Community Meeting Highlights Activities Over the Last Year and Plans for the Next

Area residents filled the meeting room of the Griffin Fire Department Headquarters this last week for the annual Community Meeting of the Griffin Neighborhood Association. In addition to reports from the Association Board, residents heard from a number of local officials in what has become a favorite format for this annual event. In this article, we’ll cover the business portion of the meeting. Another article will describe topics discussed by the featured speakers.

Board members Peter Reid and Steve Lundin described the recent activities of the Steamboat Conservation Partnership. Using data from a variety of sources and software provided by the Squaxin Island Tribe, the SCP and its partner, the Capitol Land Trust, are working to identify parcels within the Eld and Totten inlet watersheds, for conservation. Six parcels have been identified to-date, in the beginning of a sometimes lengthy process to secure development rights from the owners. Local property owners who may wish to share in the benefits of seeing portions of their holdings preserved are encouraged to contact the SCP.

The Capitol Land Trust will hold its annual Conservation Breakfast on February 9th. Members of the Association’s Board have reserved tables for those interested in this event. Contact Steve Lundin or Peter Reid for more information.

Diane Wiley is working with others on the Board and within the community to create a business directory. Plans are to produce both a printed and an online version. Volunteers are working to rise to the challenge of identifying the many businesses that operate in our area but without a formal storefront. Contact Diane if you would like to help assemble the business directory.

Missy Watts, a Board member and Realtor, spoke briefly regarding efforts to build “social capital” in our community. Social capital is a concept described by Robert Putnam in his books Bowling Alone and Better Together: Restoring the American Community. In these books, Putnam describes how social connections have become eroded in America and how communities can strengthen these connections, through civic engagement and a variety of other means. Missy provided the Steamboat Neighborhood logo art now being used by the GNA. She has created stickers bearing this oval image and those stickers will be available to local residents, to put on their vehicles. Local residents can pick up a sticker from the Griffin Fire Department Headquarters, during normal business hours.

The Board was moved by a discussion regarding social capital, started by Missy this last year. Those of you interested in learning more about social capital may be interested in reading the Social Capital Blog.

Linda Lentz, Board member and owner of Chelsea Farms, a family-owned shellfish farm celebrating 25 years in our area, pointed out there is more farmed shellfish in Washington than in anywhere else in the U.S. Part of the reason is because of our water quality. Land owners play a role in water quality, too. Residents who may be interested in learning more about local shellfish farming are encouraged to contact Linda. She would like to arrange tours of shellfish farms, if there is interest.

Dave Peeler reported on the annual Summer Picnic. For the second year in a row, it was held at Frye Cove Park. The weather was great! Local resident Xinh Dwelley, of Xinh’s Clam & Oyster House, donated her talents and food. Beach naturalists from the South Sound Estuary Association were on hand and the Pacific Northwest Shell Club provided displays and shells for the kids. The Association looks forward to sponsoring this event again, next summer.

Beau Altman, a member of the Board and safety expert spoke of efforts the Association could spearhead to help improve community disaster preparations. Beau spoke of community interest in a series of Saturday “MacGyver Seminars.” These could help folks to learn how to use what they have in their homes, to survive power outages and even major disasters.

Gary Goodwin, outgoing Treasurer for the Association, delivered the annual financial report.The Association began the year with $5,375.68 in its accounts and ended it with  $5,197.40. Along the way it contributed $200 to the St. Christopher’s Food Bank and $1316 to the Steamboat Conservation Partnership. It sponsored two beach naturalist scholarships with the South Sound Estuary Association ($80), paid expenses to operate a music concert and a summer picnic ($1,051.74) and paid other expenses of $176.01. Income was from dues ($916), the music concert ($1401), and other sources ($326.29).

Mark Messinger described the Association’s online footprint. The web site is the hub to a blog of news and opinion (begun in April, 2006, there are more than 408 articles in the archive), an online discussion group with more than 110 current subscribers, and a Facebook Page and Twitter feed. Folks who shop online with Amazon, using our link at helped us to raise more than $226 in commissions for the Association in 2011. The web site also has a disaster preparedness page to help residents and groups of neighbors plan.

