Letters to Editor
To Contact the Editor
(Note: For a full listing of all letters, Click HERE and scroll down to “Entries”
"We should not write so that it is possible for the reader to understand us, but so that it is impossible for him to misunderstand us."
-Quintilian (Marcus Fabius Quintilianus), rhetorician (c. 35-100)
About That Orcas Fire Department Levy
To all fellow island voters:
I would like to say this to you about the upcoming levy the fire department will have on the ballot in April:
 If you are not aware of the departments cost of doing business find out.
[ 2 ] Our department is our life line, rain, snow, ice, or hot weather, day time or middle of the night our volunteers answer your calls.
[ 3 ] Many lives have been saved by their ability to perform the task they have been trained for and countless hours are given to get and maintain that training.
[ 4 ] Changes in the equipment have given them much better access to respond to fire calls thanks to good planning and good training .
[ 5 ] This year the fire department celebrated it's 65th year. We are grateful to those that started it so long ago and to all who now are part of it .
[ 6 ] The same people who are seeking this levy are also tax payers and like us do not want to pay anymore taxes than we do.
[ 7 ] We have the finest department because we have chosen to support it to become and stay top rate. [8 ] Questions? talk to the fire chief or a commissioner or one of your neighbors who is a volunteer on the department.
[ 9 ] Support the guys and gals who do the work, the commissioners who have to ask, our paramedics and the fire chief .
VOTE YES to continue our excellent department .
LETTERS ON EMS LEVY
(02-08-14) Accountable & Frugal?
To the Editor:
As many others, I am appalled by the request of SJI EMS to raise their levy and therefore funding through our property taxes by 42% in addition to making this a permanent levy.
This comes at a time when islanders are still struggling to make ends meet. Our country’s recession is far from over. The Hospital Board’s explanation for the exorbitant increase in financing is to ‘provide a financial safety net’; I think all us would like to have a monetary safety net to fall back on. The Hospital Board further states that there is presently no perceived need for extra funding. Why then request such an increase in a levy which will cost the taxpayer 42% more for 2 full years before the present EMS levy runs out?
This levy is pushed under the taxpayer’s nose at the last possible minute without giving residents the opportunity to question the levy and hold meetings for discussions and answers from EMS themselves. While the Hospital Board argues that a permanent levy was discussed during last year’s meetings, I am wondering who of the residents attends the meetings or why these meetings’ findings are not published.
EMS is an important part of our island, however, we all need to be accountable and frugal when it comes to tax spending. According to Chief Cole he has always been frugal with his EMS budget. However, how can it be justified that he raised his salary $26,000.00 from 2011 to 2012 and his assistant’s salary by $16,000.00 at the same time? A 26% increase in salary from one year to the next is unheard of when it comes to taxpayer’s funding.
I believe there are many unanswered questions and many doubts stemming from this levy petition. Ask yourself whether this levy should be revisited in a year or 2 with competent information given to the taxpayer in a proper time frame.
San Juan Island
(02-06-14) "Stealth” EMS Ballot
To the Editor:
Given the manner in which the proposed EMS levy has been handled (virtually NO public information provided to voters until the past ten days), I can't help thinking that someone advised the Health District Board that a “stealth” ballot issue was a good idea.
It appears that the Board consciously decided to sneak this one through by scheduling the ballot issue in the middle of the winter when many islanders are taking some time away, by not providing a substantive explanation to the voters, and then double-talking the media when questions were asked. It doesn't sound like the kind of operation I want to relieve of the “burden” of seeking voter approval of its levy every six years.
If this is the approach they want to take to District governance, then I am inclined to vote against a permanent levy that amounts to a 42% increase over the currently approved levy (which was most recently approved in 2010). Frankly, they have lost my trust.
Prevent Distracted Driving
I want to help bring awareness to the dangers of DISTRACTED DRIVING. I lost my Nana in a tragic car crash two years ago because someone was reading a text while driving. I don’t want this to happen to anyone else, so I would like to remind people that these are preventable actions.
Over the next few months our Rock Solid Youth Group will be making posters on the dangers of distracted driving to share in our schools and community, we’ll write a song to share this message, too. In addition, we’ll be asking our local Sheriff’s Office to help support us in getting the message out.
Did you know it is illegal to use a cell phone while driving in Washington State that is not considered a hands-free device? Unfortunately, I see many people everyday passing my school using a cellphone, while driving, with it held up to their ear and I’ve even seen people texting and driving down Spring Street.
