Friday, October 26, 2012

Countdown to CAOmageddon: Flaw #62 - Rotten from the Inside Out

The emails below illustrate several aspects of our grant economy at work, but the point to emphasize in this posting is that the County GIS data has been completely corrupted by insider, grant-driven, back-room power politics with inherent conflicts of interest. While there may be questionable public participation about ordinances (see CAPR lawsuit), the real work of assembling the faux data that will be used to accuse us of eco-crimes under the CAO/SMP occurs in a subterranean world where there is no chance of public scrutiny. That insider world is run by low-level government functionaries, unelected appointees, the Friends, and their allies ... and they serve no one but themselves.

Date: May 31, 2011 11:32:31 AM PDT
To: Katrina Hoffman <>
Subject: RE: response to Stephanie

Hi Kat,

I think there is a little bit of terrain to carefully negotiate here. Backing up to the stated goal of the Green Shores project to create a structure and some capacity in County government to at least be an integral part of the ultimate Green Shores program in SJC, we need to focus our efforts there. As Stephanie correctly notes, The MRC has indeed contracted with the Friends a number of times for projects that resulted in excellent data that has become part of the County's GIS system and used in the development of regulations such as CAO and SMP. The negotiating needs to be around the fact that another important arm of the organization is as a strong advocate for the environment and as a litigator, too (sometimes with, and sometimes against, the County) and, for some, the County's credibility would be called into question if the two seem too close.

So, for now, I think a response should concentrate mostly on being appreciative of the likelihood of using some of the obvious overlapping opportunities for match and for the use of the data created through projects dome by the Friends, and for future data and consultations as well. We have more work to do to determine future steps and involvement in the project and the Friends' work and data will definitely kept in mind. The County needs to have a seat at the table as incentives are discussed, and needs to be seen as leading on this (if that can happen!)

My next step needs to be, with your help,  to consolidate these ideas for match, making sure it looks like a good balance, and get it to Shireene to get to the County Administrator so we can get the MOA completed.

I'm on my off day today, on the ferry, but will get back to you tomorrow about this.

I hope this helps. Feel free to write for clarification, etc.


-----Original Message-----
From: Katrina Hoffman []
Sent: Fri 5/27/2011 5:05 PM
To: Jeff Hanson
Subject: response to Stephanie

Hi Jeff,

Is the sort of response I crafted to Stephanie below appropriate, or
should I back off with the historic explanation and just acknowledge
receiving the info she sent? I don't want to overstep boundaries. Let
me know.


Hi Stephanie,

Thanks for all this! It'll be helpful with posing SJC's match
alternatives to EPA. Regarding your comment about inclusion (or lack
thereof) of FSJ in scoping, etc. of the project, I agree, it is
unfortunate. It seems like things moved really fast around application
time (when the proposal was submitted); but the MRC was aware of the
opportunity and since FSJ has folks on the MRC, that would have been
the most likely opportunity for both parties to engage in some cross-
talk at that point in time. I don't know to what extent that happened
between Mary and various entities around the County (other than the
County itself as a collaborator). It sounds like talking about how FSJ
could benefit from the grant in exchange for matching activities is a
conversation that could happen with the County along with your
conversation about contributing matching exercises, but it's not
something over which I have decision-making authority. That said, your
acknowledgment of how and where FSJ's recent and upcoming initiatives
are strongly aligned with the Green Shores for Homes grant is much
appreciated, and it sounds like they will help the County achieve some
of the milestones in the grant.

On May 27, 2011, at 11:42 AM, Stephanie Buffum wrote:

