Elections have consequences
The Port of Olympia has a fairly small annual budget but capital assets in the tens of millions. The Port’s five most recent major capital investments totaled over $27 million—obtained largely using public funds. These investments are: the mobile harbor crane, new log loaders, the marine terminal stormwater system, the marina fuel dock, and the Commerce Business Center in Lacey. Every one of the recent commercial investments has failed to support itself.
At the same time, the Port has substantial responsibility for preserving the viability of the county’s unique environmental assets: Budd Inlet as well as the waterfront, watersheds, wetlands, prairies and forests. In recent years, contamination from logging and other activities has required the Port to pay millions of dollars in direct and indirect costs for clean-up.
Ever-increasing call for tax dollars
Capital investments that don’t cover their costs, and remediation of environmental damage, help to explain an ever-increasing contribution to the Port from our property taxes. The Port will collect about $6.9 million in tax subsidies this year—slightly under the maximum allowed by law.(1) The most recent increase came when Commissioners Downing and Macgregor voted to bump up the tax levy by a hefty amount. They did this after one of their real-estate purchases failed to produce promised revenues.
Whose interests will the Port serve?
This November, Thurston County voters will choose two new Port Commissioners—potentially creating a new majority on the 3-member commission. Their choice will determine whether the Port’s role in the community reflects new priorities—or continues with “business as usual.”
…many ports are led by Commissioners committed to serving more as a support system for influential private interests—in the case of the Port of Olympia, log exporters and boaters.
Public Port Districts were created as publicly-owned assets to guide development of water and other resources in ways that preserved them and served the whole community. Today, many ports are led by Commissioners committed to serving more as a support system for influential private interests—in the case of the Port of Olympia, log exporters and boaters. This has remained the primary constituency for our Port, despite the adoption of “Vision 2050,” a community-generated plan prioritizing environmental goals and public access to the waterfront.
Elections have consequences
Amy Evans vs Joel Hansen
Amy Evans’s career has been exclusively in real estate development. She has been involved with the Port of Olympia, notably as part of a Kidder Matthews team promoting a deal between the Port and Panattoni Development Corporation. The proposal to lease 200 acres of wooded Port property in Tumwater evoked significant community opposition and raised concerns by the City of Tumwater. Evans helped to ensure highly favorable projections of economic impact for the project by identifying an agent for Panattoni to supply the needed data.
When a local political group in Olympia raised concerns about Evans’ role as a Kidder-Matthews Vice President, Evans said that K-M has no ongoing real estate relationship with the Port. However, an agreement between the Port and Kidder-Matthews provides for K-M to be paid a commission on lease transactions from the Panatonni lease for the next 10 years.
Evans has raised over $40,000. She has over 100 contributors at $250 each, a limit she set, although some donors and several couples together have contributed $500. The list of contributors is varied but concentrated in financial interests, including banks, real estate firms and property developers.
Joel Hansen has a diverse career background, ranging from his current position developing solar energy systems, to several years as an investment advisor, then business manager of a vocational education start-up that expanded from one office in Tumwater to teaching programs across the US. More recently he has been a consultant on regenerative agriculture to farmers and food producers.
Hansen has been involved with the Port as a member of their Citizens’ Advisory Committee, working on Climate Mitigation issues. He also serves on the Tumwater Planning Commission which is regularly briefed on the Panattoni Development.
Hansen has raised over $27,000 with his largest contributions from the WA Federation of State Employees and a financial consulting group, who each gave $2000. There are nine other contributions above $500 from various individuals concentrated in no particular category, plus Hansen’s own $3000.
Bob Iyall vs. Jesse Simmons
Neither of these candidates has been involved with the Port of Olympia.
Charles “Bob” Iyall is a Nisqually Tribal Elder and the Chief Executive Officer of Medicine Creek Enterprise Corporation (MCEC). He has worked on this enterprise for the past 12 years, and now manages it in partnership with a board of directors representing the Nisqually Tribe. He helped start Nisqually Markets and Nisqually Construction Services and became the CEO of both in 2014.
Iyall’s campaign account totals over $30,000 and contains an $18,700 donation from the candidate himself. The rest came from tribes, tribal members and a few individuals.
Jesse Simmons is a US Army veteran who served in a variety of capacities in Iraq and Kuwait among other deployments. Since his discharge in 2014, he has obtained a BA from St. Martin’s and a Master’s of Professional Studies in Political Management from GW University in Washington DC. He is currently pursuing a Master’s in Political Science at the American Military University.
Simmons has raised over $20,000. His largest contributor is the Painters Union Clc #5 who gave $2000. Fourteen contributions at $500 and over came largely from union-related interests.
- The Port of Olympia serves all of Thurston County and levies property taxes on every property owner. Everyone in the County is eligible to vote for Port Commissioner.
Bethany Weidner is a contributor to Works in Progress.
For more on the Port of Olympia, see extensive coverage of Port activities in Works in Progress including a detailed analysis of the Panattoni lease decision. For more information on candidates and endorsements go to their websites. For updates on contributors go to the Public Disclosure Commission and enter the candidate’s name in the search box.