In its 33 years as a print newspaper, WIP has routinely published stories that were overlooked by local papers — or that failed to offer readers serious truths. Even with unpaid, volunteer contributors, our “citizen reporters” dug into issues and provided our readers with accurate information and critical context. On these four pages we’ve printed four stories of consequence from past issues of the paper. It’s our gift to the community – stories you can hold in your hands and leave on the table to come back to later in the week.
On the other hand, these reprints came from our online paper at olywip.org. There you can find more of this kind of coverage articles and stories are still relevant, going back at least to 2012. They shed surprising light on things that are happening today – how we got here; what has changed; what hasn’t changed. Type a name or key words into the search line, and you’ll be treated to a trove of news stories, reflection, opinion, interviews and more. But lots of people like the online reading experience and WiP will be continuing in that form. —BW
On the Clarence Thomas nomination: What on Earth is Natural Law?
Sylvia Smith and Teresa Jennings, August 1991
On election eve in 1980, a man in a crowd of 30,000 Republican well-wishers shouted a challenge to Ronald Reagan, “What about ERA and equal rights?” “Aw, shut up,” Reagan bellowed into the microphone and the audience thundered their approval. It was an unmistakable forewarning to women and op- pressed minorities.
One month later, Clarence Thomas joined a small group of Black conservatives at a conference in San Francisco. The fact that Reagan’s election victory was accomplished with very little Black support made this gathering a curiosity item among Republicans. At the conference, Thomas took the opportunity to discuss his outlook on public assistance, drawing from examples in his own life, he expressed his now well-known opinion of his sister, accusing her of having no motivation for bettering her position: “she gets mad when the mailman is late with her welfare check.”
In the following year, Thomas was granted a leadership role in the Department of Education as the Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights. In yet another year, Thomas rose to even greater prominence in the Republican Administration as the Chairman of the Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC). He was 33.
Now after nine controversial years as the head of the EEOC and year on the US Appellate Court, Judge Clarence Thomas has been nominated for the seat on the Su- preme Court which was recently vacated by Thurgood Marshall.
A great deal of background material has been reported regarding Thomas’ childhood and the poverty of his family. By contrast, discussion and debate concerning his philosophy (particularly, his attachment to “natural law”) has been meager. In an examination of Thomas’ writings and speeches, along with interviews, biographical pieces, and counter arguments, we have pieced together another view of the man being considered for a lifetime seat on this country’s most powerful court.
We must state that a primary barrier in studying the thoughts and beliefs of Clarence Thomas, other than the fact that he does not write often, is that from our perspective he does not write well. In the five articles he has published in law journals, we found that he had a great tendency to jump from one vague thought to another, rarely coming to any firm conclusion. Despite this drawback, which we feel does not allow us to precisely pin-point his beliefs, we have found certain directions in his thought.
On the day of his nomination to the court, officials of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) disclosed a comment Thomas had made in a speech on June ‘67 before the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. Thomas had said, “Heritage Foundation Trustee Lewis Lehrman’s recent essay in The American Spectator on the Declaration of Independence and the meaning of the right to life is a splendid example of applying natural law.”
The Lewis Lehrman essay which had compared fetuses to slaves, described the abortions that have taken place since the 1973 ruling as a holocaust. (NY Times)
Adapting Lincoln’s words from his patient struggle for the inalienable right to liberty in the 1850s, we may now say that the ‘durable’ moral issue of our age is the struggle for the inalienable right to life of all future generations…. Are we, against all reason and American history, to suppose that the right to life as set forth in the American Constitution may be lawfully eviscerated and amended by the Supreme Court.
The afternoon following NARAL’s announcement, the White House issued a statement which said, “Judge Thomas has not stated a public position on abortion.”
