State sees oil train risks as acceptable
Over the next several months, Governor Inslee is inviting the public to focus their attention on this Department of Ecology report leading to support for legislative proposals by March 1, 2015.
The question is whether the public should accept his invitation to help enable the transportation of this un-conventional Bakken and tar sands crude and to support his legislative initiatives or stay focused on local organizing, local jurisdictions, like Ports and City Councils, and statewide movement building.
I’ve come to believe that the only force capable of saving our land, labor and commonly held resources is an alliance of sovereign tribes, organized labor, farmer unions, and community based resistance groups working in concert with their local governmental jurisdictions.
The first draft appeared October 1 and the first comment hearings took place October 28 in Spokane and October 30 in Olympia. There will be more in the future.
Probably the first thing you notice about the report is what’s not there. There no mention of the significant statewide municipal, community, farm, union and tribal opposition to his proposed oil terminals, expanding oil refineries, explosive oil trains and the misuse of our public ports. You would think there would at least be a nod to the cities like Vancouver who passed a resolution opposing the oil terminal at the Port of Vancouver and calling on the Port of Vancouver to rescind its lease with Tesoro/Savage for a massive marine crude export terminal.
But then you notice who is writing the report. The Department of Ecology is the same state agency who on Inslee’s watch issued declarations of non-significance for two of the three proposed oil terminals at Grays Harbor. Such declarations would have meant a fast track to construction. However, an alliance of community groups and the Quinault nation got those declarations overturned and now massive Environmental Impact Study (EIS) studies are in progress for all three terminals.
Having this biased department leading the study is bad enough, but then they list a BNSF “Senior Citizens Club”, MainLine Management, Inc. as one of the authors of the draft report. This firm is the only rail consultant of the five firms listed as authors of the report. All three principals and all three associates in MainLine had long corporate careers with BNSF. BNSF is the dominant Class I railroad in this state and the main beneficiary of all the crude by trail traffic the Governor is facilitating.
MainLine, however, was apparently hired by Environmental Research Consulting (ERC) of Cortland Manor, NY. This firm, which has worked for the American Petroleum Institute and done previous studies for Ecology, has the sole contract with Ecology for this study. Of the $300,000 allocated by the Legislature for this study, ERC gets $250,000 for a one year contract ending in June 2015.
Then you need to consider the actions of Inslee’s Administration itself, not its rhetoric, but what it actually does. His policy. His Department of Transportation, State UTC, Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board and Community Economic Development Board all implement programs with BNSF as one of its main beneficiaries and to the detriment of expanded and current passenger service.
So what’s the purpose of Inslee’s Study? Mis-direction. It defines the problem as a federal issue and calls upon the US Coast Guard and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to do something. The USCG actually regulates marine traffic, but the FRA is an industry dominated entity with the current capability of inspecting less than 1% of rail activity and a policy of imploring railroads rather than regulating them. Calling upon the FRA to regulate rail would be like calling upon BNSF’s owner Warren Buffett to stop making money. It’s not what they do.
Worse, the study’s authors wait until the very end of the report (p. 82) to state that the very things that the public has been asking about are not considered by this study: “… the potential ways in which the crude by rail system and the increase in port activities with new facilities affects tribal treaty rights, the environment and the regional economy” are “ancillary”and not the “direct topic” of the study.
Okay, if the study does not address how crude by rail affects tribal rights, the environment and the regional economy, what does it attempt to tell us? The study’s authors are trying to tell us all this risk is normal so there is no particular reason to get upset…. it’s just some new risks. They do this with the repeated phrase “for decades.”
“Tribal risks from spills currently exist in all areas of the state and have for decades.” (36) “The environmental risks from spills already existed in all areas of the state for decades.” (38) “While diluted bitumen has been transported into Washington for decades,” (38) “The socio-economic risks from oil spills has already existed in all areas of the state for decades.” (40)
But, of course, the scale of extraction of these “non-conventional” crudes has NOT been happening for decades nor have we experienced the consequent level of threat to our communities, our natural and treaty resources and our economic infrastructures.
Inslee’s study assumes all this extraction and transportation can be mitigated and focuses solely on risk. In focusing solely on risk, the authors are admitting they have no idea about, understanding of, or control over what they are facilitating. They refuse to exercise caution even in the face of existing catastrophic consequences. The study’s authors need to visit the still cordoned off downtown Lac Megantic or watch the film, Petropolis, showing the devastation from the Alberta tar sands where two of the three largest dams by volume in the world hold back all the unmitigated rot. And this study wants to reward all this by transporting it through our state?
Is there any value to this draft? Yes, it indirectly supports the statewide demand for an immediate moratorium on Crude by Rail. The study lists in excruciating detail how totally exposed everyone in this state is to the explosive danger of the existing crude by rail traffic. The Washington State Council of Fire Fighters is right. There needs to be an immediate halt to this oil train traffic.
From the report:
“Nearly three million Washington state residents live in 93 cities and towns on or near crude by rail trains routes” (or, as we would say, are in the “blast zone.”) (30)
“Current tank car placarding standards for the transportation of hazardous materials are insufficient in providing First Responders timely and important information. “ (51)
“None of the current crude by rail are subject to requirements for comprehensive response plans.”
“Railroad spills are not currently covered by state approved oil spill contingency plans (67)
“Washington has not established financial responsibility levels for facilities which include both fixed and mobile facilities and rail as a facility. (68)
“The current state regulatory definition of oil may not include certain heavy oils, diluted bitumen, synthetic crudes, and other crude oils produced in Canada that are transported in Washington. (68)
“Currently, the state does not have means to gather information on the type or volume of oil being shipped through Washington.” (69)
62% of the state’s 278 fire districts “believe that their departments are not sufficiently trained or do not have the resources to respond to a train derailment accompanied by fire.” (70)
An overwhelming majority of first responders surveyed “are not aware of the response strategies or resources in place by railroads should an incident take place.” (71)
There is “not a comprehensive inventory of the equipment location that would aid in locating and sharing equipment when it is needed.” (72)
“Training for first responders in Washington State is currently insufficient and is not uniformly coordinated, and what training is currently available is at risk of reduction due to reduced federal grants. (72)
A Geographic Response Plans for oil spills to water “have not been developed for most of the rail corridors through which crude by rail trains are transiting….” (73)
How can this state level study process be used? There seems to be two options.