Did you know, “When you text and drive you are 23 times more likely to crash.” Did you know, “77% of young adults are very or somewhat confident that they can safely text while driving.”
Did you know, “48% of kids (12-17) have been in a car while the driver was texting.” (www.textinganddrivingsafety.com)
Please join us in helping to prevent Distracted Driving in our community. Please put your cell phones away when you get in your car and speak up if the driver of your car uses their cell phone (non hands-free device) or starts to text while driving. You just might save a life.
Rock Solid Youth Group
LETTERS ON DOGS AND GRAVEL PIT
(02-17-14) Control & Clean Up After Your Dog
To the Editor:
This letter is in response to comments and a letter received by Island Rec’s Board of Commissioners which appeared in the recent letters to the editor [related letter below this one -Ed]concerning the Lafarge property, (i.e. gravel pit), and regulations regarding unleashed dogs. The property, which is owned by Island Rec, is not a designated off leash dog park. Island Rec operates Eddie and Friends Dog Park on Mullis Street for this specific use.
The Lafarge property is a primitive area with beautiful scenery and use is limited to walking on the graded walk only. It is a popular destination for people and their dogs. One walk around the trail and it is evident by the dog waste left beside the trail how popular the area is for people with dogs.
This property is located in the county and therefore the county ordinance Section 4 SJCC 6.08.085 applies which states dogs must be under the immediate control of the owner or keeper or other authorized person by means of a leash, voice, whistle or hand signal. For those who are animal lovers, it’s easy to forget that not everybody, or every other dog likes other dogs, especially when we live in a place that is very dog friendly and accommodating.
We have parks and trails all over the island, all teeming with people and pets. But these are all still public spaces, which means it’s your job to control and clean up after your dog, and not everyone else’s job to adjust to their presence. The bottom line…..take responsibility for your dog, and everyone will benefit.
Questions or concerns about Lafarge or any other Island Rec park or program are always welcome. Call Island Rec at 378-4953.
Jacquelyn Reiff, Chair, on Behalf of Island Rec’s Board of Commissioners.
(01-28-14) We Must Be The Luckiest Dog Lovers In The World>
To the Editor:
We must be the luckiest dog lovers in the world! We have the wonderful gravel pit where we can walk our dogs and let them play together. It’s great!
But the reality is that being able to let our dogs off leash there is a privilege not a right. That’s an important point to remember and it should be treated with a great amount of respect. My dog has developed an aggressive attitude from being rushed by other dogs while we were at the gravel pit; I have heard the same from others.
Now I am working hard every day to correct that problem. Every time you allow your dog to come rushing into mine because you have no control over it, you set my hard work back weeks and sometimes months. Think about that.
I am trying to be a responsible dog owner. Respect that. If you cannot call your dog back to you then in my opinion it should not be off leash. And If I tell you my dog is aggressive, respect that. Leash your dog as you pass and give us a wide berth. The gravel pit is a luxury that deserves our respect and our beautiful dogs deserve our full attention while playing there.
Picking up poop is not optional. I have actually seen people let their dogs out to poop at the gravel pit and then just walk away. Feces are a potential disease vector for both dogs and for wildlife. PICK UP AFTER YOUR DOG! Island Rec has made that super easy for us by providing not only bags but trash cans in two strategic locations as well. USE THEM.
One person told me they don’t pick up after their dog because the dog poops on the hillside. Either go down there and pick it up or keep your dog leashed until after it has pooped in a place where you can easily get it. There is really no excuse.
The gravel pit is a gem of a place, lets keep it that way. Respect each other, other dogs, and especially the people without dogs who come to walk or jog and do not deserve to be mauled by your dog.
I would like to assume that its not that you don’t care, but that you didn’t know.
Now you do
Here are a few guidelines.
People manners for the dog park
• If you see a dog on leash or with its owner off to the side, please respect their privacy and don’t approach until the owner says OK
• Clean up after your dog. Plastic bags are provided to make this easy.
• If you cannot call your dog back to you without fail then don’t let it off leash.
• Call your dog away from the gate while other dogs are entering or leaving
• Pay close attention to your dog and keep it out of trouble
• Always be aware of your dog’s location and the body language of the dogs your dog is interacting with
• Immediately stop aggressive behavior
• Be responsible for your dogs behavior
LETTERS RELATED TO CHRISTMAS EVE HAY RIDE STOP
(02-06-14) Seattle Has Us Beat In lawless Behavior
To the Editor:
We should have loaned our intrepid "safety first during events" deputy to Seattle yesterday.