Hi Jeff and Kat!
Based on my review of this grant, it appears that you will be using data and work products primarily from FSJ projects including:
Shoreline Modification (for shoreline characterization),  Wild Salmon Project (aka PILA Pulling It All Together); countywide feederbluff assessment (joint MRC/FSJ/SJI); Bullitt Project (modeling sea level rise on shorelines; and land owner outreach);Tulalip (pending).
1.       Feeder bluff ($20-60,000 thru 2011) - landowner workshops and newsletter materials etc.
2.       Bullitt (runs July 2010-July 2011) $10,000
3.       PIAT - PSAR (Nov 2010-2012) $50,000
4.       Tulalip ($15,000 -pending) Technical assistance/education
Potential match: $145,000 (depending on start date of grant). The longer this waits, the less match available.
Rationale for including FSJ in this grant.
San Juan County is a rural island county of 16,000 residents located in the most western limits of Washington State.  San Juan Counties geography makes data collection challenging for state agencies who cannot afford to conduct marine research projects in the San Juans.
For decades the State has left many data gaps unfilled for lack of funding to survey San Juan County.  The county, like so many rural counties, lacks a department of natural resources. Any significant marine research study or shoreline characterization has been done by not-for-profit organizations, Conservation Districts or staff from the University of Washington Friday Harbor Labs or Washington State University, or tribes. For the past decade, Friends of the San Juans, an IRS not-for-profit has secured funding to ensure that comprehensive data for San Juan County data was  collected on critical marine species, nearshore marine habitats, and nearshore geomorphic habitat forming processes.  These research projects included county-wide assessments for forage fish, eelgrass, feederbluffs, kelp, shoreline modifications, and salmon habitat in the San Juans.)  All data followed state protocols for collection and many of these projects involved an educational and public outreach component.
Friends of the San Juans has extensive experience managing county scale habitat assessment and mapping projects, as well as spatially explicit analyses and the application of results to improved protection and restoration. Friends of the San Juans has also worked with community groups to protect and restore nearshore habitat.
Friends of the San Juans laid the framework for this project with many of their previous projects in which they partnered with San Juan County through the San Juan County Salmon Recovery Program which San Juan County Department of Planning oversees.
Friends of the San Juans has been filling the natural resource planning and management gap for San Juan County for 32 years.  We have developed a professional working relation with county, state and tribal partners, and we have provide the County with 10 years of mapping our most critical nearshore marine resources.
General Observations:
There will be much cross walking and data harvesting that FSJ will be needed to translate. It is unfortunate that FSJ wasn't included in the initial scoping of this project, as it builds on most  of our work products. That said, this is water under the bridge and we are committed to ensuring that our data can inform this process in the best way possible from this moment forward.  Perhaps some pots can be used to pay FSJ as "sub contractors" or as "experts" for our time in assisting you all with data organization, interpretation and harvesting. We certainly want to keep as much $ and data in San Juan County. We can certainly make the match without too dependency on our Canadian counterparts.   I would like to ensure that the data is always created in a manner that is consistent and compatible with the San Juan County GIS database maintained by Public Works.
360 378-2319 office
360-472-0404 cell

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Countdown to CAOmageddon: Flaw #61 - County Mixins'

For those who may be unfamiliar with the term, "mixins" is what some ice cream shops call the toppings (peanuts, M&Ms, etc.) that a customer can choose to have "mixed in" with their ice cream scoop. However, it might also refer to the modus operandi of our various County officials.

As we saw in the last post, despite the fact that our Auditor is an independently-elected public official, and instead of exercising independent discretion with respect to the economic consequences of Council activities (e.g., the CAOs), she has gone out of her way to put forward Council views on the CAO. From my view, our Auditor has become a participant in the process rather than an independent evaluator of facts.

And that brings us to the lawsuit filed by the Citizens Alliance for Property Rights (CAPR) against the County over the CAO process. The lawsuit alleges two causes of action:
  • Meetings (of the CAO Implementation Committee) were held without notice or minutes and closed to the public.
  • The County's continuing failure to comply with the requirements of the Growth Management Act (including its public participation requirements) must be enjoined.
One of the difficulties to be worked out on the lawsuit is the status of our Prosecutor's office. Our Prosecuting Attorney is charged with defending the lawsuit; however, a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, Jon Cain, was a standing member of the CAO Implementation Committee. There is a potential conflict, and the Prosecuting Attorney might be called as a witness.

Regardless of how that is worked out, the participation of the Deputy Prosecutor in months (if not years) of meetings as an apparent participant in a legislative committee, just serves to further illustrate the "mixins" that are part of our local government. It seems like one more example of group think instead of independence of mind.