According to Webster’s, natural law is defined as “rules of conduct supposedly inherent in the relations between human beings and dis- coverable by reason; law based upon man’s innate moral sense; contrasted with statute law.” In “The Higher Law Background of the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Four- teenth Amendment”, Judge Thomas describes natural law as “the higher law political philosophy of the Founding Fathers”. He continues, “…natural rights and higher law are the best defense of liberty and of limited government… Without recourse to higher law, we abandon our best defense of judicial review- -a judiciary active in defending the Constitution, judicious in its restraint and moderation.”
In the same article, he refers to both “judicial activism” and “unenumerated rights.”
(Unenumerated rights are those that have not been specifically delineated, noted, or numbered by the Constitution.) He cites Roe v Wade as a “current case which is considered an expression of unenumerated right.” While he does not mention whether or not he believes the decision was based on natural law, he does mention his “misgivings about activist judicial use of the Ninth Amendment.” (Justice Douglas based his opinion on the unenumerated rights of a woman to terminate her pregnancy on the Ninth Amendment.) He states, “rather than being a justification of the worst type of judicial activism, higher law is the only alternative to the willfulness of both run-amok majorities and run-amok judges.
According to Thomas “natural rights” does not allow for “arbitrary decisionmaking” to believe so “would be to misunderstand constitutional jurisprudence based on higher law.” In supporting his thought he quotes Alexander Hamilton: “The Fundamental source of all your errors, sophisms, and false reasoning is a total ignorance of the natural rights of mankind.” Judge Thomas claims, further that “differences in opinion do not refute the notion of objectivity.” While we are not entirely sure what he means by this (the doublespeak virus appears to have attacked him here), we think he is calling into question the veracity of relativism and promoting that there is absolute truth within the reach of man.
In “Toward a Plain Reading to the Constitution–The Declaration of Independence in Constitutional Interpretation,” Clarence Thomas offered a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail, that he claimed “brought out the contemporary significance of higher law…. A just law is a human law that squares with the moral law or the law of God…. An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law.”
What is perhaps most dangerous about Thomas’ view of natural law is that his thinking points to a belief that it emanates from “higher law” or God’s law (if you will). He seems unwilling to entertain that what you consider “natural law” or a “natural right”, he might consider to be “judicial activism” or vice versa. Those who find themselves among what he might term a “run-amok majority” on the issue of choice, should take the time to question where Thomas might be headed with his thinking on natural law. Our view is that natural law is derived from the people and that there is no higher authority than this. We fear that Judge Thomas would interpret Roe v Wade not as an individual’s right to control their personal physical destiny as a matter of privacy, but with a religious perspective that might turn Roe v Wade on its head.
Sylvia Smith and Teresa Jennings (Thelma and Louise) are dedicated participants in the Thurston County Rainbow Coalition and Works in Progress as well as other aspects of the world.
Dan Leahy, July 2019
I came home to Olympia in late May after a trip to Ireland and began to see the Olympia skyline.
Yes, the seven story 123 4th Ave building was still there with its noodle shop, empty retail spaces and rumors of vacancies, but now the nine story, 138–unit Mistake by the Lake was taking shape on the 5th Avenue flood plain with rumors of Russian money.
One, two, many new buildings
A seven story Harbor Heights was rising near the Farmer’s Market with 116 luxury apartments for the 55–plus crowd. Annie’s Lofts on Adams street with 48 units was getting ready to open. Les Schwab on State had morphed from the 44 unit Dockside Flats to the “Laurana,” named after Captain Sam Percival’s wife.
Matt Scheibmeir, the Centralia lawyer hired by Mayor and Council as Hearing Examiner to make controversial decisions, followed his approval of the Dockside Flats and the Mistake by the Lake “Views on Fifth,” by approving the 86–unit Westman Mill on leased Port–owned property between State and the Children’s Museum. The Rants Group was promoting Olympia’s first “upscale condominium community” near Gardner’s restaurant with purchase prices between $750,000 and $1.4 million.
