Tearing off a bandage can hurt, and the Port of Olympia commissioners are learning that truth when it comes to the topic of sending military shipments through the Budd Inlet marine terminal.
The important thing is that the port stays transparent about what is happening. Both the public “listening” session held by port commissioners two weeks ago and follow-up discussions were good steps in the right direction.
It’s also necessary for port executives to share information about shipments with commissioners. So give credit to Port Commissioner E.J. Zita who first called for public discussions and also the other two port’s other two commissioners, Joe Downing and Bill McGregor, who have joined the great cargo debate.
The port can certainly gain by shipping cargo from Joint Base Lewis McChord, but shipments in 2007 led to protests and arrests. The Port of Olympia is JBLM’s alternate or second strategic port after Tacoma, and this time critics are leaping to unfair conclusions about what kinds of cargo might be handled — if at all.
We don’t see a problem with the shipments, although none are currently scheduled. Those opposed have a right to dissent, but any action beyond verbal political protest is obstruction.
Meantime, the new transparency is a a good thing, and a learning process, therefore imperfect. It needs to continue — and civility is a must.
Zita would have been much fairer in directing her criticism of port executive director, Ed Galligan, last month when he was present and able to defend himself.
We take stronger issue with some of Downing’s remarks. Specifically, he said during one session: “If you’re not getting answers from (port staff) then we handle that internally. We are a public/private organization, and if the organization is ill, we take care of it internally.”
That’s actually wrong — the port is a public agency and needs to keep its commissioners apprised of business. Transparency was the whole point of the public discussions about military cargo, and internal port emails show that Galligan knew more than he let on to Zita.
Fortunately, Downing got back on track by suggesting that in the event of a military shipment, the port should issue a news release sharing the arrival date, a statement from JBLM about the cargo, and locations where demonstrators on opposing sides of the issue could gather.
On that, we agree with Zita and Downing — it’s a good first step.