Letters to Editor
To Contact the Editor
Wednesday, December 28th
We defined "Friend", and a "Bigot" is?
Way to go Scott Bell!
You've figured them out. (Scott Bell Letter: Can You Define "Friend") I say, if you give "them" a place at the table, we put "them" on the ballot of the next general election. These "friends" protect us against ourselves when it's politically expedient; like guest houses. "People who build guest houses are ruining the rural character of our island and contributing to urban sprawl". Sounds good, besides people who want to build guest houses are "the wealthy ones".
But try to get them on your side about the "Cluster Housing Rule" which allows developers to re-zone property in order to build high-density housing projects (8 homes on 5 acres) in the midst of property zoned Rural Farm Forest (low density, 1 home per 5 acres), they politely refuse to even consider the impact on wet lands, drainage, a 24 bedroom septic system, impact on water aquifers, traffic, etc and in general, using this land designation for purposes never intended by those who established these designations years ago. "Urban Sprawl" in the name of diversity is ok to these eco-sensitive snots.
The Friends of the San Juans would take great umbrage If you referred to them as "bigots". Consider the American Heritage Dictionary definition of the word... Bigot: "One who is strongly partial to one's own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ". Fits these guys to a tee.
Monday, December 26th
Can You Define "Friend"?
If we could assess and levy a tax on hypocrisy we would be the richest county in the state. And the biggest assessment would fall on the Friends of the San Juans.
Notice how The Friends dress themselves up as reverent servants to The Law when it suits them and run stark raving naked over it when it doesn't? Remember the jet ski issue? People overwhelmingly wanted to ban jet skis in our county and the Friends were very involved in changing that law.
And now, regardless of very clear public support for guest houses in our county the Friends elect themselves as the champions of The Law and insinuate themselves into the public process.
Hey neighbors…it's a public process and this is an organization whose membership lacks the courage to stand in the light of public scrutiny and allow themselves to be known.
Webster's Dictionary defines "friend" as: "a person whom one knows well and is fond of; intimate associate; close acquaintance".
I'm very curious exactly what percentage of their membership reside in San Juan County…or even in the state of Washington.
I was a member of the Friends of the San Juans and I live in Friday Harbor. Here's how I was introduced to that organization and why I became a member:
Four years ago all of the neighboring property owners surrounding my property had received an alarming letter from someone claiming to be a neighbor alerting them of my plans to sub-divide and develop my property. This was not true. There was also reference to the threat to the riparian character of my land. Riparian means creeks and rivers…something non-existent on my land.
I did not receive a copy of this letter from the writer (I guess I'm not relevant) but I did receive one from a neighbor. Perhaps if I was a little lost whale or a sprig of eelgrass I would have warranted some courtesy but with these "friends" it's always about the property…never the people.
I did a little investigating and discovered that the author of this well-written letter ( my so-called "neighbor") was a retired land-use professor and rumored to be a member of The Friends of the San Juans. I also discovered that he owned a small piece of land 2 miles from my property and that he was a full time resident of Vashon Island...so much for being my "neighbor".
So I ponied up $25.00 to the Friends of the San Juans to become a member hoping to find out if this letter-writer truly was affiliated with that organization. I called Stephanie Buffum and asked for the membership list. Guess what?... just like Al Qaeda and the Ku Klux Klan… their membership is confidential.
Webster's Dictionary defines "friend" as: "a person whom one knows well and is fond of; intimate associate; close acquaintance".
Take a good look at the Friends quarterly newsletters. They like to print and mail out a surplus of these newsletters. This is evident by the plethora of them tossed into the recycle bins at the post office (right along with the Victoria's Secret catalogs and the credit card come-ons). Here are some excerpts:
The Friends encourage "a population mix of young people, professionals, retired people, artists, and craftspeople" . Now that may be a concise little list of desirables that best describe the Friend's ideal islander but it surely does not bear any resemblance to the people here I grew up with and work with.
