Letters to Editor
To Contact the Editor
Friday, October 31st
LETTERS ON SJI TRANSFER STATION
To the Editor:
When I was a reporter, savoring a good story or a scoop, we would always answer praise modestly, saying we were just doing what we were paid to do. We also knew that the paper would be used to wrap fish or be on the bottom of a parrot cage the next day, and that very few would recall the effort.
One thing I learned in covering the news decades ago is that stress reveals character. On this island, we have two organizations practicing this new and undefined form of journalism, the online publication. By comparing what you choose to print, it is indisputable that one has proven to be a shill. One practices the ethics and methods of good print and broadcast journalism dating back hundreds of years. By my conversations with citizens, that is being noticed.
You may hear me say this in a more public forum. The failure to ask these three questions, Is it true? Is it legal? Is it just? leads to blunders, waste, and sometimes tragedy. ..all easily preventable....but that may be one definition of tragedy.
Those questions, drilled into every reporter's head by teachers, editors, and publishers to prevent libel and the loss of the news organ, are also the founding rock of all political decision. We are seeing the fall out of a cynical campaign to prevent those questions from being asked and answered. Do you think there are $4 million dollars of public funds on the table right now, with much more pending?
Thanks for doing your job like a pro. Sometimes what reporters get instead of a good salary is the power and opportunity to right a wrong.
San Juan Island
---------------------------------------Need Long Term Solution
To the Editor:
I’m sure we all can agree to use common sense on selecting a site for a long-term solution to San Juan Island’s Solid Waste needs, and so to use tax-payers money wisely. It’s just not logical to spend much money on a temporary solution, when there are better alternatives.
At a recent meeting between the County Council, Public Works and the DOE, it was suggested by a councilman that an interim solution to our solid waste needs would be to bring the current site into compliance with DOE and then incorporate those improvements as part of the final transfer station. This clearly would be a waste of money.
You cannot operate the current facility and build a new transfer station at the same time in the same place. After great expense to bring the worn out infrastructure into compliance, you would have to shut it down and tear most of it down while you built the new facility. In the meantime there would need to be another interim solution.
The entire site needs to be reconfigured. The current site is constrained by landfills and monitoring wells and there is inadequate queuing room for traffic. To build a full facility, most likely will involve having to use the land where the current site is located and more rocky property down slope.
An interim structure over the tipping floor will not be adequate for reuse in the final design because A. the current size of the tipping floor is inadequate B. The tipping floor will be in another location. C. plans state that the structure will be fully enclosed.
In addition, bringing the site into compliance for a temporary solution will increase waiting times as new safety standards will need to be adhered to. Functionality will be decreased, noise issues will not be addressed, nor will vectors, you will have achieved none of your long-term goals.
On another site you can begin construction of a fully compliant, environmentally sound transfer station as soon as funding is available. You can continue to run the Sutton Rd. site as a drop box facility without spending a lot of money there. A small county-wide parcel tax to pay for infrastructure, is the realistic way to raise capitol to pay for a bond. Trying to fund what we need with tipping fees alone is why the system is currently broken.
To date, analysis shows the Sutton site is replete with problems. It’s virtually a certainty that more problems will be discovered.
Hillview Terrace III Homeowners Association
---------------------------------------Move The Dump Somewhere Else
To the Editor:
The Hillview Terrace neighborhood has become a living example of Dr. Seuss’ “Horton Hears a Who”. As we sit atop Friday Harbor, yelling silently that the Sutton Road transfer site is deeply affecting us and is profoundly flawed. We are unable to compete with the politician’s jockeying for office and bias SWAC members sacrificing our neighborhood and the future of the island for their special interests. Our voices have been soft and civilized, we have amassed facts, attended years of meetings and engaged in investigative dialogs. Yet, this important decision seems to be falling into the hands of political pressure and what may appear to be an expedite decision, violates and demeans the inevitable growth on this island.