Despite the fact that three Council members have been named in a lawsuit regarding the CAOs and the CAO process, the Council appears determined to continue moving ahead with its approval of the CAOs. It would come as no surprise if we were to learn that everyone were of one mind about that.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Countdown to CAOmageddon: Flaw #60 - Group-Think Echo Chamber

You may remember a blog post called Consensus Ineptitude from back in July. It concerned a question put to Milene Henley, our independently-elected County Auditor, regarding the cost of the CAO. It was a reasonable question. John Lackey of the Planning Commission wanted Henley's independent opinion of the potential costs of the CAO. In response, Lackey got a three-page non-answer.

Now we have some emails from that time. They show that, rather than give an independent assessment of the costs, Henley engages in group think with other members of the County echo chamber to provide a reply that is less than honest.

The County puts more time and effort into crafting non-answers than answers.  And where is the Patty Miller who believes,
We must find a balance between adopting regulations that comply with the state law and protect the critical areas, are enforceable, and are as simple as possible but yet allow property owners the maximum flexibility to use their property as they see fit"
 ... because the Patty Miller who believes that has not been showing up at Council meetings.

From: Milene Henley <>
Date: March 27, 2012 9:25:36 AM PDT
To: Patty Miller <>
Cc: Pete Rose <>, Rene Beliveau <>
Subject: RE: CAO

Hi, Patty,
I definitely would not have quoted you, even without your admonition.  This is clearly a politically sensitive matter.  I had already considered the fact that planning and permitting (other than county long-term planning) are supposed to be fee-supported. The clear implication is that the people developing their land will pay for implementation of CAO.  But I agree that we need to think this thing through, and to understand better what those costs are likely to be, before we discuss this publicly.

And yes, Mr. Lackey definitely has a point of view, as do most people on the subject of CAO.  And I know that you, of all Council members, will be measured, rational and balanced in your approach to adoption.  It is a responsibility I do not envy you.

I will take your, Pete's, and Rene's responses to my email and synthesize them into a responsible reply to Mr. Lackey.  And I will share that reply with you before I send it out.


F. Milene Henley
San Juan County Auditor
(360) 370-7558

-----Original Message-----
From: Patty Miller
Sent: Tue 3/27/2012 9:16 AM
To: Milene Henley; Pete Rose; Rene Beliveau
Subject: RE: CAO


Pete and Rene may disagree with me but I believe the answer is that the cost associated with implementing the new CAO will be borne by the applicants wishing to develop their property.  The permitting department is essentially budgeted as a zero cost budget.  Permit fees are adjusted to reflect the cost of processing those permits.  I expect that there will be some initial costs in terms of time and training but I do not expect those to be significant.

HAVING SAID THAT PLEASE DO NOT TAKE THAT ANSWER AS ONE THAT IS GIVEN WITHOUT SIGNFICANT CONCERN AS TO THE RAMIFICATIONS OF THAT ANSWER. PLEASE DO NOT FORWARD THAT ANSWER AS A QUOTE FROM ME WITHOUT INCLUDING THE ADDITIONAL STATEMENTS. I am confident that this statement will show up on every blog, newspaper, and public opinion piece on the topic very quickly. For that reason I do not want it to be taken out of context or implied that I said it flippantly, without significant concern, or stated that I am resigned to it.

In my opinion this will be the greatest challenge that the council will face as we begin our review of the proposed amendments.  We must find a balance between adopting regulations that comply with the state law and protect the critical areas, are enforceable, and are as simple as possible but yet allow property owners the maximum flexibility to use their property as they see fit.  Whether or not that would be best accomplished through a redlined version of the existing regulations or a new version that incorporates both the existing and new solutions is subjective.

I disagree entirely with Mr. Lackey statement that the "current mindset will be to pass this wetlands section as soon as possible".  I find this process entirely frustrating but one that I have to work within where the body that is ultimately responsible for the decision is the last to see and comment on the proposed changes and we are attacked for "micro managing" if we get too involved too early in the process.  I have every intention of taking the time we need to try to develop the best ordinance we can, given the need to achieve the balance I mention above.  I just want to get started on it.....

Thanks, Patty

-----Original Message-----
From: Milene Henley
Sent: Tuesday, March 27, 2012 8:15 AM
To: Pete Rose; Rene Beliveau; Patty Miller
Subject: FW: CAO

Hi, Pete, Patty & Rene,
I'm forwarding to you an email I received today, following a phone call yesterday.  John Lackey, a local real estate agent, is the sender.