From the photos of the Seahawks parade there were people standing on the hoods of vehicles (clearly a safety violation much more dangerous than sitting on hay bales in the back of a wagon), standing up in the back of trucks with no protection, leaning out of vehicle windows waving their arms and, gasp, even making physical contact with pedestrians who were illegally standing in the road, littering by throwing objects (Skittles, and maybe other things) from a moving vehicle, and doing all sorts of other very dangerous and illegal things.
By golly, he would have been in hog heaven stopping the parade and insisting that all these illegal activities stop immediately. And, given that all of these things are technically illegal and clearly potentially dangerous, getting praised by Zebra One for his diligence and attention to safety no matter what.
And maybe while we were at it we could have left him down there in Seattle, where his policing style fits much better than it does on the Island.
San Juan Island
(01-29-14) We Deserve Better
To the Editor:
Having had a somewhat informed view of our Sheriffs Department (if under the current leadership that is at all possible) one has to wonder how long our community will sit still for the do nothing actions of our law enforcement leadership.
I attended all town meetings prior to the last election and heard the lofty designs of what we were to expect in the coming four years. It seems as though we have actually regressed.
Where is the community policing, increased training, community advisory board, financial accountability, and increased communication-- to mention just a few of these forgotten promises. I feel that the majority of our county islanders deserve much more, given the cost to us all for our inefficient Sheriff's Department .
I think we all agree that the current crop of deputies, with one possible exception does not possess the training, experience or aptitude to even be considered for our next Sheriff. Most county governments when faced with such a no win situation look outside the box for a suitable candidate. Is he, or she, really reguired to come from within? If not, we as a county need to search and recruit a candidate or candidates that can lead us out of the "good old boys days of the past and into a positive future for our county. (Jus a thought!)
Oh, and when Sheriff Rob will we be in formed as to any actions taken in regards to the Christmas Eve fiasco?
Thanks all for your time and attention.
San Juan Island
(01-23-14) A Misuse Of Statistics?
To the Editor:
I appreciate Grisha Krivchenia's letter disavowing the hostility -- hatred even -- which some Islanders have unfortunately found it appropriate to spew against Mr. Petersen and our local Border Patrol agents. I wish I could believe that he spoke for every member of the Citizens for the Core group, but even he isn't convinced that he can or does, and only time will tell whether or not his words of peace and reconciliation will have any significant effect.
However, I must question one statement he makes. He claims that the group "[consists] of hundreds of Islanders (538 on Facebook alone)." I have to doubt that every person on the Facebook page is an Islander who opposes the lease. I find it much more likely that some are there who have taken no position as yet on the lease but are interested in following the situation, and that others will be supporters of the lease who are there to keep an eye on the opposition. There are also likely to be some (many?) non-islanders who for some reason or another are interested in the situation (I think, for just one example, of people who like to look for any opportunity to criticize Homeland Security).
It seems clear to me that claiming that every follower of his Facebook page can be counted as an actual Islander who opposes the lease is at best a stretch and at worst a deliberate attempt to misrepresent the number of people supporting his position. Unfortunately, such a misuse of statistics puts the credibility and accuracy of hisr letter as a whole in some question.
(01-01-14) Stop The Personal Attack & Viciousness
To the Editor:
I was appointed to the Traffic Safety Position at the middle of 2013. I have also gained the most stringent certification of Drug Recognition Expert. In addition I am the only currently trained Collision Reconstructionist. This County was having at least one or two Major Injury or Fatal collisions per year. Those collisions almost always involved an impaired driver, speeding and no safety belts. Before the DUI Emphasis patrols, most of our DUI arrests were post collision. Now we are arresting the impaired drivers before they get the chance of hurting a member of the community or themselves.
My enforcement actions will not stop. I have spoken with Sheriff Nou and will continue to arrest the impaired driver, I will stop the speeder, the person talking with the cellphone to their ear, the person not wearing their safety belts, or not stopping at stop signs. I will address the vehicle equipment violations, especially the lack of tail lights and brake lights. This I do for the safety of the community as a whole. I do not make the laws and I am not the venue to rant and rave about them. For those few that do not agree on the law then contact your legislators, they make the law. I took an oath to uphold all of the laws-- I don’t have luxury to agree or disagree with them.
In addition, my family is being verbally attacked both in person and on line. My wife and kids are now being publicly questioned for my enforcement actions of Christmas Eve.
