Thursday, May 22, 2014

Ask for Forgiveness or Forget It?

After writing my previous piece on Astoria, I didn't think it would come back up as a subject. But then I read an article (excerpts below) that made me think, once again, of a situation we find ourselves in locally. The following is from the Daily Astorian:

It took nine years to complete, but Saturday closed a dark chapter of Astoria history to fix a decades' long mistake.

The Garden of Surging Waves, a Chinese-Astorian commemorative park, officially opened to the public, following a morning ceremony which hosted leaders, community members, donors, and the Chinese-Americans who can still remember a time when the Chinese were treated like second-class citizens.

Chinese workers at a fish canning factory in Astoria.

"Astoria, Oregon is going to get just a little bit better today," Mayor Willis Van Dusen said. "This is not a park about China. This is U.S. history. This is American history."

Suenn Ho, the designer of the project...said "Astoria...You have helped us to understand how important it is to listen to other people's stories. And you have so many stories to tell. We will continue on. This is just phase one."

Whether it's the truth and reconciliation effort in South Africa, or official apologies to tribes like they did fairly recently on Vancouver Island, or efforts like this one, these types of movements and acts have often seemed to have the power to help people and places move past the blocks caused by bad history.

Closer to home, there are those who say that all the problems that Port Angeles has are the result of being cursed for our own bad history with local tribes.

So my question to you is simple: Should Port Angeles apologize to the local tribes for the crimes committed in our past? Should the County apologize? Do you think it's the right thing to do? Is it a functional thing to do? Or does it risk accidentally poking a wound that's still trying to heal?


  1. For over a year I have been saying to anyone who will listen: We need our own truth and reconciliation to happen locally. Not to erase past deeds but to acknowledge our present circumstances. We have two nations living in close proximity. We need to know each others' stories and feel each others' pain. Apologies would be nice too.

  2. While I can see the merits of such an effort, I have a hard time imagining this getting any traction with our current cast of characters.

    Can you see Mayor Dan DiGuilio leading this kind of effort? Would he have any credibility doing so? Jim McEntire? Ouch.

    Maybe in another generation Port Angeles and Clallam County will be ready for this, but right now...Like I said, I have a hard time seeing it.

    1. Doing so would require our so-called leaders to lead - which is something they seem incapable of doing 99% of the time.

  3. Well, as your previous piece on Astoria pointed out, it seems to be a much more modern, worldly and educated place.

    Then there's Port Angeles.

  4. Pardon my bluntness, but, is this something any of the local tribes even want?

    1. The non-profit I volunteer with has tried for YEARS to get the local tribes involved with our activities, to no avail. They've been personally invited, invited via letter, etc. I hear that other groups have the same problem. So I am a little doubtful that they'd be willing to engage on such a sensitive topic as this, but...

  5. One reality is that you will never get 100% agreement from any group of people about anything.

    And, this is all about understanding the reality of what has transpired in Port Angeles.

    I think it would be a good thing, but like so many of these types of things, the general public would benefit from being educated first as to what is involved, examples of where it has been done before, etc.

    In the past, here, "visioning" exercises have been undertaken with the goal of helping to identify and focus efforts and goals. But, these have been done without any real prior public education, and not much was accomplished.

    It is a bit like saying "Let the people vote on it", in response to a land use issue. But most people don't know land use policies, long range regional planning goals, etc. So, the results, although "democratic", are not as representative as they might otherwise have been, if only the voting public were educated about the topic before the vote.

    Then, you get into "Who is doing the educating?" As we saw in the last Statewide election, special interests poured millions into the State to pay for ads to "educate" the voting public about the supposed evils of labeling GMO foods.

    So, yes. But.

    1. Letting the totally uninformed "people" vote on land use issues is like letting your kids vote on what's for dinner. (Oh boy, cake again!) You're not going to get a good or sustainable outcome 99% of the time.

      But the flip side of that is that our city and the county both hire people who are "professionals" to deal with things like land use, but they quickly fall in line with the local custom of asking no questions, and making no waves - which gets the same bad results most of the time.

      So would the people here vote to apologize? Who cares, really. The question is whether or not it's a good thing to do. If so, then do it no matter what the voters might say. Leaders should, oh, I dunno - LEAD.

    2. The analogy to voting was only used as an example of what can happen with a public participation effort if good education isn't undertaken first.

      An extension of that example might be to say you won't necessarily get good LEADERS if you don't do the required research.. don't educate yourself before you vote.

      Relying on leaders to, oh, I dunno-LEAD. How is that been workin' for ya?

      Might be interesting to post a list of "leaders" people think are doing a good job. Think that would be a very long list?

      If such a list could be put together, it could be interesting to see what qualities these leaders have. What actually makes a "good leader" in today's world?

    3. I'd love to see a list of (local and regional) elected officials that people think are doing a good job, and why. Sadly, it would be a very short list in our household. Would be curious to see what others have to say, though.

    4. Don't hold your breath. That list isn't coming, any time soon.

      So, back to the question: How is the status quo working for you? Are we just going to keep doing the same thing tomorrow, as we did yesterday?

  6. Ah, but which tribe? Or all the tribes? What are there, five or six that have history and claims in this area? What would such an apology look like? What if some of the tribes want to participate, but others don't? Lots of questions, with the key one being: What would such a thing hope to accomplish here? I know what's happened elsewhere. What does it do for us here specifically?

  7. It would be much more productive for the community to work together with the tribes in a collaborative manner moving forward, on a variety of issues, than to go back and focus on events and issues that point out our differences and past problems and possibly divide us more. The waterfront development project would be an excellent example of how the tribes and community could work together and come up with creative solutions and ideas. I'm sure there are many others . . .

    1. Yes, but, as others have pointed out, the tribes generally aren't very good at engaging and collaborating, even when invited to do so. As I understand it, this type of official apology is intended to sort of clear the air and hopefully help facilitate such collaborations in the future. Whether that would work in this case is, of course, not clear.

    2. The reality is that there is division. The good news that the racists are dying off..

      Symbolism and words are important. I think a great and meaningful gesture would be something like changing that horribly out-of-place name "Hollywood Beach" to its original (and beautiful) native name "Tse whi zen".

      Why hasn't this been done already. The late Bill Hennessey wanted to champion this before he prematurely died last year.

      I'd love to see the City Council be approached with this. I wouldn't be able to initiate this, but I'd sure pitch in...

      btw, website owner, your commenting thing is screwed up. I can't use a worpress i.d. without getting an OpenID error: "Your OpenID credentials could not be verified."

    3. But would something like this go beyond symbolism and actually help achieve or accomplish something? Anything? I don't know that it would, but I'm open to hearing others thoughts on this.

    4. Yes, it would. I promise you. To have a place name that resonated with its earlier name would deeply resonate among many those who live here, and would bring up all sorts of questions for newcomers. It's would be a "soft" change, but an important one I'd love to see happen.

      I meant to link to this video

  8. I heard about this concept when the government over in BC made their apology, and thought it was a great idea for healing and acknowledging (sometimes painful) history. A progressive community would embrace this idea. I'd like to see Port Angeles embrace it, too.

  9. If we can get the city to apologize for past grievances, can we also ask them to apologize for more current ones, like the Turd Tank, "Smart" Meters, giving away Lincoln Park, etc.?

  10. Crypt Kicker
    Not seeing my post from earlier this morning, I sense that because it came from someone you and your readers have ridiculed in the past you'll probably not post it, or if you do, you might do so only to ridicule me further.
    If either is true, so be it.
    I spoke from the heart, including my opening compliment for the thoughtful way you framed a touchy subject worthy of community-wide consideration.
    However it goes, thank you again for at least asking folks some questions that our community future hinges on and the answers to which are long "past" due.
    "Old" Tim Smith

    1. Anonymous 6:07 PM - The only post that didn't make it in today was one that made some ribald comments about the state of Andrew May's love life. I don't think that was you. Some posts do seem to take a while to show up in the box for posting, though, so it's possible that yours was just slower getting posted than you expected. Without knowing what time you posted it...In any case, thanks for chiming in again. Please know that I try to err on the side of posting versus not (probably 98% of comments get posted), so don't think I'm trying to censor you, or anyone.

      Other than the occasional Too Much Information dispatches about Andrew May's love life. Ick.

    2. Well if it does show up, (I may have taken too long? as I tried to write it carefully since it dealt with such a sensitive issue) it was my honest comment to questions worthy of community consideration . Thanks for your response.
      And, for what it's worth, our future does depend on our consideration of our past.
      "Old" Tim

    3. To "Old" Tim: As you say, ".. our future does depend on our consideration of our past." Everyone who has been involved in issues and efforts in the area know of your roles and contributions. As a primary player in the City's economic development efforts, we all look to the empty storefronts and empty streets to know how effective your efforts and strategies actually were then, and are now.

      Talk is cheap. But all the people who lost their investments in this town know personally how damaging rah-rah talk can be.

      No one is forgetting, Tim.

    4. I agree that no one is forgetting. That much really is clear.

      But what's not so clear is if we're LEARNING from all these things we're remembering. I mean, how do you square us not forgetting all these past fiascos with the forgetting that seems to happen every time we vote the same old, same old back in again? And again.

    5. To Anon 10:53PM
      Fair enough. I WAS a primary player - until I retired, in 2004.

      After a decade away, I still care, on a personal level (as a member of our community), and on a financial level (as one who has experienced and continues to be one of those downtown building owners with some empty store front).

      So, I have decided to at least try to do something. However, I am not a "primary player" and don't seek to be one. We have to many of them already in place on various tax supported payrolls.

      Last year, after looking at the current status of leadership in the local/regional govt's, private sector business groups and Clallam EDC, it's my opinion leadership in general is less than desirable. Though it was also less than perfect was a "primary player", in my opinion, it was not as pathetic in so many key areas as we see presently.

      Talk IS cheap, even cheaper on websites like this. Taking some action to shake things up (including websites like this AND on the ground with community organizations) will hopefully shake out some long dead wood and others who have fallen short of contributing anything over a fair, initial trial period were they have been at the helm.

      Knowing a little about how most of the public and private bureaucracies play the game, but not being on anyone's payroll has provided some leverage. Clearly not only do some primary player positions need to change or perhaps be eliminated, but some systems may need to change too.

      For me, that brings things back to this particular PA Unearthed article, which I hope might be one, insightful and significant "system" game changer. Whether other game changers, like what some call PA "Untied" helps change the system or not, the subject of this article is worthy of attention.
      "Old" Tim

    6. To Anon 8:12AM
      Good points.
      So let's change the system(s), by not "forgetting .. every time we vote", and by not voting "the same old same old".

      For starters, I believe we need more reputable political candidates with real skin in the game. The "game" being our local/regional economy (if any can be identified and are willing to step up).

      We don't need more career long, professional politicians, current or past government employees, silly cheer leaders, or retirees, or inefficient, unproductive organized business institutions. We've had more than enough of all that!

      I would hope we could see well educated young to mid-age folks that know how to make payroll, who are still scrambling to do so, and who are motivated because THEIR future depends on it take the helm.

      I think some of those type of individuals exist in the business community. They just need to be encouraged to step up. And if it takes an old has been, like me, to help clear the road of deadwood, and the obvious clueless in Port Angeles/Clallam County, I intend to do what I can to help plow the way for them and take no prisoners along the way.

      Granted, I am not the sharpest tool in the tool shed and I may not be successful, but I'm not going to just sit around whining, or wishing someone else would do something.

      Again, trying to get back to the subject of this PAU article, Crypt Kicker has thoughtfully put forth a subject that I believe is a key element in all this. Bash me all you want. It's not about me, it's about the generations coming up behind us all. Their future is, at least in part, our responsibility. Like it or not, successful or not, I'm trying to learn from the past and hope to help influence the future accordingly.
      Old Tim

    7. More of the same. More tired old phrases about "game changers".

      Tim, what you seem to not "get" is that you and the crowd you provide "intel" for are the very people that got Port Angeles into the mess it is now. You can now try to distance your self by saying you "retired" in 2004, but everyone knows you've been running with that same crowd, all along, and ever since. Supported the policies that created the problems we see, now.

      It was only a few months ago that you were the leader of that group of same old tired people, called upon to head that group of the same old people who have been doing these same things, for all these years. Nothing new. Just more of the same. The same things that have been shown to empty the streets and storefronts of Port Angeles.

      You proudly tell people how you infiltrate new groups in the area, and provide "valuable intel" to the established system. Well, perhaps you can understand that such an approach to building community does not create trust.

      And, as has been said many times before, the Tribes don't TRUST the established "good ole boys", or their representatives.

      Just as I have learned not to trust you, Tim.

    8. Old Tim: What is your opinion on the whole PA United process? From the outside . . . it sure looks like the same ineffective people and organizations thinking that if they come up with some new goals and mission statements, the results will be different. And we all know the definition of . . . you know what. And if we go up the food chain to the City which includes the Council Members, Dan McKeen and Nathan West who wouldn't be able to identify or take corrective action should an ineffective, tax wasting entity like the Downtown Association( one prime example) hit them square between the eyes. So how will the blind lead the blind into the Promised Land? First and foremost, I see a lack of vision and leadership at virtually all levels that matter here in Port Angeles. Nobody wants to run for Council. The whole PA United looks like an exercise in futility that will waste more time and money. Where are the fresh ideas and people? Am I wrong? Your perspective?

    9. Anon 11:34AM
      First, while PA United does have some of the same organizations at the table, it's not all of them, at least not yet. Some great new ones like the Young Professionals and Farmers Markets (basically small business incubators) and others should have been included and I hope eventually they will step up, show interest and a determination to be included, including leadership roles.

      And while some old time, has been like me and a few others are at the table keeping the chairs warm for now, there IS some new blood too (certainly not enough and I hope we attract more soon).

      Eventually, it should also incorporate the EDC which, in my not so humble opinion, has become dominated by public sector financial manipulation to a point where the few remaining private sector participants are basically eye candy versus part of the actual leadership.

      It might interest people to check the websites of all the various government bodies involved, and most if not all of the business organizations including EDC. Look for a value statement, a mission statement, followed by goals and objectives, you'll find nothing! Then check some other local/regional institutions like: First Federal, Peninsula College, Olympic Medical Center, and most area non-profits websites. There you'll find all these key statements and well organized long range and short range planes prominently displayed front and center.

      That is where I hope the PA United process takes us.
      Shaking up some of the status quo, shaking out as much of what I'll call the "ineffectuals", and encouraging educated, motivated, hard working younger community folks to take the helm of leadership.

      My intent with PA United (far more important than my opinion) was and remains that it be a beacon that shines a bright light on ineffective people and status quo, ineffective institutions. And that the light be a beacon where "fresh", (younger) people can get involved, bring fresh (newer, smarter) ideas and plans for implementation in a manner they prescribe.

      Yes, it might be an exercise in futility, that's a risk I saw coming, but then again there's still a little time left and there's still room at the table.

      One last thing before I close:
      With regard to going "up the food chain to the City", that's part of what's upside down too. "The City" is a community tool, and should not be seen as "up the food chain. The real city was built by local and regional businesses, industry, service clubs, citizen groups and individual citizens, not by City Managers, Public Works Directors or elected officials. They're all just tools of the trade, like I used to be before I retired. The general public and private sector are the craftsmen and craftswomen. They're the ones who need to be valued for being at the top of "food chain". Collectively they're called the local/regional tax base , and the tax base should be in control NOT any City Hall , County, or State.
      Old Tim

    10. Again, more of the same BS.

      Unlike you, Tim, I'll make my points short and clear.

      First, everyone can see the make up of the "Port Angeles United" as it has been since it started. Who was invited. (The same old people). Who was not. (Everyone else).

      You can go on about "encouraging educated, motivated, hard working younger community folks to take the helm of leadership", but we have all seen what happens to ANYBODY who is not lockstep with the good ole boys club of this town. So, this is just more BS, and we all know it.

      Shutting out the press, and holding meetings in secret only proves things have not changed a whit.

      If you actually DO care about the future of this community, convince yourself and your cronies to really "retire", get out of the way, and let this community FINALLY move out of the stone age!

      We live today with the results of what you and your crowd created in this town, and it ain't good.

    11. Anon 7:26PM
      Yours was the perfect, mean-spirited response Tim thought may appear following his honest attempt to support the real subject matter of this PA Unearthed article.
      Your hateful response "aint good" either.
      At least he addressed the subject matter of the article that you seem to ignore completely.
      I'm not buying into PA United just yet, but our community has had enough hatred and division.
      People that viscously lash out, without trying to find common ground and common values, only keep up the fences that have divided our community for generations.
      Shame on you.

    12. Anon 10:09

      Mean spirited? Perhaps you are bringing your own perspectives to what is being said. Perhaps you would be interested in pointing out what is untrue, in the post you replied to?

      The article was about apologizing to the tribes, not about Port Angeles "United". But, let's not quibble with that reality.

      Tim's responses had little to do with what that group is actually doing, and was more about making self serving and "nicey-nice" comments that were obviously about him trying to appear as "nice "Old" Tim"

      You might go back to the first articles that were posted here, that were discussing the individuals that created the problems Port Angeles finds itself in, now. You will find Tim Smith as one of those identified.

      The premise of this site is " Building a Future by Exhuming the Past". Along the lines of " Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it".

      With that as the premise of posts here, it is totally appropriate to be critical of one of the primary players ( the former Port Angeles Economic Development Director). Especially when they are writing comments designed to obfuscate the truth of the situation.

      Unlike you, I don't think doing the same things, with the same people who have demonstrated their ineptness with years of total failure, is a valid way to solve the serious problems Port Angeles faces. You may wish to think Port Angeles "United" represents something new, and that our salvation lays in finding "common ground" with the people who got us into this mess. I don't.

      I don't think it has anything to do with "hate". It is all about being realistic, objective, and wishing NOT to keep doing the same things that haven't worked. Who has time for that.

      We're working to move ahead. So, "Old" Tim and his cronies should really "retire", get out of the way, not try to infiltrate new efforts (like this!) and let the town actually move on.

    13. For whatever it's worth...I don't think it's "hate" to express frustration that has been built up over years and years of official and condoned incompetence. That sort of frustration is a predictable and logical response to a situation like the one in Port Angeles.

    14. CK, it's perfectly alright to hate the dysfunction and corruption we see all around us. I don't want to "understand" why people do bad things. I don't want to "help them heal." I really don't give shot if they have "issues."

      The simple fact is that a lot of people have put in a lot of time to keep this community as screwed up as it is because they can exploit that kind of chaos. They don't care that others suffer because of their actions, and I don't care what drove them to do evil in the first place. I just want the evil to stop.

    15. Old Tim - Your response to my question about PA United was less than convincing about a positive outcome. Just saying . . . I appreciate your willingness to dialog and have a conversation about this however, your analogy of PA United being a "beacon of light" that will weed out ineffective people and organizations just doesn't pass the smell test. For starters, there were no "fresh" or "younger" people at the table from the beginning . . . . just the same tired, lame ass people and organizations with abysmal track records. And these same people are going to reach out and embrace new and fresh ideas? Oh please . . . You are too close to the problem . . . you can't see it . . . with all due respect. PA United is dead on arrival and you either can't or won't see it . . . along with virtually all of the people sitting at the table with you. And the fact that no one from the City has figured it out either - its the blind leading the blind.

  11. Crypt Kicker
    My exchanges and probably this article topic is changing my initial perception about your blog site and it's purpose. Maybe I'm starting to get it?
    If there is some appropriate way for a one on one between the two of us, I would be open. I don't find a way on the site to do so. Seems the entries are all tied to an article (or should be).
    If not something you're interested in, I understand, but thought I'd share my willingness anyway.
    Old Tim

    1. My anonymity is crucial to the functioning of this blog. But...If you'd like to email me, feel free to do so.