Sunday, August 10, 2014

Next Time You're In The Ferry Line ...

"Is it just me, or are there a lot more tourists this summer?" That was the question I asked the ticket agent at the Anacortes ferry kiosk. 
"Oh, ever since Memorial Day, the numbers have been through the roof," said the ticket agent. "But I suppose that's good ... probably means the economy is doing better." 
"I'd rather have half the tourists and twice the number of year-round jobs," I said. 
"Yeah ... I guess that makes sense," said the agent.
It makes sense to me anyway.

No matter what island you live on, the tourist hordes seem to be overwhelming recently. In Friday Harbor, it's even harder to find parking spaces than previous summers, and the jets flying into the airport seem to be ... well ... just a bit much. The lines to leave Lopez for Anacortes on a Saturday are now as long as they used to be on Sunday afternoon.

When asked about the lines, one Lopez ferry worker (a long-time resident) voiced her frustration, "There are just too many people. There are just TOO MANY! We need to decide if we want to be Friday Harbor because this is just too much! It's busy all the time. No let-up."

In the midst of the onslaught, our little businesses can't find enough seasonal workers to handle the crush. In Friday Harbor, some restaurants are closed two days a week during the high season simply because they can't find enough workers. Same is true for Orcas, I hear. On Lopez, one restaurant has put out want-ads that amount to begging for seasonal help ... even willing to take people on for just a day or two during their visit to the islands.

Welcome to the economy of "protection" ... the economy of the National Monument ... the Scenic Byway ... tourist board ... the "one of the places to see before you die" economy. This is the Friends economy. It's the one they always wanted, but it's still just a transitional stage ... because there's more to do.

For the rest of this story, continue reading on the new Trojan Heron Blog

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

TH Changes

Below you will find the latest in our "Tales of Tyranny" series that we began some time ago. You will also find this post on our new site, which can be found at www.trojanheron.com. Please take the time to visit the new site, and you'll find that it also has a discussion forum associated with it ... in addition to blog commenting.

The need for the Trojan Heron is as strong as ever. We will continue to improve our tools and methods to provide all of you with a voice to speak out ... and there is a lot to speak about.

The Invasion -- Third in a Series

“Extend the sphere and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens.” James Madison, The Federalist, November 22, 1787.

The “sphere” Madison writes about is a community of individuals. Lack of diversity of opinion in this island community has caused exactly what James Madison feared more than 200 years ago. Mob rule. This phenomenon exists here where a majority of people think it is acceptable to invade the rights of other citizens.

The invaders are green but they aren’t aliens. We know them as the “Friends of the San Juans” and they will invade your rights because they fundamentally believe they have more rights to your property than you do. This green elite mob seems to enjoy the fact that they can control your undeveloped shoreline, and they have contempt for anyone who has a dream to build near it or alter it in any way.

First the mob must be engaged. The truth won’t always do that, but exaggeration will. So willing accomplices in the media must blow the story out of proportion so that any suspected violation appears egregious. A villain is created to be the central focus of the mob’s wrath. Then the community will predictability react with horror and contribute to the cause. Over the years the “Friends of the San Juans” have learned to play this game for profit. This story is about their latest victims.

Dave and Nancy Honeywell dreamed of moving to the Washington coast when they retired. After winning a lottery jackpot their dream came true, but they never considered that an invasion of their rights was about to occur. That’s how the Honeywells’ dream turned into a nightmare.

The Honeywells purchased Mar Vista Resort on the west side of San Juan Island. They renamed the property “Orca Dreams” because they love these mammals and the whales are frequently seen from the property. Instead of expanding the use as a resort (with all associated negative impacts) they planned to turn it into a full time residence for themselves and their family.

The previous owners had let the property deteriorate, and weeds and scrub trees had taken over some of the shoreline area where previously rare wildflowers grew in abundance. They wanted to improve the landscape and provide more sunlight for the endangered golden paintbrush plants, but they didn’t intentionally want the majority of the vegetation in a section of the property removed. In their absence, a misunderstanding between the owner and their contractor caused the removal of much of the vegetation in one area near the shoreline. In a statement made to the planning enforcement department Dave Honeywell said, “The amount of clearing on the hillside was far greater than we had directed or anticipated.” When the “Friends” (acting like self appointed “earth police”) discovered the mistake, all hell broke loose and the green invasion and smear campaign began.

Led by an agenda-driven local press and an angry news blogger, the story began to unfold. The caretaker of the property witnessed several vehicles driving past the “no trespassing” signs onto the Honeywell’s property to take photographs of the area where brush and some trees had been cut down. He saw two women in a car that sped away but was unable to get the license plate number. He reported the incident to the Sheriff but was only able to identify one of the alleged trespassers.