What was started as an important educated process in the SWAC meetings, regarding finding an appropriate, safe future oriented site has become a coliseum battleground. Mary WilAllen’s letter factually describes the serious flaws regarding the current Sutton Road site. These include enormous increase in noise; storm water run off being unattended to and does not meet state requirements, trees are dying at an alarming rate opening large vistas to the transfer site. The site is too small and the parcels available to expand the site are zoned agricultural and would need to be changed, which would then set an uncomfortable precedent of vulnerability for agricultural lands and future zoning. We have a land fill that has not been properly attended too. The unknowns of this land fill and the future handling of this land fill alone; make continuing the Sutton Road site untenable at best. .
But for politicians and members of the community to say Hillview Terrace neighborhood is “fine” with the Sutton Road site staying where it is and we’re not affected by it, is a complete blindness to our existence and we are not fine with it. We just haven’t threatened to sue or storm around in public, lying about issues to get elected to office or bad mouth people. So it appears that if you choose to behave civilly, you don’t exist. Unfortunately the bottom line to the outcome of where a transfer station should be located and how it will affect the future generation of this island at which point the short sited people making this decision will not be around to be accountable for their personal agendas. Discussions in the last meeting of individuals with private agendas of “not in our back yard” does not make it right to leave it in ours. I am willing to be the “Horton” of this island and I hear the cries of the Hillview Terrace neighborhood and “WE ARE HERE, WE ARE HERE, WE ARE HERE”.
Hillview Terrace Resident
Tuesday, October 28th
LETTERS ON DESTRUCTION OF SIGNS
---------------------------------------Democrats Are Appalled
To the Editor:
The county Democrats were appalled to learn of the destruction of
Republican yard signs at the Thorndike property on Cattle Point Road.
We absolutely condemn this sort of behavior, this lack of respect for
the important right of free speech, and we extend apologies to the
Thorndikes although obviously we don't know who might be responsible
for this destruction.
In general this year, we have been pleased with the lack of such
behavior, although a few of our signs have also been torn down and/or
removed. There are always a few yahoos who don't grasp the concept of
civility and respect.
One of our Obama signs, incidentally, was removed by Mona the camel
reaching over the fence and plucking it out of its stand. We don't hold
it against her because she never had an opportunity to study civics in
school -- but we utterly condemn the human beings who do such things.
Vice Chair, SJC Democrats
San Juan Island
Monday, October 27th
Point and Counter Point: Self-Haul Garbage
---------------------------------------Self-Haulers: Beware of Gordy Petersen’s Proposal to Make Do with the Present Transfer Station by Increasing Self-Hauling Rates
To the Editor:
In a recent column ("Reasonable Alternatives"
) Gordy Petersen wrote that “if we cut traffic in half the need for a new facility goes away” and that “traffic volumes could be reduced tomorrow ... if curbside service was promoted and there were better incentives to use it,” among other things. This statement should seriously concern the high proportion of transfer station users who for various good reasons strongly prefer self-hauling over curbside service.
In a meeting with a group of homeowners Mr. Petersen explained that “better incentives” meant, not making curbside service mandatory, but instead charging the private firm that provides it below-cost rates at the transfer station with the expectation that it in turn would pass the savings on to its customers, and paying for these below-cost rates by charging the self-haulers above-cost rates. Thus, the carrot would be cheaper curbside service and the stick would be costlier self-hauling.
This scheme might as well be mandatory curbside service. In order to maintain the low cost of curbside service when the number of self-haulers significantly diminishes, as Mr. Petersen intends, the self-hauling rate would have to increase astronomically, and ultimately the cheaper prices that helped convert self-haulers to curbside service would have to be raised. In other words, the scheme is actually a scam.
Nor will cutting traffic in half make the need for a new facility go away, whether or not at the present Sutton Road site. Not only a new recycling facility and a composting area are required, which are the other things cited by Mr. Petersen, but also, to comply with State law, a roof over the tipping floor and structures for controlling runoff.