Even with all this, there was still more on the “skyline.” Walker John dropped a million dollars and bought two vacant lots at State and Water for his aptly named 5–story, 60 unit “State and Water” project. At the same time he took ownership of the 222 Market complex on Capitol Way North, and proposed a 5–story “Market Flats” on the next door parking lot.
The City of Olympia has joined in with plans for a “Water Street Redevelopment” project on two lots purchased for $585,000 at Water and 4th, followed up by the purchase of two lots on Adams street next to Fertile Ground ($315,000) in August 2018, followed by lots containing Ben Moore’s for $950,000 in December 2018.
Giving a little nudge to “market forces”
What’s going on here? There are two key elements. First, this is all “market rate” housing in a community with a great need for affordable housing. Second, this market rate housing is promoted by the Mayor and City Council who grant building owners property tax exemptions for eight years.
We’ve all noticed the 123 building on 4th Avenue. The Mayor and Council gave its owner, Columbia Heights Partnership, an 8–year exemption from property taxes. The Mayor and Council granted three other recent 8–year tax exemptions: 19–unit 600 Franklin building housing the 3 Magnets and the 36– unit Lofts at 321 Legion, both owned by LLCs governed by Walker John. Another recipient is the Campus Lofts townhouses at 512 12th Avenue at Jefferson. These are owned by one of the best named LLCs—“CSV CDOW SK.”
According to City documents, there are three other current requests for 8–year tax exemptions. Walker John wants one on his Annie’s Lofts. J. Brent McKinley with LLC Columbia Place wants one for Harbor Heights and Mike Auderer with 924 State LLC wants one for this four unit building on State Avenue.
What surprised me the most, however, was that the Rants Group expected an exemption for its “upscale” Percival Condo project on Columbia Street. As set forth in its own Percival Condominium News:
“The Rants Group estimates that the savings to condominium buyers from the exemption could be $60,000 to $120,000 over the eight–year period. The exemption starts one year after completion of the building, so buyers will realize the vast reduction in property taxes in years 2 through 9 of ownership.” The last line of that paragraph reads: “The final Tax Exemption Agreement has been produced and is awaiting signature by the Olympia City Manager.” (author’s emphasis).
How to get a tax exemption for your building
The Mayor and City Council issue these 8–year tax exemptions under Chapter 5.86 of the Municipal Code. Under provisions of this chapter, entitled “Multi–Family Dwelling Tax Exemptions,” the City must first receive an application for the exemption; then a contract with the City must be “approved by the City Council,” at which point a “Conditional Certificate of Acceptance of Tax Exemption” must be issued. A final Tax Exemption Agreement must be filed with Thurston County’s Assessor’s Office. According to Kieth Stahley, Director of the City’s Community Planning and Development Department, the person who manages the exemption program is his Deputy Director, Leonard Bauer. It’s Mr. Bauer who sends the “Final Certificate of Tax Exemption” to the County Assessor.
It turns out that there is a 12 year tax exemption available—but it asks for 20% of the units to be “affordable” units. An eight year exemption does not require that any portion of the units be affordable. The requirement for getting an exemption downtown is siting the project in a target area. The owner then pays property tax only on the land and any associated retail or commercial space. The residential part of the building is exempt—in other words, tax free. So, who picks up the tax bill for this residential portion? You guessed it. The rest of us.
What happens to our property tax as a result of the exemptions?
The County distributes our property taxes to thirteen different “districts.” These include the City itself, Medic One, the Port, the PUD, the School District, etc. If the Mayor and City Council exempt a developer from property taxes, the amount due the districts doesn’t change. What happens is that people who actually pay their property taxes pick up the balance.
In other words, the public subsidizes those who don’t pay. More specifically, the Mayor and City Council are using our increased property taxes, paid directly or through rents we pay, as a public subsidy to those who own the tax exempt, market rate apartment buildings or condos that increase in asset value regardless of rental income.