Mark also said the Association plans to hold another music concert to raise funds for the Steamboat Conservation Partnership. Two years ago the band Gaelica donated their time to play a concert. Last year, a band fronted by local musician Elizabeth Hummel filled the Prosperity Grange. Residents interested in helping to present a concert in April/May this year should contact Mark.

Dave Schuett-Hames spoke of recent interest in hosting a presentation and question-and-answer session with representatives of Puget Sound Energy. The community would benefit from a greater understanding of how PSE responds to weather emergencies such as the recent snow storm, weaknesses in the local electrical distribution system, and how homeowners can help avoid power outages or respond to them, when outages occur.

Dave also spoke of plans to develop a community garden. Local residents who may be interested in participating in a community garden should contact Dave directly.

Each year, roughly half of the positions on the Association’s Board are up for election. This year’s slate of nominees included seven returning Board members and three new nominations. Current members of the Association present at the meeting voted for the slate of ten community members. The full seventeen positions on the Board are now filled. Click here for the full roster of names on the current Board of the Griffin Neighborhood Association.

The Board of the Association are proud of the accomplishments over the last year. The Board invites residents and local businesses to join in activities to benefit the community, to increase civic engagement, to strengthen connections to one another, and continue to make the Griffin and Steamboat area a wonderful place in which to live.

Griffin School Levy Goes to Voters February 14

The Griffin School Board of Directors have placed a two year School Programs and Operations Replacement Levy on the ballot for voter consideration on February 14, 2012.  This replacement levy serves as 28% of the district’s annual budget and is used to maintain school programs and operations.

Click here to download a PDF copy of the recent issue of Griffin Link detailing the levy and its intended uses.

Good and Bad Knife Bills in Washington State

We have both good and bad news from Washington State. Starting with the good, two companion bills, Senate Bill 6179 and House Bill 2347, would make it legal to manufacture spring-assisted and switchblade knives in the state of Washington. These bills also clarify the definition of a switchblade, or what is referred to in Oregon law as a “spring blade knife,” so as to not include assisted-opening knives that are currently subject to adverse interpretation of the state statute making them technically illegal. In addition, this bill would expand the existing law enforcement exemption for possession of “spring blade knives” to members of the military, full-time first responders and those citizens who hold a valid Washington concealed pistol license (WA is a “shall issue” state).

Knife Rights Director of Legislative Affairs, Todd Rather, will be in Olympia on Wednesday to testify in support of these bills on behalf of Washington’s knife owners. The bills are a big incremental step forward in a state where any knife with a spring assisted blade has been interpreted as being an illegal knife and where Washington knife manufacturers, such as Fox Knives USA and SOG, were prohibited from even manufacturing these knives in the state, sending those jobs to other states with more rational knife laws, including neighboring Oregon.

The bad news is that last year’s ridiculous anti-knife bill, HB 1006, that would make it illegal to conceal any knife over 3 1/2 inches long, even with a WA concealed pistol permit (since it is not a concealed weapon permit), has been resurrected. In a state where a long coat is a normal part of every outdoor enthusiast’s, fisherman’s and hunter’s attire for a good part of the year, this would turn honest citizens into criminals for carrying a modestly sized sheath knife on their belt, along with quite a few common folding knives longer than the arbitrary length limit. It’s time to put a stake through the heart of this asinine legislation and Knife Rights is working on that.

If you live, work or travel in Washington state, please contact BOTH your Senator and Representative in Olympia and ask them to support SB 1234 and HB 2347, respectively and ask your Representative to help kill HB 1006 for good. Click here to locate your legislators, or the legislators who represent where you work or travel.

Reprinted with permission from Knife Rights This article appeared in Knife Rights News Slice – January 21, 2012


On February 10 the House passed HB 2347, the bill which would make it legal to manufacture spring-assisted and switchblade knives in the state of Washington. The Senate passed SB 6179 out of committee. Knife Rights encourages interested citizens to contact their Senate representatives to request they support SB 6179.

