Category Archives: 5 Question Fridays

5 Question Friday With Attorney Chris Van Vechten

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There are few things that are worth what we pay. A good whiskey. A good cigar. A good lawyer. Chris Van Vechten may be able to give you suggestions for the first two, but for the last one, he does not have to because he embodies it.

I first encountered Chris Van Vechten when I read a Facebook post of his that I completely related to. It turns out that we have many similar sensibilities. I asked him if he would be willing to join me for Five Question Friday. Turns out he had a lot to say.

Here’s Chris:

1. What attracted you to practicing law?

For most of my life, the people around me said I would be a lawyer because “you like to argue” but I rejected that interpretation of myself and initially branched into other worlds.

My father was a professor of physics and electrical engineering who had once been nominated for a Nobel Prize in Physics.  He was also a one-term county councilmember, and a small business owner.  He had many admirers among the intellectual elite, and I grew up in his shadow, just as he had with his father and grandfather etc.  I felt a lot of pressure growing up to do something “big” with my life.  Seven years of higher education to wage war in a local courtroom doesn’t feel like much when your dad was head of research and development for IBM back in the 1970s.

So after graduating from the University of Puget Sound in 2007, I went to go work in the State Legislature, before trying to land a job as a lobbyist and ultimately assuming a role as a field organizer for the Democratic Party during Obama’s big wave in 2008.  After our victories, the recession was on full bore and I was extremely frustrated with myself for lack of opportunities, so I started an online newspaper with podcasts modeled after my old college radio show and started interviewing and debating interesting people like Tim Eyman and Krist Novoselic.  I thought I could make money off this by selling advertising.  I thought wrong.

By this point, I was pretty pissed off, so I decided to run for Tacoma Public School Board despite the fact that I didn’t go to school here, wasn’t a parent, wasn’t a teacher, and was only 24 years old.  I did a lot better as a candidate than one would think.  I raised more money than my 5 opponents combined, was endorsed by the teachers union and State Auditor Brian Sonntag, and finished 800+ votes ahead of the incumbent.  But I still lost.

Shortly thereafter I got married and my father-in-law was pressuring me to move out to Idaho to manage one of the three assisted living communities he had inherited, which was a dream opportunity for my new wife Jen.  So, long story short, I found myself living in an Alzheimer ward of my father-in-law’s memory care community in Twin Falls, Idaho….I had to get out.

Law School was my out, and I enrolled in the summer of 2010.  I enrolled in Seattle University because it was the closest law school to Tacoma, where I still plotted a school board run at the time.

2. Who is a typical client for you? 

My clients seem to represent every cross-section of our community. I’ve represented: professional athletes; politicians and elected officials; the homeless and the addicted; business owners and working class heroes; soldiers who serve our country, and immigrants – documented or otherwise – who seek to join it; high school drop-outs, college students, and fellow attorneys; people as young as 15 and as old as 81; residents of countless communities; the famous, the infamous and a lot of people who wish to remain unknown; the good, the bad, and the ugly.

But if you look at the statistics, the typical criminal defendant is poor – very poor.  And while that might suggest there is a connection between poverty and crime, I can assure you that drug addiction, domestic violence, sexual assault and theft are just as common in Gig Harbor as it is in Tacoma.  Go to divorce court if you don’t believe me.

The statistics reflect a conscious choice to prioritize prosecution of a certain socioeconomic demographic.  That’s not any one individual’s fault by the way.  We are all guilty of being complicit in this social arrangement.

3. What is the biggest misconception you feel people have about the legal system?

Boy, that’s a tough one.  I’m not sure I can say what is the “biggest misconception” out there among the public, but one thing that is gnawing at me at this moment is the word “treatment.”  Both the Left and the Right seem to be advocating treatment these days over punishment without actually articulating what “treatment” is or how it would work.

It has to be understood that at various times in our history, torture has been called “treatment” (aka, the burning of witches and heretics in the name of purifying their souls for the afterlife).  So while the sentiment might sound progressive, in practice, it would often times be more humane to take some of my clients out into the street and whip them rather than to force them into classes that don’t work and which they can’t afford, and then to periodically sanction them with jail for failing to make payments in these classes until jurisdiction runs out.

