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Tuesday, July 20th

Letter On SJI Transfer Station Gate Fee


An Open Letter to San Juan County Council Members:

I understand that the Council is considering a new $3 "gate fee" on all disposal services at County transfer stations that are currently free of any charge.

I strongly object to the possibility that this fee would be applied to litter collected by the approximately 200 volunteers on San Juan Island who currently collect litter on our roads, beaches and at the County's three day parks.

To charge a fee on collected litter would be both absurd and a slap in the face to the efforts of citizens who help keep our island clean and liveable at no cost to the County. Do you really want to be responsible for discouraging volunteers who offer their free services to the County at this time of its financial distress? Do you really believe there should be a charge for volunteering?

David Dehlendorf
Co-Founder of Trash Masters
Volunteer at Reuben Tarte County Park

[link]


Monday, July 19th

LETTERS ON FREE SPEECH


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Read The State Constitution
To the editor:

The exchange of letters between Kit Rawson and Jim Slocomb and Peg Manning [posted below -Ed] tells me nothing useful about whether County employees are biased (though if one merely checks the definition of biased in a dictionary it would be astonishing to find that they weren't in some manner biased), but it tells me a lot about the danger free speech faces in our community.

Tim Blanchard and Peg Manning apparently believe that free speech allows them to say whatever they want to, whether polite or not. And in fact, as long as they are willing to be accountable for their words, that's precisely what the Washington State constitution provides.

Specifically, Section 5 of our State Constitution provides explicitly that "Every person may freely speak, write, and publish on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right."

Rawson and Slocmb, on the other hand, in stating that "We hope that both leaders and citizens in the county will make it clear that divisive rhetoric will no longer be tolerated" deny the rights granted by the State Constitution, and substitute the proposition that only speech which they consider non-divisive will be tolerated. (Clearly, had they been around in 1776 they would have excoriated the signers of the Declaration of Independence; one can hardly imagine a more divisive personal attack on a government official.)

Messers Rawson and Slocomb are, of course, free to say whatever they want to about what Rawson, Manning, or this writer say (recognizing that if what they say is defamatory they may be held to account for it), but when they try to limit the right of anybody to speak freely, whether politely or not, they seek the very, very dangerous course of substituting their definition of appropriate speech for the fundamental right expressly granted by our state Constitution. This cannot, this must not, be permitted.

Nat Hentoff wrote a superb book, Free Speech for Me but Not for Thee." Our library does not have a copy of it, but I'm sure they can get it on inter-libray loan. I strongly recommend that Messers Rawson and Slocomb read and study it with due care.

Christopher Hodgkin
Friday Harbor
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Rawson & Slocomb Respond To Manning Letter

To the editor:

In response to Peg Manning’s letter (see below), we reiterate our characterization of Tim Blanchard’s premise that CDPD employees are biased and act with predisposition as a personal attack. He offered this premise without proof, and, his statement itself is proof of his own bias and predisposition. Of course he has the right to make those statements, but we, and community leaders, have the obligation to demand accountability for them.

Ms. Manning’s whining about nonexistent complaints and imaginary “kitchen cabinets” proves nothing. We would rather spend time constructively debating substantive issues with Mr. Blanchard, Ms. Manning, and others than to spend time on this. But, when dedicated, honest, and competent people are attacked, we will continue to step up and defend them.

Kit Rawson
Mainland

Jim Slocomb
San Juan Island
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Letter On: Money Is A "Resource" For Government


Dear Editor:

A citizen and taxpayer just published an interesting guest editorial in the Island Guardian about the attitude of a County Councilmember regarding taxes, one that aptly used a royal Shakespearean play to put her opinion into context. Brace yourself for a wave of letters decrying "personal attacks" !

Certain members of the Council and the County staff, as well as the County's "kitchen cabinet" of interest groups and overpaid consultants, somehow perceive complaints about the performance of their duties under the law as "personal," because, well, they are the ones being taken to task for not performing their duties.

The same group thinks nothing of a County employee engaging in what appears, to this lawyer, to be defamation per se against a citizen who made the mistake of commenting on issues of concern to many people in the County during a County Council meeting. (Related Story) And the same group keeps mumbling that "some people" support their pet projects and positions but are fearful of showing up to comment because they are "intimidated" by these pesky citizens and citizen groups.

