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Commissioner Candidate Questionnaire

SPEECH sent a questionnaire to the 2013 Port of Olympia Commissioner candidates. These are the responses of incumbent Jeff Davis and his challenger, Sue Gunn.

What do you feel are the top environmental issues facing the Port of Olympia and how would you address these as a port commissioner?

Davis: The most important environmental issue facing the port at this time is addressing stormwater management. We are looking to invest $17 million into stormwater mitigation next year. Additionally, cleaning up legacy contaminants within west bay should create a significant improvement on aquatic habitations and the port will be investing millions into that project as well. Finally, identifying property to set aside for the potential listing of the Mazama pocket gopher is something that the port will take an active role in to make sure it has sustainable habitat. Long term concerns should include preparation for sea level rise and making sure habitat is preserved for future generations.

Gunn: (1) Importing proppants used in fracking. This facilitates an increase in average global temperature because methane's impact is far worse than CO2. End the contracts to import proppants. (2) Dioxin. We lack complete information about extent and level of dioxin. A systematic sampling program of the peninsula and detailed analysis of any hot spots is needed, then clean up and restore the toxic areas. (3) Shipping raw logs overseas. This eliminates local mill and manufacturing jobs and facilitates deforestation. We should levy a fee in lieu of domestic manufacture in order to promote economic development in Thurston County. (4) Air pollution from diesel logging trucks. Diesel is linked to asthma attacks, heart attacks, stroke, cancer, premature death and now to autism. When idling diesel fuel produces ozone and soot, harmful to the individual and the climate. Require an upgrade to diesel-electric hybrids trucks, or reduce the number of trucks traveling through the city.

What is your vision for the kinds of development of the Port's waterfront properties that are consistent with an environmentally sustainable, high quality of life in areas near and impacted by port properties?

Davis: I am receptive to any suggestion for the development of property owned by the port provided that the development proposal falls within the parameters of the shoreline master plan. Before moving forward on any plans, I would insist that we receive a thorough public review with enough opportunities for all citizens to give their input.

Gunn: The Port should already be planning for sea-water rise due to climate change. In particular, they should make sure the taxpayers don't have to shoulder the cost of protecting development that serves only private interests. More broadly, I want the Port to use its taxing and borrowing authority to stimulate the local economy. The mission of economic development is more than just moving cargo. For example, the Port could lease out its agricultural lands as an incubator for local organic farms. Or it could join with other local governments and private interests to revitalize the old Tumwater brewery and lease out the warehouses to serve local entrepreneurs.

The Shoreline Master Act's overarching goal is "to prevent the inherent harm in an uncoordinated and piecemeal development of the state's shorelines." How should the port coordinate shoreline master planning efforts with Olympia and Thurston County?

Davis: This is a document that the City is responsible for putting forward and the Port must adhere to. After providing input as a Port Commissioner, I am satisfied with the latest revision the City of Olympia has proposed on the SMP.

Gunn: The Port doesn't have to plan under the SMA; that planning is left to the cities and counties. Because it the largest holder of shoreline within the city, the Port should take a broader view of its responsibility as an environmental steward. Its lands belong to the people of Thurston County. In particular, where appropriate, the Port should give more priority to revegetation and quality public access than it has. The Port should guarantee that marine terminal operations are as concentrated as possible, to minimize significant adverse environmental impacts. Furthermore, the Port should develop a strategic plan to address anticipated impacts of sea level rise, particularly as it relates to the contaminated Cascade Pole site, and incorporate those concepts in the planning process. The Port should be more pro-active in remedying existing and preventing new pollution. It has resisted appropriate action until forced by legal action to act.

The Port of Olympia is a public authority responsible to local citizens. In what ways should the port commission be responsive to the public and include them in its decision making? How do you feel the port did this with regard to the recently renewed Weyerhaeuser contract? How about in terms of developing its public debt financing plans and bond sales? How about in terms of the amount of property tax that the port levies on Thurston County residents? Why is the port still dependent upon taxpayer financing to support its operations?

Davis: Currently, over 54% of all money levied by the port goes toward environmental cleanup. This is due in large part to following the ideology of the community. Technically, the port is not dependent on taxpayer financing for operations. The port levies bonds for capital improvements and environmental restoration exclusively. The Port of Olympia advertises in the local newspapers, is on local public access television five days a week, and sends out email blasts on all port information. We conduct open public meetings and the public has the opportunity to attend and provide input. There are two out of 77 ports in the state of Washington that hold meetings at night to accommodate the general public's work schedule - the port of Olympia is one. I have consistently made myself available to discuss all issues concerning the port. As always, if you have any questions concerning the port, my phone number is (360)789-0205.

Gunn: They should actively involve the public in strategic plan and all major financial decisions. For example, there was no advance notice to the community, or community involvement, in developing the draft strategic plan. The public process lasted for a total of two weeks. [With regard to Weyerhaeuser] Poorly, the lease was passed with no advance notice given to the public. The bond process was the same as used for the strategic plan. It suggests a conscious effort on the part of the Port to prevent creating an open and transparent government. The vote on the annual property tax levy is held the Monday after the Thanksgiving weekend, which is the worst possible time for bringing attention to important Port decisions. There is virtually no oversight of Port operations, hence no motivation to become financially solvent. Last year, the Port increased our taxes. $23 million in new debt guarantees taxes will remain elevated for years.

One dream for local activists is to have an accessible waterfront trail and water-dependent recreation around what is now known as the "Big W" - the west bay shoreline, the port peninsula, and the east bay shoreline. How is the port going to help create this vision of shoreline access and protection? How well do you think it is currently doing in this regard?

Davis: As you may know, the port currently maintains 1.2 miles of the "Big W" and also manages the Port Plaza, where many community events take place every year giving the public access to the waterfront. Since I was elected, the north point cascade pole site has been capped and we now manage that ground water to clean it from harmful contamination. It was important to me to get that public access trail up and running as quickly as possible so that the public could enjoy what I feel is one of the most beautiful locations in south sound. I believe we've succeeded in that.

Gunn: It's not [going to help create this vision of shoreline access and protection]. The public isn't allowed inside the fence at the marine terminal and the "Big W" is impossible without public access. It would be possible if the Port didn't have a marine terminal. I want to know what the voters prefer: a marine terminal or a public park walkway. As a commissioner, I would ask for an open and transparent public process, without a preconception of the end result, to develop a vision for this land. Past Port Commissions made a good start with the East Bay and the Port Plaza Park trails. Unfortunately, the current commission seems more interested in buildings than public access. They have lobbied the city strongly to relax shoreline standards, leaving inadequate space for quality trails, not to mention space for vegetative restoration and protection from flooding. The current Commissioners do not seem to consider public access to be an important value. I do.

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Updated 2015/01/07 21:14:22