The chart accompanying this article shows the current four owners who have received an 8–year property tax exemption from the Mayor and City Council for their market rate housing. To calculate the public subsidy, I multiplied the Exempted Amount by 12.26, the millage rate for 2019. Our public subsidy to these four owners comes to $425,473 for 2019 and $3,403,797 for the 8–year period.
Another way of thinking about it is to look at what a building owner pays, in contrast to what they would have paid without the tax exemption. The owners of 123 4th Avenue are taxed on an assessed value of only $3,106,300. Based on this and the millage rate of 12.16, they pay $38,098. The assessed value of both the land and the residential portion comes to total of $26,289,200. Without the exemption, the owners would be paying $360,388. Who pays the $322,290 they saved? The rest of us.
Remember Walker John’s LLC taking ownership of the 222 Market Building on Capitol Way? Just six days after Walker’s LLC took possession of the complex, City Manager Steve Hall approved a “special valuation” for that property as “historic.” This mean Walker John’s LLC, beginning in 2020, does not have to pay property taxes on the $1,261,833 portion of the commercial building’s assessment of $2,475,200. At the 2019 millage rate of 12.26, this means he does not pay $15,470/year or $123,760 over 8 years. We do.
Despite the interventions, the market is a rascally beast, so beware
If the distorted real estate market in Seattle or the anticipated arrival of climate refugees is creating the demand for market rate housing here in Olympia, I might understand all the building. What I don’t understand is why it requires a public subsidy. Responding to a distorted real estate market with more distortion or to a climate crisis you refuse to acknowledge does not appear to be sound public policy.
In addition, I worry about what all this means to the existing, moderately priced rental units in downtown Olympia, let alone to the people we abandon to the bridges, doorways and woods. With all this new, City–subsidized market rate housing, the incentive will be to raise rents in older apartment buildings. The 29–unit Angelus Apartments above the Cascadia Grill was purchased in April of this year for $1.9 million by TAC 2 LLC, governed by Thomas Glaspie and Andre Scott. Tenants are already being removed. Another classic, the 21–unit Martin was purchased for $4.5 million in December 2018 by an LLC out of Boca Raton, Florida. Unless you believe in the Guido Sarducci school of “supply and demand” economics, you know rents will go up, not down.
On the other hand, maybe the Rants Group cancellation of their million–dollar luxury condo project in mid–June is an indication of what’s coming. Maybe the reason they canceled the project was not due to their claimed “social climate” of homelessness, but due to their own flawed analysis of market demand, even with the tax subsidy they anticipated. We’ll see.
Dan Leahy grew up in the Irish–Italian–Hungarian working class neighborhood of Seattle’s Queen Anne Hill, now turned into a rich man’s automobile park with homes that rent for $4200 per month or are bulldozed as “tear downs” for high priced four story condos..
Eleanor Steinhagen March 2021
Providence slashes tech unit workers’ sick leave benefit
Providence Health System, one of the country’s richest hospital chains, has eliminated sick leave for workers in its nine tech units at St. Peter Hospital. To protect this and other benefits, the technicians have unionized and are represented by UFCW 21.
They have been in negotiations for a first contract for several months. In addition to sick leave, issues on the bargaining table include PTO, retirement plans, health insurance, seniority, lay-offs and leaves of absence. A recent proposal from Providence included a pay scale that the techs say is inequitable as it fails to reflect their job requirements.
To raise awareness of their struggle for fair compensation, workers from the tech units gathered at the intersection of Martin Way and Lilly Road on January 29. Representatives from UFCW Local 21 and members of Olympia Democratic Socialists of America joined them.
“Why is it that other employees of Providence get to have annual leave and sick leave? Are we not as important as the dietary staff, transporters, and housekeepers?” wondered one technician via email interview. “Providence knows exactly why we decided to unionize,” said another. “I’m sure they’re asking themselves why we waited so long.”