The study can be an opportunity to create a love fest for the “beleaguered green governor” who pleads that he has no authority to regulate rail and wants communities throughout the state to back a doomed legislative agenda to expand agency study budgets while oil terminals get approved, oil refineries get expanded, and our rail system is turned into a permanent carbon corridor for the export of tar sands and Bakken crude.
Or, the study can be a reminder that the strength of community resistance was what produced this attempt at mis-direction and the task remains to continue building opposition to state sponsored oil terminals, expanding refineries and a state bureaucracy collaborating with BNSF’s mission to export through our public ports global pollution from the broken earth of Northern Alberta and North Dakota.
I had a conversation with a person several months ago who described the small Lewis county rail towns of Vader, Winlock and Napavine as “sacrifice zones.” More recently I drove the BNSF track in Eastern Washington. I now think the farm towns of Cheney, Sprague, Ritzville, Lind, Hatton, Connell and Mesa are also “sacrifice zones.” Increasingly, I’ve come to believe that our entire state is being made a sacrifice zone to the extractive madness of the big oil and the state government is currently facilitating its creation.
Inslee’s study is an attempt to cap the oppositional movement and trade the state’s future for a false climate agenda based on mitigating disaster at the margins. It won’t work.
Dan Leahy is a Westside resident and proud member of the Decatur Raiders.
When it comes to taxes, Washington has the most regressive in the nation
The Supreme Court in Washington State is insisting that basic education be fully funded, and the group responsible for making that happen is the State Legislature. It’s not clear how exactly that’s going to happen.
It is clear we have a “revenue gap”—our state doesn’t collect enough revenue in taxes to pay for basic services and the McCleary decision will cost an additional 1.4 billion in this biennium. This comes on top of the .9 billion required to fund current educational obligations. So, simply in terms of K-12 education, we’re 2.3 billion short.
According to the Washington State Budget and Policy Center, if the legislature goes the route of NOT raising taxes, but tries to meet the demands of McCleary through cuts, we would lose all funding for:
Food assistance, offender supervision, housing assistance, early learning support, cost of living increases for teachers, public higher education and access to it through loans—these are essential pillars in a civilized society today. We can’t have a democracy without a strong system of public education, and given the same structural inequities that make public higher education a necessity, we also need to insure that qualified students have access to that education regardless of family income and wealth. Without fair wages, schools across the state won’t be able to attract and retain highly qualified teachers. Without teachers, students won’t thrive. Each item on this list depends on the others in order to be fully realized, and yet all are in danger.
And yet, we may give all this up. Unlike most states, we don’t have an income tax. The suggestion that we should vote one in never materializes into actual policies, in spite of strong arguments in favor of it. We voted ourselves into a pickle in terms of raising property taxes when we passed Initiative 747 in 2001, limiting increases in property taxes to 1% per year or the increase in inflation, whichever was smaller. We live in a tax averse state.
Regulated inequality in WA State
In January 2013, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy issued a report called “Who Pays: A Distributional Analysis of Tax Systems in all Fifty States,” and in it, they argue that Washington State has the most regressive tax policies of any state in this nation. Regressive tax policies are those that force families with the lowest incomes to pay high proportions of that limited income on taxes, while families with the highest incomes are allowed to pay a much smaller proportion of their incomes on taxes. In other words, with regressive tax rates, rich families receive a lower effective tax rate than do poor families. That’s the case in Washington State.
In WA State, the average income for families in the bottom 20% was $11,500. State and local taxes required 16.9% of their income. On average, across all states, families with the lowest incomes paid 11% for state and local taxes. At the other end of the income scale, families with incomes in the top 1%–average $1,131,500—needed 2.8% of that income to pay for state and local taxes. Across the country, families in the top 1% needed 5.6% of their incomes to pay state and local taxes. Because of our tax practices, we’ve earned the label “#1 of the Terrible Ten”—most regressive of all the states.
None of this is new news—it’s the situation we have been living with, and probably would go on living with, except the Supreme Court has ruled that we need to live up to our state Constitution in which we declare our commitment to providing every child in Washington State with a basic education.
In the upcoming legislative session, these fundamental contradictions in our state policies will come to a head. We can’t continue to tax the poor and shelter the rich while providing a basic education to all. Well, we can, if we cut all the things on the list named above.
Bill Stauffacher, the lobbyist for the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers (IIABW), is ready to make those cuts. In a letter to members of the IIABW, Stauffacher explains that the lobby will face two big tax fights—an effort to increase the B&O tax rate on producer commissions, and an effort to create a state capital gains tax, which he argues, is the first step towards a state income tax.
Stauffacher writes, “IIABW-member agencies and producers who are concerned about their B&O taxes increasing or the possibility of a new state capital gains tax (yes, you read that correctly) should run right at the looming political hurricane with all the collective force and fury we can marshal. This requires a renewed commitment to supporting the Big I PAC, timely grassroots participation and support of IIABW’s lobbying efforts.”
The status quo that Stauffacher supports—that the Supreme Court objects to—is one the state has tried to address before. In the 1970’s, in Thurston County, Judge Robert Doran ruled that schools were too reliant on local levies for their funding, which led to inequities across districts. The Supreme Court agreed in 1978, and the Levy Lid Act was passed, allowing local levies to pay for no more than 10% of a district’s education. That was repealed, and replaced, and the allowable levy limit crept up towards 30%. Currently, local levies provide about 16% of school funding, and the state provides 66 % (Budget and Policy Center).
