Letters to Editor
To Contact the Editor
Monday, February 27th
--------------------------------------- Gordy Petersen Responds To Bodenstab Guest Column
(Note:Date above left is when the first letter was posted below on the subject)
To the Editor:
I understand why politicians want to take credit for all the good things and blame all the “dithering” on past administrations. But the Home Rule Charter began in 2005. Hurricane Katrina also happened in 2005 and that has been mostly cleaned up.
Rich Peterson and other members of the council have repeatedly blamed the past BOCC for their problems today. Mr. Bodenstab echoes this theme in his recent Guest Column. I think it’s about time they step up and take responsibility. Rich Peterson is now well into his second term of office.
The dithering by this Council is busting the budget. Issues like solid waste and the CAO should be behind us but continue on and on in a state of “analysis paralysis.” Many people look at the six-member council and see two things: the budget has gone way up and the effectiveness of government has gone way down.
Mr. Bodenstab was one of the Freeholders who campaigned for the Charter as “revenue neutral.” The Charter has increased the cost of county government substantially. This needs to change.
Mr. Bodenstab is quite correct when he says, “Concerns about how a system of governance is working should aim first at ways to improve it rather than to throw it out.” This is precisely what the CRC is doing. There is currently no discussion about throwing the Charter out.
We need leadership in this county. We have none. Voters thought that having an administrator would be the answer but the way the charter set this up has not worked well. Lines of authority are often not clear and there is uncertainty within the organization and to the public about who holds power over what. Problems have been encountered when the Council interferes with the job of the administrator. This leads to poor service and low morale among employees. It can be improved and efficiencies can be gained.
It has become obvious to me that the ability to make decisions in a group of six members is logically less efficient than with three (try deciding on where to eat dinner with 3 couples). The vast majority of counties in the U.S. have 3 elected legislators. The number of deadlocked votes and extra time that it takes for decisions to be made with 6 has led to hardship for some citizens and has generally not served the people well. I have not seen the 6-legislator system used anywhere else. It was an experiment that has clearly failed.
I would have liked the opportunity to vote for this County Council, but I was denied that chance because the Charter only allows me to vote for one out of six of the people who represent me. How does that make government closer to the people as the Charter intended? We can do better.
I think candidates for council should be evaluated and voted for in countywide elections. We did this here in the islands for over 100 years and it worked well. Our leaders represented all Islanders and we had the opportunity to vote for any one of them. This is our traditional island way of governance. There is nothing radical about it.
The citizens have not been served well by the subcommittee process whereby Council Members spend a great deal of their time discussing and deciding issues out of the public view in committees of less than a quorum of members. The change to 3 Council Members insures that all County business will be conducted in open public meetings. Increasing transparency in government is not “gutting the Charter.”
I would like to get good government back. Home Rule will work better if it does what it was designed to do; bring government closer to the people. In my opinion we need to end some of the experiments that were built into the Charter and get back to the structure that we know has worked in the past.
I hope the former Freeholders like Mr. Bodenstab, and Council Members will help us improve the Charter instead of trying to mislead the public with statements that do not accurately reflect what the CRC is doing. I hope you will attend a meeting in the future so you can see what is really going on. I welcome your advice.
(Note: these are my opinions only. I do not presume to speak for other members of the CRC.)
San Juan Island
(Mr. Petersen is the Chairman of the Charter Review Commission, and a writes a column for The Island Guardian. -Ed)
Wednesday, February 22nd
Board Grateful For Passage Of Lopez School District Bond
The Lopez Island School District was successful in its most recent request of Lopez voters for approval of a bond measure for $1 million.
The voters approved the request by an almost 75% preliminary count of votes. The ballot measure received a majority approval in each of the district’s three voting precincts, and easily met the required 60% overall approval required in Washington State for bond measures. While there may be last-minute ballots not yet received by the San Juan County Elections Office to count, district officials are confident that the officially certified election count on February 28 will confirm this solid approval of the district’s request.
