Editor’s note: With several Port issues in the forefront in recent weeks, I previously put these questions to the second Port of Olympia (District 2) candidate Bob Iyall, who’s staff reached-out to me.
Oly Port Commission candidate Jessie Simmons responds to Blogger’s questions
What is your commitment to the Port?
I come from a working-class background. I view the world through this lens. So, I understand what the Port means to those folks who depend on Port operations for enough work to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. I also understand that those who work at the Port of Olympia have been under constant threat of potentially losing what they have. My commitment is to them, their future, their livelihoods, and the ability of the Port to grow and be a real asset to the greater community. I believe you do this by protecting and ensuring future operations at the Port, guarding against negative impacts like pollution and impacts on the ecosystem, and bringing a diversity of new business and revenue to the waterfront and other Port properties like the Olympia Regional Airport. The Port is supposed to be an economic driver for Thurston County, and by focusing on the needs of local working families and small businesses we can truly fulfill that mission.
Do you favor an increase in the number of commissioners?
I do support an increase to five commissioners. More specifically, I support an increase to a five district Port Commission and not just adding two at-large members. The five-district structure will allow for places like South County to elect representation that speaks to the specific concerns of South County. It will also create a more balanced board and bring more voices to the decision-making process.
What are your views on the Port’s land ownership/stewardship policies?
I believe the focus areas laid out in the Port’s strategic plan lay a solid foundation for the vision and innovation we will need in preparing for the projected growth of the next few decades. Those focus areas are “create economic opportunities, act as environmental stewards, and create and maintain community assets.” The Port’s primary focus is economic opportunity, but the approach is what matters going forward. By approaching land ownership/environmental stewardship through the lens of accountability, innovation, and economic/environmental sustainability the Port can focus on making intelligent uses of their properties that will support jobs and our community for generations to come.
Have you thought about ways the port can be a partner to every community in our county, not just the largest cities?
Yes, and there are already some specific efforts being made. For example, the Port of Olympia runs a grant program called the “Small Cities” program that awards a small grant to cities in South County that apply, and they can use that money to assist in completing the infrastructure projects they pursue. In Yelm, we can see the impacts of this program already in the form of the Yelm City Park, which has a splash pad, a playground, electric charging stations, and the foundation for an outdoor gym that is still to come. Yelm has also been able to create a walkable town center with access to city offices and services, as well as access to small shops and businesses along the central corridor. I would like to invest more in this area for the communities in South County, as well as the greater Thurston community that is not just centered in Olympia/Lacey/Tumwater. With a little assistance and partnership from the Port, all our communities can better serve the citizens therein.
I was on the citizen advisory committee for Olympia Regional Airport in 1989-1990. What is your view on developing the airport to attract regional passenger traffic, like Everett’s Paine Field?
I am supportive of this effort. We all are aware of the congestion that continues to extend further down the I-5 corridor and into the more rural areas of the county as we attract more people and inevitably grow. This growth isn’t going to subside any time soon. That is why we must take innovative steps to relieve our dependency on I-5. Developing the Olympia Regional Airport to attract small commuter service is one way we can get some cars off I-5. In my experience of knocking on over 6,000 doors since April, I have communicated this idea to many residents with positive feedback. Paine Field has a passenger terminal where airlines like Uni and Alaska fly to locations as close as Portland and as far away as Tucson or Los Angeles. I believe that a similar service at Olympia Regional Airport would bring several benefits to our community.
Read more about Jessie Simmons, Candidate, Port of Olympia, District 2.
Blogger Klein is a contributor and supporter of Jessie Simmons for Port of Olympia Commission, District 2.
Truthout: Texas House Speaker Warns Democrats Not to Say “Racism” in Election Bill Debate – Democrats pointed out that it was, in fact, racist to ban the discussion of racism in the voter suppression bill. [Ed. note: This whole voter suppression issue is clearly racist becasue the Republican Party designed to keep White males in power can’t win without suppressing the votes of people of color! ]
Edward Snowden: The All-Seeing “i”: Apple Just Declared War on Your Privacy – How long do we have left before the iPhone in your pocket begins quietly filing reports about encountering “extremist” political material, or about your presence at a “civil disturbance”?Apple’s new system, regardless of how anyone tries to justify it, will permanently redefine what belongs to you, and what belongs to them.
Editor’s note: With the retirement of Yelm Community & Economic Development Director Grant Beck on August 6, 2021, after 19 years in those posts, the following is a summary of Yelm’s poor water planning during his tenure.