The literary work that springs to my mind most readily in this regard is Alice in Wonderland. From the guesthouse controversy (during which property owners were characterized as selfish for wanting a guesthouse for family or friends), to the burgeoning County budget, to the solid waste debacle (no new Imperial Solid Waste Facility? then off with your heads, we'll close the dump) to the Critical Areas Ordinance (oops, we forgot to identify a problem) to the Land Bank's commitment of $400,000 to preserve the "historic" brickworks (WHICH historic brickworks, you ask? Exactly.) to backroom deals and unannounced "legislative priorities" to ANOTHER round of increased taxes--really?? Despite the best efforts of a clear-eyed, principled few, I look at the County and ask, when will we awaken from this bad dream?

Peg Manning
Orcas
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Divisive Rhetoric Will Not Be Tolerated.

To the editor:

Recently you reported on an interchange between a county employee and a citizen commenter at a Council meeting ("Planner Blasts Public Access Speaker").

It was clear to us that the citizen's comment was in fact accusatory and not constructive. To assert that CDPD employees are biased and act under predisposition proves nothing about CDPD employees, but it demonstrates by example those exact qualities in the accuser.

We commend the employee who stood up for the value of civil discourse and the two Council members who stood up for her. We urge others in the community to take a public stand against divisive rhetoric and for constructive discussion of important issues. It is indeed possible to "disagree without being disagreeable."

We hope that both leaders and citizens in the county will make it clear that divisive rhetoric will no longer be tolerated.

Kit Rawson
Mainland

Jim Slocomb
San Juan Island

[link]


Saturday, July 3rd

Encourage, Don't Discourage Businesses In SJC


Milene Henley's recommendations to the County Council, ( Related Story ) discussed in your 6/30 edition, ignore perhaps the best long term solution to the County's budget problem. It's simply to make the County more friendly to non-tourist businesses and encourage those businesses to start up or move here.

It's a staple of government that businesses generate more tax dollars than residents do. But anyone who has tried to set up a stable year-round non-retail business in San Juan County finds it difficult at best.

When I was a member of the EDC some years ago, a company was interested in setting up a small bicycle brake manufacturing business in the islands. This would have been a non-polluting source of year round jobs paying decent wages. But there was virtually nowhere under the Comprehensive Plan where such a business could be set up. Rather than fight the bureaucracy, the company took its small factory, and its jobs and tax dollars, elsewhere.

Some years ago, we were fortunate to have the Luxel corporation move its manufacturing operations, with its jobs and tax revenues, to San Juan Island. If a similar company were to try to locate here today, however, it is far from likely that they would be able to do so.

Cutting government costs and raising taxes seem to be the only options that our County thinks are possible ways to address its financial problems. And that's too bad for both government and residents.

Christopher Hodgkin
San Juan Island

[link]


Friday, July 2nd

Extreme Dissatisfaction With Dump Operation


To the Editor:

I write to express my with the inefficient operation of our dump. We pay the highest dump rates in the state for a Public Works department that provides the worst service in the state. There are long lines the 3 days the dump is open to the public, yet no lines the days the dump is open to commercial vendors.

The county charges the public about $240 a ton, but their costs are only about $90 to dispose of the trash. With these margins, the county should be able to operate the dump more than 3 days a week. The question is: why is the county doing this to its taxpayers? It is trying to force citizens to open their arms to mandatory pickup? Or, are county officials simply incompetent or mishandling Public Works funds? I think the public deserves a formal audit of the operation.

Public Works and the county have been on a spending spree the last few years. They bought a contaminated site for more than the appraised value, and then spent $3 million to build a pier on Orcas. They probably paid more for the pier than it was worth, and for what reason? We, the citizens, are the ones who suffer in the end.

It is time to privatize the dump and put it out to bid to local contractors. A private company would be able to run the facility more efficiently, and provide better service and additional tax revenue for the County. Maybe we should think about privatizing the entire Public Works Department and other county operations as well.

I would like to add that the workers at the dump did a great job in handling up to 200 vehicles the last two Sundays. They handled the traffic the best they could, and kept a good disposition considering the long lines and tough conditions they regularly face.

Bob Levinson
San Juan Island

[link]


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