Our advice today? Vote for Joe Downing for Port Commission -- and protect your bike

The Olympian editorial board endorses Joe Downing for re-election, partly because Thurston County needs to keep well-paying marine terminal jobs.
The Olympian editorial board endorses Joe Downing for re-election, partly because Thurston County needs to keep well-paying marine terminal jobs. The Olympian

Editor’s Note: This is the first of our candidate endorsements for the Nov. 5 election. Look for more in October.

Joe Downing and Helen Wheatley, candidates for Downing’s seat on the Port of Olympia Commission, offer a clear choice in their vision for the Port’s future.

Joe Downing holds a master’s degree in business, has professional experience in finance, and served a term on the Port’s citizen advisory committee before being elected to the commission four years ago. He supports the port’s just-completed Vision 2050 plan, produced after 18 months of public input and discussion. It includes continued support for the living-wage jobs provided by the marine terminal, and support for economic development projects such as a hub for services to local farmers and food processors in Tenino, site improvements in the Tumwater industrial area, and other efforts to stimulate local job creation and economic development.

Helen Wheatley holds a doctorate in environmental history, taught at Seattle University, and serves on the executive committee of the Thurston County Democratic Party. She favors transitioning away from the port’s log-export business at the marine terminal to other uses, such as passenger-only ferry service that uses boats with shallower drafts, thus requiring less dredging.

She also points to recent legislation that gives ports the power to diversify into community renewal projects, possibly including housing. She is critical of current port operations, citing its past troubles with stormwater contamination and what she regards as unrealistic accounting for costs and benefits of the marine terminal.

While there is plenty in the Port’s past to criticize, we are encouraged by the Port’s new Vision 2050 plan, its movement towards greater environmental sustainability, and the hiring of Sam Gibboney, its smart and community-minded new executive director. Also, we believe the good jobs the marine terminal supports are a vital asset.

We endorse the re-election of Port Commissioner Joe Downing, who will help the Port realize a return on its investment in the 18-month effort to produce the Vision 2050 plan, rather than seeking to change the Port’s direction.

Bike thefts

In online forums such as Nextdoor, there are frequent complaints about bike thefts, and people who are homeless are almost always blamed.

So we asked Olympia Police Sergeant Paul Frailey about that. He says that whether more bike thieves are homeless than housed “is pure speculation.” Housing status is not germane to the police; to them a thief is a thief. And the police work hard to catch bike thieves, including using occasional – and successful – sting operations.

But Sgt. Frailey’s main message is that the majority of bike thefts are preventable. He says the most common thefts happen to “unlocked bikes, and bikes left in garages with the door open.”

Obviously, good locks, used consistently, are the front line of defense. Keeping garage doors closed at all times – even when you’re home – is another. You probably already knew this, but since you may not always do it, we offer this reminder.

Frailey says there are two more things you can do: First, photograph your bike. Second, write down its serial number, which is on the underside of the frame, near where it connects to the pedals. Having these two pieces of information is invaluable to the police if your bike disappears. And if it does disappear, Frailey emphasizes that you should report it to the police immediately.

The police – in this case including Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater, Yelm, Tenino and Thurston County – maintain a website called Police 2 Citizen where you can register your bike, so that it can be identified and returned to you quickly if it’s found. (Police receive about 150 lost or stolen bikes each year, but don’t always find their owners.) On the same site, you can report thefts, file accident reports and view crime reports.

We mention this because taking sensible measures to prevent bike thefts – and help police catch the thieves – is one way to turn down the heat on the homeless people who are assumed to be the sole perpetrators of this crime. It’s undeniable that bike theft is common among homeless people who live in unmanaged camps, and that financing an addiction is one of the chief drivers of many of those thefts. That is an explanation, not an excuse.

People who steal – regardless of their housing status – need to be stopped and held accountable. We need a much deeper conversation about how to make that accountability effective. Expanding drug courts and providing high-quality treatment would be a good start, and a big improvement over having offenders cycle between jail and homelessness.

But we are not helpless in the face of crime. Our own actions could cut bike thefts dramatically. And an ounce of prevention is surely worth more than a pound of blame.