The district will use the proceeds from the bond to pay off a line of credit it secured in the Fall of 2009 to fund an emergency replacement of the elementary fire sprinkler suppressant system when the original system failed. Fire department officials required the replacement in order for the elementary school to remain open.
The line of credit was also used to continue work on the district heating/ventilation/and air circulation system. The estimated cost to taxpayers of the Lopez School District will be $0.07 per thousand dollars of assessed property value, for an estimated fifteen year pay-off period. The district’s strong bond rating will enable it to take advantage of bond-sale interest rates estimated to be below 3%.
District officials are pleased to be able to secure these bond funds at this estimated low rate and thus demonstrate continued fiscal responsibility in its use of public monies.
“We are grateful for this strong support of the Lopez community”, said School Board Chair Diana Hancock. “We have been, and will continue to be diligent in our efforts to use taxpayer money wisely and efficiently in projects such as these and those of the future.”
Letter On Coal Terminals in our Backyard
To The Editor:
On Thursday, February 9, my husband and I went to a community meeting on the proposed sites for coal terminals in Washington and Oregon.
I haven’t seen much press about the proposal which surprises me. If the terminals that are proposed are approved, they will cause great harm to our environment, health, economy and well-being of Washingtonians and Oregonians.
The two largest coal companies, Arch Coal and Peabody, along with Australian-based Ambre Energy are working on very large coal export terminals so they can ship their coal to Asia. The proposed terminals would be located at:
Cherry Point, north of Bellingham, WA
Coos Bay, OR; and
St. Helens, OR
The strip mining begins in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana. The coal is strip-mined, polluting water and destroying rangeland and habitat; not to mention the dramatic increase of air pollution not only in the coal mines but in the local communities.
Then the coal is moved along rail lines to Washington and Oregon’s coast endangering every community along the way. It is estimated that 500 pounds of coal can be lost in the form of dust from each rail car en route. Incidentally, the trains are supposed to be 1 ½ miles long. Communities in and along rail lines and near the coal export terminals could see 20 or more coal trains through town every day. Coal dust from coal trains can cause serious long-term health problems like lung and heart disease and cancer. Toxic and heavy metals (mercury) would pollute our air and water. A single large coal plant can emit upwards of 10 million tons of climate pollution a year. The proposed site at Cherry Point would span 1200 acres, fill 131 acres of wetlands and sit directly on herring grounds, which is a primary food source for Chinook salmon. And what fish do our Orcas eat?
After the coal reaches the terminal, then it is loaded on what I am told the world’s largest ships which are the most accident prone. The ongoing threat to wetlands, waterways and wildlife from potential ship collisions is frightening. There will be an additional 400 plus ships per year taking 48 million tons of coal to Asia. The ships would clog the Straits of San Juan de Fuca and Georgia. With the addition of all these ships, many of the ships require that their ballast water be exchanged. Every day, the large quantities of ballast water from these ships will be discharged into our waters. Carried in this water are plants, animals, bacteria, and pathogens. These organisms range in size from microscopic to large plants and free-swimming fish. These organisms have the potential to become aquatic nuisance species (ANS). ANS may displace native species, degrade native habitats, spread disease, and disrupt human social and economic activities that depend on water resources. In addition, when these ships are in port, they are burning tons of diesel adding to the air pollution of the blowing coal dust.
This is a dirty fuel which will poison our air, water, fish and food supply! I don’t want this in our backyard, much less anywhere in our world, do you? You may as well kiss fishing goodbye, let alone being able to live and breathe.
For more information and to sign the petition for “No More Coal,” please go to www.powerpastcoal.org.
San Juan Island
Tuesday, February 14th
Councilman Peterson Responds To Guest Column
Response to Alex Macleod’s Guest Column.
Alex Macleod’s guest column expressing his continuing frustration with the County Council now blames the Charter for being partly at fault. I don’t disagree with all of his statements but believe he is way off base in blaming the Charter for various problems we are facing.