With the hiring of Landon Hawes, Yelm’s new planning and building manager advocating that city planning can help communities be good stewards of the land on their quest for sustainable growth, Yelm’s planning may now “help us be more in harmony with our surroundings and our natural environment.”
* 1995, Yelm annexed land SW of town [an area now known as Thurston Highlands]. The City of Yelm was then looking at the potential to develop water rights in what is known as the SW Aquifer since it annexed that land in 1995. That was one of the chief forces behind the annexation.
2002: Yelm hires Grant Beck as Community and Economic Development Director. All of these issues occurred under his 19 year watch:
* June 2006, Yelm’s Council voted $550,000+ to partly finance a private developer’s water study. The City of Yelm partially financed the Golder Water Study for a private developer [Thurston Highlands], which was against city rules and without a contract. When the developer went bankrupt, the city was not reimbursed for the outlay, nor did the city file a lien against the developers for their portion of this study. Thurston Highlands was a 5,000 home planned community, one of the then-largest in WA state, which would have more than tripled Yelm’s population.
* January 2007, NVN: Yelm water concerns reach boil” The Nisqually Valley News (NVN) reported, “The owners of the golf course, also the developers of Tahoma Terra and Thurston Highlands, offered to give the city water rights if half of the available water could be used for the Tahoma Terra development.”
* July 2007, Senior Water Rights holder JZ Knight takes on Yelm in a high-profile water rights case. Knight’s case started in July, 2007 in front of the Yelm Hearing Examiner and continued through appeals to the Yelm City Council and State Superior Court. “In 2007, five developers filed applications with the city of Yelm (City) for preliminary plat approval of proposed subdivisions.” “After a hearing examiner granted Tahoma Terra preliminary plat approval, JZ Knight, a nearby property owner and senior water rights holder, appealed to the Yelm City Council (City Council), arguing the hearing examiner’s conditional approval of the plats erroneously allowed the developers and the City to delay showing adequate water provisions for the subdivision until the building permit stage. The City Council affirmed the preliminary plat approvals, and Knight filed an action in Thurston County Superior Court under the Land Use Petition Act (LUPA), chapter 36.70C RCW.”
The Senate Environment, Water and Energy Committee asked about why the lawsuit against the city came forward. Mayor Harding said the litigation is a land use issue. He opened his remarks by saying funding for city improvements to roads could not have been accomplished without the growth here, and to limit growth because of this water case would hurt the city in the long term. [Editor’s Note: That was not exactly true, as many of the existing street and sidewalk improvements were completed with federal or state grants. Most of the miles of new roads and sidewalks added to the city’s grid were in new developments, for which the developers and L.I.D. financed.] Harding went on to tell the legislators, “The opponent (JZ Knight) used water and water timing as a mechanism to stop growth in the area.” That was false. While Knight originally filed a land use appeal (LUPA) in Thurston County Superior Court, her intent was only to protect her senior water rights.
* May 2009, Thurston Highlands default story was first reported by the Yelm Community Blog. *Thurston Highlands, LLC defaulted on the entire Highlands property, a 1,200 acre property in southwest Yelm that proposed 5,000 residential units with up to 1.5 million sq. ft. of commercial space (comparable to the square footage of 8 Super Wal-Marts). The records showed that the amount to be collected was almost $12 1/2 million dollars. including massive new additions to the citys water & sewer systems. In order to accomplish this, The City of Yelm had proposed to obtain enormous new water rights by application to the State Dept. of Ecology, and fund water/sewer rate increases on the backs of property owners for massive new additions to the city’s water & sewer systems.
* June 2009, The Yelm City Council implemented a water rate increases for an updated Water System Plan. The mayor said purpose of the Water Rate increase is to meet debt service obligations and will be solely used to keep Fund 401 in-status [an operational and maintenance fund]. Staff Representative Stephanie Ray said the City Council can raise rates for operations as they see fit – the last time there was a water rate increase was in 2003. She added there was a need to raise rates to keep up with operational costs.
* September 29, 2009, Thurston County Commissioners briefed on the Yelm water issues. Commissioners Cathy Wolfe, Sandra Romero and Karen Valenzuela requested this briefing from Thurston County and Ecology Staffs and were all very interested and engaged in learning about the nuances of what Commissioner Romero described as one of the most critical issues in the years to come for government. Commissioner Romero asked why the Commissioners were not notified of nor did the County respond to the City of Yelm MDNS during the public comment period.