Annual Meeting of the Griffin Neighborhood Association is January 26th

The Annual Meeting of the Griffin Neighborhood Association is Thursday, January 26, 7 PM at the Griffin Fire Department Headquarters. Come early, for light refreshments and conversation. 

Thursday, January 26
7 PM, but arrive early
Griffin Fire Department Headquarters
3707 Steamboat Loop NW

This year’s Annual Meeting will include a report to membership on the activities of the Board of the Griffin Neighborhood Association.

Each year, up to half the positions on the Board are offered for elections. This is your opportunity to renew your membership in the Griffin Neighborhood Association, since only current Association members can vote to fill the Board. Click here to become a new member or renew your existing membership, online.

The Annual Meeting features a number of special guests. Those who have already accepted our invitation to speak a few minutes each and to take questions include:

State Representative Fred Finn and Ray Peters of the Squaxin Island Tribe have also been invited, but have not yet confirmed they will be able to attend.

Where else will you find such a list of elected and local officials, in one place and at one time?

Are you interested in serving on the Board of the Griffin Neighborhood Association? For more information on the duties and responsibilities of Board membership, click here to download a copy of our FAQ. Contact any current Board member, with your questions or to enter your name into nomination.

We look forward to seeing you at this year’s Annual Meeting.

Update to speakers list: Thurston County Under-Sheriff Tim Braniff will attend, instead of Sheriff John Snaza.

“Public Diplomacy Under the Obama Administration: A New Approach” – January 19

Public Diplomacy Under the Obama Administration: A New Approach

Presented by the Olympia World Affairs Council
January 19, Lecture
Olympia Center, 222 Columbia, Olympia at 7:30pm

President Obama and Secretary Clinton recognize that America needs to do a better job of informing, influencing, listening to and connecting with billions of people around the world.

Are we succeeding? And what will success look like?

Sandra Kaiser explains how this Administration defines public diplomacy and describes the struggle to be heard in a challenging global information climate.

Sandra Kaiser and her family live on the Steamboat Peninsula. She recently completed a 25-year career with the State Department as a public diplomat, directing press, education and cultural programs from U.S. embassies in Europe and Latin America.


Citizens’ group to begin initiative process to move electrical service to Thurston PUD

An interesting development is now underway with the formation of a citizen’s group to advocate for Public Power – the distribution and generation of electricity by our county’s own public utility, Thurston PUD No. 1. Currently a water utility, Thurston PUD has grown a great deal over the last seven years. We have a staff of 11 to 12 people and operate water systems in Thurston and four neighboring counties.

Going electric requires a county-wide vote in the general election. The citizen’s group, Thurston Public Power Initiative, was established by Thurston County residents to accomplish this goal by petitioning our county’s registered voters to place the issue on this November’s ballot and to campaign for its passage. Their first task is to submit the petition language to our county auditor for approval and collect nearly 12,000 valid Thurston County signatures to place the issue on the ballot this fall. Their deadline to accomplish this is early July.

In 2008, a similar citizen’s group in Jefferson County (Port Townsend area) succeeded in passing a county-wide vote and the Jefferson PUD will soon be entering a three year transition to take control of its electrical service at the end of March 2013. Similar ballot measures that same year failed in Island and Skagit Counties.

This proposal is not new to Thurston County. It first came about with the formation of our own public utility district (PUD) in 1938. The long period of court battles that ensued failed to bring the PUD into the electrical business. Several more attempts were made up to the early 1960’s when one of two supportive commissioners died suddenly, leaving the other hopelessly deadlocked with the third commissioner. Future elected commissioners later overturned the entire effort.

During our PUD’s first 23 years the issue went before the Federal Court and involved several other county PUDs’ attempt to take over Puget Power as well as another private utility. The last eruption 50 years ago even sparked a highly polarized dramatic debate in the state Capitol and led to the removal of the pro-public power and long time Speaker of the House, John L. O’Brien by defections from within his own Democratic Party.