• It is his perception that we have been “meddling” with the Fair Board and the Ferry Advisory Committee. If true (and I disagree) it is a person problem, not a government organization problem.
• He takes the Council to task for our “endless dithering on solid waste,” “ultimately sent back to the voters to resolve.” The “dithering” originated decades ago with the Board of County Commissioners, who did not have a funding structure in place, bought expensive property, and allowed the destruction of the San Juan Island tipping floor roof, causing major compliance challenges.
It was appropriate to send the funding question to the voters. It is called a “Home Rule” Charter. The solid waste solution will be put in place this year.
• His criticism of our alleged failure to “attend in any meaningful way” to ferry service seems to blame the Charter for lack of ferry funding rather than the recession and Initiative 695 (which reduced ferry funding by 50%) passed 12 years ago.
I agree with some of his criticism of the CAO process and what he perceives to be the likely outcome, but if he has specific, focused suggestions on how we might be more effective, I’m sure they would be welcomed and considered.
It was the BOCC that approved our county’s entry into the Growth Management Act, which requires the CAO updates. Had they attended to the requirements on time, the updates would have been completed in 2005.
The CAO update is just one of many legacy problems left over from the BOCC that we have either completed or are well on our way under the Charter structure.
Blaming the Charter for his litany of complaints is misdirected. Ultimately, it is the people who are elected who will make a governance structure work (or not).
In my opinion, the Council is making steady progress in providing effective governance under trying economic conditions.
San Juan County Council Member, Second District, San Juan Island
Thursday, February 9th
--------------------------------------- Dehlendorf Apologizes, But Stands By His Other Facts
--------------------------------------- CAPR Demands Apology From The Friends of the FRIENDS
To the Editor:
I are writing in response to the letter below dated February 15 entitled "Friends or Foes" about the Dalton situation on Orcas Island.
Although the authors purport their letter to be a "response" to the letter I co-signed with three others on February 13, it is primarily the typical right-wing diatribe against Friends of the San Juans, an organization not even mentioned in our letter. Their "response" doesn't even address the main point of our letter, that the Freedom Foundation wrote a blatantly misleading and dishonest letter in the Island Guardian on February 9. It is curious that the authors completely ignored this point and never claimed that the Freedom Foundation's letter wasn't dishonest. It appears that they agree with us!
The dishonesty of the four authors is apparent at the start of the second paragraph of their letter. They state that they are "correcting misstatements and misrepresentations" in our letter, but they then attempt to illustrate our supposed transgressions by continuing with a rambling commentary about a neighbor of Mr. Dalton, Community Development & Planning, and Friends. But there couldn't possibly be a misstatement or misrepresentation here, because we never mentioned anything about the neighbor, CDP, or Friends in our letter. Logic101 taught me many things, one of which is that if you are going to accuse someone of a misstatement or misrepresentation, be sure first that there is an actual original related statement or representation to contest, both absent here.
I acknowledge and apologize for one error in our letter. Based upon an article in the online Journal of the San Juans that first appeared on February 10, we stated in our letter that the second wetland study cost $20,000 and was paid for by the Citizens Alliance for Property Rights. The latter is apparently not correct. According to the Journal, the source of this original statement on February 10 was Charles Dalton himself. But the Journal corrected this statement on February 14, which could not have been known to us when we submitted our letter. The Journal now reports online and in its print version that Mr. Dalton now says instead that the study "would have cost $20,000" and "was done at no charge" to him without mentioning CAPR. Our bad.
Readers may be interested in the information about SNR, the consultant that performed the second wetlands study, and its owner, in an article in the Whidbey News-Times on October 12, 2001. Here's the link: www.whidbeynewstimes.com/news/131552948.html. Readers can draw their own conclusions.
The authors also state "Mr. Dalton had attempted to obtain the necessary permits..." Strange that they fail to mention that his attempt to do so was only after he was caught breaking the law for not obtaining the required permits before starting construction. If he had done so, this whole dispute would have been avoided two years ago.
