Olympia port won’t rename road after Billy Frank Jr. by Oct. 12

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OLYMPIA — Before a word could be uttered from the public last week, either for or against a proposal to rename the Port of Olympia’s Marine Drive after legendary Nisqually tribal member Billy Frank Jr., the commission had an answer for everyone.

They will stick to the port’s naming review policy, which means a portion of Marine Drive that runs along the tree-lined shores of East Bay, will not be renamed in time for Indigenous Peoples Day on Oct. 12, also known as Columbus Day.

Commissioner Joe Downing read a statement at the top of last Monday’s meeting, explaining their decision.

“We want to let people know that, shortly after the port received this proposal, the naming review team reached out to the Nisqually and Squaxin tribes to better understand their expectations and preferences for moving forward,” he said. “Both tribes encouraged us to follow our port policy, which calls for the review of the suggestion by the naming review team, and a two-month public comment period, during which time the proposed name could be vetted with the public and other municipal bodies.”

Downing added: “Both tribes have conveyed to the naming review team that reaching the “best” decision is more important than reaching a “fast” decision.

Olympia City Councilman Nathaniel Jones, who brought the proposal to the commission, expressed his disappointment, but he also thanked them for considering it.

“I want to respect this body and your need to do things that’s appropriate for you,” he said.

Jones, though, asked them not to lose sight of what he called the “heart of the matter.”

“The real point is to honor a local hero,” he said, adding that Frank helped us “move forward as a people, both in terms of environmental stewardship and human relations. He did amazing work in his lifetime. The heart of the matter is very much alive.”

So, will the port rename a portion of Marine Drive in two months? That wasn’t clear Monday. If so, the port would still need to waive some provisions of its naming policy, which includes that the person be dead at least 20 years, or to have made a significant financial contribution to the port.

Commissioner E.J. Zita, who supports the Marine Drive renaming proposal, said the policy is not as ironclad as it might sound. She said the two-month comment period and that the person be dead 20 years are recommendations, not requirements. Commissioner Bill McGregor has disputed that point.

Brian Frisina, also know as Raven Redbone, had another proposal for the commission Monday. He suggested the commission rename Swantown Marina after Frank and to do so by March 9, Frank’s birthday, he said. Frank died at 83 in May 2014.

“We owe him a huge debt,” Frisina said about Frank. “We still have the water and the salmon.”

The commission did not comment on his proposal.