings, Thurston County
Todd Cutts, Olympia Downtown Alliance
Marc Daily, Thurston Regional Planning Council
John Doan, City of Tumwater
Ann Freeman-Manzanares, Intercity Transit
Michael Grayum, City of Yelm
Brian Hardcastle, Tumwater School District
Brad Hooper, North Thurston School District
Teri Pablo, Yelm Community Schools
Ray Peters, Squaxin Island Tribe
Drew Phillips, Public-at-Large
Bryan Reilly, Olympia & Belmore Railroad
Chris Richardson, Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation
Rob Rose, International Longshore Workers Union Local #47
Rhys Roth, Center for Sustainable Infrastructure at The Evergreen State College
David Schaffert, Thurston Chamber of Commerce
Bill Sloane, Olympia Yacht Club
Keith Stahley, City of Olympia
Shanna Stevenson, Public-at-Large
Shauna Stewart, Experience Olympia & Beyond
Dr. Tim Stokes, South Puget Sound Community College
Rick Walk, City of Lacey
Helen Wheatley, Public-at-Large

For more information about Port of Olympia issues, go to Little Hollywood, and type in keywords. 

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