In response to a question in the letter below, Mindy Kayl was the source for our statement that the pond and ditch in the photo in the Freedom Foundation article are not in the disputed wetland. Ms.Kayl wrote the original report and delineated the wetland at issue.
I stand by all other facts and opinions stated in our letter of February 13. Moreover, I am both pleased and disappointed that the authors of the letter below agreed with us when they stated "Shouldn't property owners be held to the same standards, regardless of their relationships with interest groups?" This was one of the main points of our letter, so I am pleased they agree. But I am also disappointed that the four authors then hypocritically failed to go on to acknowledge that this standard applies to Mr. Dalton as well, instead only mentioning other property owners to which it should apply, which we completely agree with. So I don't know if they really get it. News for them: Mr. Dalton is one of the property owners to which this principle applies!
San Juan Island
--------------------------------------- "Friends"..or Foes?
To the Editor:
In response to a Letter to the Editor [subject letter is 3rd letter below -Ed] alleging that CAPR effectively paid a hydrogeologist to prepare a false wetlands evaluation for Mr. Dalton.
1.) CAPR did not contribute to the Dalton Wetland study.
2.) CAPR’s Mission Statement supports, “Environmental policies and regulations that are intellectually honest, fair, grounded in real science,……”
3.) CAPR sees the Friends of the San Juans’ actions in the Dalton case as unfair, dishonest, and not grounded in science.
4.) I have checked, and it appears that no one has contacted anyone in CAPR to check on the facts stated in the Letter to the Editor.
The choice to not call CAPR to check on the facts, and to try and give the indication that CAPR was trying to” buy” a wetland finding is dishonest, outrageous, insulting, and possibly libelous. The authors of this letter know CAPR San Juan is “LOCAL”.
The Friends of the San Juans has a history of suing other islanders based on misinformation. CAPR San Juan has a history of helping neighbors, and seeking truth.
I respectfully request a formal, published apology and correction from the authors of the erroneous letter: Loren Johnson, David Dehlendorf, Richard Hobbs, and Laura Jo Severson.
I respectfully request that the Friends of the San Juans support the position that a licensed hydro geologist should be used for preparing wetland studies. You cannot give the same weight to a report written by a person who only has a “wetland specialist certificate” obtained after a few hours of study, with the report of a licensed and accredited professional: a hydro geologist.
Most citizens could easily obtain a wetland specialist certificate. All sides should also be able to agree that the Department of Ecology (DOE) should be required to use a licensed hydro geologist for final wetland determinations, and that these individuals should be required to visit the site in question.
Frank M Penwell, President
CAPR San Juan
--------------------------------------- How About Freedom From Harassment?
To the Editor:
Friends or foes? We are writing in response to the letter to the editor in the Island Guardian on February 13 [subject letter is second letter below -Ed] from friends of the Friends of the San Juans -a powerful special-interest organization that gets more than 60% of its funding from out of County or out-of-state- and its campaign to prevent Charles Dalton, a working-class citizen on Orcas island, from obtaining “after-the-fact” permits for two modest buildings he has been building on his four-acre property on Orcas Island.
It is difficult to determine where to start correcting misstatements and misrepresentations in this letter. It may be the failure to mention that this campaign began when a important donor to the Friends, reportedly a retired financier from New York who owns many waterfront acres worth millions of dollars, and whose estate’s entry gate is opposite Mr. Dalton’s property, allegedly complained to the Executive Director of the Friends, Stephanie Buffum. Ms. Buffum proceeded to pepper the County’s planning and permit department with e-mails and phone calls demanding action--including the demolition of the small buildings--for more than a year. Ms. Buffum repeatedly traveled from Shaw to Orcas to take photos and report to CDPD, and communicated repeatedly with the State Department of Ecology and the Department of Fish & Wildlife, complaining about Mr. Dalton.
