GUEST EDITORIAL: Anti-oil train before it was cool – Al Smith

Al smithAl Smith is a current Democrat Candidate  for Grays Harbor  County Commissioner District 3  WEBSITE  NOTE:  All candidates are welcome to post any material they wish.  Montesano Today does not endorse any candidate.




Anti-oil train before it was cool 

A lot of water has passed under the proverbial bridge since early spring of 2013 when many digital photos were taken of the deplorable condition of the Devonshire railroad bridge outside Montesano. Credit is due to this blog and its founder Tom Fredriksen who made many aware of it.

The lack of maintenance of this bridge for a good many decades was obvious – even to a lay person like me. What I saw was concerning to me, to say the least, especially when local officials were talking about bringing millions of barrels of Bakken Crude through our county along the river and over this very same railroad bridge, via mile+ long trains to our port- and to be stored in tank farms sitting on a mud flat!

Several concerned citizens spent a couple of hours that Saturday morning and took 100s of digital pictures of this bridge. About the same time the Grays Harbor Coalition for Infrastructure was meeting once a week and discussing safety issues and a strategy on how to stop this project.

Those of us that have said this Crude By Rail is bad business for Grays Harbor have been through a very long and stressful time. In short we have been the pissing post for those who are under the impression these mile long crude oil trains will bring jobs to our community. This is very far from the truth- the real question is: how many jobs will this provide as opposed to how many will it take away in the event of an accident? This question is the basic reasoning for raising the caution flag!

Too often we the people, who believe our elected officials, forget their actions can very well destroy 21,000 existing fish and shellfish jobs with one incident. In just one spill or roll over incident, the impact on this unique place and its Ecosystem would destroy that workforce’s hope of making a living off the Chehalis River System ever again. It would literally turn “our place” into “no place”.

On Monday May 19th, Grays Harbor Commissioner Frank Gordon, District 2, presented a resolution to his fellow Commissioners that was written with a double intent.

The first was to send a letter of comment to the Westway/Imperium EIS Scoping process and the second was a County resolution that no oil trains be permitted until the railroad, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and other responsible agencies could guarantee this project would be safe for our county and its people. During that regular Monday afternoon meeting’s public comment period, Vicki Raines, citizen, Cosmopolis expressed her displeasure with the resolution, saying it was not the Commissioner’s place to comment or take a stand against this issue while it was in the scoping process.

Prior to this meeting, in two recent work shop meetings held by Commissioners, she has taken issue with Commissioner Gordon for publicly voicing his opinion in public.

In the process which we have become accustomed to, the public frequently hears “I don’t know”, “I/we can’t do anything about it” and requests for us (the taxpaying public) to stand by and say or do nothing …..and everything will be OK. Leaders don’t have positions, and opt for the status quo.

This doesn’t work for me. I will support and defend elected officials who break rank and step out on the public’s behalf … much like Frank Gordon and Richard Pennant of Hoquiam have done. The public has to ask the question, why do we elect people to represent us if they won’t lead?? Or tell us where they stand?

As a concerned citizen I have spoken out on this: the fact that one takes an oath of office does not prevent them from speaking in defense of the community. This persistent mind-set is one of the reasons why I have chosen to run for county commissioner. I could not and will not support the mind-set of playing sheep following the corporate money pot.

The people of this county are fed-up with top-down nonsense. This county/ state/ nation started from the bottom -the people- and every election cycle it goes back to the people (ballot box) to ensure our democracy. If we lose faith, if trust is gone, we are lost. As a Commissioner I will work hard to bring that trust back.

Al Smith, Candidate

G.H. County Commissioner

District 3


ED NOTE:  the photographs of the bridge referenced in the above editorial can be seen HERE.  Vickie Raines, who is mentioned  in the piece, is a non partisan candidate for the same office and current Mayor of the city of Cosmopolis Wa.


