Thursday, November 29, 2012

Scientific and Governmental Misconduct

Back in September, we covered the plight of a small oyster farm in Drakes Estero in Marin County, California. With respect to government bullying and scientific misconduct, that story sounds eerily like our own. To top it all off, the local band of environmental zealots down there (Environmental Action Committee of West Marin) is headed by none other than Amy Trainer, the former in-house attorney for the Friends. Small world.

The accusatory environmental narrative leveled at the oyster farm is essentially identical to the one put forward by the Friends against homeowners here. Funny how that is, don't you think?

Back in September, everyone was waiting for Interior Secretary Salazar to make his decision on whether to shut down the oyster farm or let it continue operating. His decision came down today: he is ordering the shut-down and removal of the oyster farm, which has been in the Estero for about 90 years.

A few posts back, we heard Nick Jones, one of our local oyster farmers, call shellfish farming "perhaps the most environmentally positive form of food production on the planet" because, among other reasons, filter feeders actually cleanse the water. We also heard Nick say that to expand his operation, it will require $30,000 in permit fees ... and that's before the new requirements of the Critical Areas Ordinances (CAOs) and Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) go into effect.

I don't think ordinary citizens quite understand the magnitude of the bureaucratic discretion, or the extent of the overlapping jurisdictions, or the multiplicity of environmental watchdogs that exist today. An alphabet soup of laws, agencies, and interests groups are watching every environmental move we make. When I hear citizens say that the San Juans are unprotected, or when they suggest parallels between today and the anything-goes days in which Rachel Carson lived, I have to wonder what rock they have been sleeping under? Just a partial list of pertinent environmental organizations and laws would include CAO, SMP, GMA, CWA, SDWA, NPDES, PSP, AAOG/LIO, EPA, DOH, CDPD, WDFW, DFW, Ecology, Tribes, Stewardship Network, Friends, and on ... and on ... and on.

As the Drakes Estero Oystergate affair shows, if "they" can't find a real reason to condemn you, they are not above drumming up a fake one. Every person in the San Juans needs to know about Oystergate. Here is what Senator Dianne Feinstein said about Salazar's decision.
The National Park Service’s review process has been flawed from the beginning with false and misleading science.
For more information, read the Washington Post article and/or watch the video below. The video is especially good. I strongly encourage you to watch it. If you have difficulty viewing the embedded video, you can view it at this link. The related blog is here. You won't believe the parallels to our CAOs and SMP.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Blast From The Past - How The CAOs Came Together

Some of you may remember Dr. Dr. Kenn Brooks. That's not a typo. I call him Dr. Dr. because he has two doctorates. Brooks was a participant in some CAO-related seminars here a few years ago. He lives in Jefferson County. Brooks challenged much of Ecology's Critical Areas Ordinances (CAOs) and Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) science, and I think we've gleaned enough through our own experiences to know that Brooks was right.

In the email below, we witness Ecology's reaction to Kenn Brooks and other citizens who dare to challenge Ecology (in this specific case, over SMP science, a prelude to our battles to come). It is a typical Ecology reaction, typically organized by Erik Stockdale, to typically malign anyone who confronts Ecology authority, and in typical style it involves way too many public officials discrediting citizens for no apparent reason other than the fact that the citizens are thinking for themselves. Like Delta Force going after terrorists, the Ecology pseudo-science squad deploys to crush independently minded scientists before they spread.

While the email below is about the SMP, Ecology approaches the CAOs and SMP with the same attitude. After all, the CAOs are really just the warm-up act for the SMP. Unlike the SMP, however, Ecology (Gordon White) asserts that the agency has no authority over the CAOs, which is a little puzzling considering they have a whole division of people working on nothing but matters related to it. Fork-tongued Ecology always seems to spend a considerable proportion of time on topics that they profess to have no involvement in. Maybe that's why Stockdale suggests the entire email thread should be deleted.