It is well established that the Friends routinely oppose applications of County residents for docks, yet this particular neighbor applied for and received permission from the County to build a very sizable dock on East Sound. Why do the Friends oppose most docks but not others? Why do the Friends oppose many construction projects but not others? Why do the Friends oppose most shoreline armoring but not all? Shouldn't property owners be held to the same standards, regardless of their relationships with interest groups. The law is supposed to be applied equally to everybody, not ignored whenever the Friends and its supporters find it convenient to do so. The actions of the Friends are blatantly unfair to the citizens of San Juan County who are not well connected.
Mr. Dalton had attempted to obtain the necessary permits, paying the fees and penalties required by the County. At some point, the County informed Mr. Dalton that he had a wetland on his property and required a wetland delineation and mitigation. Mr. Dalton retained two local “wetlands consultants” to do the work; one of these is listed as a consultant of the Friends on the Friends’ website. Neither of these consultants is licensed by the state. The consultants found a wetland and a stream, and developed a mitigation plan that Mr. Dalton would have to implement in order to obtain his permits.
Another whopper of a claim in the letter is the allegation that Mr. Dalton “hired a second consultant recommended by supporters of the Freedom Foundation which was paid $20,000 by the Citizens Alliance for Property Rights, another special interest group headquartered near Seattle.” Mr. Dalton did obtain a second report regarding the alleged wetland and stream on his property. This time, he retained a licensed hydrogeologist rather than a “wetland scientist.” Neither he, nor the Citizens Alliance for Property Rights -the County’s chapter located in Friday Harbor--paid anything for the second report. The licensed hydrogeologists who prepared the second report did not charge for the report because of the difficulty that Mr. Dalton had already experienced. Did any of the Friendly authors bother to check their facts?
It came as no surprise that the second study found neither wetland nor stream on Mr. Dalton’s property. No surprise because the County presumes that wetlands exist in much of the County and puts the burden on the owner to prove otherwise. The County accepted the hydrogeologist’s report and (reportedly) agreed to settle the case it had brought against Mr. Dalton. Later, the County reversed its position, reportedly relying on the Department of Ecology. DOE reportedly rejected the second report on the opinion of an unlicensed employee who views himself as the self-appointed wetlands guru for the County. Indeed, published newspaper reports suggest that this may be not be the first time that DOE has second-guessed a licensed geologist’s report, even admitting in one case that they had no site-specific knowledge of the property. Not that it’s important--it can only mean the difference between being able to build a home, or barn, or not.
To our knowledge, none of the signers of the letter have ever visited Mr. Dalton’s property, so we are unsure on what basis they allege that photos that were published earlier are “not even in the disputed wetland.” (There being no wetland, it actually follows that they are not.)
The writers of the letter attacking Mr. Dalton and the Freedom Foundation repeatedly complain of “outsiders” coming into our community, interfering in our local government, attempting to influence our public policies, and pitting neighbor against neighbor. This is bizarrely hypocritical of groups that not only accept but actively solicit grant funds and political influence from outside the County. The Friends and its friends actively encourage the interference of “outside organizations” like the Puget Sound Partnership and the Department of Ecology in our local government policymaking. Witness the recent machinations with the CAO wetlands proposal, withdrawn from the Planning Commission after testimony by the Friends complaining about the provisions written by the County’s own hired scientist, and then rewritten by a hand-picked committee including--surprise!--the Friends, the Friends’ wetlands consultant, and the Department of Ecology.
It is particularly outrageous for the friends of the Friends to be complaining of pitting neighbor against neighbor. It is the Friends who engage full-time staff to pursue legal action and lobby government agencies against County citizens. Harkening back to what we heard frequently during the guesthouse fiasco, with “friends” like these, who needs enemies?
Peg Manning, Orcas
Ed Kilduff, Lopez
Bob Levinson, San Juan
Minnie Kynch, San Juan
--------------------------------------- Response To The Response To The Friends Response
To the Editor:
It is ironic that the letter that begins with "Freedom or falsehood?" [subject letter follows this letter -Ed] has both freedom and falsehood in play, not by those who have highlighted the dangerously out of control situation developing for the rights and freedoms of citizens in San Juan County, but with the actions by the Friends of the San Juan’s.