There is a small but loud group of people in this county that believe they should not be subjected to the laws of the State of Washington because they live here or were born here, I hear it on a regular basis at my traffic stops. They firmly believe we have better things to do than to bother them. The good old boy system is gone. All of the Deputies in the State of Washington are trained by the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission and they mandate the highest ethical and moral standards of the officers they certify.
For those who cowardly attack my family because of what I am required to do, you should be ashamed. If anyone has a problem with my duties then address them with my supervisors not my family. My family and I did not surrender our civil rights when I became a deputy.
For those who quietly come to us and tell us that they feel bad for what is happening, thank you for your concern. Stand up for what you believe and do not let the loud few make policy for the entire county.
Whoever you are and whatever you do, do it correctly, using the proper venues. Stop the personal attack, the rumor mongering and the downright viciousness.
(12-28-13) The Wrong Message On Christmas Eve To Our Children & Islanders
To the Editor:
On Christmas Eve I was witness to a very sad traffic stop that occurred at 6:00 pm in front of the Mercantile next to the ferry terminal.
There was a Christmas Hay Ride Trailer decked out with hundreds of lights with benches and children with elf hats and antlers, their parents, young and old.
They were apparently out caroling on this wonderful Christmas Eve and I saw green and red lights thinking they were part of the festivities and how wonderful our police were to be involved in this “Friday Harbor Christmas Postcard”.
It was not part. It was a patrol car making a traffic stop.
I parked the car and went over to see what was going on.
I arrived to see these kids and moms and dads in the back of the ride with an officer with his hand on his sidearm pointing at the driver of the vehicle.
I then witnessed a patrol car approaching as a back-up with sirens and lights speeding through the intersection while pedestrians jumped out of the walkway in front of the Clam Digger.
The other officer got out of the vehicle.
I asked him what was going on and why and he said “we are doing what we can and to leave the scene”.
I then saw the driver of the truck that was pulling the trailer, step out of the vehicle in a non-threatening way.
I heard the driver say something to the effect of “we will handle it ourselves, or not you (name of officer) again”, at which point that same officer placed his hand again on his side arm and lunged at the driver saying the words; “And what will you do about it Marke?”
The other officer held the lunging officer back with two arms on him and his head down like a blocker for the Sea Hawks, I repeat, held him back as if in a barroom brawl, but this officer has a weapon.
I have never seen such wanton lack of training or professionalism from an armed officer.
This was way out of line and could have gone downhill fast, and may turn out to be a very large liability for the County and Sheriff’s Office’s pocket book which you and I would have to pay for.
I was told to leave or be detained and I stepped back to watch along with 12 or more other bystanders holding cameras and cell phones.
The officers then took all of the young children, who were crying, the mothers, the fathers, and the driver and made them stand against Churchill’s restaurant wall and all while blocking any customer traffic to the Mercantile on their busiest night.
These kids were terrified at Christmas Eve by those sworn to protect us.
There were lights going at all times, with spot lights on these criminal carolers.
This is a travesty of “use of force” policy and I have been in some very tough situations in law enforcement and have never seen anything like these procedures.
These are the people you are supposed to protect.
These were not criminals, they were your neighbors, and your children go to school with their children.
One of the children was holding what appeared to be a stuffed reindeer seemingly protecting it from the perceived hostile attack by uniformed and armed men.
This is Christmas eve 6:00 pm, downtown Friday Harbor while the line of tourists departing from our magical Island trying to figure out just what Christmas message our Police were trying to convey.
The next morning I called the on duty officer asking what happened last night.
His comment was cheerfully, to the effect that; “Well, they pulled them over for a safety concern in that they did not want children possibly falling out the trailer, and that the officers were kind enough to escort them safely home and that no citations were issued.”
I urge all islanders to read the report and then ask those involved if the report is anywhere near what actually occurred in those 45 minutes to these hard working citizens who live here with all of us.
These Island Family Carolers are the same people that stand in line to buy groceries at Kings.
The same people that Shop at the Thrift Store.
The same people that serve Thanksgiving dinner at the Grange, to those that have less than they do.
This display of Police procedure, is not going to show well of our intentions and life styles on this Island and I, as a decorated United States Vietnam Veteran am appalled at their display of force and harassment and lack of judgment and damage to the children and their spirit of Christmas and what it stands for.
I am so sorry for these Children.
Merchants go out of their way to decorate our beautiful City and a sleigh ride with Christmas lights is part of that vision.
These officers, in this; “Routine 45 minute traffic stop with no citations issued” need to go back to training.