The trespassers, the press, and the “Friends” accused the Honeywells of “clear cutting” the property even though several large fir trees remain along the short segment of the shoreline. Some trees were cut down and some brush was removed, but the activity hardly fits the definition of the “clear-cut” that was reported. There was no intent to do anything illegal, but that didn’t stop the press or the “Friends” from threatening to teach them a lesson.

“Stephanie Buffum, executive director of Friends of the San Juans, was irate when she saw photographs of the area. She believed the photographs showed dozens of trees had been removed and areas of native flowers and other vegetation removed.

"This will take decades to repair," Buffum said. "It's a great example of property owner irresponsibility. You do it right or you do it right, and Friends will make sure they do it right." Journal

Here we have an example of the “Friends” poisoning the public image of new residents who got caught up in a misunderstanding, paid a fine, and are committed to fixing the situation by replanting. It hasn’t stopped the vitriol. In fact the “Friends” mob have decided to ramp-up the campaign against them. How’s that for a warm Island welcome?

The “Friends” did not think the fine was sufficient and want to punish them even more. “We've heard from many that you feel this (fine) is insufficient. We encourage you to contact the San Juan County Council to ask for more meaningful code enforcement provisions for situations like this in the future. In fact, you could ask the Council to restore the stronger provisions cut from the County's enforcement ordinance just last year.” Friends Facebook

Those stronger “provisions” referred to by the Friends were for criminal penalties including imprisonment.

That’s not all. The Friends started a campaign by lobbying the Governor and a past Friends Executive Director (now in the State legislature) to use their power with state agencies like the Department of Ecology and Fish & Wildlife. Once again the charges seem to be exaggerated. The truth will eventually be known, but by that time the reputation of the Honeywell’s will have been trashed and the “Friends” mission of making an example of them will have been accomplished.

Is this how we, as a community, want to treat people? Is it an example of our “Friendly Island Spirit” or an example of mob rule?

Was the Friendly Island Spirit any part of the reason the Honeywell’s decided to move here? It certainly seems like they had a warm feeling about our community because they generously supported its institutions. They spread some of their good fortune among charities. They have given more than $4 million dollars to a community foundation. Locally they have completely funded the Food Bank’s fresh fruit and vegetable program, they pledged funds to make the Whale Museum accessible to the handicapped, they paid for the new 3-D map at the Historical Museum, gave $10K to Brickworks, and $10K to the Community Theatre. They built a 30-thousand KW solar array that provides power to people who could otherwise not afford it. The United Way Family Center and Island Rec have also received generous donations from the Honeywell’s.

In many “mob free” communities these generous and unpretentious people would be welcomed warmly, but not here. Here the “Friends” and some in the local press want to make an example of them as villains guilty of crimes against mother earth in order to raise money (link). They ignore the fact that the endangered wildflowers and the vegetation near the shoreline have made a dramatic comeback.

“Theodore Thomas, an ecologist with Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service, who has monitored paintbrush at Mar Vista since 1995, concluded that no damage was done either to golden paintbrush plants in the area or to the paintbrush habitat” (Journal). In fact, according to experts, since the sunlight has been let in, there is a 30% increase in the golden paintbrush plants (Journal). Since when is increasing habitat for endangered species a crime against nature?

We hope the Honeywells will accept the sincere apology of many fellow Islanders for the treatment they have received at the hands of the deceptively named “Friends.” The fact is our environment is healthy. Thanks to the “Friends” our community is not.

If you thought that this was the end of the persecution of the Honeywells, you would be wrong. Once on the “Friends’” radar, you can be their victim over and over again. In our next installment you will learn how the “Friends” treat the Honeywells who have had the temerity to apply to re-build an old dock.
After "clear cut" photo, with alder trunks already re-sprouting

Another after "clear cut" scene

Friends schadenfreude fundraising email

Sunday, June 1, 2014

A Rosendorf Consensus

In my absence, Howie Rosenfeld and David Dehlendorf have expounded (and expounded ... and expounded) on their view of a liberal society. In a Rosendorf liberal society, a woman (or any citizen) would be allowed to join a union ... she would be allowed reproductive choice. Heaven forbid, though, if that same woman wanted a barn ... or if she wanted a large-ish multigenerational house on her own property to age in place ... or if she wanted to freely associate with some of her fellow community members while serving on the Planning Commission.

In the liberal society of Rosendorf, you can have only as much freedom as Rosendorf allows you ... but don't even think of having any more than that ... and don't dare disagree with Rosendorf. In a Rosendorf liberal society, consensus is the socially acceptable way of promoting intolerance. If there's a consensus, then dammit, Rosendorf doesn't want to hear any other opinions.