"Clearly, the pressures to make this small county in the sea into an I-5 burb of some kind are immense." In the past it was the very scary "Urban Sprawl". I guess that wasn't scary enough… now it's "an I-5 burb" . You would have to be deliberately obtuse to think that one house every five acres constitutes "urban sprawl" . Sheesh.
"The San Juan County population expanded 40% to 14,077 between 1990-2000."
Although I don't dispute this number I'm curious: how many members of the Friends of the San Juans moved here between 1990-2000 and contributed to this frightening statistic. But of course we'll never know. Remember…it' a secret.
"Why Bother?" This is where the Friends get downright goofy with a forecast of the "consequences of unmanaged growth" . Out of one side of their mouth they warn of lack of diversity and out of the other they prattle about " the importation of a hodgepodge of values and styles from everywhere else" . HUH?
They warn of too many rules, rule makers, rule keepers, rules of conduct, and bigger government when, arguably, they have, in their zeal, thoughtlessly contributed to our loss of independence and the need for bigger government.
And then they have the brazenness to glibly allude to "rural practices" .
I'd be willing to bet that their list of acceptable rural practices would include lavender, llamas, and whale worship but to a lot of us the memory of when this island was rural is entirely different. To a lot of us rural is working class people with a burn barrel in the back and a broken down truck or tractor in the front, a truckload of firewood for sale downtown, a free pile along the side of the road, and not a single sign or mailbox that wasn't riddled with bullet holes.
Of course this image of "rural practices" doesn't fit the politically correct picture perfect postcard likeness that is part of the Friends schematic for social engineering but it is the way it used to be…and we liked it.
And now, like gluttonous trespassers, we have the Friends favorite hand puppets Ranker and Lichter surrendering to the Friends a place at the bargaining table over the Guest House issue. Since when do they get a place at the table? I don't recall voting for them…do you? Allowing them to determine policy about guest houses is just letting the fox guard the henhouse.
Here's a quote from a recent letter regarding another recent Lichter/Ranker blunder:
"we may all have to go squat on the county steps and beg for affordable housing."
It's so ironic that the longer a person has lived in this county the more tolerant they are of newcomers and the bigger a piece of land they own the more agreeable they are of letting people do whatever the want to with theirs.
What, me worry? (and Happy New Year)
San Juan Island
Saturday, December 24th
Wolf in Sheep's Clothing – An Update
It is telling that, when pressed on the illegality of the proposed guesthouse settlement hacked together in a backroom deal between Kevin Ranker, Alan Lichter and the Friends of the San Juans (see Guest Editorial: Wolf in Sheep's Clothing ), about the only thing Roger Collier, VP of the FOSJ, could muster was that it was "good for taxpayers".
In fact the settlement will increase taxes. For details on how, check out the Guesthouse Alliance website – (Link to web page) - where I have posted detailed replies to the letters written by Roger Collier and Charlie Carver.
There is strong public interest in the guesthouse issue. The website is averaging about 160 unique visits per week. The most visited page is "Related Documents". Visitors have collectively downloaded over 1,400 copies of key documents relating to this issue. The most popular download is the FOSJ proposed ADU code changes. The document is a mess, but we have annotated it for easy reading. The second most downloaded document is SJC Prosecuting Attorney Randy Gaylord's memo informing Alan and Kevin about the illegality of the proposed FOSJ settlement and code changes. Charlie Carver tries to make light of it, but I find it well researched, concise and compelling. Check it out and see what you think.
The second and third most popular sections of the website are "What to do?" and "In the News" - a chronological collection of the various news articles and editorials that have been appearing recently in local papers. There are some excellent articles there that detail how Kevin and Alan have systematically disregarded the public process in favor of backroom favoritism to special interest groups.
I also set up a page for the FOSJ to use to explain the Settlement and code changes, from their point of view. I invite them to provide a legal opinion on why the settlement and ordinance aren't illegal, using the SJC County Prosecutors memo as a base and annotating a rebuttal.