I had a client earlier this year who was released from jail and told to get (1) a domestic violence evaluation and comply with treatment (which no insurance or government agency will pay for and which was going to run him more than  $1200); (2) a chemical dependency evaluation and comply with treatment (for his drinking and heroin problems); (3) a mental health evaluation and comply with treatment (for his PTSD, the result of having been shot in Iraq); (4) to abide by a no contact order that forced him to shoulder the expense of renting alone; and (5) to not drive without an ignition interlock device and accompanying license and insurance (for the DUI he had picked up) which meant that his attendance at all these treatment hearings was contingent on him living on and securing treatment at facilities with access to the bus line.

For someone with so many problems and stuck in a system that doesn’t really provide the resources for this ordered “treatment” – the results were predictable.  He is now stuck in the cycle of being released from custody only to be arrested again and again for failure to “comply” with the court’s impossible orders.

However, in the broader sense, I don’t think people realize that the legal system is not designed to result in “all out” wins for one side or the other.  It’s designed to create so much pain and risk for both sides involved that a compromised settlement naturally ensues.  That frustrates a lot of people involved.

4. What common mistakes do you see clients making before talking to you?

They wait to their detriment.  They don’t understand that law enforcement is actively destroying evidence related to their case as the days go by, like video and 911 recordings that they are not required to keep if not requested within a certain period of time (click here to see a warning from Puyallup Municipal Court).  They don’t realize that memories are fading and witnesses are disappearing.  They’re hopeful the State will forget about them or not file charges and as the weeks and months go by that seems realistic until suddenly the prosecutor’s office decides to dig up something from the previous year and files charges.

There was a car salesman where I grew up whose slogan was “If you don’t come see me today, I can’t save you any money.”  Same is true for me.  If you don’t come see me today, I may not be able to save your freedom, future, or long-term finances.

5. You’re from Portland. You went to school in Seattle. Why did you choose to live and work here in Tacoma?

I never wanted to leave Oregon, but my father was third-generation University of Chicago and my mom attended Northwestern in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, so there was a lot of pressure for me to go to school in the Windy City.  I gave it a try for a year and hated it.  The Midwest didn’t agree with me.

My dad was a professor at Oregon State University and I could have gone there for $20 a credit, but I was stupid and fell for Princeton Review Rankings and so in the process of applying to come back to the Pacific Northwest, I only applied to “well ranked” and expensive schools like Reed College in Oregon.  The University of Puget Sound – which at the time was ranked on par with Harvard for academics – offered me a scholarship.  Honestly, I had never even heard of Tacoma before but I needed to get out of the Midwest, so I moved here in 2004 because it was close enough to Oregon to make feel “at home.”

My first year here was kind of a blur.  I had fallen in love with my best friend in high school and my affections were not reciprocated and combined with other problems I didn’t handle rejection as gracefully as I wish I could have.  So my first year in Tacoma I didn’t do much but try to rebuild myself.

My second year here, I attended a campus meeting of the Young Republicans (cuz why not) and listened to State minority leader Richard DeBolt ask the audience if they knew who their state representative was.  None of us knew.  He told us to go home and google it, find out and send them an email introducing ourselves.  And if they did not respond, run against them.

I went home, learned that Dennis Flannigan was my state representative, sent him an email introducing myself, and warned him I would file to run against him if he did not respond.  I think I was 20 years old then.

I got an email the following day telling me that Representative Flannigan “needed to see me” in his office immediately.  I was scared shitless.  I showed up in a three piece suit.  Dennis was wearing blue jeans and had a robot at the front door of his office named after a colleague in the legislature.  Turned out Dennis was a civil rights activist of historical significance who was familiar with the work of my great, great uncle Carl – who was a civil rights activist as well, though of a different sort.   “Now that I don’t need to worry about you running against me, how would you like to be my intern in Olympia?” he offered.

The internship changed my life.  It taught me the importance of community – something I didn’t really have in Oregon.  It introduced me to a fellow intern who three years later became my wife.  And it gave me a lot of confidence in myself.  It also rooted me in this community.  I went to Law School in Seattle, but commuted on the bus from Tacoma every day to do it.  I considered running for mayor of Seattle earlier this year, but decided it was better to stay in Tacoma.  I would rather serve in heaven than rule in hell.

 

I want to thank Chris Van Vechten for joining me for Five Question Friday. You can find Chris online at http://www.soundlawyering.com/.

If you think you or someone you know would be a good person for Five Question Friday, email me at jackcameronis@gmail.com.

– Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday With Tacoma Girls Rock Camp

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I was recently contacted by the good people at Tacoma Girls Rock Camp. They thought my readers would be interested in their program. I agreed. Here they are to tell you all about it.

1. What is Tacoma Girls Rock Camp?

Tacoma Girls Rock camp is a music education program for girl-identified youth. We are passionate about getting women involved in music and feel there’s a lot to learn in creative collaboration with others. The weeklong day camp provides group music lessons and the opportunity for each camper to play an integral part in the formation of a band and creation of an original song. Campers will also be exposed to workshops like: A History of Women in Music, Songwriting and Screen Printing. The program takes place from July 31st – August 5th, when the girls showcase all their hard work on stage for the community. (https://www.grctacoma.org/)

2. What is the background of the people putting on Tacoma Girls Rock Camp?

CasiCasi Brown: I grew up in the South Sound region playing the harp, obsessing about bands and taking 3 hour bus rides to to attend all-ages shows in Seattle. I was first introduced to the Girls Rock’n’Roll program in the summer of 2010 when I volunteered as a camp counselor with Rain City Rock Camp, where I fell in love with the program. I am passionate about building educated and empowered communities and see art and other creative endeavors as a great tool for positive social change. I organized Bellingham Girls Rock Camp as my senior project with Fairhaven College and am excited to be starting Tacoma Girls Rock Camp. We have a lot of great ideas and hope to become a central figure in the all-ages music community.

 

HarlieHarlie Jane Carter: Born and raised in Tacoma, I spent my high school years downtown at Tacoma School of the Arts, SOTA. This is where I first gained the confidence to express myself through many different art forms, from songwriting to photography. I went on to attend The Evergreen State College and discovered a passion for working with youth. I studied techniques for creative positive learning environments while working and interning within various elementary schools, including a year of service through AmeriCorps. I aim to to transform my love for music, this city, and education into a safe space for girls to step a little outside of the box and express themselves.

3. What should campers expect?

Campers should foremostly expect to have fun, form friendships and experience the challenges and rewards of creative collaboration. While our focus is music and the goal is to support campers in their band’s creation of an original song, we will offer other workshops like: screen printing, songwriting, a history of women in music – and are open to other ideas! We anticipate that most campers will come with no previous knowledge of music and leave having written, performed and recorded an original song.

4. How can people help Tacoma Girls Rock Camp?

If people like what we’re doing they can make a monetary donation,  lend us gear for the week of camp, or volunteer their time. All money will go to support the week of program, provide scholarships for campers and enable us to begin the nonprofit application process. All gear will enable us to instruct and empower the girls to form bands to write and perform an original song. In addition to instruments, we’ll need amps, microphones, microphone stands  guitar straps, chords, tuners… (https://www.grctacoma.org/instrument-donation/)

If you would like to volunteer your time we are looking for individuals take on full and part time roles like: camp counselor, band coach, roadie, instrument instructor, workshop leads, and morning rockstar. We are also offering high school specific volunteer opportunities for students ages 15-18. Positions include: stage design;  photography; design, marketing and social media management; audio recording. If you’re interested please check out this link (https://www.grctacoma.org/info/) or contact us with any questions at GRCTacoma@gmail.com

5. How can people sign up to be campers?

Registration is available for campers here (https://www.grctacoma.org/registration/). Interested youth should fill out the application with their parent or guardian and create a brief short story, comic strip or essay telling us why they want to be a part of our program and what their goals are for the week. The cost of camp is $350. However, we want everyone who want’s to be a part of the program to participate and will provide full and partial scholarships to make it affordable to everyone.

I would like to thank the people at Tacoma Girls Rock Camp for taking the time to join me for 5 Question Friday. Do you have a business, an event, a cause, or just a cool story you would like to share on 5 Question Friday? Contact me at jackcameronis@gmail.com

– Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday With Chef Melinda De Santo from Chef Melinda’s Home~Made

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Hello and welcome to another edition of 5 Question Friday. On Fridays I find someone in Tacoma (or they find me) who is doing something interesting around here. Today’s guest is Chef Melinda De Santo from Chef’s Melinda’s Home~Made. Want to learn more? Here’s Melinda:

1. What is Chef Melinda’s Home~Made?

Chef Melinda’s Home~Made is a business I started last June making my home made gluten free Granola. It’s delicious! It all started when I was waiting on my next Bed & Breakfast job. I am a traveling Inn keeper. I was making granola for guests and my sister told me my granola was so good I should bag it up people would buy it.

