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.
Though I had introduced Port of Olympia (District 2) candidate Jessie Simmons to blog readers, I gave Mr. Simmons the opportunity to answer the same questions, listed here:
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.