It is this group that has turned a small permitting issue into a much bigger community issue. The controversy highlights the questionable interplay between the Friends and both state and local officials.
Should citizens have freedom from the harassment by the Friends that has become their standard operating procedure? Most would answer yes. Many citizens don’t appreciate the Friend’s incessant intrusion into the land rule process in San Juan County. Ask any of the dozens of folks who have had to contend with the Friends baseless objections when a shoreline permit is approved by the County. Often the owner has to hire expensive lawyers to defend approval for a use that is clearly allowed under the law.
Should citizens have freedom from bullying by the Friends that includes trespassing on property, filing of false claims, working behind the scenes to influence regulators, and sending blizzards of e-mails against a property owner? Ask the property owners who have been subject of the Friend’s special attention.
Should citizens have freedom from vigilante actions by the Friends seeking to intimidate private citizens? Most citizens won’t tolerate threats by bullies and are speaking up.
As to falsehood, the record is clear. The Friend’s claim that there is a fish-bearing stream at issue is false. So is the accusation the owner was building a greenhouse. If accredited and licensed scientists are listened to, the claim about wetlands will continue to prove false as well.
The property owner has acknowledged there are permitting issues. Citizens who are not experienced in the twists and turns of county permitting often have a difficult time dealing with county demands, even in the best of circumstances. Unfortunately, San Juan County is no longer a place where young people starting out get much guidance from the County.
The owners subject to the current controversy have spent thousands of dollars trying to resolve County permit issues only to have the Friends influence in the planning department keep the issues unresolved. The property owner may not have understood or followed all the County’s mess of rules, but is willing to reach a reasonable settlement. Settlement is not what the Friends want.
The Friends lobbying agenda, advocating for over-the-top land use restrictions in the Critical Areas Ordinance; the Shoreline Master Program Ordinance;stumping for a draconian code enforcement ordinance, and their vigilante bullying of property owners is wearing very thin with many islanders.
The Friends of the San Juan's organization was started decades ago to support good community planning. The organization has morphed into a radical environmental group that many citizens find out of place in San Juan County.
--------------------------------------- Response To Friends Response
To the Editor:
Freedom or Falsehood? We are writing in response to the dishonest letter to the editor in the Island Guardian on February 9 [subject letter posted below this letter -Ed] about the Charles Dalton situation written by Scott Roberts, a representative of the Freedom Foundation, a powerful special-interest organization headquartered in Olympia. Mr. Dalton is the co-owner of a 4-acre property on Orcas Island.
The most blatant dishonesty is the failure of Mr. Roberts to mention the underlying issue in this situation, that a house, studio, and barn were all built illegally on Mr. Dalton's property without the required permits. Mr. Dalton has acknowledged this fact, but Mr. Roberts doesn't mention it in his letter. His failure to do so is not only dishonest, but also shows that the Freedom Foundation apparently does not fully support the rule of law in our county.
If only Mr. Dalton had obtained the necessary permits, this whole dispute would never have happened. Does the Freedom Foundation believe in personal responsibility? Apparently not.
Why does the Freedom Foundation believe that Mr. Dalton should receive special treatment over his failure to obtain the necessary permits? Shouldn't Mr. Dalton be held accountable to the same standard as any other property owner doing construction on his/her property? The law is supposed to be applied equally to everybody, not ignored whenever the Freedom Foundation and its supporters find it convenient to do so. Its position is blatantly unfair to the law abiding citizens of San Juan County.
A secondary issue in this case is whether or not the unpermitted structures were built within a wetland, stream, or their buffers. Mr. Roberts refers to only one wetland study that he claims proves there is no wetland on the property. He deceptively ignores the fact that there was a prior study that determined that there is a wetland on the property, that one of the structures was built within the wetland, and then recommended a relatively simple mitigation plan that would have solved the problem a year ago. But rather than working with this first report, the owner hired a second consultant recommended by supporters of the Freedom Foundation which was paid $20,000 by the Citizens Alliance for Property Rights, another special interest group headquartered near Seattle.