2. How did you get started?

I started begging it up and people loved it I started the farmers markets last June I’m now in 10 different stores and the Pacific Northwest. And I’m happy to say that I’m in for Farmer markets this season as well.

3. What is a favorite recipe you’d like to share?

My favorite recipe is of course is my granola I eat it every day for breakfast. It’s made with gluten-free oats, almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, pepitas, flaxseed, Millet, coconut oil, little cinnamon, vanilla, honey, and roasted to perfection. You can get it at Tacoma Boys 6th Avenue and Puyallup, Harbor greens University Place and Gig Harbor. Valley Farms River Road Stadium Thriftway you can get it at Coffee Katz in Tumwater.

4. Where can people find you and your food?

On Wednesdays you can catch me in Steilacoom Farmers Market, Thursday in Waterfront Gig Harbor Market, Saturday in Kent at their Farmers Market, and Sunday on North Pearl Ruston’s Farmers Market.

5. What’s something you wish everyone understood about cooking?

The one thing I wish everybody understood about cooking is you have to love what you’re doing. Even if you’re making dinner for your family and it’s been a long day. Be simple and delicate with the food. Food is delicious when prepared right & prepared with love. Food always tastes better when prepared with love.

Thanks to Chef Melinda De Santo for participating in 5 Question Friday. If you or someone you know is interested in joining me for a 5 Question Friday email me at jackcameronis@gmail.com.

– Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday with author Erin Pringle

FullSizeRender (17)Welcome to 5 Question Friday where we ask someone connected to Tacoma 5 Questions. Today we have Erin Pringle author of a collection of short stories called “The Whole World At Once”. She is in Tacoma this weekend making an appearance at King’s Books and was nice enough to take the time to join me for 5 Question Friday. Here’s Erin: 

1. What is The Whole World At Once?
It’s a collection of strange short stories that trace rural landscapes and the varied experiences of loss and how that affects the way a person moves through the world and their relationship to themselves. For example, in one story, a girl’s sister disappeared from the agricultural fair a year ago, and was later found dead. IN the story, the girl encounters a carnie who has been shot in the chest. Even though he likely had nothing to do with her sister’s murder, she relives the loss of her sister through the encounter. In another story, a boy who served several tours in war returns to raise his kid sister, and starts planting and digging up landmines in the back yard as a way to cope with his life.

2. What is it that attracts you to the Northwest?
I grew up in the Midwest, in a town of 3,000, so all of the stories I’ve imagined taking place on those country roads. In some ways, what attracts me to the Northwest is that it is not marked by the grief I experienced in the Midwest, or that I situate there. My father, best friend, and sister died in the Midwest, and so it’s hard for me to return there physically. Living in the Northwest allows me the physical distance that seems necessary to have an imaginative connection to a place that hurts my heart. I guess the Northwest is kind of like an artist’s studio for me.

3. Can you tell us about your upcoming appearance at King’s Books?
Absolutely! I’ll be at King’s Books this Sunday at 7 PM. I’ll be reading two stories from The Whole World at Once, and then signing books afterward–or just talking with people if they don’t like to have their books signed. 🙂  The bookstore is opening special for the event, so it’s a great chance to relax within a busy Memorial Day weekend and take some space for new thoughts within the solitude that I think a bookstore brings.

4. Who are some of your favorite authors?
I have an affinity for Southern, lone women authors, I just realized the other day when I found the collected stories of Eudora Welty and immediately fell in love with her work. I enjoy Flannery O’Connor a great deal, too. Patricia Highsmith. Hemingway. Faulkner. Toni Morrison.  I also enjoy playwrights, too, with sharp, stunning language, like Edward Albee, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Sam Shepard.  My parents were born in the 1930s, and I think that has something to do with my being drawn to fiction written in that era. Of Midwestern authors, Sherwood Anderson is my favorite, or at least, his stories, Winesburg, Ohio, which is all I’ve read but felt fully understood by. I like authors who see the strange slants of the world and feel compelled to talk about them and find the beauty and awful in the hard routes our lives take–since so much of the world, outside of art, seems bent on covering it up or ignoring it or pretending it doesn’t exist. The same goes with poets, like Jack Gilbert and Walt Whitman, or visual artists like the painter Jenny Saville or the photographer Matt Black. Artists who try to show both the ugly and the beauty that flashes amidst it somehow.

