Port Candidates Square Off During Public Forum

By Rolf Boone, October 7, 2013, The Olympian

Port of Olympia Commission candidate Sue Gunn wants a resolution requiring that cargo brought in and out of the port be environmentally friendly and sustainable.

Gunn made those remarks following a question about whether there are types of cargo the port should refuse, one of several questions posed to her and Jeff Davis during a candidate forum Saturday night at The Olympia Center. Davis is the incumbent District 3 commissioner. Gunn is challenging him on the November ballot.

About 40 people attended the forum, hosted by the League of Women Voters of Thurston County, a nonprofit dedicated to voter education.

Gunn and Davis spoke for about 45 minutes, fielding questions from the moderator as well as questions that were submitted in writing by those in the audience.

The candidates faced questions about the port budget, developing the port peninsula and New Market Industrial Campus property in Tumwater, the port’s property tax levy, renewable energy, the Olympia Farmers Market, Capitol Lake, the former Olympia beer brewery in Tumwater, and logging trucks.

The two also were asked about whether there are types of cargo the port should refuse to handle, which led to Gunn’s response on her vision for environmentally friendly and sustainable cargo.

“I have come to the conclusion that no matter what the marine terminal does, somebody is not going to like it,” Davis told the audience in response to the same question, recalling an earlier conversation with a resident who was unhappy about the port importing “giant tools of mass destruction.”

Davis said that at first he thought the person was referring to past imports of military-related cargo, when in fact the person was unhappy with the port for importing electricity-generating windmill blades because they can harm birds and bats.

Davis said he is against cargo that might be harmful or have an “immediate impact on the citizens of the county.”

As for renewable energy, both candidates said they support the use of more solar energy at the port. But Gunn criticized the port for its import of ceramic proppants, the material used in an oil- and gas-extraction process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

“Fracking sands do not support renewable energy,” she said. “That supports the petroleum industry, fouls groundwater and destroys people’s health in the community.”

She acknowledged that the fracking materials are not being used locally — they’re sent to North Dakota — but “we should not be culpable for doing something like that when we have a large climate problem.”

Once again the two were asked about their views on Capitol Lake — whether it should remain a lake or whether the dam should be removed to return the lake to an estuary, its natural state.

Both candidates have fine-tuned their responses since they last appeared before Olympia Rotary in September.

At that meeting, Davis said he was open to the idea of an estuary as long as there were funds available to dredge Budd Inlet because of the buildup of sediment, while Gunn said she supports the idea of turning the lake into an estuary.

Their responses were different Saturday night.

Davis responded more forcefully about the need to keep it a lake, while Gunn’s answer fell somewhere in between.

“I really haven’t made a decision on lake or estuary,” she said, “but I have two values that are very important: One is I value a healthy and vibrant ecosystem, which comports well with an estuary.”

But she also said she understands the long tradition of recreating by the lake.

“I look forward to being more informed to determine what my position is,” Gunn said.

Gunn, 65, holds a doctorate in isotope geochemistry. She also has been involved in environmental causes, including as director of budgets and appropriations with The Wilderness Society.

Davis, 45, was elected to the commission in 2009. He is a longshore worker who works mostly in the Longview area.

Both candidates have raised sizable war chests for their campaigns, according to figures from the state Public Disclosure Commission. Davis had raised nearly $25,000 as of Sept. 25, with most funds coming from labor groups. Gunn had raised $16,000 as of Oct. 1, with most of her contributions coming from individuals.

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