They need to provide an apology to those children and their parents.
We need a clear and defined policy from the Sheriff’s Dept. on just what actions will be taken to correct this in the future.
We cannot have our children “fearing” law enforcement officers.
There has been a severe damage to these young people who now, will not know who the good guys are, and run from persons in uniform.
Every parent needs to step up and bring this out into the open.
Jarman Responds To Nick Power Column
To the Editor:
Nick Power raises questions and concerns that I’m sure many people in the County are talking about now (Mr. Power’s Column).
I don’t consider our communication systems in the Islands as “third-world standard”, but we obviously have serious problems, redundancy being the main one.
The County’s Dept. of Emergency Management coordinator, Brendan Cowan, organized daily conferences via Skype during the entire communications outage between Council and CenturyLink, representatives from the WA Utilities Commission; representative from the Governor’s Office; and state E-911 coordinators. In addition, Council met every day with our local emergency response teams including the Sheriff and the Fire Chiefs from each Island.
We, the Council, were well aware of lives being affected by this emergency. People could not get a hold of their loved ones to make sure they were OK. People on Life Lines could not get help and businesses were severely affected. As is always the case in the Islands, neighbors helped neighbors and our Emergency Response teams went door to door in many instances to help those in need. Information was gathered during our conferences and Council declared a State of Emergency, paving the way for our businesses to try to recoup their losses.
Those of us who have lived in these Islands for years know that there is no such thing as “this can never happen again”. We have lived through cut underwater power cables from OPALCO (sometimes for weeks at a time) and cut communications cables as well. Accidents have happened, and will happen again. The important thing is to have good backup.
Not only is the Council up “in the grill” of CenturyLink, so is the WA State Utilities Comm. Brendan Cowan is setting up a public “de-briefing” meeting with the Utilities Commission here on San Juan.
As soon as the meeting date is set, public notice will go out. I personally met with Brian Stading, the Northwest Pres. of CenturyLink, and made it very plain that redundancy within our communication system is a MUST. Stading’s responses to my questions were not satisfactory. Council will continue to push redundancy with CenturyLink and the Utilities Commission until we are satisfied.
Manager Mike Thomas has already drafted a letter to CenturyLink requesting relief on customers’ statements, with a copy to Glen Post (CenturyLink’s CEO). I brought that subject up to Mr. Stading. He said the company needed time to come up with a plan for refunding given the different billing cycles, etc.
We cannot force a private company into doing something they don’t want to do, but we can keep the pressure on; stay in contact with the Utilities Comm; insist on redundancy.
I am available for discussions any time. My office number is 370-7473; cell: 298-1698; home: 378-2952; and I’m at the office every day.
LETTERS ON CUSTOMS MOVE TO NEW BUILDING
(1-22-14) To Correct Widespread Misinformation
To the Editor:
I am writing to correct widespread misinformation about Citizens for the Core, a nonviolent group consisting of hundreds of Islanders (538 on Facebook alone).
People are justified in feeling upset when our neighbors and friends are threatened. It is true and unfortunate that a few people have acted with incivility towards Gordy Petersen and local Customs officers. I lament this fact. Insults and vandalism injure proactive dialogue and our sense of community. This kind of negativity harms our neighbors, and it harms the perpetrators themselves.
That said, many Islanders are working compassionately and nonviolently to get the federal government to hear and act upon our concerns, and Citizens for the Core is leading the positive side of this movement. Here are some of the things that we have done:
1. We have organized public meetings to hear citizen concerns about the proposed relocation of Customs and Border Patrol. In these meetings, we always encourage citizens to go through appropriate channels and to demonstrate kindness for all.
2. We have asked that anyone who has done anything harmful to Gordy apologize directly to him. We repeatedly encourage opponents of the lease to be nice to Mr. Petersen and to local Customs officers.
3. We have attended the public meetings with GSA and Customs, and we have presented our case with courtesy and clarity. (Of course, a couple of Islanders did stray from relevant topics at both meetings. Fortunately, they were relatively benign.)
4. We have written public officials at every level of government, and we have received particularly sympathetic responses from Senator Ranker and Representative Larsen.
5. We have deliberately chosen win-win tactics. We hope to satisfy the needs of the landowner, Customs officers, concerned citizens, and local business owners. We seek a solution that will bring the community closer together.
Our movement rests on the philosophy of nonviolence as espoused by Gandhi and Martin Luther King: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." Citizens for the Core is committed to showing our opponents love.
