My testimony at the City Council meeting was polarizing – exactly what I have written out against publicly here in the blogosphere. Clearly, and as the Olympian noted in their coverage of the hearing, people at the hearing in favor of the rezone did not like what I had to say. A large number of people confronted me in the lobby to express that they took offense to my testimony, and I tried my best to listen to them. I also pledged to post my testimony in a public place so that it could be scrutinized in an open and more democratizing way. So, I am posting this not to direct more attention to my argument, but to clarify it, and ultimately, to try to reconcile it with the community.
I had no intention of offending anyone and I am sorry to those whom I did offend. Perception and reality can be different things, particularly at a public hearing, and what came out of my mouth wasn’t necessarily what was heard by the attendees of the hearing. Put another way, language is one thing, the interpretation of rhetoric by an impassioned audience is another. Perhaps Thad Curtz was right when he questioned whether my “rhetorical enthusiasm” was getting the better of me. You live and learn; I’ll chalk this one up to experience.
One woman, who handed me a hand-written note immediately after my testimony wrote, “I was literally shaking, thinking you said that "those who turned out have a luxury of time" to devote to the issue.” Of course, what I actually said was, “I am here to testify that there are many, many citizens of Olympia who do not have the luxury of time simply to support the normal course of progress". My comments were intended to acknowledge people absent from the hearing, not imply anything about those that were there. I take full responsibility for the disconnect and wish I had prefaced this point at the beginning of my argument; not waited until the end, after the damage had been done. In any case, there was no personal attacking or belittling intended whatsoever. I hope this is evident in my testimony transcription below.
I do, however, stand firmly behind both my arguments. Attendees of the hearing may recall that one of the first testifiers said that while he saw lots of "save the waterfront views" lawn signs and "don't wall of the waterfront" lawn signs, he didn't see any "build the condos!" lawn signs. Of course not! When has anyone ever heard of citizens putting up yard signs to support development? By human nature, people are not proactive about promoting development, particularly if it doesn’t directly benefit them. I supported this argument with what I believe is a very credible essay.
When OLY 2012 first considered this whole issue, we didn't know much about it. Our first straw vote on the matter was split, 3-3. We learned about this issue over the course of many months. We came to understand many of the nuances and tradeoffs of the issue, the two most important of which being: (1) the massive improbability of the big-isthmus-park concept due to cost; and (2) the likelihood of office building alternative if the rezone does not pass. Yet, neither of these critical points are presented in the "Isthmus Park News" publication used to lure the signatures for the petition drive – only overly-simplistic images of yellow cubes juxtaposed with a tree-lined park.
I have had countless conversations with people in the community who are much, much more intelligent than I, yet who do not understand these finer points. And it's not because they're not smart enough to; it's because not everyone in the community takes the time to understand land use and zoning complexities like those of us who care enough to show up at a hearing do. My experience has been that once you bring these finer points to the table - which I think our group, OLY 2012, has done very thoroughly - people start to look at the issue in a much more critical light.
With that, below is the full transcription of my testimony for anyone who cares enough to critique it. I hope that even if you disagree with it, you can respect it. And to all those who took offense to my oration of it, I hope there are no hard feelings.