What this means is that schools are not equal. Opportunities for learning are not equal. Local levies in the Sumner School District in north Pierce County add $2578 per student per year to the district budget. Local levies in the Sunnyside School District in Yakima add $351 per student. What difference can $2227 per student per year make in a school, or in a district? That’s a $55,000 difference in each 25-student classroom, each year.
Bill Stauffacher and his PAC may win. Washington may continue to be a comfortable home for the wealthy, while at the same time taxing the poor and providing inadequate services. He’s organized, he’s focused, and he’s getting ready now. Are we?
Emily Lardner teaches at The Evergreen State College and co-directs The Washington Center for Improving Undergraduate Education, a public service of the college.
Discussing what works and what does not
An exciting project took place throughout October that I am extremely proud to share with readers this month. SideWalk and the Interfaith Overnight Shelter, both programs of Interfaith Works, partnered to conduct vulnerability assessments five nights a week with people who are street dependent in and around downtown Olympia. The assessment asks questions such as: In the past six months, how many times have you been to the emergency department/room? How many times have you had interaction with the police? How many times have you been hospitalized as an inpatient, including hospitalizations in a mental health hospital? Does anyone force or trick you into doing anything you don’t want to do?
The assessment tool they are using is called a VI-SPDAT, Vulnerability Index-Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool, which was created and designed by two national organizations–Community Solutions and OrgCode Consulting. The tool is designed to help communities quickly assess the health and social needs of people experiencing homelessness. At of the writing of this article, 132 assessments had already been completed and entered into a spreadsheet and sorted by highest to lowest according to the vulnerability index.
The vulnerability assessment not only allows us to know who is most vulnerable on the streets because of a physical or mental illness, addiction or being preyed upon, it also helps us to identify high users of expensive systems of care such as police, jails, emergency rooms, EMTs, and mental health hospitals.
The following chart shows the cost per day, per person when people access these interventions. Too often, people with chronic mental illness lose all supports, become homeless and many become high users of the most expensive services on this chart.
For the first time in our community, people will be offered a shelter bed in the new Interfaith Overnight Shelter based on data (vulnerability scores) rather than on a first-come, first-served basis. The shelter will offer their 30 beds to those who score highest in vulnerability based on the assessments conducted in October. The 12 shelter beds provided by St. Michaels and Sacred Heart Churches will be offered to those scoring next highest in vulnerability. Controlled studies in other communities across the nation show significant cost savings when high users of expensive systems of care are sheltered and housed in supportive housing. Short shelter stays that lead to stable housing are cheaper and more humane than the other interventions. It is much cheaper for communities to figure out how to shelter and house people with appropriate supports than it is to do nothing at all.
I have to admit, I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with data.
My daughter and I discussed a math problem recently. It went something like this: Sally is on the middle step of a ladder. If Sally goes down 4 steps, then up 7 steps, and then down 13 steps, she will be on the very first step of the ladder. How many steps does the ladder have altogether?
We joked that Associate of Science students get to work on the problem, but Associate of Arts students ask what is Sally doing on that ladder?
What is happening in the field of housing people who have become homeless is we are holding in balance both of those tendencies; we are looking at what the data shows is most effective and efficient at stabilizing people’s housing and we are doing that in a way that meets people where they are mentally, physically and emotionally.
Meg Martin, Program Director for the Interfaith Overnight Shelter and Phil Owen, Program Director for SideWalk both say that this is why they are working together on the vulnerability assessment project. They are looking forward to where we need to be as a community to house the most difficult to house.
The vulnerability assessment project is the latest example of how our homeless system is collecting data and using that information to track performance and outcomes. We aim to stabilize housing for people experiencing homelessness and we are tracking how effective our programs are creating those outcomes. At the Homelessness Leadership Summit in May, Phil Owen hosted a discussion about fierce data. Employing this nationwide best practice of targeting shelter and supportive housing to those who are high users of expensive public services is something that makes me proud of our community and the individuals like Meg and Phil who are making it happen.
If you would like to be a part of the great work that both of these programs do, please consider becoming a volunteer at SideWalk or the Overnight Shelter, or both! Email Aslan at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
It begins with outreach, engagement and providing safety. that builds trust and a sense of relationship. to collect vulnerability assessments and to prioritize shelter beds and supportive housing units.
Theresa Slusher has over 20 years of experience in the field of affordable and homeless housing. She has worked for non-profit organizations, government and as an independent consultant. Her career follows a pattern of making positive impacts in one area, then looking ahead to where she could be of further service. Much of her work of the past ten years has been in community impact at the local, county and state levels in the field of affordable housing and homeless housing systems.
This article is the fourth in a series coming out of the Olympia Homelessness Summit held in May of 2014. The Summit was meant to be a convening of leaders, but was also meant to be the start of a longer community conversation.
Please visit the Facebook page dedicated to continuing this important conversation: facebook.com/homelessnessleadershipcircleofolympia.
It’s my fate or fortune to be off work today,
and here are a few jumbled jottings:
It’s the end of May, a warm Wednesday,
my sister’s anniversary,
the morning after the evening
when we walked down our westside hill
and she took some striking photos
of the Stryker ship at the Port of Olympia.
It looked like something from Star Wars,
a big Death Star war boat
juxtaposed with a postcard image
of Rainier in its summer glory.
One of the cranes from that angle
resembled monstrous alligator jaws,
loading lethal equipment bound
for the oil fields of Armageddon.
I’d planned to rest my aching foot,
but I’ve got to go down there today.
I smile for at least a few moments
as I walk on West Bay Drive–
our redwood radical friend Remedy
has posted those photos on indymedia.
