News Ticker

The port should change its name; let’s do it right


This essay was originally posted Nov. 30, 2016 but raises an important issue port commission candidates should address.

Ken Balsley has had enough. He thinks that Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts inappropriately spoke out against the port for transporting fracking materials.

“The Port of Olympia is a separate political entity, that operates with its own board of elected officials,” argues Balsley. “It has a duty and responsibility to ALL of the taxpayers of Thurston County to meet its obligations of economic development and the creation of jobs. It does not answer to the City of Olympia for how it conducts its business.”

Balsley didn’t say point blank that he disagrees with Roberts’ viewpoint on port policy — and in the end that really doesn’t matter. The long-time blogger is correct that the port is a separate entity — and not an arm of Olympia. Balsley is also correct in pointing out that this confusion could be alleviated if the port’s name were changed.


Instead of a boring name that won’t do a thing to further the port’s mission of creating jobs, how about a name that could attract national attention? Indeed, why settle for anything less than a name which would make our port a worldwide tourist mecca?


Here is where Balsley and local greens could come together in powerful alliance. If a name-change proposal is successful, Balsley could take credit for getting the ball rolling on a MASSIVE economic development initiative. Meanwhile, the greens could gain the approval of a name that better supports their climate change policy goals.

Balsley doesn’t seem set on a particular name. “Any number of names would suffice — Port of Thurston County, Port of South Sound — or any other that doesn’t carry the ‘Olympia’ nomenclature,” he writes.

Agreed. But instead of a boring name that won’t do a thing to further the port’s mission of creating jobs, how about a name so noteworthy that it attracts national attention? Indeed, why settle for anything less than a name which would make our port a worldwide tourist mecca?

Photos by Olympia, Earth Images

And — not so coincidentally — how about a name that does far more to support climate change activism than a piddly little ban on the transport of fracking materials?

What could possibly accomplish all this, you ask? The answer is surprisingly obvious: The Port of Atlantis.

We are all going down . . . together

If you’ve seen Olympia’s map of climate change (shown below), you know that the peninsula which houses the port will someday be underwater. If we are good stewards of taxpayer money, we need to start converting port property to uses that continue to generate jobs as climate change hits its stride toward the end of the 21st Century.

Imagine port facilities that are reconfigured into a theme park which presents a postmodern take on Atlantis. Mythology has it that this ancient island nation was once quite powerful and advanced, but fell out of grace with the gods and was submerged into the Atlantic Ocean. This is essentially our fate as well, no?

City of Olympia webpage calls climate change a “cause for concern.”

To keep theme park development costs down, the whole community could be invited to design and build exhibits. For example, The Evergreen State College might create an Institute for Applied Underwater Basket Weaving. The IAUBW’s learning laboratory could draw more trustafarians to Evergreen.

Might that be a more cost-efficient way to bring out-of-state dollars into our community than a port terminal?

Of course, the port’s leadership would need a cultural change in order to embrace this modest proposal. But given the anti-tax sentiment sweeping the nation, I would think that Thurston County residents might be ready to rebel against port budgets that are chronically underwater. And this is well before sea-level rise takes its toll on the port’s costly assets.

Let’s learn from Donald Trump — there is great power in audacious goals. But instead of building a wall, let’s build a timeless monument to human adaptability.

Along the way we’ll make lots of money for the taxpayers of Thurston County. Isn’t this what “sustainable” economic development is all about?


S. Salmi edited Green Pages in the early-90s and has been a wayward correspondent since then. Sometimes he eats too much irony for breakfast. 


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.