Whittling away compensation for those who do the work
After receiving more than $2.5 billion in government COVID stimulus funding, Providence is moving to reduce compensation for the technicians by eliminating “extended illness banks” (EIB). These allowed individuals to accrue up to 64 hours of sick leave per year to use themselves or for family members. As of January 1, no more hours can be accrued.
The move affects 194 technicians from the hospital’s cath and echo labs, ultrasound, interventional radiology, CT, MRI, diagnostic imaging (x-ray), pharmacy, and respiratory therapy units. Working in a hospital puts these technicians on the frontline of the pandemic. Many, such as respiratory therapy techs, are at particularly high risk as they work directly with COVID patients.
To top it off, many technicians have discovered they’re being paid as much as $10 per hour less than fair market value. The elimination of their sick leave, along with cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) unequal to those of their unionized colleagues, drove them to join the union. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, at least $1.2 million of the stimulus funding that flowed into Providence’s coffers has been allocated to St. Peter Hospital.
Increasing disparities across skilled workers
“Since we began bargaining, Providence has become very transparent with what their motives and intentions were and are,” said a worker via email who asked to remain anonymous. “If you weren’t already under a contract, Providence could take, would take, and will continue to take away from you, in the form of inconsistent COLAs, [arbitrary] merit pay raises, sick leave and other paid times off.”
The hurt and sense of betrayal is palpable. “We want to be treated the same as our RN co-workers who we work beside day in and day out,” said a technician who also wished to remain anonymous. “It is grossly unjust how unfair Providence has been to us,” said another.
Growing cash and compensation for those who control the work
A May 2020 New York Times article describes Providence as a “multibillion-dollar institution in the Seattle area [that] invests in hedge funds, runs a pair of venture capital funds and works with elite private equity firms like the Carlyle Group.”
According to the article, Providence was sitting on nearly $12 billion in cash at the time of writing, which it invests “Wall Street-style,” generating more than $1 billion in profits in a good year.
CEO Rod Hochman is one of the highest-paid men in the industry, with a total annual compensation of $11.5 million per year. In all, Providence’s 15 executive employees receive more than $37 million in compensation annually. As a nonprofit, the organization is exempt from paying state and federal taxes on its hospital business.
Years-long neglect of worker health and safety
MultiCare Health System is another “non profit” healthcare system that has been looking to maximize revenue by reducing compensation (for workers, not execs) and increasing workloads in ways certain to harm both workers and patients. MultiCare employs 20,000 people throughout Washington and is the largest tax-exempt healthcare organization in the state. With their recent purchase of Olympia’s Capital Medical Center, more of our community’s healthcare workers can expect to feel this squeeze.
Long hours, inadequate masks, too many patients
Last November, 120 MultiCare Indigo Urgent Care physicians, physician assistants, and advanced registered nurse practitioners in Pierce and Thurston Counties had had enough. They went on a two-day strike to demand safer working conditions. They had won recognition as part of the Union of American Physicians and Dentists (UAPD) in 2018 after a two-year fight, but MultiCare continues to prevent them from obtaining their first contract.
UAPD President Dr. Stuart Bussey explained why the Indigo Urgent Care practitioners went on strike: working 12-hour plus shifts and sometimes seeing more than 70 patients without a break. MultiCare also refused to allow use of N95 masks even if providers purchased their own. All of it means exhaustion for providers and unacceptable risks for patients.
Pursuing profit via “retail health”
Negotiators for the union felt they were close to getting some demands met, then MultiCare introduced new regressive language related to their “no closing” policy that requires doctors to see anyone who walks through the door before official closing time. With more people relying on urgent care during the pandemic, this forces people to work regular 15-hour shifts.
“No closing” is one element of a trend toward “retail health.” Another is replacing hospital employees with staffing companies. MultiCare announced on January 6 they are going to contract out the hospitalists and accompanying physician assistants at hospitals in Tacoma and Covington to Sound Physicians, a for-profit staffing firm. (Hospitalists are medical specialists certified in hospital medicine, overseeing inpatient care.) The workers will be terminated by MultiCare and have until April 5 to apply to Sound Physicians for their jobs.
