Like so many times in the
past, a small but extremely well-mobilized and highly vocal group of Olympia activists is
doing their best to stall, delay or simply incinerate the enactment of the
isthmus rezone decision that has, in large part, already been made.
Much of their effort is commendable. They've written poems, recorded songs, held rallies, launched radio ad campaigns, recorded supportive testimony from well known ex-politicians, written letters (and letters and letters) to the editor of The Olympian, and showed up en masse to every public meeting and hearing held on the issue.
But this is not to say that everything they've done should be applauded. They've employed a wide assortment of threats and scare tactics with the aim of intimidating our elected city council members into doing what they want done.
Some of these acts have been carefully planned and often publicized by organizations formed to take on this issue, including, but not limited to, Friends of the Waterfront, The Olympia Park Foundation and 20/20 Vision Olympia. Their antics have included threatening legal action such as endless lawsuits and election recalls if the rezone is passed, making false accusations in public that city elected officials and city staff did not receive written testimony in accordance with the protocol of the law, and purposely breaking the rules of the pubic hearings process in an attempt to sway the balance of opposition further in their favor.
Other acts have been carried out by more clandestine and subversive factions. These, of course, are the well-know lewd and vandalizing attacks on private and public property throughout the city, as well as the now infamous hate crime mailings.
Any politician worth his or her weight in ballots should not have a hard time getting past these blatant acts of intimidation. But what's harder (and what, in my mind, is the most unfair approach taken by this movement) is the constantly refraining assertion that their position represents the wishes of "the overwhelming majority" of Olympians.
How exactly do 300 or so exceptionally well-managed activists stand for the wishes of the greater community? Certainly anyone who has taken a beginner's statistics course understands that this extremely impassioned group of citizens is far from a balanced sample of the larger Olympia population.
Of course, their answer to this question points out the 4,000+ signatures (and purported 75-80% sign-rate) they received during their isthmus park feasibility study initiative. But these signatures were garnered through a deceitfully polarizing petition drive that grossly oversimplified the complex decision faced by our elected leaders.
We've waited a long time for a progressive city council. Last fall, the excitement of the election gave our community hope that we finally had a group of leaders with the fortitude and the foresight to make tough decisions in the face of an ever-present arsenal of opposition. Few of us thought that it would be this bad this soon, but then again, there is no time like the first year of a new council to test its members' political aptitude and leadership potential.
If we let this small but vocal group of activists continue to hold our city council hostage - particularly at this late stage of a rezone process after so much courageous council leadership has already been demonstrated, devastating damage would be inflicted to our great city's imminent advancement towards its comprehensive plan goals, its desire to improve its reputation with the investment community, and its aim to walk-the-walk not just talk-the-talk of community and environmental progressivism.
But we have little doubt and much faith in our elected leaders. That's why we elected them.