I know many Democrats who sheepishly admit that they voted for Kevin and Alan in a passionate reaction to the Bush/Cheney association with Republican John Evans. They now admit to John being more even handed than they gave him credit for. While the cats away, the mice did play. Kevin, Alan and the FOSJ were like kids in a candy shop. They packed the proposed agreement and code changes with all kinds of sweets. Despite Charlie Carvers assertion that that is the way the system works, this kind of servile catering to special interest group agendas is not what we want in our elected officials. The resultant voters lack of trust for the BOCC was made crystal clear in last months election when the public overwhelmingly voted for the Home Rule Charter and a professional administrator in an attempt to restore balance and professionalism to our county government.
But we won't have a six-member council until after the next election, and the little known fact is that land use laws can't be changed through initiative or referendum, only Alan, Kevin, and Bob Myhr can enact changes and their intention is to do that by early March.
Friday, December 23rd
WHAT IS GOING ON?
Promises Made, Promises Broken
One year ago we elected two new Commissioners to our Board of County Commissioners. We were promised that they were both extremely qualified to do the job and would both do a better job of running our county government by:
1. fixing the problems in Community Planning and Development.
2. increasing the morale of our hard working county employees.
3. make our county government more transparent to the public by having more open public meetings and less Executive Sessions.
4. reduce the need to constantly hire outside consultants.
5. spend our hard earned tax dollars wisely, etc. etc.
What do we have today? Four new planning directors in one year, with a turnover rate that is embarrassing, and a much longer and more expensive permitting process. More Executive Sessions and closed door behind the scenes meetings than I can ever remember. The hiring of outside consultants for to make decisions that current staff is qualified to make (this is by a BOCC that told us they were very qualified to do the job). Spending our hard earned tax dollars like our money flows from a fountain of cash. I could go on and on, but in the interest of not sounding like a broken record (for those of you that remember what that means) I will try to be brief. Some examples:
Most recently, our County Auditor asked for additional funds to pay his overworked staff for the additional time required to install our new accounting system and transfer data from the existing 22 year old system to the new one. Two years ago when this new system was being looked at and chosen from several providers, the cost and time required to change over was discussed at great lengths. Now in the wisdom of our county leaders we are denying the most qualified and experienced people available the funds necessary to accomplish this task, and have decided to go outside and hire, train and bring up to speed new people. This is a complete waste of time and money; not to mention the unintended consequences that may result from this decision. Thank heaven this is government and not a business, or we would be bankrupt in short order with this kind of decision making. But then we were told that you can't run government like a business, weren't we? I guess it must have to do with the ability to tax us when more money is needed to fix the mistakes and poor decisions that result from not running a multi-million dollar organization like a business .
I could go on about the Lafarge project, Trash to Treasures, the secret deal with the Friends of The San Juans, ignoring the legal advice of the Prosecutors office, but why quibble?
The good news is that we now have a County Charter. I believe that the actions of our two Commissioners over the past year did more to pass the County Charter than anything the supporters of the Charter could have possibly done to get it through.
We now have the ability to actually run our own County Government. What a concept! If only the promises of a year ago had been kept, what would it be like today?
San Juan Island
Comrade of the County (the Friend to the San Juans)
To my people,
For those of you too busy working for a living or lacking the necessary land-use education…in light of the recent "conciliation" between our two stellar commissioners Lichter and Ranker and their Friends of the San Juans regarding the Guest House issue I have taken the liberty, as usual, to draft a list of Threat Conditions similar to those implemented by the Department of Homeland Security to enhance your participation in my continuing war on Growth, Development, and Urban Sprawl.
The county has changed plenty since I got to these islands. But it wasn't me who changed it…it was you. That's right…not me, you.
We remain a county at risk and will remain at risk for the foreseeable future. At all Threat Conditions (generally defined as anything I don't like), we must remain vigilant, prepared, and ready to deter attacks. The following Threat Conditions each represent an increasing risk of attacks. Beneath each Threat Condition are some suggested Protective Measures, recognizing that the heads of Federal departments and agencies are responsible for developing and implementing appropriate agency-specific Protective Measures (subject to my review and approval, of course.):
Low Condition (Green)- Self-congratulatory, smug, and self-satisfied. This condition is declared when all threats to my picture postcard feel-good vision for the Islands are non-existent and County Commissioners bend to my superior intellect and bob their heads unanimously.