Enlarging the tipping floor to fit the semitrailer bins and pulling rather than backing the bins into position, as the County desires, is not building “the Rolls Royce of new Solid Waste Facilities,” as Mr. Petersen put it. Rather, they would significantly increase handling capacity and reduce operating expense over the long term.
San Juan Island
--------------------------------------- Gordy Petersen’s Response
I would like to take the opportunity to comment on some statements in the letter by Mr. Shreve. We could have saved several million if we had a community dialogue on this topic a few years ago.
There is already a disparity in the rates that the County charges for solid waste. Here are the facts and I will stand behind them. Self-haul rates are presently set at $278.00 per ton. Cost to the contract hauler for the County is set at $190.00 per ton, and the Town of Friday Harbor is somewhat less (some misc. taxes may apply). Today on San Juan Island it costs about a dollar more per can to self-haul than it costs to have it picked up at your house. I have stated that this incentive can be increased. I stand by that statement.
Mr. Shreve makes the following assertion without any reasons to back it up:
“In order to maintain the low cost of curbside service when the number of self-haulers significantly diminishes, the self-hauling rate would have to increase astronomically, and ultimately the cheaper prices that helped convert self-haulers to curbside service would have to be raised.”
This is simply not true. As the number of curbside customers increases the need for spending millions on a new transfer station facility will actually decrease. Here’s why.
One garbage truck can compact and carry the trash from 200-250 homes. If you take away this many trips per day from the existing site we won’t need a new transfer station. The old one will do just fine. The hours of operation at the existing facility would go down to a minimum. The need to staff and maintain the facility will be greatly diminished. Traffic and safety problems will decrease or become insignificant. Carbon footprints will be reduced and the environment will be protected from the impacts of another toxic dumpsite. The only reason self-haul rates could “increase astronomically” is if we spend another 6-7 million on a new facility (primarily for self-haulers) and the Town removes their cash flow contribution from the operation.
Economies of scale for the contract hauler will mean that existing routes will be more efficient. Trucks already run regular schedules and if more customers use the service the fixed costs will remain constant or increase slightly but will actually reduce the cost of service. Rates would not have to increase to serve more customers. This increase in service will also have the side benefit of reducing the need to self-haul recyclables. This service could easily be added if curbside service is expanded.
The Washington State Utilities Commission governs garbage rates. A contractor can’t arbitrarily raise rates. The oversight of this Commission and their audits are very strict. The justification for any increase must be well documented in a public process and it is unlikely that the service fees will increase.
As far as I know the County is not required to provide a “composting area”. It would be much more efficient and cost effective for the County to provide composting bins and teach people how to use them at home for yard waste and kitchen scraps. If we used the money we have already spent studying the “relocation” of the dump on home composting techniques we could buy everyone a gold-plated bin and by now we could have produced hundreds of yards of productive soil.
I agree that the tipping floor needs a cover. It should have been repaired or rebuilt instead of torn down. The decision to tear it down and not replace it immediately was wrong.
Finally, I used the term “Rolls Royce of solid waste facilities”. I admit that this description was incorrect. At the last SWAC meeting it became clear that we are planning the “Sistine Chapel” of trash handling facilities. This is the new preferred language.
Wednesday, October 22nd
Gann, Turnbull & Guard Come Together For Petersen
As you're aware, the United States is entering a time of serious financial trouble. We won't be immune to its effects in San Juan County. It's vital that the members of our Council have the skills and experience to help bring us through the next four years as painlessly as possible.
This isn't a time to turn to a candidate whose only experience lies in the non-profit world of grants and special interests.
We need a leader with significant practical experience in business, and in dealing with financing, taxes, budgets, banks, insurance companies, and all the rest.
That's why we're putting aside our political differences to support Gordy Petersen. In this time of declining revenues and financial difficulty, we believe that Gordy is the best candidate for County Council.
