"[The founding fathers] conferred, as against the Government, the right to be left alone -- the right most valued by civilized men." -- Justice Louis D. Brandeis (1856-1941) US Supreme Court Justice, 1928Indeed, the right to be left alone.
I have a dream! It's not a dream on the scale of ML King Jr.'s dream and if I try to express my dream in a speech, it won't bring a lump to your throat the way that Martin's dream speech will, but if you have a full bladder in downtown Olympia after hours some day, you may share my dream of increased public access to bathrooms.
Here is the letter I sent to the Olympia City Council and to Thomas Henderson and Joyce Turner at General Administration earlier today:
Dear All: I am active with the Olympia Coalition for a Fair Budget. I have been communicating with the City of Olympia for several weeks about the need to increase access to public bathrooms in downtown Olympia. In the past few weeks, I also starting communicating with GA regarding the problem of limited bathroom access in downtown Olympia. I spoke to the City Council about this problem on October 4th. The City has expressed support for the idea of increased public access, but also expressed concerns about vandalism, drug use and other inappropriate activities that arise with public bathroom access after hours and I share the City Council's concern about the challenge of having bathrooms open 24 hours per day.
We are underway in the WA State capitol city with an occupation that started back in the spring when we had a week of action to challenge the legislature to close loopholes and raise revenue instead of cutting essential services. The state has so far been unable and/or unwilling to challenge initiative-based mandates that hamstring revenue generation, but I think the occupation in Wisconsin inspired the WA activists to seize the rotunda for a day or two.
A lot has happened this year. The occupy Wall Street movement was planned from mid summer as fas as I can recall and appears to have picked up momentum. I would like to think that the oligarchs have overplayed their hand, that we have reached a national critical mass that is committed to leveling the playing field. If so, it's bad news for the millionaires, your taxes are going up, business as usual is over. We understand that the United States has the best government that money can buy, but when the people show up in the street and start practicing democracy independent of the established political parties (dumb and dumber anyone?) maybe the game has changed. God, I hope so.
A couple of quotes for the day:
After a couple of weeks of emailing the Olympia City Council about the need for better public facility access in downtown Olympia, I went to the City Council meeting and asked them face to face to commit a staff person to taking part in meetings to explore the possibilities. I did not get a yes to the staff commitment idea, but I did get a pretty reasonable reception and responses from several council persons.
There seems to be an understanding that more facility access is needed. I was encouraged by the responses. Also, big thank you to Paul for standing up to second my request. I think Paul was persuasive because he spoke from first person perspective of a guy who does not currently have good access to facilities. Paul mentioned that there is limited public facility access after-hours in Oly is at the Transit Center and out at the Marina.
Here is my current thinking on this issue: We need to convene meeting(s) with representatives from the City and from General Administration to talk about the possibility of opening up bathrooms. We need to include the downtown business owners, social service agency reps, and spokespersons from the houseless population to discuss a trial run of expanded bathroom access.
The City of Olympia responded to my request last month that they include public bathrooms in the Artesian Well improvement and reported they don't have the funds to include public bathrooms at the Artesian Well. That's fine for now. But the national and state economy are putting more people on the streets every day and public bathrooms seem like the least we can do for folks and let it not be said that we did not do the least we could do, right? Last week, I sent a message to the City Council asking them to open the bathrooms at City Hall 24/7 to improve the lot of people living on the street and to reduce the public blight of sidewalks, alleys, doorways, etc, being used as after-hour toilet facilities. I did not get a response last week, so I am renewing my request today. I suggest that those of us who support public bathrooms 24/7 let our voices be heard. I think there is a City Council meeting on Tuesday at 7 pm at City Hall. Here is my email to the City Council: