I’d prefer to frame it in the Rose, Thorn, Bud design thinking. The rose is: what’s good? The thorn is: what needs improvement? And the bud is: what are future opportunities?
The city of Olympia staff seem to run a tight ship. They are on top of the day to day work of maintaining our utilities, keeping our streets repaired, making our parks beautiful and they do it to a high level of competency and expertise. Despite recent complaints about the police nationally, the Olympia police (although they’ve gotten away with a bloated budget since Ronnie Roberts kept raising the budget through levies) do their jobs well. Our court system, with family court and diversion programs, is pretty good. The city functions. And to be clear, this just can’t be said about every city. We’re lucky to live in a city where the staff are responsible and unionized.
The city has a tendency to start things one way and then shut them down and go a different way. Let me point out a few annoying, petty, wastes of money I’ve watched over the years.
- Subsidizing big projects while the little guys pay full price! I don’t support socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor. Or trickle down economics. The city at some point, read some better managed cities trade magazine and started referring to all the people of our city as “customers”. And part of what that means is big customers get the best deals and little customers pay full price. I think that people from here, who have great ideas, should have the city helping them achieve those ideas 110%. We have all over the city homeowners who are trying to fix their homes on the sly to avoid paying huge fees. I’d like a city where someone who is poor trying to fix their house calls up the city and the city sends someone down there who waves the fees, suggests good ideas and then gives them a discount coupon at Olympia Supply. And when that out of town investor, Mr. Deep Pockets, rolls up in town looking for a quick buck we tell them they pay full price rather than push off costs onto the little people.
- Benches! We had some benches, they weren’t pretty, we paid artists to paint them, then people sat in them to long, we tried different configurations and lengths to keep people for using them too long and it didn’t work, so we got rid of all of them! Bye benches! Bye city money! Bye places to sit! SOLUTION: People sitting too long on benches so not enough for others? Let’s put in more benches instead? Two benches a block, that’s what I’d like to see. AND LEAVE THEM THERE!
- Parking meters! We had the coin ones, then we spent a fortune buying the ones that were one per block machines with stickers for windows, then we settled on these new ones. It sounds like we might be paying a lot for the technology contract. My friends got parking tickets by a fabulous local cartoonist the other day, it’s hard to be mad at a cartoonist. Now there is talk of a parking garage which may be a public private partnership? Sounds like developers offloading the cost of building parking onto the city.
- Shooting unarmed youth! Andre and Bryson should never have gotten shot. The police officer should never have spent a half hour driving around the neighborhood looking for them for alleged attempted theft of a case of beer that they dropped in the store. He should never have gotten out of his car. He should never have pulled his firearm. He shouldn’t have shot wildly, he should definitely not have shot the second brother after making the insane choice of shooting the first time. The officer could have sat in his car and called for back up. He is a bad cop, as in bad at his job cop and trigger happy. The fact that he still works for the OPD is a shameful situation. Also shame on bringing charges against them! It was petty and the prosecution makes civil suits harder, which is really what it was about. Well if an officer has time in Olympia to cruise around for a half hour looking for two black youth for alleged attempted theft of beer then maybe we could do without that officer, because there are other priorities. And on the record, when I was a teenager I stole alcohol from a grocery store, not proud of it, but in no way did I think I would get shot for it.
- Park Rangers! Who doesn’t like park rangers? “Parks and Recreation” was a funny tv show but before 2017 Olympia had zero full time park rangers and now we have three. I don’t think we’ve added much parks or people during that time frame so why are we spending a quarter million a year of our precious park funds on park rangers? There is a long answer and a short answer to this. The short answer is the increase in people finding needles totally freaked out everyone for good reason and exaggerated reasons that lead to increase fear about safety in our parks even though the amount of crime is, as always, minimal. Maybe instead of park rangers, the OPD could use that excess time they have tracking down youth who allegedly attempted to steal beer in patrolling the parking lots of our parks. I don’t want to see employees lose their job, maybe they can instead rid our parks of the English Ivy which are prevalent in some areas leading youth groups who may need some structure in their lives.
- Homelessness! The richest and most powerful nation the world has ever seen has people living on the street miserable, coping with pain and trying to survive while holding onto their wits. If you’ve ever even spent a night homeless or living out of your car, you know how horrible and stressful it is. If you haven’t, well, if you’re like most of us, you’re one medical emergency or a string of tragedies away from finding out. I’ve worked with homeless folks in my organizing. With EGYHOP for a short period, at Occupy Olympia and for years at Media Island. When the parks started playing whack-a-mole with homeless encampments and hired the park rangers, they flooded from hidden places in remote niches of our parks to sleeping in front of downtown businesses or in large camps in various spots. Every time you chase them away to nowhere they have to go, there is a mess to complain about and clean up and a new mess just getting started. The city has flushed good money and staff time after bad ideas on homelessness for a long time. And it still is. Fortunately there are good ideas going forward. The One plan seems a step in the right direction. My main position at the core is simple, it gets more complicated in implementation. The city puts people in rooms or they leave them alone. I strongly support civil society doing more for the homeless, they need to get into stable situations to heal. If the city could do the housing though, a lot of homeless folks could solve their own problems. And that housing needs to be low barrier. Some folks will need a lot more support, it takes a village, but the city should commit to rooming them starting with people who became homeless in this town which is many if not most. Also let’s unlock all the park bathrooms 24/7, it’ll be a mess but it’ll be a mess in a bathroom rather than in an alley.
- The Artesian Well! I’ve got a solution! Take down the fence! Then… leave it alone!
Our town is absolutely awesome. It’s always gonna be the capital and a port city with a beautiful view of Mt. Rainier. People want to live here and the opportunity going into the future is to make sure we accentuate what makes it great. What do I see in our budding future that is an opportunity?
- A beautiful waterfront! It’s not there yet. It is much improved from when I moved here but the south sound is dirty. We need to do actual projects in restoring the coastline for habitat enhancement. I’m talking really bold and beautiful ecological design work. I think we can increase LIFE in the south sound by 10,000%, that’s not a joke, I did make the number up, but I’m serious! I want whales that rarely make it all the way down here to be talking to each other about how nice it is down here and start coming more often. And let’s increase the amount of sailboats too. We can do it!
- Best schools! Already doing great, keep it up! And let’s do more for graduates. I’d like to see high school graduates in Olympia have gap year (or two) opportunities in civil service. I did two years of Americorps in environmental restoration and it was a big help to me. I think that young people are facing a lot of struggles and we need to lift them up. Let’s also make sure they get into the trades or college and encourage them towards unions and cooperatives. There is a lot of interest in young people in cooperative businesses but they take a lot of work. Olympia has some great nonprofits that focus on cooperatives and small businesses such as Northwest Cooperative Development Center and Enterprise for Equity, the city should be really supportive going forward.
- High tech! We are a city that can and should support high tech industries and jobs. I would like to see our city support highspeed internet for everyone. I would like our city give support to Makers Spaces and things like that.
- Green space! The environmental situation is degrading around the world. We have climate change making a mess of our local weather. I would like to see all the green spaces in the city preserved going forward as well as farmland. Once it’s paved over it’s hard to restore.
- Transit! I love the free buses! Let’s keep expanding that and biking rather than cars and parking. I also had a thought that we could use an air tram from the west side to the farmer’s market and possibly up towards San Francisco Street Bakery! We can dream right? How about a downtown railroad stop? High speed electric? Solutionary Rail has some great ideas about that.
- Traditional crafts! Our city loves being crafty. From primitive skills workshops, to knitting, to weaving, to craft brew, to making instruments, to foraging for mushrooms and slow food. Let’s build that community that pays attention to enhancing quality of life the traditional ways.
- Food security! We love our farms, CSA’s and farmer’s market. Let’s glean the best ideas for how to keep growing our local food. I’d like food forests in every park, community gardens in every neighborhood and a robust and supported food not lawns. The number one agricultural crop in America are our lawns! That simply can’t be the case in the future. Also we need to reduce food waste and back composting.
- Arts, Music, Theatre and culture! We should be the heart of the south sound. A Mecca for arts and culture. Located between two huge markets in Seattle and Portland, Olympia is the place where artists and musicians can live the quality of life that allows for creativity without paying the prices. We need to preserve that from the level of house shows and arts walks to galleries and performance spaces.