Dodie Gann Tireless community volunteer
Kathy Turnbull SJC Treasurer 12 years
Lisa Guard 6th Generation Islander
Thursday, October 16th
LETTERS ON NOXIOUS WEEDS
---------------------------------------Taxes Are Popping Up Like Weeds
To the Editor:
After attending Tuesday's (Council) meeting and observing the discussion regarding the Weed Tax. I was impressed with Mr Petersen's reference to the Comprehensive Plan, and to paraphrase, "that the County adhere to the spirit of the Comprehensive Plan, i.e., that citizens should be engaged, in enforcing and assisting their neighbors in administering the law (and in this case weed control)."
His suggestion would cost little more than perhaps a media campaign using our - newspapers, etc., to enlist each of us citizens who would benefit directly to do the right thing.
How about employing our kids - LEOS, Boy Scouts, etc? This effort would make for great after school and summer projects that do considerable good for the community.
Let's think about how we can do more with less. No more new taxes, please.
San Juan Island
---------------------------------------We May Reap More Than Weeds
Dear County Council,
To paraphrase the famous quote, " one man's weed may be another's flowers." I am very concerned that when we interfere with nature by declaring one thing good and another bad we reap the law of
unintended consequences. The San Juan's have managed to do just fine for eons without the State or County controlling weeds. We don't need further intrusion into our already overtaxed lives.
Wednesday, October 1st
Letters About Crumb Rubber
Clarifications About The School Board’s Decision on Crumb Rubber
(Ed Note: The following letters are related to a news Story and a resulting Guest Editorial )
Crumb Rubber Ia Not ADA Compliant
To the Editor:
Recent letters to the editor and an article in the Journal have not accurately described the School District and Board of Director’s position and decisions regarding the “crumb rubber” underlayment for the new playground equipment at the elementary school. Shared by everyone is the commitment and care to provide safe and healthy environments for children.
The crumb rubber underlayment was selected by the PTA and former Principal Jody Metzger due to its highly rated properties of “fall protection” for our students. Crumb rubber has been used widely for many years in the U.S. and throughout the world in artificial turf fields and playgrounds. Studies of playground injuries indicate that 80% of injuries result from falls causing bruises and fractures, and infrequently brain injury and death. Studies of the “fall protection” properties of underlayment conclude that crumb rubber provides twice the safety of the other commonly used underlayment, engineered wood fibers. Crumb rubber was selected because it provided superior safety at slightly higher cost than other options. And, as one parent noted, “the kids now bounce when they fall.”
Surprising to all was the odor coming from the playground after the crumb rubber was installed which some called offensive. Though the smell has dissipated a few have claimed it causes respiratory irritation, and this has led to concerns about possible toxicity of the recycled tire material. Toxicity studies reviewed by the District stated that there was no proof of harmful health effects. The New Jersey Department of Health reports, “available evidence suggests that there are no acute health risks, and that risks due to chronic and repeated exposure are unlikely.” Washington State and San Juan County Health Departments, as well as the District’s insurance carrier, report no ill health effects associated with crumb rubber, and continue to recommend its use. However, most studies recommend additional research to determine any potential for long term health effects including effects of trace level elements for which little data are available.
On September 24th, the school board was faced with a challenging dilemma. Would it make sense to replace the crumb rubber which is known to provide superior “fall protection” with the next best product that provides half of the safety? Would it be responsible to knowingly reduce the margin of safety for children by 50%, due to the currently unknown and “unlikely” potential for health risks which require further study? Recognizing that any underlayment product has potential disadvantages, and considering the guidance given above, the Board voted unanimously to retain the crumb rubber as the best known protection for our students. Further, the Board directed the administration to ensure that the depth of the underlayment is properly maintained, and to add access for disabled students to meet ADA compliance.
At this point the Board has found no compelling evidence or reasons to replace the “crumb rubber” with a product providing significantly less “fall protection.” However, the Board remains open to receiving additional input and research that could inform new decisions in the future, and will review its decision at the end of the school year.