5. What’s your next project?
I’m working on several. I have the first draft of a novel that I’m letting sit, which deals with a travelling circus and a mother who dies in the same way that my sister did. Then I have a memoir project composed of flashes of language that might be called prose poems. And I’m completing a draft of a new collection of stories that revolve around love and what it is. I’m trying to understand it after so much loss, because it seems like a phenomena that I haven’t understood before, or from my life as it is now, so I’m trying, through fiction.
Thanks to Erin for participating in 5 Question Friday. You can buy Erin’s book at Amazon.com at this link or better yet pick it up over at King’s Books this Sunday and meet her yourself. If you or someone you know would like to join me for a future 5 Question Friday, email me at jackcameronis@gmail.com
– Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday With Sharayah Kinney From The Tacoma Tool Library

green-horizontal.pngLast week someone mentioned the opening of the Tacoma Tool Library. I had never heard of it but it sounded like an interesting idea. I contacted Sharayah Kinney at the Tacoma Tool Library and asked if she would like to join me for a 5 Question Friday to tell us more about it. She happily agreed. Here’s Sharayah.

1. What is the Tacoma Tool Library?

Tacoma Tool Library is a community project whose goal is to develop a sustainable, community tool lending library in Tacoma that is accessible to residents regardless of income. The library provides low cost access to shared tools and other durable goods, and encourages re-use, repair, and reduced consumption. In addition, it hosts a safe community space for learning how to use household tools, and empowers Tacoma residents to care for their homes and neighborhoods, house by house and block by block.

2. How can people participate in the Tacoma Tool Library?

Get involved by becoming a member and/or volunteering.

BECOME A MEMBER

Interested in becoming a member of the Tacoma Tool Library? We’d love to have you! We operate on a membership system, and ask members to give a yearly suggested donation to help us keep the doors open. Members have access to all of the tools in the library’s collection, and can also participate in workshops that are offered at the library. To become a member, please make a suggested donation either online or in person at the library. We’ll also ask you to sign a membership form, waiver, and tool use & borrowing policy the first time you use the library.

Suggested donation levels:

  • $40 General
  • $30 Student/Senior
  • $20 Low-Income
  • $100 Founding Member
  • $150 Business
  • $250 Lifetime Member

VOLUNTEER

Tacoma Tool Library is currently volunteer run. We have five board members and a network of volunteers who help us with our day to day operations. We are looking for folks with knowledge of and experience with tools, but don’t be discouraged if you are a beginner, you can learn with us. As we prepare to open we are especially in need of volunteers with these skills:

  • Knowledge of tool repair
  • Knowledge about specific types of tools (ex. plumbing, automotive, etc.)
  • Interior construction
  • Tool sharpening
  • Data entry
  • Customer service
  • Fundraising
  • Marketing
  • Teaching experience/ interest in teaching a workshop

If you are interested in volunteering with us please send an email to info@tacomatoollibrary.com or call us at 954.866.5253.

 

3. What are tools you don’t have in the library that you’d like to get?

Here’s a list of our greatest needs at the moment:

  • Sawzall
  • Multi-tool
  • Impact hammer
  • Chop saw
  • Wet/dry vac
  • Ladder
  • Extension cord
  • Hand truck

We would also like to have some more uncommon such as an engine lift, scaffolding, and weed wrenches.

To donate tools, check out the calendar page on our website for upcoming open hours or contact us at info@tacomatoollibrary.com. We accept all tools in good working order, except for gas-powered.

 

4. How can people help the Tacoma Tool Library?

Become part of the tool library community, whether through donating your time, skills, or money.

 

5. What do you hope for the future of Tacoma Tool Library?

Since we just officially opened our hope for the future is focused on goals to accomplish within the next year, such as expanding our membership, increasing the number of volunteers involved, adding to our inventory of tools available and implementing a series of workshops. At some point in time, we hope to be able to have a portion of our space used for a makerspace, where members can use tools in the space that are too big to check out.

I want to thank Sharayah for taking the time to participate in 5 Question Friday. You can find out more about the Tacoma Tool Library at their website http://tacomatoollibrary.org. If you or someone you know would like to participate in a future 5 Question Friday email me at jackcameronis@gmail.com. 

– Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday Regarding The Proposed Methanol Plant

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If you live in Tacoma, you’ve probably heard something about the methanol plant being proposed for the Port of Tacoma. There have been recent meetings about the topic. The Tacoma City Council has been notably quiet about the issue. (Though it is worth noting that the idea for this 5 Question Friday came from a Tacoma City Councilperson who contacted me.) The neighboring Federal Way City Council just last night held an emergency session to condemn the plan.

Over the last few weeks, I have contacted many people about this issue. And for this week’s 5 Question Friday I contacted the Port of Tacoma (the location where the plant may be built), NW Innovation Works (the company building the plant), and Redline Tacoma (a grassroots activist group against the plant). I asked them each the same five questions. The idea here is to get different perspectives on the same topic from people closer to this project than I am.

Here we go: 

1.What is the basic plan at this time for the proposed methanol plant?

Port of Tacoma: I’ll defer to Northwest Innovation Works on its plans for the proposed facility.

NW Innovation Works: NW Innovation Works proposes to construct a two-phased, $3.4 billion gas-to-methanol plant at the Port of Tacoma. Methanol produced at this facility will be exported to Asia, where companies will convert it to olefins, which are the building blocks of products we use every day like medical supplies; safety and industrial equipment; consumer electronics like smartphones, televisions and computers; and clothing. The plant will include up to four methanol production lines, each with a production capacity of 5,000 metric tons per day, for a total of 20,000 metric tons per day. At the peak of construction, the project will create up to 1,000 jobs. Once operational, the facility will employ approximately 260 full-time jobs.

The plant will utilize ultra-low emissions (ULE) reforming technology, which will emit substantially lower greenhouse gas and other air pollutants compared to conventional technologies for reforming natural gas to methanol.

The facility is planned for the former Kaiser property, returning the site to productive use for industrial manufacturing that generates jobs and local revenue. Nearby facilities include Schnitzer Steel, Targa Sound Terminals, and Port of Tacoma breakbulk- and containerized cargo facilities. The Port of Tacoma approved a lease agreement with NW Innovation Works in May 2014, allowing the permitting processes with the appropriate regulatory agencies to begin.

Redline Tacoma: NWIW Tacoma LLC proposed the largest methanol refinery in the world for the heart of our city. NWIW LLC never built anything, anywhere. The refinery is proposed to consume 14.4 million gallons of fresh drinking water per day, 450 MW electricity and 524 million cubic feet of fracked gas per day. It would pump about 1.4 million gallons polluted waste water each day into the City of Tacoma water treatment facility and it would release toxins such as sulfur dioxide, benzene and formaldehyde. The sole purpose for the refinery would be to feed a plastics manufacturing facility in the city of Dalian, China, who is also a financial backer of the project.

 

2. What aspect of this project do you feel is most misunderstood by the public?

Port of Tacoma:  When the studies are complete, the data may well show the facility has a significant net environmental benefit. Facts about a proposed development are fleshed out during the environmental review process, but, in this case, misinformation without any basis in fact has been allowed to overshadow data and rational conversation. Here are some of the reasons the Port of Tacoma considered this proposal a good fit for the former Kaiser Aluminum smelter site.

  • Environmental benefits: Many of the products we use every day—cell phones, eyeglasses and contact lenses, exercise clothing and gear, medical devices, carpeting, toys, camping gear, the plastic components in buses, trains, airplanes and other common items—have traditionally been made with coal and oil. Replacing coal and oil with methanol, a clean, biodegradable manufacturing feedstock, would improve global air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Environmental regulation: I have heard some people express concerns that the facility would pollute our air, water and land. Washington state has among the most stringent regulations in the nation. A manufacturing facility that cannot meet or exceed these hundreds of regulations could not be built. The contamination the Port removed from the property after purchasing it from Kaiser occurred before these regulations existed.
  • Proven commodity: Methanol facilities have operated safely all over the world for decades. The Methanol Institute, an industry association, reports there are more than 90 facilities all over the world, and each day more than 80,000 metric tons of methanol is shipped from one continent to another. More information about methanol facilities and uses is available on the Methanol Institute’s website: http://www.methanol.org/Methanol-Basics/The-Methanol-Industry.aspx.
  • Environmental review process: Many people professed shock that they hadn’t heard of the proposal until now, when, in fact, the environmental review process is the first step in examining the feasibility of a development. The steps generally are environmental review (scope, draft EIS, final EIS) and permit applications—all of which have public comment periods—before any construction can begin. A typical comment period is 30 days with one public hearing. This process is more than twice the standard.

