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Home » Archives » April 2006 » "Council is ignoring the voice of the people"

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04/04/2006: ""Council is ignoring the voice of the people""

Letter to the editor:

At the County Council meeting this past Tuesday, March 28, I attended and expected to speak and get some answers on the LTAC issue, since it was on the agenda. It was only through the grapevine that some of us found out what the agenda would be. Seems the Council wants to keep that private information. Stephen Robins asked the Council for more transparency in the future. They now say that in the future the complete agenda of items scheduled for discussion will be posted on the Internet Monday afternoon before their meeting Tuesday.

I asked the Council if I would be allowed to speak during their discussion of the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee, since I have been a member of that committee for years, and had issues that needed some resolution. I was told, "No" I would not be allowed to speak at that time, but could say a few words before their session started. I was given five minutes. This was frustrating, because during their discussion later, various things were said that I question. I had no opportunity to ask for answers or give clarification.

Previously, when we had the three County Commissioners in public session, we would sign in before the start on a clipboard by the door to the chambers, and were called upon to speak as the issue came up on the agenda. This right has now been taken away. What happened to freedom of speech? Dealing openly with constituents is an issue that in my opinion is critical to democracy.

(continued from front)
At the December 6th and 13th meetings where the new 2% lodging tax funds were being discussed, the many members of the LTAC and others who had an interest in their decision were not allowed to speak either. This is unacceptable for public servants. The three RFP's that had been submitted to the LTAC were reviewed, voted on, and that recommendation submitted to the County Council. The LTAC recommendation was not even mentioned and the council voted otherwise. The two RFP's selected did not follow the established guidelines. The decision was simply made by political pressure and their whim at the time. The LTAC no longer serves a purpose when it is totally ignored. All our time and effort was a waste of time.

The Council seems to feel the same way, as no meeting has been called since October 2005. We did have a group of 17 to 20 enthusiastic members, and well represented the three islands, with a balance of those that collect the lodging tax and those that receive the benefits. It was announced by Bob Myhr, now heading that committee, the number would now be cut to 5 to 7 members. He feels the smaller number will be easier for him to deal with, but I feel it would be less representative.

I am amazed at the ability of the Council to continue to ignore the will of the people of our County. The vote of 7,151 citizens, 73% of the voters, supported the right to build detached guesthouses is a good example. The Growth Hearings Board has allowed detached guesthouses elsewhere, yet our council will not endorse the majority support on this issue. Months are going by with one postponement after another. There is obviously too much influence by a small number of the "Friends" activists who don't want people to have the right to build detached guesthouses.

The Kellsey South purchase by the County apparently appeared one day as a consent agenda item that was voted for by both Kevin Ranker and Alan Lichter. Why would they vote to spend $1.8 million of taxpayer money without, (according to the public record), information or staff reports of any kind? As I recall, the purchase of the gravel pit property was the same kind of deal, voted down by the public but acquired anyway by the County Commissioners.

The County is expected to lose as much as one to two million dollars a year in future revenue from the Capron funds due to the fact that our Council, (then County Commissioners), didn't use the money as intended for roads and road maintenance. They were warned by Public Works that there was a possibility of losing the funds if they continued to divert them, yet they continued to do so.

At the March 28th meeting, Councilman Lichter distributed a "Resolution for an Advisory Ballot about Iraq" to be placed before the citizens of San Juan County. At the time that came up on the agenda, anyone who wanted to speak on the issue was allowed. This discussion took up about fifteen minutes with comments by four or five people. Strange that response was allowed for this issue, but none other. This is Alan Lichter's ill informed own personal agenda. Our Council should not even be considering this resolution and the other two council members should have stopped such an advisory ballot which is simply Lichter's personal vendetta against the President. He is guilty of the very thing he is accusing others of in this Resolution. We have enough realistic problems facing our islands that the Council should be dealing with instead off wasting our time and money on this very
controversial biased issue.

I understand the Council is attempting to intrude in the process of ultimately establishing their own salaries, despite the advice of legal council. It clearly shows the lack of spirit in support of the landslide passage of the Charter. Their behavior is the very reason there was a successful movement for Home Rule. We now have three legislators without legal training trying to put their own interpretation of state law above that of the Prosecuting Attorney who is the elected legal representative of the people.

Well, guess what! We may have voted them in, but we can also vote them out! In the meantime, I hope they listen because the natives are getting very restless!.

Helen King, Innkeeper
San Juan Island

Tom Bauschke
John Evans
Mary Kalbert
Ron Keeshan
Gordy Petersen
Janice Peterson
Bruce Sallan
Terra Tamai
Amy Wynn
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