Hey Bonnie, we did good on that one.
The headlines adorn the downtown corners:
PORT PROTESTS ESCALATE.
I limp along the creaking boardwalk
past dogwalkers and marina boaters.
A gray lawyer bustles by,
muttering to someone about suing someone.
The ship looks green and gray too,
the US Navy’s Pomeroy,
and when I take off my sunglasses
it’s even worse, a kind of corpse-like green.
A sign reads: Port Plaza, Waterfront Festival
and Community Gathering Place.
A crane is labeled Starport–
like I said, the Death Star!
Seagulls, sailboats, a KING-TV truck,
but the protesters and the officers
still seem to be catching up on sleep
after last nights “waterfront festival.”
A sudden chill as two cops pass by,
then put on a smiley PR routine
with some old folks and their ribboned poodle.
I see a guy in a wheelchair,
a grizzled patriot with a sad little flag
out at the end of the dock alone.
Now a Coast Guard patrol boat
with, my god, machine guns fore & aft,
drifts over and they talk to him,
and apparently order him away.
As I leave to go get too much coffee,
I pass by a chattering cellphone girl,
elbows on her purple chakra book,
picking up those cosmic vibes
in the last days of the empire.
Then I stand in Otto’s long line
and talk to an Earth First! guy.
His spirit soars on days like this.
I think of those poodle-playing cops–
they will not play with this young man,
and I can only say, hey, take care.
It starts to drizzle as I head back.
The holy mountain will not be out today,
and our spectacle will lack that surreal detail.
I walk by a statue called Motherhood,
and I realize I’ve never really seen it.
She cradles her tiny infant
with the death ship close behind,
and seems to say: Oh no, not this one,
you’ll never take this child.
Another sign: Welcome to Port Plaza,
with, you’ve got to be kidding me,
a picture of a curly-tailed pig!
I’m not making this up, folks,
I’m looking at an official Port of Oly
insignia of a pig–as more police arrive,
keeping an eye on the protest signs
that wait for their bearers to claim them.
The signs say Get Out of Iraq,
Get Out Of Our Town,
No More Lying & Spying.
It’s still early, so I go for lunch
at a place called the Dockside Deli.
I sip on a corporate cola
and think about the revolution.
It’s been a long time coming,
as the old song goes. Who sang that? Sigh.
Large people with small dogs go by,
they look like mortality is close behind,
but the draft-age boy at the next table–
may the gods grant that he outlives me.
He’s calling an ad for a motorcycle,
muscles filling his football t-shirt.
Maybe I should speak to him, but I don’t.
As I head back toward the killing machine,
I see playground kids laughing and crying
on their bright little swings and slides.
What will become of their lives,
as they cook in the filth of our abundance
in the ruins of the natural world?
That’s enough for now of humanity,
I need to find a big tree.
I’ll rest a while on a quiet trail,
and we’ll see what happens later.
Craig Oare came to the close of his life at the age of 66, on October 9, 2014, surrounded by the primal beauty of his much-loved Olympic National Forest.
Craig was an accomplished Olympia poet and author of six chapbooks. He was a longtime member of Olympia Poetry Network and Warrior Poets Society. He loved to spend time downtown at Traditions, where he could often be found drinking coffee, discussing politics, life, or baseball with friends, and working on poems.
During the more than thirty years he resided in Olympia, Craig worked as a caregiver, school bus driver, and, his favorite, a bookseller at Orca Books. Prior to moving to Olympia, Craig also enjoyed working at Raintree Nursery in Morton.
The firstborn child of Dale and Irma Oare, Craig entered the world on November 8, 1947 in Iowa. He grew up in southern California, and earned his B.A. in history at the University of California at Santa Cruz.
To his family and many friends, Craig was a sparkling presence in our lives, a gently yet strongly determined force for good in the world, a deep thinker, and a master of puns. He is survived in loving memory by his dad and second mom, Dale and Sherry Oare of South Dakota, and his sister and brother-in-law, Bonnie and Marc Jones of Olympia.
There will be a memorial gathering on Saturday, November 8, 2014 at 4:00 pm in the sanctuary of Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 2300 East End Street NW, Olympia. Friends are invited to speak, read, play music, or simply sit and listen, in honor of Craig.
Memories and messages may be posted to Craig’s guest book on www.legacy.com. Craig left his wish that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Amnesty International. –Craig Oare’s family
On October 6, 2014, Seattle’s city council passed a resolution declaring the second Monday in October (formerly Columbus Day) to be Indigenous Peoples’ Day. On October 13, Bellingham changed Columbus Day to Coast Salish Day and Portland, Oregon’s schools officially dropped Columbus Day in favor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
The next day, about forty local supporters attended Olympia’s city council meeting to urge the city to institute our own Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
The celebration of Columbus Day has upset and angered indigenous Americans since its creation in 1934, but they’re not the only ones who disagree with the holiday. Although many historical figures don’t entirely measure up to modern mores, Christopher Columbus’ history is truly appalling. Columbus, who never actually set foot on the land that we now call the United States, was brutal in his quest for gold. According to his own diary, Columbus kidnapped six Taino people on his very first trip to shore, “As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts.”
He noted that, “With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.” On return trips, he instituted barbaric punishments, including mutilation and death, for anyone who refused to carry out his orders; allowed his men to keep young girls as sex slaves (“those from nine to ten are now in demand,” he noted in his diary); and then kidnapped 500 people to bring back to Spain as slaves, beginning the international slave trade. 200 of the kidnapped Taino people died before reaching Spain.
Though the recent spate of cities enacting Indigenous Peoples’ Day (beginning with Minneapolis in April) has a breathtaking momentum, the push to create the holiday has been ongoing for more than thirty-seven years. In 1977, representatives from more than sixty indigenous nations across North and South America attended the International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas (sponsored by the United Nations). It was there that the idea of Indigenous Peoples’ Day was first officially proposed, and a resolution passed.
Thirteen years later, representatives from 120 native nations met in Ecuador for the First Continental Conference on 500 years of Indian Resistance, and once again agreed that Columbus Day should be abolished in favor of a holiday “to strengthen our process of continental unity and struggle towards our liberation.”
More recently, and more locally, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians passed resolution #11-57 in 2011 to “Support to Change Columbus Day (2nd Monday of October) to Indigenous Peoples’ Day”. Our neighbors in the Nisqually, Chehalis, Duwamish, Puyallup, Squaxin and Suquamish nations are all members of the Affiliated Tribes.
Public comment on the topic of Indigenous Peoples’ Day at Olympia’s city council meeting began with Anna Sublan, of the Quileute nation. “We are asking you to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” she began, “because our old people suffered so that I could be here today.”
The issue of whether the creation of an Indigenous Peoples’ Day would technically replace Columbus Day in Olympia was a bit uncertain.
“We don’t celebrate Columbus Day. We don’t acknowledge it,” City Manager Steve Hall explained before the public comment period began. He noted, “There is one small exception – we don’t enforce downtown parking on that day. Not to celebrate Christopher Columbus, but because we don’t want to confuse our customers, because the banks are closed and the federal government’s closed.”
Heads nodded in the audience as Anna Sublan said, “The public doesn’t see federal law, the public doesn’t see state law. This is something that we just see in the general. As people.”
The theme of what we chose to celebrate, and what it means for our community, continued through other supporters’ testimony.
“I want my daughter and kids in our community to grow up with respect for each other and for cultures not their own,” Laura Kaszynski said. “We can do better than Columbus. We can do a lot better.”
Supporters spoke to the healing potential of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, the relationships with local nations and native citizens that could be strengthened, and the sense that the new holiday would be a step toward acknowledging and mending historical wrongs.
“I want the place that I live in to continue the reconciliation with the tribes,” Brian Frisina stated. “There are bad things that happened on this land. We can make a difference.”
“Honor the first people by giving them that day back,” he continued.
Lucas Anderson, who organized supporters’ attendance via social media, spoke to the deep respect that Olympia’s community and city government has with our native neighbors, “These very halls,” he said, gesturing at the council’s chambers, “were blessed ceremoniously by local Salish elders.”
“This is noble and healing work,” he said.
At the end of the public comment period, council members Cooper and Roe moved for the issue to be sent to the General Government committee, and the council agreed. Although a specific date for when the draft resolution will be discussed in committee has not been set, organizers are beginning the work of bringing the draft resolution to local tribes for edits and endorsements. Additional outreach to the Olympia community, including businesses and faith organizations, is being planned.
“We have a very exciting opportunity,” Lucas Anderson said during his comment, “to not only end up on the right side of history, but to do our part, however small, in healing some part of that history itself. Let’s make yesterday the last Columbus day we honor in Olympia. Let’s do the right thing and change the day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day so that next year we can stand in these halls, hand in hand, with a celebration honoring the noble and healing work that this community stands for.”
To find out more about the Olympia movement to create Indigenous Peoples’ Day, including reading the draft resolution, please see our blog at www.olyindigenouspeoplesday.wordpress.com. You can also email us at email@example.com.
Letters to Olympia’s city council and to The Olympian are encouraged. Council members can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jayne Rossman is part of the working group to institute Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Olympia.
DRAFT resolution declaring the second Monday in October to be Indigenous Peoples’ Day 10.17.14
A RESOLUTION relating to Indigenous Peoples’ Day; declaring the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the City of Olympia; and encouraging other institutions to recognize the Day.
WHEREAS, the City of Olympia recognizes that Indigenous Nations have lived upon this land since time immemorial and values the progress our society has accomplished through American Indian technology, thought, and culture; and
WHEREAS, the City recognizes the fact that Olympia is built upon the homeland and meeting places of the Indigenous Peoples of this region, without whom the building of the City would not have been possible; and
WHEREAS, the Medicine Creek Treaty, which established the future formal relationship between the U.S. and Native Nations and provided the foundation for Washington’s Boldt decision, was signed at the Nisqually delta, and
WHEREAS, the offspring of the original Treaty Tree, under which the Medicine Creek Treaty was signed, now grows within City limits as a testimony to the ongoing responsibilities agreed to by the signatories; and
WHEREAS, the City promotes the closing of the equity gap for Indigenous Peoples through policies and practices that reflect the experiences of Indigenous Peoples, ensure greater access and opportunity, and honor our nation’s indigenous roots, history, and contributions; and
WHEREAS, Indigenous Peoples’ Day was first proposed in 1977 by a delegation of Native Nations to the United Nations- sponsored International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas; and
WHEREAS, in 2011 the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, representing 59 Tribes from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Northern California, Western Montana and some Alaskan Tribes, passed resolution #11-57 to “Support to Change Columbus Day (2nd Monday of October) to Indigenous Peoples’ Day”; and
WHEREAS, the United States federal government and various local institutions recognize Columbus Day on the second Monday of October, in accordance with the federal holiday established in 1937.
Now, Therefore, Be It Resolved by The City Council of The City of Olympia: That the City of Olympia shall hereafter recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the second Monday in October.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that Indigenous Peoples’ Day shall be used to celebrate the thriving culture and values that the Squaxin, Nisqually, Puyallup, Chehalis, Suquamish, Duwamish, and other Indigenous nations add to our city, and to reflect upon the ongoing struggles of indigenous people on this land.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City of Olympia reaffirms our ongoing commitment to fostering communication with local nations on issues concerning indigenous people.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City of Olympia strongly encourages Olympia Public Schools to include the teaching of indigenous peoples’ history and the contribution of American Indian nations to the state of Washington, as stated in the Millennial Accord of 1999 and recommended by Chapter 205, Session Laws of 2005.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City of Olympia encourages other businesses, organizations and public entities to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Martin Luther aKing, Jr.
In the six months leading up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, I began to stand with Olympia’s chapter of Women in Black. Mostly attended by middle-aged and older women, it was a lovely and determined group.
Together we witnessed that even in Olympia, with the heavy influence of Evergreen, the draw of violence was far greater. In a country that claims a love of democracy and civil liberties, there was surprisingly little tolerance expressed to us.
As we demonstrated against the military violation of a nation the United States had already been bombing for over a decade, we watched as people—generally young males—leaned out of the windows of passing vehicles liberally dropping f-bombs. And when a bus load of young recruits passed by with their middle fingers prominently displayed, I wondered, “What sort of ‘defenders of liberty’ will they make?”
Howard Zinn once reasoned that “it’s exactly when you are about to go into a war, that you need your freedom of speech. You need the most sharp and honest discussion of what is going on because lives are at stake. War is a matter of life and death. That’s when you need to be sure you are doing the right thing in national policy.”
Not quite a decade later, I listened to a radio commentator who had originally supported the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but had eventually come to believe they were mistakes. His statement of reversal was not surprising, but his criticism of peace activists was. Instead of saying he erred in judgment and regretted the deaths and damage done, he complained that once Obama had been elected the demonstrators against the wars had disappeared. (He apparently doesn’t live in Olympia.)
Many soldiers who went to Iraq have come back broken. Whether death, injury, or emotional trauma, what has been brought back to the States has been a tragedy and a burden to soldiers’ families and communities. The hazards this country put them through were needless and barbaric. As we all know, it was an unnecessary war. Iraq was not involved in 9/11; there were no weapons of mass destruction. They lied.
Is it biological?
In the early 1980s, Robert Sapolsky, a Stanford biologist, was studying a baboon troupe in Kenya. Typically hierarchical, baboon troupes are dominated by aggressive males over females and less-dominate males, not too dissimilar to Western culture.
The data Sapolsky recorded revealed the dominate males were the healthiest and long-lived of the troupe. The rest suffered from various illnesses and early deaths. There is a twist to the story however. At one point the dominate males began to regularly feast on refuse from a local tourist lodge. Unfortunately, some of the garbage was laden with tuberculosis. They all contracted TB and died off. Gone.
This dramatic event had an immediate effect on the social dynamics of the troupe and was an important message for Homo sapiens. With the aggressive males dead, the ratio of females to males became two to one. The remaining males were much less aggressive. This changed everything. Baboons are matrilineal so when additional young males joined the troupe they were taught by the surviving baboons to be cooperative rather than aggressive with the interesting outcome that the health of all members improved significantly as well as life expectancy.
Violence, as this study shows, is not biological; it’s cultural. So, do we drink the Kool-Aid or not? We have a choice.
Violence vs. nonviolence
In Raphael S. Ezekiel’s book, The Racist Mind: Portraits of American Neo-Nazis and Klansmen, he spoke of people raised in a world where there are no competing concepts of how the world is constructed and who and what matters. People’s beliefs about the world are then held “in a dull and muddled and jumbled fashion,” oftentimes contradictory. This is frequently evident when this nation honors the memory and works of Martin Luther King, Jr.—an unflinching proponent of non-violence. It singularly focuses on King’s civil rights efforts and his desire for racial equality, but fails to acknowledge King’s equally important message that we “must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation.”
The United State Army on its website, in additional to its commitment to diversity, states its intention to “lift up our fellow human beings both at home and around the world to honor Dr. King’s memory and reaffirm our common humanity.” While the military member who wrote those words is probably sincere in his intent, the late Margo Adair once wrote, “action is the lifeblood of belief.” The purpose of military organizations is antithetical to King’s core beliefs.
In his Nobel Peace prize acceptance speech in 2009, Obama also honored Martin Luther King and quoted him. “Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.” And then, incomprehensively, Obama prattles on for thirty minutes on how the “use of force can be not only necessary but morally justified” and that “the United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms.”
When we as a nation edit out inconvenient ideas that challenge our beliefs and limit our ability to reflect on the outcomes of our actions, we commit immoral acts and demand unreasonable expectations. What would have been our memories of King if he, too, had met force with force; if he had said we have no other option but to meet oppression with aggression?
King was a moral man with unalterable convictions who was willing to live and die by them. Contrary to Obama’s view that King was naïve of the dangers in the world, King, as an African-American living in the Deep South during Jim Crow, most certainly was aware. And he was not moved.
Veterans as victims
Veterans’ Day is coming up and every year I do not celebrate it. I think about those who have been sent to WWII, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, and the deaths and injuries. I think about the emotional turmoils and the doubts some have shared with me and the memories they will and have carried until the end of their days. I do not think of them as heroes. I think of them as victims.
These wars have not been for any good purpose. WWII was because of the effects of the Treaty of Versailles following WWI and WWI was about nothing but foolishness. Vietnam was fought on a false belief. When the U.S. lost, the domino effect did not happen. The Taliban was not involved in 9/11 and Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction. None of these wars were righteous and all of them were horrible.
And now there is ISIS. What are we to believe about that? If what they say is true, then we are responsible for its creation as the WW I Allies were responsible in setting the stage for the Nazis.
And don’t think that WWII was a good and noble war. After discovering that Hitler was primarily interested in seizing the Soviet Union, Churchill was willing to sacrifice Eastern Europe and change sides, but Roosevelt refused. (The Nazis: A warning from history)
Churchill was able though to delay the Western Front so Germany could inflict as much damage in the USSR as possible, which unfortunately also gave the Nazis plenty of time to design, build, and operate the death camps killing millions.