UAPD Regional Administrator Joe Crane said in an interview with The News Tribune, “The physicians at all these hospitals are being told they are being let go and they have to apply for their jobs with an outside contractor for less pay and more work. It seems like a slap in the face during the crisis we are facing with COVID.”
MultiCare received at least $73 million in federal COVID stimulus grants so far. Compensation for CEO Bill Robertson was at $1.9 million in 2016, the most recent year there is data for. In January 2021 they helped Yakima’s Astria Health avoid bankruptcy with a $75-million loan.
Opposing improvements for frontline medical workers
A new bill in the Washington legislature, Health Emergency Labor Standards Act, SB 5115, would require employers to provide PPE and give lower-paid frontline employees emergency pay increases during a public health emergency. It would also require employers with 50 or more employees to provide childcare leave under that declaration. Employers would get a new B&O tax credit for wages paid due to the benefit.
Multicare CEO Robertson testified against the bill in his position as chair of the WA State Hospital Association, arguing that the bill’s emergency leave and childcare provisions would hurt workers because “the workforce is already depleted.” He protested that if hospitals were responsible when employees contracted COVID-19 at work, they might be subject to “abusive” lawsuits.
Patients and staff have been sickened by COVID outbreaks at a minimum of three MultiCare locations so far; it’s not surprising Robertson is trying to use the legislature to protect himself and other healthcare behemoths from frontline workers rising up in self-defense.
MultiCare’s senior vice president and chief quality, safety and nursing officer repeated Robertson’s complaint. She observed that nurses “are a scarce human resource and a critical element of hospital care,” so giving them the right to emergency leave would “just put pressure on remaining staff.”
If MultiCare provided adequate PPE and reasonable workdays, and didn’t try to off-load workers to “staffing firms’’ to build their bottom line, maybe they wouldn’t be so thin-staffed. It is apparent that caring for employees, and therefore patients, is not their priority. Evidence that it ever was is hard to find, with news stories covering their brutish treatment of employees reaching back to 2016.
Nonprofits containing for-profits
In an interview with Seattle Business Magazine, MultiCare’s Robertson reflected on the future of the hospital sector in the context of a joint venture of Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase known as Haven. “There’s a lot of venture capital lining up to see how that capital can create returns for investors in interesting ways,” he said.
In that vein, Providence has announced a new private venture with about a dozen other healthcare systems across the country to sell patients’ data to pharmaceutical companies and researchers. They say the data will be “fully de-identified” and are working out how to inform patients of the scheme. They haven’t indicated that patients will be allowed to opt out.
How to extricate ourselves from this system
Choosing not to support Wal-Mart and Amazon is easy for those of us who live near a shopping center, but going elsewhere for health care is prohibitively time-consuming or dangerous, or both. In Olympia, and increasingly across the state, we are stuck with two profit-driven “nonprofits” who exploit workers and patients to enhance revenue and protect executives’ outsized compensation.
Perhaps this is another way a transition to Medicare for All could transform our medical industrial complex into a system that provides actual health care.
Eleanor Steinhagen is a communications specialist and 15-year resident of Olympia.
As of this writing, MultiCare workers are considering whether to go on strike again. For updates and info on supporting Providence workers, go to ufcw21.org. For updates and info on supporting MultiCare workers, go to uapd.com. Learn more by contacting Olympia DSA at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cooper Crest forest is no more
Esther Kronenberg and Jerry Dierker, September 2022
Until the last week of this July, there was a forest of 80– to 100–year–old trees in a residential neighborhood, on Cooper Point Road between 20th and 28th Streets. “Cooper Crest” was a legacy forest, thriving in the middle of Green Cove Basin on a steep hillside alive with springs that supply Green Cove Creek. A 25–acre stand of Douglas Firs and cedars presided over a critical area for aquifer recharge, provided habitat for diverse species, stabilized slopes to reduce landslides—and contributed to slowing global warming by sequestering carbon.