John's question has to do with the cost of CAO, after it is adopted.  He asked me, specifically, if any thought has been given to budgeting for the interpretation, implementation, and defense of CAO once adopted.  The defense--assuming there will be lawsuits--seems the most difficult to "budget" for.  But I would distill part of his question down to:  do we expect the issuance of permits to be more time-consuming than currently, once CAO is adopted, and have we given thought to how we will budget for that additional expense, if we expect it.

I would like to be able to give John an answer to his direct question - recognizing that his more general "rant" is unanswerable.  Do we anticipate significant costs of implementation, and should we anticipate additional FTEs in the 2013 budget because of it?


F. Milene Henley
San Juan County Auditor
(360) 370-7558

-----Original Message-----
From: John Lackey []
Sent: Tue 3/27/2012 8:05 AM
To: Milene Henley
Subject: CAO


Thanks for taking the time to chat with me yesterday. As you well know we are wrestling with the proposed CAO rewrites of the existing ordinance.
Aside from what I think about the proposals in front of us on the planning commission in regards to civil rights, property rights, the taking of property, I also have grave concerns as to how this whole situation is going to be budgeted. From what I hear off the record from some of the staff at planning, this is already becoming a nightmare. The possible wetlands map has included every mud puddle and manmade pond in the county. No one in a leadership position as far as I can tell has given the slightest inclination as to how this is going to handled once it becomes the law of the land.
Ultimately where does this responsibility lie? An even larger question that comes up is the cost to the county of defending itself when the lawsuits are filed. I am sorry if this has turned into a rant on my part, but this Friday there seems to be a very good chance that this mess is going to be passed along to the council where the current mindset will be to pass this wetlands section as soon as possible. I have no idea how you feel about the proposed rewrites, but I believe the unintended consequences are going to sink the county financially. Any thoughts you might share with me would be appreciated.


John Lackey

Monday, October 22, 2012

Countdown to CAOmageddon: Flaw #59 - Left Hand, Meet Right Hand

The proposed CAOs are not just a badly written law based on bad "science" and flawed premises.  In addition, they will make us even more the vassals of an incompetently run local government. Now, I am not saying that all County employees are incompetent. Far from it. However, I think our County is managed incompetently. Often, the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing.

The confusion surrounding the "dismissal" of Maureen See is a recent case in point. What is her status? No one seems to know. Her dismissal was announced 11 days ago. At first, she was "fired." Then, we were told that she was placed on "administrative leave," but in reality, she was placed on administrative leave only for one week, to be followed by subsequent termination. It's been more than one week now, but the County has not clarified her situation, not even to Ms. See or her attorney.

What is going on? As press stories have pointed out, See allegedly ran afoul of a law that often involves a simple reprimand. Moreover, other than an occasional posted memo or a broadcast email from the County Administrator, there was no dissemination of a County policy or related employee training about appropriate behavior.  So how were employees to know what might constitute behavior that "crossed the line"?

And as has come to light since See's "termination," it appears Howie Rosenfeld also may have been violating the same law for months. Then his wife endorses him in his election bid, not in her individual capacity, but as mayor of Friday Harborwhich many people feel is yet another violation of the same law because she is using her elected office as the platform for her endorsement. 

It's just a mess of double standards, but it's no surprise. That's just the way this place works.

If you get caught in a similarly capricious vortex for CAO matters, you'll have to pay $2300 just to appeal the allegations made against you. It is a strange world we live in when filing an appeal in Washington State Courts costs $280, filing an appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals costs $450, filing an appeal to the United States Supreme Court costs $300, but filing an appeal for land use determinations in San Juan County is $2300.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Back from Siberia ... Figuratively Speaking

Hello friends and fans!  Many apologies, but the Trojan Heron was quite literally working on some explosive stories in other parts of the State for several days ... and it lasted longer than anticipated.

