Wednesday, June 28, 2017 This Week's Paper

Our view: Unheard voices can still bring thunder

It was a year ago that Northwest Innovation Works officially called off its plans to build what would have been the world’s largest natural gas to methanol plant in the world at Tacoma’s Tideflats during a time when any and all public meetings even remotely connected to the plant were flooded with angry protesters and sign waivers.
Port and city officials then promised more openness and transparency in future development plans, particularly involving large projects located on Tacoma’s waterways. They even took some baby steps, but trust was already lost. Those limited changes didn’t calm the storm of frustration and criticism. They fed them, particular as focus shifted away from methanol to liquefied natural gas (LNG) and the less-than-transparent marketing blitz by Puget Sound Energy about the glories of all things natural gas.
Lawsuits, countersuits, signature drives and more lawsuits came and went. Storm clouds of discontent continued to build. Like-minded neighbors began organizing. Those groups then formed movements. Those movements then formed coalitions. They are now preparing for a revolution, targeting City Council and Port of Tacoma Commission seats so their worries and voices get heard.
Sure, they are unlikely to topple the seats of power locally, but there are three seats up for grabs at the Port of Tacoma and five open seats on the nine-member Tacoma City Council, including the mayor’s chair. Just one seat on either dais could change the conversation about the role of Tacoma’s waterfront when it comes to job creation and environmental stewardship.
Even if the coalition of environmentally minded groups fails to seat a single candidate on the council or the port commission, it seems that both governments are finally starting to take them seriously. The city and the port are working on the details of a review of the land-use documents that ultimately determine what developments and activities will be allowed on the waterfront.
While news of that process seems promising, people should be reminded that the process to revise those rules could take as long as two years. That’s plenty of time for protects to move forward under the current zoning rules. Certainly the city and port could shorten that process or at least announce a moratorium on potential fossil fuel or coal exporting projects while the subarea plan process chugs through the review process.