DNR issues a quick permit
That forest is gone now, clearcut by the investors of Silvimantle LLC under a permit granted by the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The private landowner was able to gain DNR approval for the permit in less than a month, overriding a plan for the area adopted by Olympia and Thurston County in 1998, and based on a map that falsely eliminated one of two streams on the property. By accepting the doctored map, DNR gave the investors a gift of public land, allowing them to log in a riparian area that would otherwise have required protection.
Silvimantle bought the northern 17 acres of the property in March 2021 for $150,000 then bought an adjoining parcel in May 2022, giving them the 20+ acres needed to apply for a DNR logging permit. Marty Wickland, a representative of Silvimantle, quoted in the online journal JOLT on August 5, claimed his group had wanted to sell the property intact but couldn’t find a buyer.
Time to get the money
“At the end of the day, we ran out of time for our investors. We have four of them and they were all like, ‘Hey, we need to get our money back.’ The log market’s very strong. And we needed to move forward,” Wicklund said. [Who will repair the damage? See sidebar at right.]
They came in and clearcut the trees before the period for appeal was over. The community surrounding the site became aware of the project only after a two–week comment period ending May 27 had passed, denying the public any opportunity to weigh in. The City of Olympia however, had provided comments, disputing data presented in the Forest Practices Application (FPA) that DNR used to issue the logging permit.
City of Olympia shut out
The City noted that, while Silvimantle’s Application claimed there was only one stream on the property, there were, in fact, two. Both were shown on a Department of Fish and Wildlife study that had been done for a project proposed previously for the site, and on DNR’s own map. Other discrepancies the city noted were that this was a fish–bearing stream, and that there were three wetlands on site, not the one claimed on the Application. City records also documented five landslide hazard areas that were not considered in the FPA. The city also noted that DNR should have coordinated with its own geological division to access internal data showing the site was geologically, hydrologically and seismically unstable.
The 1998 Green Cove Plan recommended an increase in the tree canopy and a decrease in the amount of stormwater runoff that contributed to downstream flooding that had always been a problem. The high–pressure aquifer recharge area on the site supports several critical wetlands and tributaries that support in–stream flow for threatened salmon in Green Cove Creek and help supply the City’s Allison Springs Well, hundreds of private wells and the Strategic Groundwater Reserve for the State Capitol.
How did two streams on a map become only one?
The original Forest Practices Application showed two streams. Then, on a revision dated May 26 the stream segment that cuts through the northern part of the property was crossed out with X’s and labeled “DNE “— meaning “does not exist.” There was no written documentation to support elimination of the stream segment, despite the fact that DNR has a process to update water typing maps. Claims by Silvimantle that no stream channels had been found in this area don’t reflect the fact that the evaluation was not done during the rainy season or that the area was overgrown with brush that could conceal evidence of the stream bed.
A gift that keeps on giving
Land surrounding streams and wetlands qualify as riparian areas. These enjoy greater protection from logging since they are essential to the integrity of watersheds. These aquatic resources ultimately belong to the State; a practice that allows logging from these areas amounts to a “gifting” of public lands to private interests.
With a stroke of the pen, Silvimantle obtained this gift and so was able to bulldoze a logging road through the area of the map where the stream was located—concealing the fact that the tributary ever existed.
Silvimantle claims that altering an official map in this way is a “common practice” in the natural resources world. If that’s so, it appears that DNR’s failure to stop the practice may compromise watersheds statewide.
Will an appeal stop this “common practice?”
In an effort to shine a light on DNR policies that allowed this to happen, more than 100 individuals and five organizations signed on to a June 27 appeal of the Forest Practice Application, filed by the authors of this article. It was amended on July 7 to request a statewide stay on the practice of altering official maps.