In a Rosendorf liberal society, people are urged to protect nesting habitat for birds, but ignore the fact that Rosenfeld governed during an era of unprecedented growth in local government spending that included major road construction and stormwater projects which unnecessarily removed hundreds of trees. In their brand of liberal society, Rosendorf express mock outrage (right around election filing time) about undue influence on the Planning Commission of today, while conveniently forgetting that a Friends' President was a Planning Commissioner during the guest house litigation.

In a Rosendorf liberal society, we only have a few problems ... local government isn't quite powerful enough yet ... our County budgets aren't quite big enough yet ... we don't have quite enough planners yet ... we aren't quite as protected as we should be yet ... we aren't listening to bureaucrats at Ecology enough yet ... we don't have quite enough grant money yet ... and we still don't have quite enough consensus yet.

And Rosendorf aren't quite preachy or hypocritical enough yet either.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

FOSJ Litters Beaches

Over the years, the Friends of the San Juans have gotten a lot of PR mileage out of their laudable beach cleanup activities. They have a whole webpage devoted to it.
Pollution of our oceans by marine debris is one of the fastest growing environmental problems.
On that same webpage, the Friends talk about their involvement in the San Juan Anti-Litter Initiative.
The San Juan Island Anti-Litter Initiative invites friends and neighbors to help keep our roadside and beaches litter-free. As founding members of the San Juan Island Anti-Litter Initiative ... 
So we were a little surprised a month ago when the Friends participated in the littering of county beaches for the purpose of collecting data on the currents affecting our county, ostensibly in the name of "science."
conservation groups launched about 650 ‘drift cards’ – biodegradable plywood cards, each with a unique serial number
It's hard to attribute any rational scientific justification to the Friends' actions. They could have simply looked up existing data about currents. There is a large amount of up-to-date research on the topic, as David Hyde has said:
The circulation models we now have available are mature, detailed, and tested physical science.
To us, the drift card gimmick looks like just another Friends' publicity stunt that probably has more to do with their funding than science. Friends' revenues have increased substantially since they took up the fight against coal and oil spills. Annual revenues have doubled since 2009 to over $800K, so who knows what kinds of strings are attached to that kind of money ... littering beaches may be part of the deal.

The Friends are announcing the findings on their Facebook page. We've never seen people so happy to find beach litter. Perhaps a couple of words of caution are in order though. First of all, Land Bank signs frequently say, "All collecting, including driftwood, is prohibited." Also, it's "Stuart" not "Stewart" Island. Like the currents around here, that's well documented too.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Potentially Actionable?!?

So now OPALCO is threatening to sue Bob Jarman?

We were going to move on from the OPALCO story, but the following letter just came to light. It seems that after Bob Jarman wrote a letter to the online news outlets raising questions about OPALCO, he received the letter below from OPALCO's legal counsel. We presume the current OPALCO Board authorized the letter ... but if they didn't, that's even worse.

It's a head scratcher. What is it about this place that causes everyone in an official position to view dissent as a crime?

For full disclosure, the Trojan Heron would like nothing better than to have high-speed broadband access for everyone in the islands. We feel it is a necessity for any participant in the modern economy, but holy smokes ... can we get some outfit to provide broadband service who doesn't behave like either OPALCO or Centurynolink?








Saturday, April 12, 2014

OPALCO -- Part Of A Pattern?

OPALCO elections are occurring. We haven't covered or researched OPALCO as much as other local happenings, but candidate Steve Hudson seems to be making good points ... points that have the ring of truth to anyone who has watched county events generally ... secrecy, grandiose plans, financial profligacy, and strong-arm tactics. What's not to believe?

Have a look at a letter Steve wrote on March 25.
To the editor,

I'm a candidate by petition for the Opalco board. I'm writing to state my concerns about what our co-op is doing, and especially how it is being done.

Opalco is owned by its 13000+ customer/members. We elect a board of 7 to represent the members best interest, and prudently run the co-op. The board is subordinate to the owners. If the lights stay on, most customer/member/owners, including me until recently, tend to assume our co-op is doing fine.

Opalco has a proud history as a stable well run electric co-op. Broadband is like the electricity business only in that it requires transmission, distribution, and delivery. The electric business is non-competitive and relatively stable technologically. Broadband is very competitive and rapidly evolving high technology. Co-ops are not for profit entities.

A year or two ago, Opalco proposed a $30+ million expansion of its broadband program, and polled its members to see how many would support their plan. 93% of us members said no by not saying yes. The board backed off this proposal, and seemed willing to grow at a slower pace. Then Centurylinks submarine cable failed last fall and things changed. The board decided to accelerate broadband expansion.