10 thoughts on “GUEST EDITORIAL: Anti-oil train before it was cool – Al Smith

  1. ED NOTE: As I am mentioned in the above letter I want to relate that I met Al for the first time as a result of this bridge reporting via Montesano Today. He just sort of came out of nowhere wanting to see for himself and verify the pictures. It is also the first time I met Commissioner Gordon and have had no other interactions on any issue other than that bridge/oil issue with either.

  2. Well put, Al. You have surely identified the problems of politics and how that plays a part in our elections, especially regarding the “crude oil by rail” issue. You spoke up for the people and for common sense, before it was fashionable– at the first Grays Habor Coalition for Infrastructure meeting last year. Now, you prove, again–the people’s voice can be heard through the office of County Commissioner. Frank Gordon made breaking ground and you follow. Thank you–men for all seasons have my vote.

  3. I think one of the reasons we haven’t heard more from out elected officials and why so many were late to the anti oil party is that most all of them just couldn’t believe that our port commissioners were so blindly turning their heads about the coming danger. It is just so bizarre to think there are those here in the harbor that would put all of us in such danger. I give them all a break on this….well ….that was until the four recent train disasters here in the harbor. To be fair, Al’s opponent Raines, has been getting all over this issue. City Councils in small towns along the line are starting to make noise as well. This is one issue we are all in together, it isn’t a Democrat or a Republican issue. If anyone has ever attended one of those meetings you would see that. I have never ….ever….seen both wings of the political spectrum come together on an issue. Until this one that is. A side benefit is once we actually started to meet and talk to each other we started to see just how much the leaders of the two parties have tried to keep us apart.

    I feel a wind coming through this harbor and it is one of change. No more blind obedience to political parties, and one in which we the voters are looking at and listening to the candidates and where they actually stand on issues that affect us. Rs, Ds, Is…..I could care less about that anymore. I want to know where they stand on taxing us out of our homes, what they are going to do to protect this harbor from the oil trains, the big issues. My vote is in nobody’s pocket. Never again.

  4. Appreciate Al Smith for stepping forward, and being willing to accept the responsibility of public service. This is the democratic process many of us have fought to defend. We military veterans do not treat the sacrifice of our fallen brothers and sisters lightly, and share a sense of duty to fulfill the promise we assumed when we took an oath to serve. We are all in this together, as a community.

    ED NOTE: Well said! What a concept civic responsibility vs. what we have gotten…self interest.

  5. Thank you for running, Al. We need to move forward into the 21st century and we want you to help lead us.

  6. We need to support community minded people who are willing to take on the tough jobs and issues. For too long “politics” has been a closed club full of personal ambition. It’s up to us to air out the room! Go for it Al!


  7. I also want to know where candidates stand on taxing & oil–Tom. Throw in one more big one question–damming, diking, leveeing the Chehalis River? Or, in any way changing upriver before all results downriver, and full impacts of that have been completely mitigated…even then, I am against changing the natural flow. It’s important to know what candidates think on this issue, as well. Since I have attended many Chehalis River Authority meetings, until I tired of the rhetoric and power tripping, I think I know that V. favors a dam…don’t know about Al? Would like to hear more from both.

    ED NOTE: Carol, of interest the DW just posted pictures of the Montesano levy….or lack of it on their Facebook page…when I tried to track down, the guy with the authority, the website doesn’t list him nor does the newspaper have his contact. I want to look into that…anybody who knows this guy, have him contact me.

    • The local impacts of proposed dams- since they are so far away- could really sneak up on us! Thanks for asking these questions.

      We also need to know where candidates stand on the dueling Hospitals issue, budget threats to first responders, strategies for County survival in times of less $$ from the feds and the state. And personally I’d like to see more avenues for public input and conversations with elected officials- so they don’t feel quite so free to go their own merry way.


    • Hi Carol,

      I have responded to the dam issue for the Chehalis already. What is perplexing to me is this issue was brought up and decided over 40 years ago. If you like touch base with me for the 16 page report done by our own Dept. of fish & Wildlife – 1969.

  8. I would be very interested to see what Mr. Smith could accomplish in office. He seems like a fascinating candidate.

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