We are grateful for the service and the commitment of the PTA to provide this wonderful structure for our children. We all have the welfare of our students as the highest priority. Our strength as a community is demonstrated by our ability to work cooperatively together in service to our children. Our opportunity is to demonstrate respectful and thoughtful dialog as we work through complex issues together.
Boyd Pratt, School Board Chair
Michael Soltman, Superintendent
Only Part Of The Story
To the Editor:
Recently, the San Juan Island School District released a press statement indicating that the Crumb Rubber would remain on the FHES Playground. In that statement, the district said "the District's legal counsel's opinion is that "there is no basis to conclude the new installation violates specific ADA accessibility standards."'.
I find this surprising, because, on September 10th, I called Cascade Rec, and spoke with Jill Thorsen. I asked Jill Thorsen "is the crumb rubber ADA compliant?" Ms. Thorsen said she would have to get back to me. A few hours later, Ms. Thorsen called to say that the Manufacturer of the Crumb Rubber, Northwest Rubber, said it is NOT ADA compliant, and that all further questions should go through Rod Turbull's office.
The manufacturer admitted it was not ADA compliant, what about that statement means it is not violating ADA law? I called the ADA's Information & Technical Assistance line, and asked, what is an ADA compliant playground cover? The person on the phone said that an ADA compliant playground cover has to be "stable and slip resistant". Perhaps the school's legal council would like to call this information line and visit the school playground. One can easily see that the crumb rubber moves, easily.
I am not an irrational person. I am not living under a misguided assumption that if the playground had a stable surface, children with physical disabilities would be cured of those disabilities. The ADA law clearly states that any facility, that receives federal funds, built after 1990 must meed ADA standards, and all areas must be accessible to all children. If you still don't understand the point I am trying to make, let me simplify. Say the school installs two water fountains - one that says "colored", and one that says "white". Would we stand for that? Why are we so accepting of this act of discrimination? The school district, and school board saying "you kids can play on here, but the "other" kids can't come with in 15 feet of this play structure and be with your friends" is an act of discrimination, plain and simple.
I admire that the school board is so concerned about the safety of our children, but I am ashamed to send my child to a school who does not know anything about ADA compliancy, and doesn't seem to care if some children can access a specific area of the school that others cannot. You would think that before someone goes and spends $50,000 they would thoroughly research the product they are buying.
King County Parks have replaced their crumb rubber underlayments with engineered wood fiber, because it moves so readily, it's surface temperature can be 20 degrees warmer than the air temperature on a sunny day, is highly flammable, and does not meet ADA standards.
I haven't been to any playgrounds that use crumb rubber (besides FHES), and while I believe that Steve Grout, the school's insurance representative, thinks there are schools and communities that believe crumb rubber is the greatest thing ever invented, I have yet to visit those communities, or have any reason to believe they actually exist.
Here's to being better informed,
A concerned FHES Parent.
Quack Quack ..Bounce
To the Editor:
There is a wonderful new playground at the elementary school. However, a controversial product called “crumb rubber” was used as the ground cover. It was purchased in good faith at the recommendation of the playground manufacturer as the safest option. It is small, black, broken chunks of used tires and has a strong chemical odor reminiscent of products that come with health warnings. The manufacturer has declared it safe and non-toxic.
Proponents of crumb rubber will point to industry funded studies showing the presence of known carcinogens and respiratory irritants at levels below legal thresholds. These studies look at only a small handful of samples and don’t consider the most troubling class of chemicals: Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons. David Brown (formally of EPA, now EHHI) who has done the only comprehensive review of all the crumb rubber studies internationally has shown that in different samples, the levels of these chemicals can vary by a magnitude of 10 or even 100. His point is that we just don’t know what exposure our children are receiving from crumb rubber.