We, and the soldiers who may be our future victims, cannot hope to be as fortunate as the baboon troupe. We alone must make the alterations to our nation from the bottom up that will lead it to one based on cooperation and mutual respect for all. We must stop believing the untruths we are told including the falsehood that violence is the only solution. If you doubt my words, ask the people of Iraq if they are better off.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
Hate multiplies hate; violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction…
The chain reaction of evil—hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars—must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Sylvia Smith is a long-time member of Works In Progress and a niece of Phillip J. Anderson, Sr. who fought hand-to-hand combat in the Aleutian Islands during WW II.
Photo Exhibit #1
Photo Exhibit #2
The first picture features Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African American Research at Harvard University, being arrested for break-in to what was his own home located within a short distance from the school. Meanwhile, the second one shows Dr. Gates and Sgt. James Crowley, the arresting officer, having beer with President Obama at the White House. As you can see from the two photos in question, they reveal different messages. One uncovers a surprised and hostile reaction while the other displays a truce.
Professor Gates’ event took place in July 2009, a few months after Barack Obama took office as President of the United States. The so-called “Beer Summit” did not result in any specific apology by the police, but the photo represented for many Americans the beginning of a new era of race relations, or as the newly elected first black president of the nation put it “I have always believed that what brings us together is stronger than what pulls us apart.” The mute language of photographs seemed to suggest at the time that the two black men from Harvard and Sgt. Crowley—who were joined later by Vice-President Biden for drinks and snacks—were up to something good and significant.
Photo Exhibit # 3
The third picture shows the police using force against people protesting the killing of Michael Brown, an 18- year old unarmed African American man, fatally shot by the police while walking on Canfield Drive, in Ferguson, Missouri.
The shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson took place just a few of months ago. It seems fair to ask ourselves how often police shoot unarmed black men. Jaeah Lee from Mother Jones magazine answers to this question by stating that, “The killing of Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, Missouri was not an anomaly: as we reported yesterday (8-15-2014), Brown is one of at least four unarmed black men who died at the hands of the police in the last month alone.” Although there is not an official agency in charge of tracking unarmed victims, as Jaeah Lee notes, studies by publications such as Color Lines and the Chicago Reporter conclude that there are a disproportionally high number of black Americans among police shooting victims particularly in cities such as New York, San Diego and Las Vegas.
Bud Light, tear gas, rubber bullets, and the new apartheid
Racism is hard to ignore in America; it has been an integral part of the national character of its dominant groups and allies since the beginning of the nation. But it is also important to scrutinize how nowadays prominent black men deal with racism, and how they are being treated by the powers of the State (in this case represented by Obama himself as the head of State) versus how common black people have been treated in the Ferguson case. There are clear differences between the conciliatory triangle of interracial libation formed by Obama, Gates, and Sgt. Crowley (we can only imagine what are they toasting to in the photo) versus the brutal police response to the legitimate protests in Ferguson. Amnesty International, an organization created fifty years ago to protect the dignity and human rights of those imprisoned or harassed for their beliefs, is generally associated with the investigation of government abuses at hands of third world dictators or “Cold War” era eastern regimes. Yesterday (October 24) Amnesty International released a lengthy report called “On the Streets of America: Human Rights Abuses in Ferguson”, which casts a gloomy light on the conditions of human rights in the nation. The report quotes Navi Pillay, The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, condemning the excessive use of force by the police in Ferguson, and making a “call for the rights of protest to be respected. These scenes are familiar to me and privately I was thinking that there are many parts of the United States where Apartheid is flourishing.”
Apartheid was a shameful term used to describe the harsh conditions of discrimination and racial segregation enforced by the white government of the National party in South Africa, aimed to restrain the rights of association and movement of the majority black population in favor of its white minority.
The vast majority of the protests in Ferguson have been peaceful—as noticed by President Obama himself—and the United States Constitution recognizes—at least in theory—the right of peaceful assembly, freedom of association, and freedom of expression as basic human rights. Nonetheless, according to Amnesty International, the police have responded with direct violent dispersal, tear gassing and other chemical irritants, heavy-duty riot gear, military grade weapons, and rubber bullets, plus the imposition of restrictions on the rights to protest, curfews, and submission to Long Range Acoustic Devises (LRAD). The report of Amnesty international reads not like the report of the social life in an advanced democracy, but like a report describing the conditions in a far away country that can’t be ours.
The same president who promptly sought—and rightly so—to amend the racist wrong doings against Henry Louis Gates, has remained relatively quiet about the abuses experienced by common black people in Ferguson. The Department of Justice has not been vigorous in conducting a transparent investigation into the death of Michael Brown, nor in collecting and publishing the statistics on police shootings in accordance with Violent Crime Control and Violent Act (1994). Nor has The United States Congress acted to pass the End Racial Profiling Act.
Compared to the “beer summit” photo, the report offers us a different kind of photograph of ourselves. It is not nice—it is ugly, shameful and complicated but it is showing a rare ‘selfie’ of who we still are and what needs to change.
Black people’s quest for humanity
In his short story, “Stranger in the Village”, the black writer James Baldwin noticed that the identity of both the white and the black man in America are intertwined. For him, the white American world was trapped without possibilities of escape in the contradiction between their declared moral and civic convictions i.e. The American Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and the exploitative conditions imposed by them via slavery to black people. For Baldwin this condition was inescapable due to the economic necessities of American Capitalism. From Europe (particularly from the British Empire), America also inherited the conviction of white supremacy, which made it impossible for white men “to accept the black man as one of themselves, for to do so was to jeopardize their status as white man”. For Baldwin, it is against the backdrop of capitalism’s necessity of slavery at the beginning of the nation, and the empty and selective discourse of American democracy that the white man seeks to construct his identity, which by its very nature would be fragmented and contradictory.