We're back with new posts later today.  Although the Trojan Heron's attention was diverted elsewhere, the steady drumbeat of hypocrisy, bias, and bad thinking continues in our County unabated.  There is so much to comment on:
  • County employees being fired for campaign/personal use of computers, and County Councillors doing nearly, if not exactly, the same thing. And incredibly, the County lies about the termination, calling it administrative leave. That's one more example of our County's long-standing commitment to truthiness.
  • The Friday Harbor Mayor endorses her husband for Council. What took her so long? Was she undecided up until the past week? Since this was a mayoral endorsement, can she issue the endorsement from her Town email?
  • CAPR files a lawsuit dealing with procedural aspects of the CAOs, and nary a mention of it by the Council (although it was printed in the Island Guardian and San Juan Islander).  If a lawsuit falls in a wood, and there are no Councillors around to acknowledge it, does it exist?  
  • The County issues a budget document that reads like a political propaganda hit piece sprinkled with a few numbers. Did Bob Jean really write that or is he being the mouthpiece for others in the County?
And ballots are out!  All that plus what Karl Popper would think of Dr. Adamus, Shireene Hale, our Council, and the CAOs ... plenty to talk about. 

We're baaaaAAAACK!!!

Is this who wrote the County propaganda ... er, I mean ... County budget document?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Countdown to CAOmageddon: Flaw #58 - Stroke Politics

Most of us know that our County opted to "fully plan" back in 1990 when Bruce Orchid, Tom Cowan, and Bill LaPorte voted to fully opt-in to the GMA provisions. CAOs are required whether we fully plan or not, but by opting-in, we subjected ourselves to the jurisdiction of the Growth Management Hearings Board (GMHB).

We keep hearing about the many forms of eco-corruption here in our County and State, ranging from hypocrisy and undue influence to outright government scandals. One of the best descriptions of corruption related to the GMHB comes from the webpages of David Spring, Democratic candidate for the State Legislature. He alleges bribery and scandal associated with Gregoire's appointment of Republican Cheryl Pflug to the GMHB, which many believe was a political stunt for buying off a Republican so that Republicans would not gain control of the State Senate. Spring lays out 20 evidence-backed reasons for why Gregoire's appointment of Pflug was illegal. No one looks good in this mess.
This report details 20 facts which taken together prove beyond any reasonable doubt that this was a million dollar bribe which was arranged more than 3 years ago by Governor Gregoire and Senator Pflug.
In some locales, this sort of thing is known as stroke politics or parish-pump politics. It's when a politician pulls a self-serving stunt in order to win an election. It's trading favors and buying people off, frequently related to a parochial issue rather than the overall public good.

Look at David Sping's website. It's one heckuva read from a very courageous guy.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Countdown to CAOmageddon: Flaw #57 - No Public Allowed

For months, three County Council members and several County staff met as part of the CAO Implementation Committee. At first, based upon an initial analysis from the Prosecuting Attorney that some have called ludicrous, the Council mistakenly believed the Committee could hold private (non-public) meetings since only three members of the Council were present. However, after taking a second look at the matter several months later, Randy Gayord subsequently concluded that three Council members did constitute a quorum for taking negative action (i.e., blocking an ordinance), and so the CAO Implementation Committee meetings had been held in violation of the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA).

Of course, by that time, months of meetings had already transpired, and on top of that, there were scores of emails involving three Council members, each email thread itself could potentially be construed as a violation of the OPMA since discussion took place and actions were taken. In an effort to minimize the apparent damage, Council Chair Miller tried to explain that nothing substantive was discussed during the CAO Implementation Committee meetings, only scheduling matters (see email below). However, the trail of emails tells a very different story. The CAO update process was discussed, matters relating to buffers, the SMP Inventory and Characterization Report, Ecology letters, and who knows what else.

There is simply no easy way to fix that blunder. It's a fatal flaw associated with the proposed CAO.

I get the feeling that the stench of death surrounding the proposed CAOs is beginning to become noticeable, even to some of the Council members. Privately, I understand some of the key players are starting to distance themselves from it, saying, for example, that they never liked the "site-specific" approach in the first place. Had they ever developed a site-specific approach, that complaint might be more credible. But don't confuse whining for outright opposition to the CAOs. Feeling as if there is nowhere else to go and having a dearth of courage, Council members are likely to vote for the CAOs while simultaneously distancing themselves from it, which is a position that only a politician could grasp.

It seems that even the local union branch of County employees, Local 1849, may be growing tired of the shenanigans of our elected leaders.  As a case in point, the Local has not endorsed either of the incumbents seeking re-election, but they have endorsed Marc Forlenza, who is running against Councilman Howie Rosenfeld.