Surprise! This second study said there is no wetland on the property. To resolve the discrepancy with the first study, Community Development & Planning asked the Department of Ecology to determine the credibility of the two reports. The DOE rejected the second report,
which Mr. Roberts also ignored in his letter.
This money would have paid many times over for the mitigation work recommended by the first consultant. This raises the question of whether the Freedom Foundation and the Citizen Alliance For Property Rights were really working to help Mr. Dalton, or were just using him as a pawn for their own agenda?
But wait, it gets even better! In a separate article on February 8 in the Island Guardian, the Freedom Foundation deceptively presented a photo of a ditch and a pond on Mr. Dalton's property in an attempt to support its argument that there is no wetland. But the ditch and pond are not even in the disputed wetland that is the subject of both studies!
If outsiders are going to come into our community, criticize our local public and private institutions, attempt to influence our public policies, and pit neighbor against neighbor, is it too much to ask that they be honest about it?
Laura Jo Severson
San Juan Island
--------------------------------------- Why The Friends Became Involved In Dalton Issue
To the Editor:
Donors of the “Friends” of the San Juans are contributing -at least partially- to a powerful special interest group that pits neighbors against neighbors in the San Juan Islands. It sounds frighteningly like the secret police -where people were coerced into turning on their neighbors for some radical ideological purpose- but that’s exactly what is happening on Orcas Island.
Charles Dalton, a small organic farmer on Orcas Island has recently felt the effects that the powerful “friends” have. Stephanie Buffum has filed multiple complaints against Charles Dalton for what the “friends” say is construction and building “near a wetland or a stream”. But the “friends” don’t bother to do any real investigation or find out the truth of the matter, instead, they spy on neighbors, take photos, and file complaints. Charles Dalton has hired a professional Hydrogeologist and Engineering Geologist that says there are no streams or wetlands on his property -it is merely agricultural drainage ditches.
The “friends”, however, don’t let the real facts get in thier way. They use their “expertise” to help people file complaints against their neighbors, even if the complaints are untruthful. Charles Dalton said, “The head of the Friends of the San Juans name is Stephanie Buffum and she’s come to my property and she’s taken photos over and over and reported over 50 times to the county ... some of them are outright untruths.”
The “friends” response letter states that, “Since 1979, Friends has been providing science, education, law and citizen action to preserve the land, water, sea and livability of the San Juans.” and “A majority of Friends staff time is devoted to science, research, restoration programs, education, land use policy and planning.”
Now the “friends” can add “neighborhood spy” and “professional harassers” to the list of their qualifications.
Charles Dalton would like everyone to know that, “The friends have been very unfriendly to me.”
Citizen Action Network Director
To the Editor:
Recently a video was posted on you tube and has spread throughout our community. This memo provides background information about why Friends of the San Juans got involved in this issue over two years ago.
Friends of the San Juan receives 10-20 calls from concerned islanders annually with questions about environmental violations. Often these citizens have no experience with County government or the process to file a code enforcement complaint. Some of these calls result in filing formal code complaints with the San Juan County Code Enforcement Officer who is the only person in the county charged with the task of investigating land use violations. On Thursday, January 21, 2010 Stephanie Buffum Field, Executive Director of the Friends, filed a land use complaint with the SJC Code Enforcement Officer, Allen Shayo for tax parcel 273522005000, a 3.9964 acre parcel owned by Charles Dalton. This complaint was filed after calls were made complaining about the construction of a fresh-water well in a stream, muddy water entering into the bay in East Sound, concerns regarding road construction over a stream, and the building of three structures near a wetland or a stream. At this point, SJC Code Enforcement began their investigation.
Why Did Friends ask the County to enforce its Code against Unpermitted Development?
For Fairness. We believe that all property owners should play by the same rules with the same expectations.