As a postscript, for a "public" servant Stockdale has an awful lot of conversations that he's thinks should be private. After looking through hundreds of Ecology emails, I wish I had a penny for every instance where Stockdale admonishes, "Please do not forward."
From: Stockdale, Erik (ECY) 
Sent: Thursday, April 01, 2010 4:07 PM
To: McMillan, Andy (ECY); Lund, Perry (ECY)
Cc: Hruby, Tom (ECY)
Subject: RE: hola
Andy, I just tried reaching you on your cell. Let¹s talk tomorrow.
Tom, please read this thread from the bottom. Can either Tom or Perry set up a conference call? I can be reached at 206-524-6858. 1pm works well for me.
At some point I think we should all delete this email thread.
Thanks, Erik
From: McMillan, Andy (ECY) 
Sent: Thursday, April 01, 2010 4:03 PM
To: Lund, Perry (ECY); Stockdale, Erik (ECY)
Subject: RE: hola
I am available Friday between 1-3.  I recommend we include Tom in the initial conversation unless you guys think otherwise.
From: Lund, Perry (ECY) 
Sent: Thursday, April 01, 2010 6:51 AM
To: Stockdale, Erik (ECY); McMillan, Andy (ECY)
Subject: RE: hola
I'm in the field today.  Here tomorrow.  I hope you're feeling better, Erik.

From: Stockdale, Erik (ECY)
Sent: Wed 3/31/2010 6:38 PM
To: Lund, Perry (ECY); McMillan, Andy (ECY)
Subject: RE: hola
Yes, agreed.
I¹ll be working from home tomorrow as I¹ve got a raging head cold. Are you two available for a phone call? I¹d say let¹s start with the three of us, and Kathy if she¹s available, and then take some suggestions to Gordon.
Thanks, Erik
From: Lund, Perry (ECY) 
Sent: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 4:34 PM
To: McMillan, Andy (ECY); Stockdale, Erik (ECY)
Subject: Re: hola
Thanks, Erik. We should continue this conversation, but it needs to be broader than us. Kathy must be involved, and Gordon had some good ideas. 

Perry J Lund

From: McMillan, Andy (ECY) 
To: Stockdale, Erik (ECY) 
Cc: Lund, Perry (ECY) 
Sent: Wed Mar 31 15:51:08 2010
Subject: RE: hola
I am disappointed to hear what Kenn had to say.  I believe that many of the statements you highlighted are misleading or untrue.
I will be glad to talk with you, Tom , Perry etc. to figure out how we respond.
From: Stockdale, Erik (ECY) 
Sent: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 1:30 PM
To: McMillan, Andy (ECY)
Cc: Lund, Perry (ECY)
Subject: hola
Hey Andy, hope you are doing OK. You missed an interesting meeting last week. Okay, I lie some times.
We (Gordon, Tom, Paula, Perry, Kathy) met with Ken Brooks, Don Flora et al. in Port Hadlock to discuss the Jefferson County SMP that is before Ecology for review.
He said some stuff that I don¹t think we should leave unanswered. I¹d like to go over what he said, pull in Tom Hruby, and consider setting up a conference call with Ken. Though he says he¹s retired, he keeps popping up in Bellevue, San Juan, Kitsap, and other places.
Some highlights:
-          We ignored Ken¹s supplemental BAS document, and our response was an unscientific diatribe.
-          You told Ken that Ecology didn¹t want to litigate the Jefferson County CAO. ³Andy said let¹s negotiate², implying that his supplemental BAS was a problem for us and we were concerned that we wouldn¹t win and would rather settle.
-          14 references didn¹t support the conclusions made by Ecology.
-          Sheldon et al. was incomplete because we ignored key documents.
-          He hasn¹t seen any scientific rigor in Ecology¹s guidance documents.
-          He¹s appalled by the lack of intellectual rigor and scientific integrity in Ecology¹s work.
-          We haven¹t done our homework, period.
-          There¹s no proof that existing buffers in Jefferson County don¹t work.
-          He wants ³showing of harm² to be rigorous.
-          There¹s no mention of the toxicity of tropalones in wood in our BAS (implying this was a fatal flaw).
-          Terrestrial insects, shade don¹t support salmon in marine shorelines.
-          The role of large woody debris in salmonid ecology is misguided. There isn¹t a tree to be seen in the copper river in Alaska, yet the river teems with salmon. Therefore wood isn¹t necessary.
-          ³Who says that 90% removal of a particular pollutant is what a buffer should be designed for?²
-          ³It¹s incomprehensible҆ with all the criticism of Ecology¹s so-called peer reviewed BAS that the agency continues to push it on local governments.²
Perry may have other notes of some of his statements.
Am not feeling well and am going to head home to rest. Pls. don¹t forward this email.
Let¹s talk in the near future about a response strategy.
Thanks, Erik

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Burning Down the House

Watch out, you might get what you're after. That's a line from the Talking Heads song Burning Down the House. That's how today's hearing on the CAOs went: a bunch of talking heads burning down the house.

In many ways, today's hearing was typical of the standard public participation events occurring throughout the CAOs. We heard from the tribes (the Tulalip). We heard from the Friends multiple times. During public access time we also heard from staff, such as Barbara Rosenkotter who is a County employee serving as the Salmon Lead Entity Coordinator. In customary zoomorphic and theomorphic style, she claimed that she spoke for the salmon who are not able to speak for themselves. I wonder how many salmon know that? We heard from the Common Sense Alliance (CSA), and we heard from CSA supporters too. And oh yeah, I suppose somewhere in there was a non-affiliated person or two, but I honesty couldn't tell you.

We heard the usual environmental hysteria talk. The San Juans are unprotected. The CAOs are the weakest in the state. We have to be more careful with an island. We have to ... we have to ... we have to ... blah blah blah.

Surprisingly, there were some curious parallels between the testimony of the Friends and CSA. Both organizations feel that the CAOs are deeply flawed. The Friends, for example, say the proposed CAOs are the weakest in the state. They say the CAOs amount to no protection at all. Then in the next breath, with no concern for their self-contradiction, the Friends urge the Council to pass the CAOs. That puts the Friends in the peculiar position of openly supporting the passage of laws which they allege do nothing in terms of environmental protection.

CSA also thinks the CAOs do nothing, except place lots of restrictions on homeowners, trap them with incomprehensible formulas and rules, and potentially restrict nearly every aspect of property use.

However, the Friends apparently like the part about abusing homeowners, so they urged the Council not to kick the can down the road to the next Council. Buoyed by such bold encouragement and despite the Council's repudiation during the recent election, the Council members have convinced themselves they are on a mission from God to pass the CAOs. We heard Lovel Pratt today refute the notion that the elections were a referendum on her performance relative to the CAOs. She claimed that she lost the election because she was outspent and because we voters were confused. We heard other self-puffery and deflection from other Council members too. They flattered themselves with their knowledge and hard work on the CAOs.  The bottom line is that this Council is going to pass the CAOs come hell or high water. No more kicking the can down the road.

Kicking the can down the road? The Council fully admits that these CAOs will be appealed to the Growth Management Hearings Board (GMHB). Instead of kicking the can down the road to the next Council, they're kicking the can upstairs to the GMHB.

In written testimony to the Council today, here is how CSA summed up the Council's position relative to the CAOs:
We have supported this Council’s intent not to “kick the can down the road.” However, if Council adopts a seriously defective CAO just to “get 'er done” and satisfy those who keep saying it is taking too long, YOU WILL BE “KICKING THE CAN DOWN THE ROAD” and leaving a toxic mess for our community, by elevating form over substance and failing to properly protect our critical areas, our economy, or our community. Much hard work has been done, and significant progress has been made, but this is not the time for analytical shortcuts or legislative horse-trading. The fundamental defects we have identified are not new – they are not 11th hour delaying tactics. We urge you to keep working to either cure these defects or consider the alternative approach, “A Reasonable Way Forward for the County and the CAO Process” submitted by CSA on September 10, 2012.
But in typical fashion, the County isn't listening.

P.S. Don't miss Nick Power's article in the Island Guardian because we should be ashamed of ourselves.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Their Finger Is On The Button

As we approach the final hearings on the CAO (tomorrow 10:45 am), I feel it is an appropriate time to reacquaint ourselves with our vision statement from our Comprehensive Plan. As was noted in a comment to an earlier post, the preamble says:
WE THE PEOPLE of San Juan County recognize that these rural islands are an extraordinary treasure of natural beauty and abundance, and that independence, privacy and personal freedom are values prized by islanders. Being a diverse people bound together by these shared values, we declare our commitment to work towards this vision of the San Juan Islands in 2020 A.D.
The rest is pretty good too. Read it at this link, and judge for yourself whether we are living up to our common vision.

After you do that, reflect on the miserable quality of the scientific deliberations for the CAOs. Reflect on the baseless, blind ambition to invade islanders' privacy. Reflect on what the CAO restrictions will do to our sustainability, our self-reliance, our independence, and our personal freedom.

One of my favorite Facebook pages goes by the enthusiastic but somewhat improper name of "I Fucking Love Science", which is often abbreviated IFLS. I'll leave you with some of the posters and cartoons from IFLS that have particular resonance with the CAOs.

Okay, this last one is from the Economist, not IFLS.  We may not be Greece exactly, but have you seen the County's debt or the growth of its expenditures while we have frittered away time on the CAOs?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Simple Gifts

The old Shakers song says:
'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free ... 
The Shakers believed in simplicity and a culture of work, and our County would do well to recall their virtues.

With rare exception, it seems whenever this County is confronted with an option, it chooses the complex over the simple; the grand vision over the here and now; the expensive over the frugal; upshifts over downshifts.

We build empires of coordinating committees, inter-governmental panels, advocacy non-profits, and junior taxation districts. Having chosen to live in a rural community, we then set about making it less rural, wanting improved transportation, bigger roads, signage, more convenient ferry service, complete streets, bike lanes, and a mapped and formally-designated island-wide trail system. And of course, all this stuff needs plans, plans, plans. All this stuff needs grants, grants, grants, including all the administration, reports, and inflated self-puffery that goes along with it. Once we have all that bling, we need to show it off and promote it with brochures and campaigns. Ironically, a lot of this new complexity and development is passed off as conservation, and while all this planning and conserving is going on, the government starts to reach so far into people's lives that virtually nothing escapes its purview. Many who think about starting a business or farm feel they have to do so either illegally or else subject themselves to the indignity and crushing expense of a thousand reviews by limitless bureaucratic know-it-alls ... or maybe not even try at all, just give up before they even give it a go. And the avalanche of government oversight never stops. The visioning never stops. The projections never stop. The plans to link us to bigger and better know-it-alls in a giant know-it-all network never stops.

It has to stop.

Nick Jones has written a Thanksgiving article that was published in the Island Guardian. It is reproduced here in its entirety.