Not much time now before our current Council votes on the CAO. At this point, hardly a soul cares for it, but like some over-budget nuclear power plant, the Council is fixated on the sunk costs and feels they must finish it.  Best just to toss it to Randy Gaylord and hope for the best. Handing it off to Gaylord may be a fitting event, not because he's the Prosecuting Attorney, but because he's also the coroner, and the proposed CAO is so flawed that it's dead on arrival.

From: Patty Miller []
Sent: Monday, March 12, 2012 12:31 PM
Cc: Pete Rose; Shireene Hale
Subject: CAO Implementation Committee Meetings

Ms. Dickinson,

I believe you made a request to be notified of when and where the CAO Implementation Committee meetings are taking place.  The Committee meets very infrequently (generally less than once per month) and we do not have any future meeting scheduled at this time.  Historically we have not opened these meetings to the public since there is not a quorum of the council, any staff recommendations are discussed in open Council meetings, and these meetings are primarily just focused on coordinating
schedules and timing.    It would be up to the group to reconsider this

Thank you,

Patty Miller
Chair - San Juan County Council

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Countdown to CAOmageddon: Flaw #56 - Council Doesn't Give a Damn

This blog has talked about many instances where our CAO process has gone astray, but I was reminded of how early this corruption began when I happened to look back at the public participation plan for the CAOs from the time when the update process was initiated back in 2006. One of the first components of the public participation process was described as:
March 31, 2006 the County and Friends of the San Juans sponsored a one day seminar on updating critical areas ordinances. Speakers included representatives of State and local agencies with relevant expertise.
Back then, the County didn't even try to hide their association with the Friends. They openly memorialized it in their plans. These days, instead of showing joint advocacy with the Friends, the County prefers to practice virulent dismissiveness of everyone else. No matter what the criticisms of the prospective CAOs, the Council just presses on, ignoring it all. They put their heads down and hope for the best.

For example, the Council has not considered the Minority Reports of the Planning Commission, and doesn't appear to have any intention of doing so. Perhaps that's because the Minority Reports have been just as critical of the CAO process as the CAOs. For example, the Minority Report for the Fish & Wildlife CAO section drew the following conclusions.
  1. Public participation in the Planning Commission Process was suppressed.
  2. The end result was a foregone conclusion.
  3. No consideration was given to potential economic consequences of the FWHCAO draft.
  4. The positions reflected in the Planning Commission draft are based on invalid analysis and legal conclusions.
  5. The Planning Commission draft applies buffer restrictions in a manner inconsistent with and unsupported by the BAS that has been adopted for the CAO review.
  6. The Planning Commission draft imposes restrictions on land use that are inconsistent with the GMA requirement to protect rural character.
  7. The majority approach makes it impossible to monitor compliance with the no net loss criterion.
  8. The majority approach improperly cuts corners just to get it done.
The report ends with the following statement:
The oft repeated shibboleth that "this will all have to be worked out in court" since "the county will be sued no matter what" is no reason for failing to conduct the difficult analysis required by the WAC and consistency with the GMA and the Comp Plan.
The Minority Report is just one more indication that the County isn't even trying to get it right anymore. The Council is just going through the motions to get the CAO passed, and they no longer give a damn.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Countdown to CAOmageddon: Flaw #55 - Power and Control

What if the folks with the carefully cultivated image of eco-selflessness were actually the greediest, most power-hungry people in the room? Then you'd probably have an inkling about the workings of many environmental groups today. No matter how much "they" get, it's never enough. We saw a recent example of this with an email sent around by the Friends (see bottom of this post). They asked, "Shouldn't we protect 9% of our shorelines?"

The Friends know that 100% of our shorelines are proposed as critical under the draft CAOs. The Friends know that 20% to 25% of our shoreline parcels are already in either parks/public lands or in natural/conservancy designations. They're just hoping that you don't know it. 

I think our question back to the Friends should be, "Shouldn't the Friends have to tell the truth at least 9% of the time?"

But the Friends are just following in the tradition of many environmental organizations in Washington. Our neighbors in Skagit County have their hands full too. For a great summary of how the forces of eco-phony power and control are arrayed against average people, have a look at the video below.