* December 2011, WA Supreme Court overturns city’s appeal, Yelm loses water case. In a stunning 7-2 decision written by Justice Charles Wiggins and finalized January 2012, “the Supreme Court held that Knight established that the land use decision is likely to prejudice her water rights and satisfies the statutory standing requirement.” The City of Yelm had approved 5 development plats without proving the city had water rights availability at the time of plat approval. Knight pressed the city to follow the process, arguing that not doing so would have adversely impacted her senior water rights downstream of the development.
* March 12, 2012, Yelm water rights not a ‘Slam Dunk.’ On November 18, 2011, Sara Foster submitted an Appeal against the City of Yelm and the Dept of Ecology to stop the pumping of 942 acre feet of water, every year for 20 years, from the aquifer. Ecology had just rubber-stamped Yelm’s Mitigation Plan and the city was approved to begin pumping. This amount would have had a huge environmental impact to the aquifer. It means wells in a vast surrounding area [outside of Yelm city limits] could drop in static level and property owners would have to drill new wells. In 2009, the Yelm community became aware of this same Mitigation Plan submitted to Ecology, and wrote over 85 letters in protest, which was subsequently withdrawn.
* May 2012, Council purchases golf course water rights for $151,000. [City staffe]r Stephanie Ray reported the settlement agreement would settle proposed potential litigation on water rights that were owned by Tahoma Valley Golf and Country Club and were subsequently transferred to the City of Yelm for municipal water use. The City had been working with Tahoma Valley Golf and Country Club for the previous few months to come to an equitable and fair resolution to the transfer of these water rights that were already put to beneficial use. Councilmember McGowan feels the agreement is fair for both parties involved but does not feel that the public was properly notified and will not be voting on this item for that reason. 5-AYES, 1-NAY (MCGOWAN). CARRIED. $151,000 = 77 afy of water
* June 2013, City of Yelm water rights appealed by local citizen Sara Foster. Yelms water rights, which were granted by the Department of Ecology and affirmed by the Pollution Control Hearings Board in March, were appealed by Yelm resident Sara Foster. The appeal was to be heard in Thurston County Superior Court. Fosters lawyer was Patrick Williams, from the Center for Environmental Law & Policy (CELP) in Seattle.
* June 2014, NVN: “Foster Appeals Yelm Water Right Ruling” “Southwest Yelm Well: Citizen Seeks Direct Review by State Supreme Court” Steven Wyble wrote this in the Nisqually Valley News: “Yelm resident Sara Foster has appealed a recent court ruling affirming the city of Yelms water rights. Foster is seeking direct review to the state Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court decides not to take the case, it will go to the Court of Appeals.”
“For a second time, the Washington State Supreme Court has ruled the Department of Ecology was wrong to cite an overriding public interest in permanently redistributing rights in a water-short basin.
The court ruled 6-3 Thursday that DOE erred when it permitted the Western Washington city of Yelm to draw more groundwater to accommodate growth.
The withdrawal would have put the basin’s rivers and creeks at risk of occasionally falling below state-mandated minimum flows, a water right senior to Yelm’s new right.
DOE argued that the move was in the public’s interest and that a mitigation plan would actually enhance the environment. Yelm resident Sara Foster, who feared the city’s withdrawal would harm her domestic well, sued and received support from the Center for Environmental Law and Policy and the Carnegie Group, a Thurston County landowners’ organization.
Writing for the majority, Justice Charles Johnson dismissed the mitigation plan as irrelevant and said a growing city was hardly unusual.
He stated that overriding public interest could only justify temporary water withdrawals. Using it to support a permanent transfer of water rights was ‘an end-run around the normal appropriation process, he wrote. Read more
Landon Hawes, Yelm’s new planning and building manager, “said city planning can help communities be good stewards of the land on their quest for sustainable growth.”
“I think planning can help bring that perspective of how we can grow and develop in a way that will be wonderful and beneficial economically for our community, but also help us be more in harmony with our surroundings and our natural environment.”
This is refreshing to hear after 19 years where building/development permits were issued to drive city revenue and “being good stewards of the land on their quest for sustainable growth” was not a priority.
Children’s Health Defense Team: ‘Historic Win’: CHD Wins Case Against FCC on Safety Guidelines for 5G and Wireless – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit court ruled the Federal Communications Commission failed to provide a reasoned explanation for its determination that its current guidelines adequately protect against harmful effects of exposure to radiofrequency radiation.