Unfortunately, even Dr. King could not prevent certain people from using violent tactics. Similarly, Citizens for the Core cannot control the actions of mentally unstable or rude individuals. This does not mean that our cause is not worthwhile.
Let me make it clear Citizens for the Core has does not perform, advocate, or condone any act of vandalism. These could have been pranks pulled by local teens or a disgruntled individual. Perhaps it was done by one of the proponents of the lease, in an attempt to distract people from our worthwhile cause. No one really knows, and until the perpetrators are caught, no one will.
Our basic concern is the lack of discernment, public process, and accountability from the General Services Administration (GSA). GSA leased the most visible corner of our downtown commercial core, a corner that every visitor to our Town must pass, without consulting the public in anyway. They are doing this in our community with our tax dollars, and therefore should be accountable to us.
Citizens for the Core is a straightforward movement. We don't like what the government did, and we are asking them to correct their mistakes. Our intentions, our words, and our actions are wholesome. If you have any doubts, come to the public meetings we organize and find out. Every Islander is welcome.
San Juan Island
(12-20-13) Friendly Assaults On Your Neighbor’s Rights
To the Editor:
Letters on the CBP lease of privately owned building space on Spring Street are appearing with increasing frequency. In my opinion, some are very good in both advocating human rights and explaining the rationale for the lease. Others are disturbing.
Two letters authored by Lovell Pratt and Rikki Swin implore U.S. Senators and other federal officials to intervene on behalf of “the community” to reverse a legally drawn and signed lease. Swin says she “represents a large citizens group,” not identified. Pratt believes she speaks for a majority in the “community.” She suggests a new bureaucratic presence for which there is no demonstrable need and a potential location for the CBP in a structure that may or may not ever be built. We have nothing but her breezy assumptions, yet she argues cheerfully for her “win win” solution in a rhapsody of disregard for the losers.
Who loses? In my view, the lease holder/owner of the building on Spring and the lease holder/owner of the building on Mullis (where Pratt might like to move the CBP) would be big losers, not only for the disruption to their professional lives but also for the stunning realization that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights might be flabbier guarantees of individual freedoms than they imagined. In this regard we would all be losers.
The CBP would lose too. Wouldn’t it be inconvenient to have a border/port facility that is nowhere near the port? I’m afraid the individual members of our local CBP have already lost something in wondering how many others share the Swin description of CBP as “uniformed, armed, bullet-proof vested, jack-booted officers.”
I believe that San Juan Island is dangerously vulnerable to the coercive actions of groups and individuals who presume far too much in pronouncements that they speak for the community.
I support the rights of the Spring Street building owner to lawfully lease his property, I support the presence of the CBP in that location, and I support relief for all of us from the assumptions of a few that they can push us around with impunity.
San Juan Island
(12-19-13) In Favor Of Mr. Peterson's Lease
To the Editor:
Please allow me to add my reinforcing comments to Mr. Penwell's email note of December 18. His clear and concise description of the small vocal gaggle of persons that are expending much energy and noise to scream out their opinions of a completely lawful action by one of our neighbors certainly do not seem to represent the feelings of the majority of the people I know on this island.
I count a pretty fair number of those "jack-booted, flak-jacketed, gun-wearing" customs agents as my good friends. They have been in my home. They greet me and my wife by name on the streets and docks. They are well-trained and many of them are really good shots. I WANT them on my side protecting us. I WANT them in a location that is near the primary center of action of the Port, not 20-30 minutes away!
I believe strongly that Mr. Peterson has every right to rent his building to any legal party he chooses. I suspect that it is far more likely that tourists visiting our fair island will be much more comfortable walking past a tastefully marked building façade flying American flags, than they would be walking through the group of partially inebriated smokers that seem to be a regular feature of the opposite corner.
I agree with Mr. Penwell. I will NEVER vote for leaders who are not humble and respectful of the laws and the rights of individuals. I am completely in favor of Mr. Petersen's lease.
If that makes me brave in the eyes of some, so be it. I'll proudly and happily stand alongside the Spring Street School student here.
David J. Vanderwal
(12-19-13) A Response To Pratt
To the Editor:
I read, with great interest, Ms. Pratt’s letter I have included a LINK to it) concerning the U.S. Customs lease of Gordy Petersen’s commercial space in downtown Friday Harbor.
I hold Ms. Pratt, as well as most of our previous County Council, responsible for creating policies that have depressed the economic vitality of these islands. It is my belief that the long time vacancy of Mr. Petersen’s building is symptomatic of the prosperity killing land use regulations that were, and are, supported by Ms. Pratt.