In the last couple months, I've spent many hours trying to understand what Opalco is doing in broadband. I've read the boards proposed by-law and policy changes. I've spoken at length with board members, former board members, employees, competitors, and people close to the situation with years of involvement and insight. It's puzzling and complex. I'm trying to be brief, but please consider the following:

1. By-law and policy changes listed as "action" items on the boards February agenda would have severely reduced the members ability to initiate changes. Under the guise of the board "speaking with one voice", board members who disagree are essentially gagged, and subject to being removed by other board members if they speak their minds publicly. At that February board meeting, several customer/owners spoke against these proposals because they reduced member rights and silenced the diverse thinking that is healthy. The proposals were "tabled", but their content and intent speak volumes about this boards transparency and respect for the members they work for. Tabling the proposals was a tactical move. Public debate about board transparency and reduced member rights just prior to the election of 2 directors wouldn't be helpful if you want to pack the board with people of the same mindset.

2. A few years ago, one of 2 redundant submarine transmission cables from Lopez to San Juan was scheduled to be replace in the next 10 years or so at a cost of $3.3 million. The board president told me it is now scheduled for 2015 at a cost of $15 million. I asked how the cost could be so much higher. Was there other work contained in this budget item? No, he said. There's nothing else in it. The cost increase is from the rise in copper and permitting costs. Coincidentally this cable route does not now have fiber. It is Opalcos weakest broadband link. Is this enormous expense for the needs of the electric grid or to get that fiber in place?

3. The board has provided no financial prospectus to clarify what they are doing in broadband.There's no rate structure in place to project revenue. It's not clear what is being spent, and no way to tell if this massive commitment of your money will pay off, or if the electric ratepayer must foot the bill through more rate increases. The board president, however, insists that the cost of broadband infrastructure along transmission and distribution routes is used for the electric grid anyway, so broadband customers need only to be charged for what is built to connect them. This has at least two dubious consequences: electric ratepayers subsidize broadband ratepayers; and competitors like our local internet service providers are seriously, if not fatally, disadvantaged.

4. This board is not just changing policies, by-laws, and mission statements to justify and control its apparent broadband plans. It is using threats and intimidation to silence its critics and debate in general. You may have seen Randy Cornelius' letter criticizing Bob Jarman's concerns, stated in his letter withdrawing as a candidate. Bob was incorrect in assuming the board passed the policy change muzzling board members, but he was correct in the essence of his concern. As mentioned above, the policy was on the "action" items list of the boards February agenda, and tabled only after encountering opposition from members attending that meeting. This board has a growing reputation for using executive sessions and unannounced meetings to obscure its activities. In addition to Cornelius' public reply to Jarman, Bob also got a letter from Opalcos lawyers containing much identical language. This letter also contained the threat. Really? The board is using our money for lawyers to threaten suit to silence the debate the members need and richly deserve. it's probably safe to assume this unattractive tactic is used on others like employees, directors and former directors. Maybe I'm next.

5. Opalcos town hall meeting in Friday Harbor last week was a disappointment to say the least. Lots of slick graphics, positive slogans, and board charm. But on broadband there was very little of substance. The question of board transparency, which seems to arise only in relation to broadband, was brushed aside until the broadband item on their agenda, which came last. Meaningful debate was just emerging when time ran out. Got to catch that ferry. Board transparency was never discussed.

6. Opalco resources applied to advancing broadband are not available for electric operations. Not just money, but management and board time and attention, engineering, consultants, contractors, crew time and administrative help, all add to the unknown and growing cost. There are many, many miles of deteriorated buried electric cable to be replaced. The older design with exposed neutral conductor becomes unreliable. Electricity goes where it can. Safety and reliability are degraded.

There is more to indicate something is badly amiss. Large scale broadband expansion fundamentally redefines what our co-op is and does. It should be done only after rigorous evaluation and open debate; and only with solid approval by the members who must pay the bill.

I urge the press to do their readers the service of seriously examining this situation. I urge the members to do some homework and vote their ballots. I urge the board, and especially the individual board members, to rethink their respective positions. Your policies speak of high ethical standards. Are you in compliance with the spirit of those policies?

Opalco should use its surplus fiber capacity to haul broadband for other providers. I don't htink it should be in the retail internet or phone business. The people currently on the board are obviously intelligent, successful, and capable. Maybe they're a little blinded by the dazzling promise of broadband and pressure from "true believers", but that end has not been shown to be wise, and does not justify these means.

My candidates statement/bio as submitted to Opalco is attached FYI.

Sincerely,

Steve Hudson
Friday Harbor