To Protect Property, Clean Water and Wetland habitat for Island Neighbors, Fish and Wildlife. Wetlands provide many benefits to society such as fish and wildlife habitats, natural water quality improvement, flood storage, shoreline erosion protection, opportunities for recreation and aesthetic appreciation, and natural products for our use at little or no cost. Protecting wetlands can, in turn, protect our health and safety by reducing flood damage and preserving water quality. The stream in question continues on to other properties. Activities that happen upstream, including diverting water or changing sediment patterns, can cause harmful impacts to neighbors and critters downstream. The Wild Fish Conservancy found fish downstream on the adjacent property.
To Support Building in the Right Place, With Proper Review. After the County contacted the landowners about the unpermitted buildings, the landowners initially hired a local wetland expert to help determine if there were any wetlands on the property. The local consultant found that a building had been constructed within both a wetland buffer and a stream zone. The consultant proposed some after-the-fact compensatory mitigation. The landowners later hired a consultant from off island who reached different conclusions than the initial consultant. These reports were contradictory so the county, in the absence of in house expertise, requested the Department of Ecology (DOE) to evaluate both reports. The DOE wetland experts did not agree with the findings from the second wetlands report. Last October, the Whidbey News-Times wrote an article about other wetland work by the second consultant: http://www.whidbeynewstimes.com/news/131552948.html.
WHAT THIS IS NOT ABOUT:
Despite the title of the video, “San Juan County regulations are not friendly towards a small organic farmer”, this issue is not about farming.
Friends believes that we can protect the environment and support local farming. We are working with farmers to make this a reality. You can review Friends’ newsletters and read about our actions to preserve farmland. For example, in 2010, Friends challenged a County ordinance that would have exempted most County development from protecting agricultural lands. We also advocate against the conversion of agricultural resource lands to other uses.
Charles Dalton’s restaurant supports local producers and his restaurant business practices are to be commended. But this is not about any of that…this is about following the rules and getting construction permits before developing.
One of the primary people interviewed in this video works for the Freedom Foundation, an Olympia based organization with 24 staff and a mission “To advance individual liberty, free enterprise, and limited, accountable government.”
[ Dalton Issue ">link]
Sunday, February 5th
Replace Capital Punishment With Life Without Parole
The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington (ACLU) and the Washington Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty are leading the “Safe and Just Alternatives” (SJA) campaign in support of House bill HB 2468 and Senate bill SB 6283. The objectives of these bills are to eliminate capital punishment (the death penalty) in Washington State in favor of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. If approved, Washington will join 16 other states that have repealed the death penalty, including four states since 2007, and Oregon whose governor has declared a moratorium.
There are compelling reasons to eliminate capital punishment. The most obvious is for each one of us to answer the question whether state-sponsored killing of a human is both moral and serves justice. Even if one concludes yes to this question, we must accept that the criminal justice system is fallible and there is the possibility that an innocent person has been executed in the past, and/or may be executed in the future. To date, more than 130 men and women have been released from prison and/or death row due to a wrongful conviction since capital punishment was reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1977. Life without parole is a severe punishment, but, in contrast to execution, does allow for mistakes to be corrected.
There is also convincing evidence that capital punishment is discriminatory and is used disproportionately against the poor, minorities and members of racial communities. Further, the evidence supports the conclusion that capital punishment does not deter crime. The Southern states have approximately 50% of the prisoners awaiting execution, approximately 80% of the executions in the United States, and the highest regional murder rate. In addition, the cost to Washington State of a death penalty case, because a life is at stake, far exceeds a sentence of life without parole.
We urge your readers to contact Representative Jeff Morris at 436A Legislative Building, PO Box 40600, Olympia, Wa. 98504-0600 (360-786-7970) and Senator Kevin Ranker at 215 John A. Cherberg Building, PO Box 40440. Olympia, Wa. 98504-0440 (360-786-7678). Urge them to support HB 2468 and SB 6283, respectively.
San Juan Island Chapter
ACLU of Washington
Friday Harbor, Washington