Sweden and Norway have decided that due to these “substances of very high concern”, crumb rubber “should not be used”. Italy is removing theirs. There are students and parents at Friday Harbor Elementary school who have experienced respiratory distress and skin irritation after being on the playground this year. Groups have organized against crumb rubber in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, California and Friday Harbor.
There is an action plan for replacement of the crumb rubber with the same legally acceptable product that is used in the playground at the fairgrounds. This plan relies on an in-hand list of volunteers and would result in no additional fundraising or expense to the district due to a commitment by the manufacturer to accept return of the crumb rubber for a refund.
If you would like more information on the studies mentioned or, more importantly, would be willing to add your name to a list requesting the School Board reconsider their decision to keep the crumb rubber, please the Playground For All Group.
Playground For All
San Juan Island
It is A Community Issue Too
To The Editor:
Sometimes first impressions are spot on. If it looks like a duck, acts like a duck and smells like a duck, is it? Most likely. If it looks and smells like chopped up discarded old tires that nobody knows what to do with and is hazardous waste that can’t go in regular landfills, what is it? It’s crumb rubber, the new playground underlayment at the elementary school. My first and remaining impression of crumb rubber is that it’s looking like hazardous waste, smells like it, and sure seems to quack like it.
I think I’m going with my gut instincts on this one.
And our family, like many, thinks we should get it out of there. Are we going to suffer it for the lifespan of that new playground? Our previous playground was in there 20 years. Take a good whiff at the school. Take a good long look at how the children burrow into it and get it all over themselves…my three children deserve better and so do yours.
To learn more visit the local action group’s blog at: www.playgroundforall.blogspot.com
Petitions can be signed at the Fitness Club, Dr. Earnhart’s office, and soon other spots around town.
If we don’t all speak up now, then when??
Shannon Calverley and family
To the Editor:
Does our community know about crumb rubber? I am writing this letter because I feel it is necessary to communicate to the folks who may not have kids in the elementary school. A multitude of families would like to replace the existing mistake with a safer alternative.
The problem is half the people think crumb rubber is perfectly fantastic (bouncy, bouncy) and the other half are beside themselves with worry because of concern for recent (asthma, bloody noses) and future health concerns (cancer). Please take a few minutes, old and young, kids or no kids to walk by and/or play in the new elementary school playground. The school board recently voted on a discussion item to keep crumb rubber.
I believe this is a community issue and not merely a school board decision because we all pay taxes. Many of us also volunteer time or money to different organizations which support public schools.
I would like us all to consider our natural defense mechanisms. If something is too bright we shield our eyes. If we hear something too loud we cover our ears. If we smell something foul we plug our nose. In most cases we might avoid a nuisance but sometimes our natural defense mechanism may be warning us about a threat to our health. I believe crumb rubber is a threat to the most vulnerable members of our community-our precious children.
Please speak up if you agree with me that a simple mistake was made. Changing out the existing crumb rubber for something similar to the playground at the fairgrounds, or any other suggestion would be helpful. You can send a quick email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in adding your name to a petition asking the school board to listen, this time, and not to ignore the many, many, concerned families.
Thanks for reading this letter.
An Open Letter to Rick Larsen
Dear Congressman Larsen,
I simply cannot understand your September 29 statement on the financial rescue package that failed to pass that day in the House of Representatives.
You write the current crisis has been caused by “regulation and oversight the Bush administration has failed to provide.”
Yet in 2003, President Bush asked Congress to create a new agency to assume supervision of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two government-sponsored agencies whose catastrophic practices triggered the current crisis. Two years later, the Bush administration asked Congress to enact the Federal Housing Enterprise Reform Act of 2005. Both these steps were taken by the President precisely to avoid what’s now happened -and both were defeated in Congress by members of your Democratic party.
When your busy schedule permits, will you please provide documentation of the positions you took on both these legislative initiatives.
And, in a broader sense, will you please explain the total, thoroughly documented contradiction between your September 29 statement and the facts.
Rick Larsen Statement follows: