Letters to Editor
To Contact the Editor
(Note: For a full listing of all letters, Click HERE and scroll down to “Entries”
"We should not write so that it is possible for the reader to understand us, but so that it is impossible for him to misunderstand us."
-Quintilian (Marcus Fabius Quintilianus), rhetorician (c. 35-100)
Jarman Responds To Nick Power Column
To the Editor:
Nick Power raises questions and concerns that I’m sure many people in the County are talking about now (Mr. Power’s Column).
I don’t consider our communication systems in the Islands as “third-world standard”, but we obviously have serious problems, redundancy being the main one.
The County’s Dept. of Emergency Management coordinator, Brendan Cowan, organized daily conferences via Skype during the entire communications outage between Council and CenturyLink, representatives from the WA Utilities Commission; representative from the Governor’s Office; and state E-911 coordinators. In addition, Council met every day with our local emergency response teams including the Sheriff and the Fire Chiefs from each Island.
We, the Council, were well aware of lives being affected by this emergency. People could not get a hold of their loved ones to make sure they were OK. People on Life Lines could not get help and businesses were severely affected. As is always the case in the Islands, neighbors helped neighbors and our Emergency Response teams went door to door in many instances to help those in need. Information was gathered during our conferences and Council declared a State of Emergency, paving the way for our businesses to try to recoup their losses.
Those of us who have lived in these Islands for years know that there is no such thing as “this can never happen again”. We have lived through cut underwater power cables from OPALCO (sometimes for weeks at a time) and cut communications cables as well. Accidents have happened, and will happen again. The important thing is to have good backup.
Not only is the Council up “in the grill” of CenturyLink, so is the WA State Utilities Comm. Brendan Cowan is setting up a public “de-briefing” meeting with the Utilities Commission here on San Juan.
As soon as the meeting date is set, public notice will go out. I personally met with Brian Stading, the Northwest Pres. of CenturyLink, and made it very plain that redundancy within our communication system is a MUST. Stading’s responses to my questions were not satisfactory. Council will continue to push redundancy with CenturyLink and the Utilities Commission until we are satisfied.
Manager Mike Thomas has already drafted a letter to CenturyLink requesting relief on customers’ statements, with a copy to Glen Post (CenturyLink’s CEO). I brought that subject up to Mr. Stading. He said the company needed time to come up with a plan for refunding given the different billing cycles, etc.
We cannot force a private company into doing something they don’t want to do, but we can keep the pressure on; stay in contact with the Utilities Comm; insist on redundancy.
I am available for discussions any time. My office number is 370-7473; cell: 298-1698; home: 378-2952; and I’m at the office every day.
Wish Gordy & Lori Peterson The Best
We, the owners of “Howard’s Sell It Again” Howard Crowell and Rebecca Hughes are sad and sorry to announce that we will be closing the store at the end of December at our current location of First & Spring Streets. Our consignment boutique sub-let from Windermere April to September of 2011 and when Windermere finished their move across the street, our store exploded into the entire space. We were on a month-to-month lease and knew the building could be rented out from under us. We not only filled the store with awesome furniture to house wares and everything in-between, we also filled a vacant retail space for almost three years that brought people to shop the core of Friday Harbor and built a viable business.
Our most gracious and humble thanks for the support of all our customers, the community and to those who consigned their treasures with us over the years. We will be taking a break this winter and may open in another location next spring. It has been the most fun business that we have ever owned. We are thinking of continuing “Sell It Again” in several different ways. We’ll keep you posted.
We wish Gordy & Lori Peterson, the owners of the building our best with his new tenants, Home Land Security.
Howard & Rebecca
Howard's Sell It Again
"More Voter Choice" Is A Red Herring
To the Editor:
My response to the Patty Miller Guest Editorial
"More Voter Choice" is a red herring. It is in the same vein as the untrue Pro statement in the voters pamphlet misrepresenting how often Charter Review Commissions can be called. [One can be called in 2020 and as often as every other year after that if needed: Charter section 9.20]
The Proposition 1 drafters' true motive can easily be unravelled because Proposition 1 itself could be considered devious. Here is how:
If it were a straightforward amendment as to who could file charter amendment proceedings to change voting or residency districts, the change would have been made to section 5.34, which provides:
The boundaries of Residency Districts may be altered by amendment to this Charter but such boundaries shall not be changed by the Legislative Body or initiative.
But Proposition ! makes no change to this section. It seeks to gain this, and only this end, by indirection.
Instead of simply repealing section 5.34, the drafters of Proposition 1, of which Patty Miller is one, want to redefine charter amendment initiatives as "Charter Review Petitions." This would do indirectly what they won't do directly, and sooner or later would result in the loss of the voters' right to countywide voting. This is because this is the only legally possible result of this proposition.
With this kind of built-in subterfuge, no campaign is necessary. The Pro campaign is built into the indirection of the Proposition itself, and the misrepresentation in the voters pamphlet.
Votes Monitored & Tacked
Imagine for a moment that former members of the CIA, FBI, and NSA created a product that could monitor and track all our votes. Any reason you'd feel uneasy about that?
The Mail-In Ballot Tracker story: It's about a little barcode, unique to each voter, right there in the corner of your ballot. State officials will tell you that its only purpose is to follow your ballot through the voting process. The problem is, 1) Who's doing the tracking? 2) Are they connecting the barcode with how you voted? And 3) Are they using that information to manipulate votes, create individual profiles, or something else?
Officials will scream up and down that it's impossible to connect barcodes and ballots. The system that connects the two is "encrypted." Right. We've all learned recently how secure "encrypted" things are from inquiring eyes at the NSA.
Eight years ago, a few of us filed suit to try to restore our secret ballot. And this summer, WE WON! That's right, citizen activism pays off.
Except we didn't, really. The judge ruled that MiBT wasn't properly tested and must therefore be dumped, but the issue of unique identifiers on ballots is still in the courts. So this election, once again: barcodes on our ballots. Not only that, but one uncertified tracking system has apparently been replaced with another.
There are other options, but we need your help. In 2007 the King County Council passed a motion banning unique identifiers on ballots. We're hoping, with our new council and the momentum of this lawsuit behind us, we can reclaim the same protection for the residents of San Juan County.
This Election Day, we will ask our County Council to pass a similar motion. You can be there with us, in person or in spirit. Join us Tuesday, November 5th, 9:00 at the Council Chambers across the street from the Court House, 350 Court Street, Friday Harbor.
Please email your council representatives about this:
Bob Jarman: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rick Hughes: Rickh@sanjuanco.com
Jamie Stephens: email@example.com
Or call them at (360) 378-2898.
Thank you so much,
Letter On New Customs Location In Friday Harbor
(10-30-13) Many Issues Raised By New Customs Office
To the Editor:
At a recent Friday Harbor Town Council meeting, I was astounded to hear a brief statement from a council member that the U.S. Homeland Security Agency is planning to open a large office in the former Windermere Bldg. at the corner of First and Spring St. [read last weeks Related Story -Ed]
The reaction in the council chambers was as though someone had thrown a dead fish on the table. P.U.
I have been very impressed with the council’s recent approach to building up the town economy: a long term redesign of Sunshine Alley; closer cooperation with the Port to make the ferry dock entrance to the town more pedestrian friendly; the welcoming banners and ever more beautiful hanging baskets around town. But a big Homeland Security office in the very center of town?
I hope the town will now put some questions on the table and bring the community together to seek some answers:
Why does Homeland Security need to expand their base of operations here?
Will there be holding cells; armed and uniformed officials guarding the doors on that corner?
Why must this be at the very center of the Friday Harbor tourist area?
I will look forward to the council involving all islanders soon in a public discussion of the many the issues surrounding this possibility. Let’s not wait until it’s a done deal before we gather and look at all the consequences of such a big change.
Letters On Airlift Membership
(10-24-13) Airlift Northwest Not Partner With Island Air Ambulance’s MedEvac
To the Editor:
It has been reported that Island Air Ambulance’s MedEvac Membership Is now being honored by Airlift Northwest. This is false; as in not true. I received an e-mail from Airlift Northwest detailing the fact that they are not affiliated with Island Air Ambulance and have NO reciprocal agreement with the MedEvac Membership. I followed up the e-mail by calling Airlift Northwest directly to confirm what their e-mail stated. I would appreciate it if you would confirm this information and print it prominently in order to keep any citizens from incurring unnecessary costs for transport. The membership phone number for Airlift Northwest is 1-888-835-1599. Monday ��" Friday 8AM ��" 5PM.
As a citizen with 6 heart stents and 3 off-island transports by 3 different methods (1 by Sheriff boat, 1 by Island Air Ambulance, and 1 by Airlift Northwest), I have no issue with the care I received on any of these transport methods. I do believe, however, that citizens should be made aware of the fact that transport by boat or Island Air Ambulance fixed wing aircraft will leave a patient with an Ambulance ride from the harbor or the airport. Airlift Northwest’s helicopter transport is the only one that lands directly at the hospital. This ambulance ride is not covered by ANY of the membership agreements for any air care service. Cascade Ambulance’s base rate from Bellingham airport, plus mileage, is $902.00. With insurance coverage, which might cover part of this, the cost is still around $500.00.
I am not attempting to say anything negative about any of the transport services. I have used all of them and been impressed by the knowledge, care, and professionalism each of the service's provides. I just believe that, in these uncertain economic times, information should be as accurate as possible in order that citizens not incur any added debt without warning.
Michael S. McElrath
(10-11-13) Airlift Northwest Not Partner With Island Air Ambulance’s MedEvac
To the Editor:
Airlift has withdrawn from AAMMP forcing residents to now need to purchase two separate memberships effective October 15.
Re: Guest Column "Be not Afraid!"
While the guest columnist is entitled to both her opinion and her vote, I think she misses the actual change that Proposition 1 makes. The existing charter provides for the initiative process in most areas, but denies it the ability to alter fundamental structures such as voting districts, number of council members, etc.
The Charter Review Commission put that restriction into the charter so that we would have a reasonably stable structure upon which to build. A future Charter Review Commission may put to the voters changes in these Charter structures after study and deliberations among elected members of that Commission. Any final product of that Commission will be the result of a process which results in majority approval of the Commission. That product then must be approved by county voters.
By contrast, an initiative is crafted as to the exact wording before it even starts a signature process. Assuming sufficient signatures to get on the ballot, it is put to the voters as a yes-no question. There is no place for deliberation or consensus building, you can't vote for 90% of it -- it is simply yea or nay.
It is comparatively easy to get an initiative on the ballot in this county. But do we want our county to regularly go through the confusing transition in structure to which we were subject during the most recent change? With supporters for many different ideas for "improving" our current structures, we could end up being whip-sawed by each subsequent initiative by one "side" or another.
If voters want to revisit districts and structures, they already have the initiative right to ask for an earlier Charter Review Commission. But then they would have to be clear as to why they want the Charter to change, instead of seemingly hiding behind the notion that we are just being asked to clarify a few words.
Vote to Approve Proposition 1
To the Editor
I am writing to urge voters to support Proposition 1. Approval of this proposition simply removes a barrier to potential future citizen involvement in restructuring County districts. Removal of this obstacle would still require gathering the necessary signatures to place a measure on a future ballot to amend the Charter. If such a measure were undertaken between now and the next gubernatorial election in 2016, it would be necessary to gather about 1600 signatures of registered County voters, a daunting task no one would undertake frivolously.
A recent letter opposing Proposition 1 complains that voters would be “expected to study certain changes to the Charter every year.” This statement is absurd. The only time voters would need to study a measure is if approximately 1600 signatures were gathered once a year to actually qualify it for the ballot. The possibility of people going to this level of effort every year is impractical to the point of being impossible.
Another letter writer also from Lopez Island bemoans the action of a “disgruntled lame duck six-member County council” to change our current charter. It should be noted that the vote was based on what the entire Council saw as a structural flaw and was unanimous by the six members, three of whom serve as our current County Council.
The essence of the Home Rule Charter is the right of citizens to influence the structure and outcomes of our government. This measure will retain the ability of the people to keep the intended power granted them with the adoption of Home Rule. Proposition 1 is not about special interests or “end runs” or any other attempt to undermine our government; it is plainly and simply about the people’s rights and freedom. Please vote to approve Proposition 1.
San Juan Island
Miller Opposes Prop 1
I am writing to oppose San Juan County Proposition 1. This Proposition is an attempt to end run around what the voters decided last year on how to change the charter.
Last year's vote on changing the Charter (our form of county government) has already brought the County closer together and Council meetings are running more smoothly. Currently, we next have the right to elect freeholders, who suggest changes to the voters for the Charter, in 2020.
This is a reasonable way to do government. With the County Proposition 1, citizens are expected to study certain changes to the Charter every year. Most voters are not going to do this. We have other things on our minds, and even once every five years is enough. But a few people with an ax to grind want to foist their upset upon the rest of us. The proponents call this a small change, but it is not. Please vote "No" and let us get on with our lives.
Proposition 1 is NOT a “people’s movement”
Greater control by the people over County government is not what is really going on here. This is NOT a “people’s movement.” This effort is largely driven by ex-politicians and ex-Freeholders and their immediate supporters to enable the breakup of the county into small districts.
The proposition before us has only one impact on the Charter, and therefore that impact has to be its sole purpose: to permit redistricting by initiative petition. Our current Charter permits redistricting only by way of proposition submitted to the voters by a Charter Review Commission. It is only redistricting that is at issue. Why does the Charter deny us the right to redistrict by public initiative?
The answer is clear from a simple comparison of the first step in each procedure:
Charter Review Commission: Freely elected representatives from throughout the County meet in open public session, invite comment and criticism, and after debate considering the effectiveness of County government, proposes either a single county voting district (as the recent Charter Review Commission did) or carefully designs separate voting districts after considering the needs and natures of interest groups and communities, and in any event legal review by the County Prosecutor
Public Initiative: A public initiative is not really public. It is privately framed by an individual or small group with its own agenda, whatever it is. There is no initial public disclosure of its initiators or backers. Although in this case nominally submitted by the previous council, the current proposition is a good example of initiation by this process because two sets of proposals were first submitted to the council by a private group using a computer whose metadata reveals its owner as a private individual. One such submission to the Council identified the five proposed districts without any opportunity to the entire County, every voter in which would be impacted.
Is this “greater control by the people over County government.” Well, yes it is, if you mean control by some people. Those unelected few who draft an initiative petition would control the choice presented to the voters simply by elimination public discussion of alternatives.
Don’t be misled into thinking that Charter Review Commissions are too few and too far in the future. Contrary to the Pro Statement in the Voter’s Pamphlet that Charter Review Commissions can only be held every ten years, the next one is only seven years away, and thereafter can be called as often as every other year. The writers of the Pro Statement did not read Section 9.20 of the Charter carefully. There has been no public correction.
[Section 9.20 - Election Procedures and Period of Office
(1) The County Council shall cause an election of a CRC in 2020 and at least every ten (10) years thereafter provided that the CRC election is held in an even numbered year.]
The proposition before us is designed solely to enable privately planned propositions to be presented to you on a take-it-or leave it basis. Small groups can propose gerrymandering leading to an annual war of voting district readjustment. This is not democracy, and it impairs the fair apportionment of freedom.
To preserve your freedom against private invasion and retain your right to vote county-wide, reject Proposition 1.