Guarded Condition (Blue)- Impatient and supercilious. This condition is declared when a parking space in front of King's Market cannot be found and the line at the Post Office is too long. Suggested measures to be taken:
Repetitive and dreary letters to the editor sniveling about Growth and guest editorials bleating about Urban Sprawl. This really works (and our local paper loves it)!
Elevated Condition (Yellow)- Mildly agitated with loss of humor and laissez faire. This condition is declared when absentee tax-paying landowners return to the Islands to reclaim the land that I have used freely to walk my dogs or have kayaked by or flown over to enjoy at my leisure.
Measures to be taken:
• More droning letters and editorials.
• Scrutinize Public Notices of meetings- show up and whine.
• Wail about the whale… incessantly.
High Condition (Orange)- Self-righteous Indignation and Short-sighted Tunnel-vision. A High Condition is declared when there is evidence of open-minded free-will and people stop listening to me. In addition to the above mentioned measures to be taken:
• Brandish your credentials, qualifications, and degrees.
• Threaten litigation.
• Beg for money.
Severe Condition (Red)- Highly agitated, shrill and pedantic. A Severe Condition reflects a severe risk to my perceived self-importance and is manifested by blatant disregard of my edicts and throwing away my quarterly newsletter. Measures to be taken:
• Control information
• Redefine issues and manipulate facts.
• Take credit and assign blame.
San Juan Island
Wednesday, December 21st
Open Letter to County Commissioners
Dear County Commissioners
I believe you have taken a very expensive and potentially dangerous path by not retaining the county auditor's experience and abilities, to install the new county accounting system.
I have a degree in computer science and systems analysis. A systems analyst specializes in analyzing a company's operations and then designing software systems that fit their needs.
I have been the project officer in charge of installing a large system that involved 26 different Air Force bases and training hundreds of individuals to utilize the system. In addition, we installed about $10 million of new computer equipment required to operate the new system.
My training and experience tells me that you cannot possibly succeed without people involved who intimately know the system that is being replaced and then trained thoroughly on the new system. Transfer of data from the old system to the new system can be lost, changed or made nearly impossible to locate and use if the new system is not also understood.
The argument that other employee's morale and feelings would be hurt by paying someone extra to accomplish the installation tasks is very short sighted and potentially extremely expensive.
As a taxpayer in this county I am really shocked at your decision to not take advantage of every opportunity to keep this installation in-house and to not utilize the expertise that already exists.
There is nothing wrong in changing your minds and re-employing the county auditor for this purpose. I can tell you that you will save many times the dollars that you will spend on outside "experts" who will be happy to run up a huge bill while learning our current system and then even further expenses in attempting to make the new system work.
John F. Kalbert
Monday, December 19th
Shop Locally! We Will Stay Open For You!
This morning when I came in to open The Toy Box for business, I was greeted by a printed unsigned notice. It read:
"My family and I make every effort to shop locally, especially at this time of year. However, we are very discouraged that many local shopkeepers do not see fit to stay open later during the Holiday Season. For working people who try to support the local economy, stores are closed when we arrive or shortly thereafter. This is very disappointing to many residents, especially since there is always such a hue and cry from merchants that residents do not support the local economy. Perhaps this may be one reason why."
I would like to respond to this message.
For the last 12 years we have made many efforts to stay open late during the holidays. To attract customers, we have banded with other businesses and offered free food and drinks. We have advertised in the newspapers. We have added entertainment. None of these efforts has produced late shoppers. In fact, we have had NO shoppers. It is simply not cost effective for us to pay an employee or to sit there ourselves for an extra hour or two with no customers.
David and I would be very happy to stay open late if someone cannot make it to us during normal business hours. One has only to let us know and we will accommodate as best we can.
We are very grateful to all our local customers. It is by your support that we are able to stay in business in Friday Harbor.
Our normal hours of business are:
Monday to Saturday 10 AM to 5:30 PM and Sunday 10AM to 5 PM.
The Toy Box