Celebrate local democracy


On this Independence Day we celebrated democracy.

National news makes the situation for our nation and our democracy seem dire.  I see strong signs of hope for democracy in Olympia.

Many, many voices join together to keep our local democracy strong and resilient.

You have a role to play in defending democracy. It starts right here at home where we can most immediately see and feel the impacts of our local government decisions. Bring your voice to the table!

There are seven of us elected to City Council, then there are another hundred who serve on Boards and Commissions, beyond those people with positions there are about 2,500 more community members who inform themselves and offer comment and suggestions through attending meetings, emailing, calling, or participating in the Engage Olympia web page.

That’s a lot of eyes on the city services we provide, the opportunities we create, and the money we spend. I am so grateful for every good idea offered and every hard question asked.

Olympia is becoming a city. There is no dispute about that fact, and I don’t suspect our City government can control how quickly or slowly we grow. We can influence where new housing and commercial buildings are built. We can control how much our growth is compact or sprawling. And, most importantly to me, we can influence whether people of all incomes can continue to live within our city limits.

Making streets fit neighborhoods and traffic. Last week city transportation staff met with 22 South Capitol and Wildwood neighbors to talk about traffic concerns on Capital Way. The conversation was fruitful. There were many specific concerns described. A list of potential improvements was generated. I thought it was a great evening. A couple of ideas stuck with me. There are a couple of stoplights along that corridor. Putting them on a timer (instead of having cross-street traffic trigger a red light on Capital) would create more pauses in traffic. Narrowing the road would make it feel less like a wide-open highway and give people cues that this is a slow street. Much of what we discussed could also apply to other fast streets with houses on them like Martin Way, Harrison, or Division. I’ll be watching with interest for the staff report. (Here’s a link to the review of the Comprehensive Plan Transportation Chapter)

Who pays for new development? We recently had public comment asking if low income housing might be exempted from paying development costs. At first blush that sounds like a good idea. Then you realize, we as a community will still want sewers, emergency services, sidewalks, schools, and parks. If new development does not contribute then someone else must pay. I will continue to argue against blanket policies that exempt developers from paying a fair share of the costs of extending city services to a new development. And I’ll continue to support programs like the Home Fund where we taxed ourselves to create a fund to assist in building permanently affordable housing projects. (Here’s a link to the review of the Comprehensive Plan Housing Chapter)

Psilocybin mushrooms? You may hear that I’ve sponsored a resolution to support decriminalization of psychedelic mushrooms and related plants or fungi. If these substances are part of the solution to save the life of one veteran suffering from PTSD I want to make it available without stigma or risk of prosecution in our community. If it helps people maintain mental health and deal with our complicated world, then I want to make it available. We face an unprecedented mental health crisis, unprecedented suicide rates especially among veterans and marginalized groups, and a deepening opioid addiction crisis.

July 9 City Council will vote on Social Justice & Equity Commission Recommendations for Community Involvement and Oversight of Olympia Police Department. I am so excited and proud that this work has been completed. There were many people involved across more than a year to create this program. The proposal calls for a seven person board who would advise Council, meet with the police auditor, and help to communicate to the community issues and progress in reimagining public safety. I believe that our Police Department is filled with good people earnestly striving to create less violent and more effective response to moments of crisis in community member’s lives. A Community Oversight Board can help maintain accountability and offer community perspectives on proposed changes. I think this is a strong step in the direction of reimagining public safety.


          ~ Clark Gilman, Olympia

Editor's Note: Clark Gilman was appointed to the Olympia City Council in 2016 and was elected to serve full terms in 2017 and 2021.   

The opinions expressed above are those of the writer and not necessarily those of  The JOLT's staff or board of directors.  You're free to post your response below.  Otherwise, if you have something to say about a topic of interest to Thurston County residents, send it to us, and we’ll most likely publish it. See the Contribute your news button at the top of every page.  


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  • Yeti1981

    On who pays for development: The mantra that "growth pays for growth" is flawed. That system creates an exclusive community for wealthy residents and for those who currently reside there, putting up a barrier for new residents. The most equitable and efficient way of paying for growth is through taxes spread evenly among everyone. The largest outlays a community must deal with come from maintenance and operation, not new development. The revenue genrated by new development far exceeds the added expenses. There's tons of information out there on this. We must move away from this outdated and obsolete narrative that "growth must pay for growth." It isn't doing anything to make housing more affordable and accessible to everyone. You don't get special privileges because you lived somewhere first. Buildings don't magically grow people. Buildings don't utilize the resources and infrastructure. People do. The people who are already here and the people who are inevitably moving here. We need new development to make way for growth. And we shouldn't just assume that the fees and cost that you put on development get swallowed by the developer. They pass that on in the form of higher costs of housing and inevitably higher rents too. Everyone should contribute, and it is wrong to relegate these costs onto the new people. Isn't that segregation by any other name?

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