Port commissioner E.J. Zita was smart to convene meetings with the public over the possibility of military shipments resuming through the Port of Olympia’s marine terminal.
It’s not obvious that there is anything wrong with such shipments. But less secrecy and more discussion is preferable to ill-informed protests.
We remember the police-protester clashes from 2007. These did little to advance the argument against having the port assist the military, which it did until about 2008.
The Olympia port is just one route for the armed forces at Joint Base Lewis-McChord to ship equipment and supplies for Army and Air Force missions around the world, but it is JBLM’s alternative strategic route after the Port of Tacoma. Some cargo may be for troops or humanitarian work; some may be weapons related.
But it’s a hard argument to make that the local port should be making foreign policy decisions. And to what end? Those feel-good actions are easily undone by other ports in the region.
If the military cargo is not putting the local public at risk and the shipments pay for themselves, Olympia should be open for business.
Certainly our port needs the business.
There are two points here. One, port decisions ought to be made in a more open way. Two, cargoes should not pose risks to local human health or the environment.
Zita, a first-year member of the Port Commission, says she was rebuffed initially when she sought to have the port host the meetings. So she went out as a “private citizen” who happened to be a port commissioner, and she held private meetings with the public.
One such meeting last week drew about 20 veterans and others at Traditions Café. Pushed by Zita, the port now is poised to hold a formal listening meeting with commissioners to hear comment and discuss the matter publicly — on Sept. 19 or 20.
This is as it should be. So far, Zita is being constructive, and, it appears, the rest of the port is too.
Let’s find out what’s really in store. Ed Galligan, executive director of the port, said it is not certain whether shipments would resume in September and, if so, what would be shipped.
One activist raised concerns about shipments of ammunition made with depleted uranium. That may or may not be a real possibility here; yet it’s not clear that it poses a local risk.
Above all, let’s discuss this issue as a community, using facts.