In December of 2012, our lame duck County Council passed a very hotly contested Critical Areas Ordinance. They rushed it through in the last days of their term, led by Ms. Pratt.
The newly passed CAO’s net effects on real estate sales and values are well detailed in Merri Ann Simonsons Real Estate Market Summary for 2013. (http://www.sanjuanislands.com/PDF/ThirdQuarter2013Newsletter.pdf)
Please read page 3 as she discusses the effects of the CAO’s on Shoreline property.
For example, she reports that in 2013 there were only 13 shoreline lot sales compared to 59 sales in 2006. It appears that the people with money to buy shoreline properties do not really want the hassle it takes to build a home. The net effect on islanders is two fold:
1) a lowering of property values along the shorelines, which results in the raising of the real property taxes on all other islanders.
2) Loss of good paying jobs to the building trades.
The real estate market creates the majority of good paying jobs on our islands, and those jobs pay enough in sales taxes to support a significant portion off the County budget.
The realtors, title officers and loan officers are not even the main recipients of the wealth created by the sale of every property. The real winners are the Land Bank (1%), land surveyors, architects, design consultants, local suppliers (Browne Lumber), excavation contractors and the myriad of building contractors that are working to support their families.
New property owners are the ones most likely to spend to re-carpet, re-paint, re-landscape, re-roof, remodel or tear down and build a new home. The jobs created by every real estate transaction are some of the best paying jobs that support island families.
Downtown core commercial real estate is very sensitive to the financial health of the community. The Petersen’s empty building is a direct reflection of our local economy-- higher taxes and loss of good jobs leaves less money to be spent in our downtown businesses by locals.
As to Ms. Pratts solution, when boiled down, it is just another grant writing proposal that requires the tax payers (you and I) to pay for another government agency, (a “coordinated public lands information and interpretive center”) that we don’t need and really don’t want.
Those of us who are actually interested in preserving these beautiful islands are not enthralled by a new facility that not only invites the world to our islands, but it helps them locate our preserved areas so that they can trample them.
Ms. Pratt voices her concern that GSA moved ahead without any public process and yet she is suggesting a re-lease of the building to another government entity, without any public process.
Ms. Pratt touts tourism as a major driver of the islands’ economy, but fails to mention that the median tourist industry wage will not support a family. We should be going out of our way to attract real capital to the islands. We need land use regulations that both protect our islands and allow for a thriving island based economy.
Such policies will result in jobs that pay a sustaining wage so that families can prosper here. We also need to encourage and allow artists, farmers, brewers, distillers, kayak builders and other self-employed individuals to use their land and outbuildings in a reasonable manner. Creative endeavors generally start small at home.
We need community leaders that understand that money only flows to the places where it is welcomed--leaders that actually know how to balance a healthy environment with a healthy economy. We don’t need another government agency on these islands. We really need strong island entrepreneurs to take back their own lives and create prosperity for themselves and the others around them.
Thanks for listening,
(12-18-13) How Sad
To the Editor:
How sad. A ½ page ad in the paper complaining about a building that was rented to the U.S. Customs agency, people leaving threatening messages to the owner of the building, others saying anyone who speaks up in favor of the lease is brave.
Well, a brave high school student wrote a letter to the Editor about the pettiness, wasted energy, and anger of this group. This group of organized individuals are some of the same individuals we see over and over in our community looking for ways to “control” the islands.
They are called many things by citizens at large: a gang, a mob, a clique, a-*%&#@s. This group’s favored methods are to organize behind the scenes, speak out, intimidate, and to be intolerant of differences. They tend to be nasty to those who do not agree with them. They belittle and shout down those who offer a different view. They also do not care what the law is.
What matters to them is their desires, needs and personal prejudices. Other people’s constitutional and legal rights and views are not relevant. They just want their way, and watch out if you get in their way. A member of this group told me what they are doing is free speech, and they would rather be for something, rather than being against something. It is clear that to these individuals, the ends justify the means and we should all just get with their program, as they know best.
I don’t believe the silent majority supports these individuals, or their intolerance and bias. I believe most citizens do not see Customs as an evil group in our community. I agree with the Spring Street student. We need to tackle important issues: our economy, low paying jobs, crime, domestic violence, and drug use, just to start the list. The Grange motto speaks to my condition: In Essentials Unity, In Non Essentials Liberty, In all things Charity.