Why the current interest in publicly controlled power?

Our current Investor Owned Utility (IOU) Puget Sound Energy is no longer a publicly traded company with US shareholders. It “went private” three years ago and is now entirely foreign-owned and -operated (though nominally registered in the state of Delaware as a US company). Its new owners are an Australian Investment Bank and Canadian Pension Funds. Their mutual interest in owning our state’s largest private utility comes as no surprise, since Puget Sound Energy is one of the largest consumers of the Canadian Natural Gas Fields located in Western Canada. The resulting match-up along with the existing pipelines could be characterized best as a vertically integrated conglomerate (single ownership of the gas fields, pipelines and the consuming utility). That is where we are today.

I ran for office over three years ago on a platform that including having our PUD commission a feasibility study on whether we should enter the electrical business and how best to pursue this option. I was elected with over 60% of the vote. It is now time to act on this issue and give our citizens a clear appraisal of its prospects.

At our January 10 meeting, I will ask our PUD to commission an independent feasibility study to determine whether we should enter into the electrical business and via what process taking into account our current economic climate. One of the subjects the study will consider is the finite resources of federally-controlled hydropower and our ability to access it before its capacity is all spoken for.

In the future, electric utilities will be more and more involved in our citizens’ transportation choices. Most car manufacturers are fully aware of and working toward this. As demand and cost of generation rises, so will electric rates. Public power provides the opportunity for greater citizen oversight and local control of this resource that is so vital to the overall economic health of our community.

Future electrical rates by a publicly owned utility could be moderated by:

1) Direct access to Bonneville’s (BPA’s) cheaper Tier One federally sourced hydro-power through a hundred year-old federal policy known as “Preference,”

2) Lower interest rates on debt for municipal bonds which are tax-free for PUD’s,

3) Removal of the over 10% return (profit) paid to private utility shareholders as regulated by the Utilities and Transportation Commission, the regulator of all private utilities in our state.

All users – residential, industrial, commercial, and government – would benefit from the historically lower rates of publicly-supplied electricity. One of the greatest benefits of rate relief would go to the commercial and industrial business owners who provide jobs in our county. They are currently unable to take advantage of the small farm/residential exchange subsidy from BPA, so their rates will be most favorably impacted in a transition to public power. Cheaper rates to all forms of government could also lead to additional savings for all our citizens, helping to retain spending on government employment, which is an important sector of our local economy.

Improved system maintenance and operation of our electric utility could provide better overall service without the prolonged seven to ten day long storm-related power outages that leave our most vulnerable citizens helpless – often in the coldest and wettest months of the year. Expansion of locally-based union linemen would bring jobs to our county, assure greater system reliability and shorter down time, and be better able to maintain the grid. Our insistence on using quality (instead of second-hand) components will also drastically reduce the number of currently all-too-common power outages due to equipment failure or blown transformers.

Finally, there are great changes underway as to how electrical energy will be delivered in our future. A decentralized electrical grid composed of local renewable energy generation as part of people’s homes, clustered development, and community-based initiatives could lead us closer to a sustainable future. I believe strongly in a more sustainable future and I have been involved directly in our County’s Sustainability Initiative as the chair of the water panel. More and more, the issues of how our energy is produced, and how far away it is produced, will determine what rates we will pay and what kind of future we will share. Isn’t it time that we, citizens, as electric consumers, have a voice in those decisions being made on our behalf? The decision is in your hands.


Chris Stearns, a resident of Thurston County since 1976, is a Thurston PUD. Commissioner and was elected to his first term in 2008.

Public Disclaimer by Chris Stearns: The views contained in this article reflect my own personal opinions and are not necessarily those of my fellow PUD Commissioners, nor do they reflect the official position of Thurston PUD No. 1, which is a water utility at this time.

This article reprinted without permission from Works In Progress, January 2012.