NW Innovation Works: The NW Innovation Works Tacoma facility offers a more environmentally responsible way to produce the items we all use every day. By using natural gas instead of coal, emissions are reduced 70 percent. NWIW is taking an even bigger step by using ultra-low emission technology, which result in an even greater (up to 75 percent more) reduction in emissions compared to coal.

Methanol is water-soluble, bio-degradable, and non-carcinogenic. You can buy methanol at your grocery store, gas station, hardware store and even on Amazon.com. The methanol produced at the Tacoma facility will not be used just for cheap plastic products, but instead for several important products we use every day, like insulin pumps, hearing aids, smartphones, eyeglasses, contact lenses, clothing, industrial equipment and more.

Redline Tacoma: The Pacific Northwest and in particular the Puget Sound region is becoming a major through way for massive fossil fuel exports. Tacoma already has the distinction of being traversed with the most oil trains, 80,000 barrels a day and climbing, rattling away on underinsured, publicly owned Tacoma Rail. Also proposed for the port of Tacoma is a Bellevue-based, Australia owned PugetSoundEnergy LLC Liquefied Natural Gas export facility. This LNG tank would be 18 stories tall and hold 8 million gallons of liquid fracked gas held at MINIS 260 degrees. LNG is very dangerous and international standards say it can only be built 3 miles away from civilians. We are not just dealing with methanol, but with becoming the toxic petrochemical kitchen for exporting our natural resources at an unprecedented scale.

3. Residential use of water in Tacoma is 5.7 million gallons a year. The new plant requires 3.8 million gallons a year. We had a drought last summer where we were all told to conserve 10% of our water. If similar conditions should occur in the future, what assurances do we have that residential use of water will have the priority?

Port of Tacoma:  I’ll defer to Northwest Innovation Works and/or Tacoma Public Utilities on the proposed facility’s water use and availability and sources of water.

NW Innovation Works: Tacoma Water has 242 million gallons available on a daily basis and an additional 183 million gallons in storage, according to the Tacoma Public Utilities website (http://www.mytpu.org/tacomawater/water-source/supply-storage.htm).

And according to data available from the TPU’s publicly available 2014 Financial Statement, this is the breakdown of water use on an annual and daily basis:

Data from 2014 Financial Statements

Customer class Billion gal/year Million gal/day
WestRock (papermill) 6.05 16.6
Residential 7.97 21.8
All other, Commercial and Industrial 3.17 8.7
Total 17.19 47.1

NWIW will employ innovative design features that allow for greater volumes of water to be reused throughout the process. The majority of the water at the plant will be used for cooling and will be released back into the atmosphere as water vapor, with small percentages consumed in the methanol production process.

We will work with the Port of Tacoma and Tacoma Public Utilities to make sure we are responsible during regular and potentially changing conditions.

Redline Tacoma: There are no assurances at this point. Who will get the water? Hospitals, schools, Metro Parks, breweries, hotels, farmers, salmon, vegetables, paper industry, export facilities or the already fastest water bottling plant in the world Niagara Bottling? Niagara’s water use went up drastically during the drought, see below: Niagara water use '14,'15.

 

4. What infrastructure will be in place to handle the practical and financial consequences if something goes wrong at the plant and there’s an explosion or other dangerous incident?

Port of Tacoma: Here’s what we know so far. A new fire station is scheduled to open in the Tideflats area as a result of Puget Sound Energy’s planned liquefied natural gas facility. An Intelligent Transportation System, which will help guide traffic through the industrial area, is also planned for the Tideflats. The Environmental Impact Statement will determine what other enhancements might be required.

NW Innovation Works: We absolutely understand that safety is a community concern, and it’s one shared by the project team. Safety is always our first priority. Methanol is safely produced, manufactured, stored and transported within the United States and internationally. NWIW will maintain this strong safety record and is committed to working with stakeholders and community members to build a facility that meets or exceeds applicable safety standards.

We are working with appropriate emergency responders and authorities to plan state-of-the art safety systems as we plan our system design. We will develop emergency preparedness and response plans for local and state approval to address potential spills, fire and security at each site. In addition, each facility will have a dedicated and trained on-site fire brigade and equipment to support emergency response.

Redline Tacoma:  NWIW Tacoma LLC is a limited liability corporation. LLC’s take the profits and pay it out to investors. The money is gone. Should something go wrong, they simply declare bankruptcy and Tacoma and the Port will have to deal with it. Should the accident be bad enough we can call FEMA. NWIW Tacoma LLC is not just one corporations, it is made up of several LLC’s, or shell companies. They can re-incorporate every year and can have a tax shelter somewhere in a tax-free heaven. Tacoma in its history always let industry pollute and when they made enough profit, they pull out and leave the toxic mess for Tacoma to clean up and live with it.

5. Do you see the methanol plant as a good thing for the future of the city and port of Tacoma and why?

Port of Tacoma: Tacoma has the opportunity to reduce global greenhouse gases to address climate change by providing cleaner alternatives to the coal and oil currently used to produce consumer goods we use every day. It’s important for us to fully understand the potential impacts of any development. I hope people will keep an open mind as we gather all the facts because we have an opportunity be a global climate leader, helping build a bridge to a cleaner future while creating valuable jobs for our community.

If the environmental review demonstrates the proposal’s feasibility, this could be a positive transformational project that provides global environmental benefits, hundreds of family-wage jobs and sizable city and school tax revenues.

NW Innovation Works: Tacoma has a proud history of pioneering innovation and being at the forefront of embracing the opportunities of our ever changing world.  With the NWIW proposal, we have the chance to build on that foundation and create a better future not just for ourselves, but for everyone who is concerned about climate change.

NWIW is proposing to pioneer a technology that that can transform how methanol is produced, removing coal from the equation and providing the world a cleaner way to manufacture goods essential to our daily lives.

This facility provides a way for Tacoma to be part of the global fight to reduce climate change. In addition, the project represents a $3.4 billion investment in the local economy that will create approximately 1,000 jobs during construction and 260 full-time jobs during operation of the facility.

Redline Tacoma:  Turning our publicly owned natural resources into a toxic chemical for export and plastic manufacturing is stunningly short sighted.

 

I want to thank the representatives at the Port of Tacoma, NW Innovation Works, and Redline Tacoma for taking time out of their schedules to answer these questions.

You can find further information about the Port of Tacoma on their website at http://portoftacoma.com

You can find further information about NW Innovation Works at http://nwinnovationworks.com/

You can find further information about Redline Tacoma at http://redlinetacoma.org/

What are your thoughts on the methanol plant? Feel free to comment. All comments are moderated by me, but I’ll be fairly open to whatever you want to post as long as it’s substantive. 

– Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday With Angela Kores with the Gothic Witches Ball

witchesball

One of my favorite things about Tacoma is that we have so many interesting events. Our ArtWalks are legendary. Last week I participated in Tacoma’s first lit crawl. And next weekend on Saturday October 24th Tacoma will have the Gothic Witches Ball.

While I can tell you a thing or two about ArtWalks and I can definitely tell you anything you need to know about lit crawls, I don’t really know anything about the Gothic Witches Ball. Luckily Angela Kores was nice enough to join me in a 5 Question Friday and tell us all about it. Here’s Angela:

1. What is the Gothic Witches Ball?
The Witches Ball is an annual event (this year’s theme being Gothic). In the past it has been hosted by Tacoma Earth Religions Revival Association (TERRA), and later hosted by Central Puget Sound Pagan Pride. This year it is being hosted by Magical Garden. It is a night of ritual, dance and magic.

2. What’s different about the Gothic Witches Ball this year?
It is a smaller venue, more intimate. The theme is something that I am unsure has been done before. In the past the Witches Ball has been hosted by Tacoma Earth Religions Revival Association (TERRA) & when they disband a couple of years ago, Central Puget Sound Pagan Pride had taken it over. I wanted to keep the tradition of the Witches Ball alive and decided to host it this year.

3.What are possible misconceptions people might have about the Witches Ball?
That you have to be a witch to attend. We welcome everyone.

4. How can people attend and how can they help if they want to?
Get your tickets at Magical Garden. Our address is 430 E 25TH Suite #9 Tacoma, WA. You can call us during business hours (Mon-Sat 11-7) at (425)591-7345 or order online at: Witches Ball ticket. I should mention tickets are limited, and are going fast.

5. What do you see for the future of the Gothic Witches Ball?
I envision the tradition of the Witches Ball coming back stronger and better than ever.

Thanks to Angela for taking the time to join me for 5 Question Friday. If you think you or anyone you know would like to participate in a 5 Question Friday, email me at jackcameron.com.

  • Jack Cameron