The Negro identity, on the other hand, is also formed in direct correlation to the economic needs of an expanding white nation (the US) to exploit black men and women through the institution of slavery. Being severed from their past (Africa) and uncertain about the possibilities of taking power from the new masters, Black people survive though their quest for humanity and rights as human beings–a long quest with uneven results as exhibits 1,2, and 3 show in the discrete but telling language of photography.
Enrique Quintero, a political activist in Latin America during the 70’s, taught ESL and Second Language Acquisition in the Anchorage School District, and Spanish at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He currently lives and writes in Olympia.
Spare some change?
Sorry, don’t have any on me.
I don’t have change on me
when I’m downtown
and walk with
class privilege tunnel-vision
down the street.
I only carry apologies,
no time to stop
for even a second.
When I was nine,
and didn’t understand money yet,
my family went to Africa
to visit close friends for Christmas.
Walking through Lalibela, a small village
in Ethiopia, we toured churches
connected with underground tunnels.
Dazzling colors of stained glass
and elaborate jeweled crosses
covered the walls of each one.
Spare some change?
I was raised Christian
and something that’s
stayed from childhood hope
to adult atheism
is the irony of beautiful churches
towering over poverty next door.
Walking to another
rows of outstretched hands,
and voices begging in Amharic
filled either side of the path.
Their cheeks and lips
dried by the sun,
thirst burning on their skin
like I had never seen before.
elbow to elbow,
on their knees
faces up to hot sun
with American money
in a hurry
Our tour guide said
look straight ahead,
never break stride,
don’t talk to a begger on either side.
If you give to anyone,
leave you alone.
But I stopped,
saw a child my own age
underneath his grandmother
to hold her frail arms
in a final plea
I imagined spending
video games traded for sun burns
basketball for tunnel vision rejections
quick bike rides to the park for
hours barely standing in hopes
of my next meal.
My grandma out of a retirement home,
collapsing on me in the street
and all I can do is stretch out
Spare some change?
My mother hid
all the cash
in a necklace wallet
to prevent pickpockets
so I saw every bill
doled out for a marketplace
trinket or snack.
She said we couldn’t afford
to give out money to everyone.
But I did some calculations
with nine year old math,
imagined a coin in every set
of outstretched hands.
I thought we could do
Spare some change?
I don’t know when
nine year old math became
When I learned to
look straight ahead
without breaking stride.
When I found
in my wallet.
When I forgot to imagine myself
in that child in Africa’s place
and only remember to
forget what my privilege is based on,
forget to see humans around me,
and just walk right along.
I know that handing out quarters
won’t change someone’s life.
But I also know
I have more to offer
or loose change.
Daniel Georgeson is a member of Old Growth Poetry Collective here in Olympia. He helps run a regular poetry open-mic, Olympia People’s Mic, every Thursday at Cafe Love, starting at 7:00 pm.
Last July 6, 2014, Olympia Port Commissioner George Barner spoke to Grays Harbor citizens and members of the Quinault Nation—at Zelasko Park in Aberdeen. On that same summer day, as Grays Harbor honored and recognized 47 victims of the Lac Megantic, Quebec, crude oil explosion, Mr. Barner spoke to the crowd, recognizing the dangers posed to all of us by the current “crude by rail” proposals through our communities, our state—our Washington Ports. On that same day Mr. Barner noted both Olympia’s, and Grays Harbor Citizens’ concerns for their “safety, health and well being” with three crude oil proposals at The Port of Grays Harbor (Westway, Imperium, U.S Development/Grays Harbor Terminal).
Furthermore, Mr. Barner, Port Commissioner from Olympia, promised to take our concerns, his as well, tothe WPPA (Washington Public Ports Association) for discussion and consideration of the many dangers posed to all of our communities by these proposals. Mr. Barner, from Olympia was taking us to the higher power of “Ports” in Washington? I remember thinking, “Finally, surely, something will be done–now someone is listening.” If our Port Commissioners here in Grays Harbor won’t listen—we take what we get.
None of the three Port Commissioners from Grays Harbor were at this event, either to explain the logic of this crude oil or to show their concern. To date, the Port of Grays Harbor has not explained to us, in the blast zone, exactly how railing 110 trains a month through our communities and exporting 2.7 billion gallons of explosive crude from our Harbor—causing a 383% increase in vessel traffic—in a tidal, tsunami and earthquake liquification zone is good for us. For the most part all Port Commissioners, including our Executive Director, Gary Nelson, have been glaringly absent from public information events & forums concerning the three crude oil proposals at Grays Harbor. Therefore, a reasonable person can assume they are not concerned with community concerns.
It wasn’t until last Tuesday (10/21) when the Daily World came out with their front page story,”Censured Port of Olympia duo bites back”, that we knew George Barner meant what he said! As he said, he did speak up, along with a fellow Port Commissioner of Olympia, criticizing the three oil proposals, the Port of Grays Harbor and the City of Hoquiam. It’s about time that one of the 75 ports in the WPPA speaks out against the offenses to another community’s well-being, but then to be censured! Shameful. It shows exactly where the power is in Ports in Washington—it ain’t a pretty picture and it ain’t the power of the people!
However, again, it is bitter sweet–our small moment of believing someone out there actually cares that we, the people, are forced to turn our port and our communities, our safety, our way of life, over to crude oil. Gary Nelson has explained to us that it is “legal.” He is acting legally, therefore he shouldn’t be criticized—or questioned. Still, In the words of the WPPA, ports are also assigned to “make whatever decisions that are in the best interests of their communities.”
That is the part not yet explained to citizens of Grays Harbor by WPPA, or by their own Port. We still don’t understand how thousands of gallons of oil tank storage and shippping at a terminal across the street from a wildlife refuge is good for the community? We know it’s legal, but how did that happen “in the best interest of the community?” Mr. Nelson, Grays Harbor Port Executive forgot that part.
Carol Seaman is a concerned Grays Harbor citizen living on the Chehalis River.