Olympia 2023 recap, Part II: Electric boogaloo; officers okay, jail not okay; art city density; Lakefair unfair?

How did public input shape Olympia’s decisions in 2023?


In addition to enduring and divisive concerns about housing, development, and homelessness, 2023 saw some less-fractious strides in Olympia’s efforts to promote climate readiness and green infrastructure. Public response to the west side “Alternative 3” and east side Armory Creative Campus redevelopment plans has also been positive, despite their faintly sinister handles.  

 More controversially, the officers implicated in the 2020 shooting death of mentally ill 37-year-old Timothy Green were cleared of any wrongdoing by an external investigation completed by the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office this year and will not face charges. Which is just as well: the city jail is now closed! 

 Even the city’s beloved annual Lakefair festival and parade wasn’t spared a discrimination fracas that may affect the event’s funding and community support moving forward. No word yet on whether or not organizers are considering a name update to “problematic carnival by the potential estuary.”  

Climate and electric vehicles

With the aim of supporting the continued adoption of electric cars and helping meet climate goals through low-carbon transportation options, the city council approved an ordinance relating to electric vehicle parking requirements. The measure introduced new standards to Title 16 of the municipal code, which provides EV parking standards and EV charging infrastructure requirements in residential and non-residential buildings.

In April, the city launched Energize Olympia, an initiative to promote energy-efficient ductless heat pumps (DHP) through a group purchase campaign. This program aims to transform city households into a more comfortable, healthy, affordable, resilient, and less carbon-intensive environment.

Public safety

Olympia's municipal jail, which has faced structural issues after decades of use, closed in 2023. Police Chief Rich Allen announced the closure, citing the need for a facility with modern features. Olympia entered a five-year agreement with the Nisqually Indian Tribe for jail services to replace the aging building.

The Clark County Prosecutor’s Office cleared Olympia officers who figured in the shooting incident of Timothy Green in 2022. A press statement released by Olympia stated that the county completed its review of the incident and determined that the officers’ actions were lawful.  

Other highlights

Capital Mall Triangle subarea plan. According to Community Planning and Development senior planner David Ginther, community members strongly support an intensive redevelopment approach to the 300-acre area bounded by Black Lake Boulevard, Cooper Point Road, and Harrison Avenue. He said Olympia residents who participated in the public comment process endorsed Alternative 3, which supports urban density, transit, and mobility actions and reduces urban sprawl.

Capital Lakefair. In January, the city council withdrew a $25,000 award to Capital Lakefair, which was accused of discriminating against a teenage girl with a disability by excluding her from the application process for the 2023 Royalty Court scholarship program.

For 2024, the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee (LTAC) decided not to fund the Capital Lakefair event anew. Olympia staff liaison Amelia Layton said changes were made to the LTAC’s funding process to prioritize equity, such as asking applicants about their mission, vision, and accessibility efforts. Scoring would also account for organizations' equity plans.

Accolades and awards

Olympia received the Project of the Year award for enhanced mobility for all modes of transportation in its Franklin Street improvements.The American Public Works Association (APWA) Washington chapter recognized the Franklin Street project's exemplary work in advancing transportation priorities by enhancing mobility across multiple transportation modes on a budget under $5 million.

Olympia City Manager Jay Burney received the Advancing the Profession Award from the Washington City/County Management Association (WCMA) in August. The statewide award recognizes individuals who have "significantly succeeded in advancing one of the following initiatives: intergovernmental cooperation, diversity, open government, or organizational culture."

Olympia received the 2023 Washington Governor's Smart Communities Award for creating a community-led concept plan to repurpose the historic armory building as the Olympia Armory Creative Campus. The award recognizes exceptional local government projects that engage the community in planning. Over 6,5000 community stakeholders provided input to develop a concept plan to transform the former National Guard armory into a space for arts, education, and community programs.


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  • DesertMedic

    Poorly written and very one sided. Good job!

    Sunday, December 31, 2023 Report this

  • Tractor1

    Based on a reading of the actions against Capital Lakefair, I feel the end is near for this longtime community event.

    Wednesday, January 3 Report this