Do you remember the green arm band mob that stormed our County Council a few years ago? Do you recognize that the Friends of the San Juans complains or sues almost any individual who tries to build anything that they determine is not in line with their agenda?
Have you noticed how our CAO has made land use violations a “criminal act”, with fines, jail time, and consequences that are on the same level as assault, rape and robbery? Have you noticed that some land use violators are prosecuted, and others are not? Is that what will make us a community?
What in the world are we doing letting these individuals and groups speak for and control our community? If we do not start standing together, as a community, we will eventually lose our rights and liberties.
Start taking a close look at the members of these groups, and remember their names. When you see them, tell them your thoughts, and don’t ever vote for them, or encourage them to hold any positions of influence in our community. We need humble and respectful leaders. Leaders who respect the laws, and the rights of individuals.
Frank M Penwell
San Juan Island
(12-15-13) Give It A Second Thought…
To the Editor:
For those of you who don’t know me I’m a moderate liberal with a pragmatic way of viewing the world. Regarding the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) relocation situation [ Related Report -Ed] I’d like to offer my take on this situation.
First of all, the CBP officers here on the island are not a jack-booted Special Forces Team parachuted here in the dead of night to wreak havoc on the citizens of San Juan Island.
They are neighbors and friends. Their children attend school with your children, they go to church with you, they help in community programs, and they deserve your support and respect. They have dedicated their lives to protecting the country from terrorism, drug smuggling, the illegal importation of counterfeit goods, collecting tariffs, just to name a few. The only difference between us and them is that daily they put their lives on the line to make our country a safer place.
As far as the location goes; when the former tenant vacated the space the local economy was in a downward spiral. No tenant could be found to pay a “market rate” for a space designed to accommodate twenty real estate agents.
Gordy and Howard struck a deal to lease the space at a much reduced rate until a suitable tenant, willing to sign a reasonable lease, could be found. Gordy and I do not see eye-to-eye on a lot of things, but he and I have managed to voice our differences in a civil manner. One thing I absolutely support him on is his right to lease his space to anyone for any legitimate use.
If opponents of the relocation of CBP think this is such perfect retail space; why hasn’t someone taken the deal? It has always been known, even though Howard was there, the space was available. There even was a huge “This Building is For Lease” sign on the pillar.
CBP in Friday Harbor clears more boats a year than any other Port in the country. It is necessary they have a facility close to the water. They can’t drive two miles back and forth from an industrial park on Beaverton Valley Road or even from an abandoned lumber yard in town every time a new boat arrives.
Think about it, we would have CBP vehicles making scores of trips a day and down the major streets in our town. At the Spring Street location their vehicles would be in underground parking and they would be able to continue to do their job on foot. Which one really has a more detracting effect? Ironically, the new location is less than fifty feet from where US Customs had its office on Spring Street for many years. Is the space more than they need? Probably so, but they will be paying for the location which is their absolute need.
Finally, US Customs has had a constant presence on San Juan Island since 1853. If they were to leave Friday Harbor the economic impact on this community would be devastating. There would be no more International Ferry. Over 20,000 boats cleared here last year, and if opponents get their way, they would be forced to clear in Bellingham or some other port of entry. If you figure conservatively, each one of those boats represent $100.00 of spending in town, that’s over $2,000,000 annually. That’s quite a burden to bear for an already stagnated economy.
I urge those who oppose the move to the Spring Street location to give it a second thought.
San Juan Island
(11-03-13) Wish Gordy & Lori Peterson The Best
To the Editor:
We, the owners of “Howard’s Sell It Again” Howard Crowell and Rebecca Hughes are sad and sorry to announce that we will be closing the store at the end of December at our current location of First & Spring Streets. Our consignment boutique sub-let from Windermere April to September of 2011 and when Windermere finished their move across the street, our store exploded into the entire space. We were on a month-to-month lease and knew the building could be rented out from under us. We not only filled the store with awesome furniture to house wares and everything in-between, we also filled a vacant retail space for almost three years that brought people to shop the core of Friday Harbor and built a viable business.
Our most gracious and humble thanks for the support of all our customers, the community and to those who consigned their treasures with us over the years. We will be taking a break this winter and may open in another location next spring. It has been the most fun business that we have ever owned. We are thinking of continuing “Sell It Again” in several different ways. We’ll keep you posted.
We wish Gordy & Lori Peterson, the owners of the building our best with his new tenants, Home Land Security.
Howard & Rebecca
Howard's Sell It Again