The amended appeal and stay states that crossing out the mapped stream at Cooper Crest “…appears to be based upon an unwritten, unlawful custom, policy or procedure to allow a “gifting” by state government to private forest landowners of state aquatic land and riparian zone areas, as well as the gifting of federal resources of the United States, in this case, a half mile of Green Cove Creek, its headwaters, and its endangered and threatened fish and wildlife. This custom—to allow private landowners to steal federal and state resources with the aid of Department of Natural Resources and Department of Fish and Wildlife agents and the Attorney General by altering, and thereby tampering with an official document… appears to occur statewide.”
And pay for the damage done
Forest Practice Applications are appealed to the Pollution Control Hearings Board (PCHB). The amended appeal and stay asks for injunctive and compensatory relief. Injunctive relief would be to stop the practice of crossing out streams without process or documentation; as well as mandating state agencies to review all evidence held by state and local officials before approving permits.
Compensation is requested for damage to the property and to downstream infrastructure in the Green Cove Creek Basin and Butler Cove watersheds due to stormwater runoff, flooding and landslides; as well as to fish and wildlife habitat. Displaced bears, cougars and coyotes have recently been sighted in the Goldcrest neighborhood next door.
The PCHB has issued an Order to show cause why the appeal should not be considered moot since Silvimantle has already clearcut the forest. Appellants responded that the practice of altering official maps is likely to recur, that adjudication is of statewide public interest and that the PCHB could award damages. PCHB will likely rule by September on whether the appeal will go forward.
Esther Kronenberg and Jerry Dierker have studied and researched the Green Cove Watershed and taken responsibility for its protection.
Hello. Pizza Milano?
—No. This is Pizza Google.
Oh, sorry, I must have the wrong number.
—No, this is the number; we acquired Pizza Milano.
Ok! Can you take my order?
—Yes, of course. The usual?
“The usual?” Do you know me?
—Yes, of course. And according to your last several orders, you had thick crust pizza with extra cheese and peppers.
Wow, you’ve got it!
—Thanks, but could I suggest ricotta this time, with spinach and dried tomato?
No! I hate dried tomatoes.
—Well, your cholesterol level isn’t good.
Hey, how do you know?
—Well, we have the results of your blood work for the last 7 years…
Okay uh, but now I’m taking medication for it.
—You don’t take the medication regularly, though—it’s been 4 months since you got the last bottle of pills at your CVS.
I buy them at a different pharmacy now!
—Oh really? That doesn’t show up on your credit card bill…
I paid in cash.
—Maybe. But according to your bank statement you haven’t withdrawn an amount corresponding to such a purchase.
I have other places than that I bank!!
—You do? It’s not on your last tax return – maybe you have some sources of income that you failed to declare?
No! Okay, that’s enough—Google, Facebook, Instagram, WatsAp—I’m sick of you. Done! I’m exiling myself to an island with no internet and no cell phone reception where you can’t spy on me!
—I understand the feeling. But first you’ll have to renew your passport—it expired 5 weeks ago.
Anonymous (well, maybe not)
Reading WIP: the past isn’t even past
[Ed note: As WIP evolves under new leadership, you can revisit some of our best past coverage. There you can find the articles listed below, either by clicking on the PDF Archive button and finding the appropriate issue, or search the wording in the title. Either way, you’re bound to find on those pages even more surprising and potent material and graphics that will enlighten you about local government, broader issues and insights.]
May 2014–The Bakken [oil] index
Feb 2015–Governor Inslee, Naomi Klein, and Us
Aug 2015—Ralph’s Loses Appeal
Aug 2016—Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, Dallas
June 2018—NFL owners kneel to Trump (great graphics)
June 2019– I have seen the faces of homelessness
Sept 2019–Hope for a future of permanently affordable housing
April 2020–Goals of a young climate change activist
Jan 2021– Elsie Sabel, My Life.