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Sunday, November 27th

Public Education as a House of Cards

To the Editor:

Dear Editor: I remember one winter day as a child I built an amazing structure out of an old card deck. Hard work went into the intricate house of cards I constructed. Imagine my disappointment when, one by one, several significant cards were “stolen” by my friend for another project! It held for awhile, but eventually the house of cards came crashing down.

I have been a Washington public educator for almost forty years, an enthusiastic part of the building of a structure that serves the highest moral endeavor of the land. I have watched as our state has built a public school system that effectively serves our young people. Card by card, we have built a system that not only serves young people well, but has also harbors the potential and hope for a positive future for us all.

The recent crisis in school funding, manifested by the Governor’s recently released recommended budget, has the very real potential to dismantle our house of education. One card, one reduction at a time and our house will likely begin to crumble. We owe our children, and our future, more!

The recommendations include a reduction of four school days, the elimination of important programs such as Readiness to Learn and CTE start-up funding, a revised attendance reporting procedure that will potentially reduce funding, a reduction to small high school funding, salary reductions for all educational employees, a reduction in health coverage for educational employees, and other cuts. Also on the list is the elimination of, and/or significant reduction to levy equalization funding, of great significance to many districts with low tax bases.

The Governor’s reductions are estimated to be well over $100,000 to Lopez School, with similar damages to other school districts in the San Juans. The recommendations will be considered by the legislature in a special session, beginning November 28.

Let us hope that the legislature will find a way to avoid the draconian budget reductions recommended by the Governor and others. We must preserve our house of education, for your children and mine, for our future!


Bill Evans


Wednesday, November 23rd


Related stores and columns: Jones Family Farm Story; Jones Guest Column , and a John Evans Column.

To the Editor:

It is a little disturbing to read the news articles and subsequent online rhetoric that is based on an entirely false premise. Our county government is not perfect. There are times they deserve criticism. This is not one of them. The Jones Farm folks have created sensational headlines based on false statements. Read the whole story, get the facts. No one is shutting them down. The author even contradicts himself. On the one hand, "the county won't provide us any information on what we have to do", and later in the story, somehow, they are now aware of what they need to do and it is cumbersome and costly. Which is it?.

I support our local farms, I support local businesses. I support playing by the rules. I support changing things when the rules seem unjust. I support following our procedures for such changes. I support honest debate.

From the sound of it, the Jones farm folks and all of their supporters believe that because they produce and sell food, they should have no rules or regulations what so ever.
Because we are a farm, we should be allowed to have unregulated electrical hookups. Public safety be damned.

We are a farm selling food, so it shouldn't matter if our premises has trip and fall hazards. Public safety be damned.

We are a farm selling food, so we shouldn't have to provide equal access via a ramp to those with disabilities.

We are a farm selling food, so its ok to have a sign on the door that says "whites only".

Where does it end?

Why was the Lopez grocery store made to "suffer" these punishments and burdensome regulations?? All they do is sell food too?

Why was Craftsman corner on Orcas put through needless punishment and undue regulations? They are just trying to support local farms and agriculture??

From the rhetoric and angry rants found in all the online letters, columns, etc, it appears this small group of folks want absolutely no government interference with anything.

To that, I have to say, "See you at the jetski races".

To the others who have taken the time to listen to the whole story before reacting irrationally, lets have a discussion and identify areas that need improvement in our governance and devise rational solutions. Let's put the knee jerk reactions aside and work towards resolution.

To the Jones farm. I understand your frustrations to a degree. You have a choice. You can martyr yourself to make your point, take your ball and leave the playground, or, you can open a rational dialogue with your elected representatives and work towards a solution.

Please keep the dialogue honest.

Harold Wilson
San Juan Island

To the Editor:

As I have read the information from Nick and Sara Jones and from the County, it seems to boil down to this: the Joneses want to run a commercial operation without complying with the requirement that their establishment meet the safety requirements that other commercial operations must.

As Chris Laws stated, "the permit requirement would probably amount to about $109 and would be centered on life and safety issues to ensure a safe environment for the public...”

The Joneses, though, apparently do not believe they should be required to make their building safe for the public to use. They apparently object, for one example, to complying with an electrical code and inspections thereof which are intended to keep the public safe while in their store. (And a store indeed it is -- an enclosed building where people purchase merchandise and pay money. Nor do they only sell produce grown on their farm; they have, for example, seafood which presumably they purchase from others to resell, acting exactly as any other grocer in the islands does.) They apparently are willing to ask the public to risk their safety and, perhaps more likely, the safety of their children who may be exploring the store while their parents are selecting merchandise, because they don't want to bring their electrical system up to the same standard that every other store must. They apparently are willing to ask the public to risk their safety in a building which is not constructed to the same standard that every other store must be.

Because they are farmers, they think that the rules shouldn't apply to them. Because they are small they think the public should be less safe in their store than in larger stores.

Now, I like farmers and the farm environment of these islands as much as the next person, and as a former small business owner myself I know full well the challenges of running a small business in the islands. But I do not love farmers or small businesses to the extent that I want them to be exempt from the rules that are designed to keep me and my neighbors safe when we enter their buildings to buy our food and other merchandise.

It may well be that some of the codes the County government has adopted for public safety need to be re-examined and reconsidered. If they can be modified in a way to be less costly for local businesses and still provide the level of safety the local consumer has the right to expect, they they should be. But until then, the Joneses should be expected to comply with the same safety regulations that I had to when I ran a small business and that every other local business must comply with. There is not, and there should not be, an exemption from safety and environmental regulations for the Joneses.

Christopher Hodgkin
San Juan Island


Thursday, November 17th

American Camp Driftwood Forts

I gotta tell you, I don’t often write letters to the editor about articles in the newspaper. Let me correct that statement. I have NEVER written a letter to the editor about articles in the newspaper. But I’m really steamed and maybe venting will make me feel better, although I doubt it will make a difference to the “Feds” that run American Camp.

What’s up with tearing down those “dangerous and unsightly” driftwood forts in American Camp? I can just hear the pride in Ranger Lewis’s voice. Dads and Moms be forewarned. No more helping your kids build driftwood forts. You’ll just have to find other ways of helping develop your child’s brain capacity through creative play. You don’t want to see some gun totting Park Ranger walking down the beach towards you, ready to ruin your family’s day.

Lewis said recreation is a “lesser priority” at American Camp than in local and state parks (ya think?) and he has seen more bald eagles in the park since issuing citations, rather than warnings, beginning in early spring. Those bald eagles must have been pretty bawdy this past spring and had a lot more babies than usual, because we know that eagles are migratory and usually return to the area where they were born. Maybe Barry Lewis just wants to feel better about driving the locals away from enjoying American Camp.

I worked for the federal government as a manager and executive for over 31 years. I know how vicious compliance and enforcement of the rules can get you noticed, and often times promoted in a large bureaucracy. But it never gets you long term results.

I’ve owned my home on San Juan Island for over 20 years and have never seen such a “show of force”. What’s happening to our local friendly way of life? But then American Camp isn’t run by locals, is it?

Patty Francisco
San Juan Island


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