By David Anderson
Former Lakewood City Councilman Walter Neary promised an explanation of what happened to Tillicum such that it “endured one of the most bitter neighborhood debates in (Neary’s) recent memory.” The “debate” concerned Camp Murray’s encroachment upon the neighborhood’s interior streets with hundreds of cars traversing the town no thanks to the relocation of Camp Murray’s gate.
Specifically, here’s what Neary said he would provide his readers, linked here.
“When I look back on my eight years on the council, I consider the Tillicum traffic matter to be one of the lows. When I let my mind drift to those eight years, I ponder what happened in that whole saga and start to squirm. The public deserves a better explanation of what happened there and why, and I’ll tackle that when I dust off my old blog this weekend. Too much was left unspoken in that while matter, so for good or bad I’ll try to add some perspective from a primary source. The good news is that IMHO the situation was a fluke; the bad news is that it could happen again. I’ll talk about why and maybe how we avoid it.”
You can read his lengthy “explanation of what happened” linked here but following is a summary of whether in fact Neary kept his promise.
One: Neary’s time-travel back to 2011 stopped far short of where it should.
By 2011, as documented in an article I wrote linked here, the City of Lakewood and Camp Murray had already been meeting nearly three years on a regular basis with the topic of conversation the gate relocation. During at least a portion of that time Neary served as the liaison between the Citizen’s Transportation Advisory Committee (CTAC) and the city council of which he was a member. By the admission of Paul Wagemann, then a CTAC member and now the chairman, this transportation committee never had this transportation issue on its agenda. The CTAC didn’t know the goings-on behind the scenes between staff and Camp Murray; Neary thus didn’t have anything to report to the council from the CTAC on the plans being laid by city staff and the Washington Military Department; thus the council was oblivious to gate-relocate developments; and, of course, the Tillicum community that would suffer the consequences was totally out of the loop.
Two: Neary claims “our council (was) armed with sharp lawyers.” In that Neary is correct, in fact:
The residents of Tillicum were to discover, after two rounds before the City’s own Hearing Examiner, that the community was to be knocked out of the ring in the third round on its appeal protesting Camp Murray’s proposal to move its gate. Anti-climatically, Tillicum would find itself undone by “a technicality”. The Tacoma News Tribune reported that “the city and military department had asked the court to dismiss the appeal because state law bars judicial review of right-of-way permits.”
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist, or even an attorney-wannabe, to read the following and notice what the City had to have known all along. After all, as Neary boasts “our council (was) armed with sharp lawyers” – those who most certainly knew the litigious endgame.
Here’s what Dave Bugher, assistant city manager of community development – of all things – and Community Development Director wrote in a letter to Thomas Skjervold, environmental programs manager – division of facilities and grounds for the Washington Military Department (WMD), i.e. Camp Murray. It’s the very first sentence on the very last page – 12 in all – of a rather scathing rebuke of the WMD’s gate-relocate proposal:
“A party still dissatisfied with the outcome (of the Hearing Examiner’s decision) could file an appeal in superior court.”
The letter is dated September 16, 2010 and clearly the subject matter being addressed by Bugher – who in no uncertain terms discounts every claim the WMD proposes by which their gate ‘needs’ to be moved – must by virtue of the military department’s gambit, if successful, be the elephant in the room: the right-of-way (ROW).
From Day One all dance partners invited – or dragged – to this legal tango knew that a ROW permit had at some point to be issued if WMD personnel were to realize their dream of frolicking around on their new “pedestrian-friendly campus” – a stroll-about expanse that was to be made possible by rerouting their traffic through the neighboring community of Tillicum.
Taking Bugher at his word, Tillicum was fully prepared to exhaust all avenues of appeal – including Superior Court.
As Bugher allowed.
From Day One.
But Tillicum was to find out two-years-and-thousands-of-
Three: If you can stomach the bizarre animal-farm analogy Neary uses to ostensibly illustrate (read ‘obfuscate’) his argument as to why Tillicum lost, I believe you’ll find even there evidence of a modus operandi by the Lakewood City Council that belies any belief that your local elected representatives will actually advocate on your behalf, Neary’s protestations to the contrary.
In Neary’s own words, “Tillicum was never going to win, because of who they were up against. And it’s a lesson worth knowing if you want to be part of steering Lakewood away from such disputes again.”
This is as much to say, per Neary, that the bigger bully always wins – referencing in this case the military – and that you cannot count on a council to have the intestinal fortitude, spine and backbone to do the right thing, i.e. their representative job.
“Tillicum,” says Neary “was up against the military.”
What’s missing from that assessment? The Lakewood City Council.
The Lakewood City Council did not have Tillicum’s back.
The council stood down. The council saluted. Thus Tillicum lost.
“The military cannot lose in Lakewood,” writes Neary.
But citizens can.
And here Neary plays the Fear, Obligation and Guilt (FOG of war) card. Of the military Neary writes, “Consider its role and its numbers in this community . . . retirees who (represent) a lifetime of dedicated heroism to our nation . . . who bring wisdom, honor and valor to our community.”
The economic impact of Camp Murray, according to statistics Neary cites, “was nearly half a billion dollars.” Toss in JBLM and you can up the ante to $3 billion, claims Neary.
Thus, writes Neary, “If the military says, ‘Hey Lakewood, disrupt your voters and other residents in Tillicum,” then Lakewood will.”
Bend over, buckle to the bully.
And Neary will do that.
“I can’t say this is a bad thing,” Neary writes.
And here comes the Neary-FOG again.
“Consider the military. The men and women serving in our Armed Forces are willing to give their lives for you, for me, for people in other countries. So for me to tell people in the military that they can’t have what they want is very ungrateful. If the military announced that it is going to change traffic on my home, School Street, for the betterment of uniformed personnel and the nation’s security, then I better be prepared to suck it up.”
Tillicum, you don’t count because you can’t count. You poor people will never count enough money; can’t count enough registered voters now or until hell freezes over to effectively counteract the turrets of the tanks rotated your way.
As much says Neary: “I made a wisecrack about 90 voters in Tillicum. There are more. But not enough to counter the impacts of the military in this community, which run like blood through our collective veins. The voter numbers are not a slam at Tillicum. It’s true nationwide that people in lower-income areas vote less often than people in other demographics.
“If Tillicum wants to be able to win political battles with the military, it’s going to need triple the number of registered and participating voters than it has now AND be able to prove it has an overriding interest in the nation’s security. Good luck.
Good luck Tillicum because not only can you not count on winning against your neighbor the military, you can’t count on the likes of Neary ‘representing’ you on your neighboring city council.
But it is here Neary reaches a most despicable low in his argument by raising an example of name-changing a community at the request of – and named after – military heroes.
What would Neary do? “It will take mighty strength to announce to the world, ‘No, we are not going to give our heroes in the military what they want.’”
Yes Neary it takes strength and like Lowenberg is gone, thankfully so Neary is too.
The Tillicum people have names. The Tillicum people are our heroes. They are our greatest asset. Tillicum is named after them.