Thursday, September 12, 2013

Dear Indianola

To begin, congratulations are in order on the Indianola Port Commission’s decision to reopen our public dock to its historic use. What had once been a contentious issue has been transformed into a galvanizing moment with townsfolk of all stripes actively engaging in local civic life. For myself, I joined the effort to reopen the dock at the outset because I felt the will of a significant portion of the community had been circumvented in the process of closure. I launched a petition, wrote letters, and spent Indianola Days advertising the Port Commission’s upcoming public meeting. I even decided to throw my hat into the ring as a write-in candidate for District 2, feeling well qualified with my years of experience in construction and architecture, infrastructure planning studies, and community based, urban renewal activism.

My guiding principle is very basic: Above all else, keep the dock & all Indianola Port District assets public. My ideas stem from there: 1) Let our vision for the dock lead the conversation in the long term, not the quest for grants. Or in the words of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, “Make the money, don't let the money make you”. 2) Hold community design forums where Indianola residents are engaged beyond the three-minute public comment slots allowed under current Commission meeting format. 3) Facilitate active dialogue between our creative and committed community members, our elected officials, and the talented architects, engineers, contractors, artists, etc. on the new advisory board in order to craft a collective vision for the future of the Indianola Port District. 4) Beyond the issues of the dock itself, did you know the Indianola Port Commission has the authority to invest in economic development? How about a bi-annual Dock Art Walk (pending structural reinforcements) to raise revenue for ongoing maintenance while providing income and exposure for our town’s extraordinary artists? How else can we leverage public Port assets to boost our local economy? Let’s have a conversation!

We’re all aware that Eric Cookson, my opponent in the election as well as my neighbor, was appointed by the Kitsap County Port Commission to fill the vacated interim position until a permanent Commissioner is voted into office during the November general election (mail-in ballots will be sent on October 18th). Be that as it may, I got involved in this issue as an Indianolan who cares deeply about democracy and the preservation of the public domain. For this reason I wish to see the democratic process unfold, for the residents of the Indianola Port District to have the chance to decide for themselves who will represent them in this capacity over the next two years. It has been widely stated throughout this summer’s events that the community is far more important than the dock, and that is very true. Just as important are the permanent institutions that bind us to one another as equals, that enable us to engage in civil disagreement until all points of view are heard and a collective voice is formed representing the will of the majority. To this end, I embrace the opportunity to participate in the coming Candidate Forum. I hope that you attend, and I ask that you consider writing my name in as Indianola Port Commissioner, District 2.


Matthew Smith

Thursday, August 29, 2013


Indianola’s Public Dock is an authentic public structure that really reflects the character of this little town—it has withstood many storms; it bends without ever breaking; it is wistful and whimsical; it has altered and changed over the generations, but has always maintained it’s original character.

Profoundly moved by what we first experienced here, my wife and I arrived to Indianola in the wake of so many other pioneering families over the past century, and in the footprints of those who came before. We bought and cleared a parcel of land, then milled the trees to use in the new and uniquely Indianolan house that we designed and are currently building.

2nd floor frame in my Indianola home
I understand structures. I have been a carpenter most of my life, and now run a growing design + build company combining my construction and architecture backgrounds. I hold a Professional Degree in Architecture, and have worked on some exceptional projects in the region such as the New Lynnwood High School (Bassetti Architects) where I detailed the complex steel structure for the “agora roof” connecting four independent classroom buildings; as well as managing construction documentation for Seattle’s elegant Kerry Park Court (Joseph Grief Architects)

450 ft "agora" structure at New Lynnwood HS
I have spent my adult life working with carpenters, contractors, architects, planning departments, code officials & inspectors, and engineers of all stripes (structural, civil, electrical, mechanical, geo-technical). I have even worked for a time doing “architectural forensics” under master architect Jack Lebduska, my mentor at New Jersey College of Architecture & Design, where I also began a Masters in Infrastructure Design.

Citation for urban renewal work: Newark, NJ
What I also bring to the table is a depth of experience in community design forums and grassroots urban renewal strategies in Newark, NJ with Lincoln Park/Coast Cultural District, and New Orleans, LA after Katrina advocating for Common Ground Relief on behalf of Architects, Planners & Designers for Social Responsibility where I served as a board member in 2005-6. It is this experience that I seek to draw upon to make the case for broad community involvement as we work together to move beyond the current impasse.

It is my position, based upon the structural analysis performed by Coast & Harbor Engineers, that Indianola’s Public Dock can be reopened to normal pedestrian activity with very simple and cost effective interventions like cross bracing between pilings & under decking, while the community is brought into a discussion regarding the viability of a host of future options--for example: from outright historic preservation by retrofitting existing members, to replacement of creosote pilings with something more environmentally and structurally integral, to all the ideas we've yet to hear about.

Coast & Harbor Engineering recommendations
I don't feel that it's for me to say what the future will hold for the dock or other public Port of Indianola assets. At the end of the day, the community is the most important asset in town. & it's my hope to work hand-in-hand with this community as the next Indianola Port Commissioner to keep the dock safe and keep it open, while together crafting a vision for our Port which will truly befit the generations to come.