Happy Thanksgiving

This year, as we have for the past eight or nine years, we provided smoked salmon to the Family Resource Center to help fill Thanksgiving baskets for island families.  This is a wonderful service built on collaboration between our island churches, the Resource Center and many individuals.  In the time we have participated, the number of baskets requested has climber from 17 (if my memories are correct) to more than 50.  It is a sobering thought that so many of our friends, neighbors, and fellow islanders are struggling.  Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the blessings we enjoy, to share with those who are struggling, and maybe above all, to celebrate the productivity and vigor of our land, to contemplate the fruits of our labors.
Lately I have been working on preparing paperwork to expand our shellfish operation.  Our attorney tells me to expect to spend at least $30,000 in so doing.  We will pay for multiple studies, vast amounts of legal time and extortionate permit fees to fund the same process on the county side.  The permit will take at least 4 months to process.  We will do all this to prove the sustainability of shellfish growing, which is perhaps the most environmentally positive form of food production on the planet.  The process will not improve the outcome at all.  It will merely eat up scare time and resources, and keep a small army of consultants and bureaucrats busy.  If the permit is approved, we will be able to employ at least four additional people, year round, at family wage jobs. 
 I have no water to haul for developers or coal port operators.  All I know is what we experience:  We farm livestock and shellfish and work with local and tribal fishers to bring local seafood products to market.  Over the past 10 years we have built our business up from nothing to employ 14 people.  We currently supply product as far afield as Hong Kong and the East Coast.   Given current and impending regulatory hurdles, it would be flat-out impossible to build what we have built with the resources we had available then.  As we work to expand further pitched battles with regulators has become our weekly, if not daily, reality.  
I marvel at a system that actively fights people who are trying to build productive businesses.  I marvel at a government that creates barriers for those who want to grow food.  And I marvel at our elected officials who accept and apologize for their insane regulatory structure, who willfully consign so many island families to stunted and stressful lives. 
And so this Thanksgiving I am deeply grateful for the bounty we enjoy and steward.  I am deeply grateful for the robust ecosystem, which supports it.  I am deeply grateful to live in such a caring community, and I am deeply grateful to be able to share some of our good fortune with struggling families.  I am deeply grateful to have the opportunity to provide jobs to our crew and pure food to our customers. I pray that our policy makers will have the vision and fortitude to reclaim a county, state and nation that helps people create lasting, meaningful and productive lives. And I pray that, by consequence of their actions, beginning next year, each successive year will see more jobs created, more businesses started and fewer families in need in San Juan County. 

Nick Jones

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Peterson CAO List

We have had a request to publish the Peterson list. It just so happens that we have a copy. Happy reading! (Click to enlarge each image).

And after you're done, have a look at another story about the ways our public officials try to circumvent public scrutiny ... this time involving the EPA.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

I doubt many Americans would ever think of an aging foreign Muslim grandfather as "cool," and I further doubt that many Americans would ever associate the image of a gray-bearded Muslim man with the concept of "peace."

But like a lot of conventional wisdom, including ideas propounded about the CAOs, preconceived notions can make us look pretty foolish.

Our County and the world may be in turmoil, but on this Thanksgiving Day, we at least have a temporary ceasefire in Gaza between Hamas and Israel to be thankful for. To celebrate that event, I offer this link to Yusuf Islam's Peace Train.

It sounds even better than it did 35 years ago, and Cat Stevens is still as cool as the other side of the pillow. Enjoy, Happy Thanksgiving to all, challenge your preconceived notions, think for yourself, and believe in evidence!

One Of These Is Not Like The Others

Like the old Sesame Street game, when we look at our Council members relative to the CAOs, one of them is not like the others. We saw more evidence of that yesterday when the Council had a discussion about their upcoming consistency hearings (November 27 and December 3). But before we get into that, I have to explain one of the deliberate misconceptions perpetuated by some CAO supporters.

As most readers of the Trojan Heron know by now, the State has no formal authority over the CAOs.  However, since San Juan County opted into full participation with the GMA back in 1990, our CAOs can be appealed to the Growth Management Hearings Board (GMHB). Anyone can bring a complaint before the GMHB, including the State, and it often does. The State also can take other actions to restrict the County's access to funding, at least as a theoretical possibility.

In this way, the State is able to claim that it has no role in the CAOs while simultaneously leveling threats at the County about the CAOs. There is often a gulf, however, between the demands of the State and the legal requirements of the CAOs. Therein lies much of the controversy about the CAOs. Do we follow what the law requires, or do we follow what the State says we have to do ... even when the State's threats do not appear to be consistent with the law or with the facts on the ground, insofar as the facts can be ascertained and demonstrated?

Broadly speaking, suffice to say that five of the councillors seem to be more concerned about the State's threats (or the threats of the Friends) than with the law and the facts. One councillor (Rich Peterson) is a hold out. He is more concerned about the law and facts (not to mention the citizens and the environment) rather than the threats. As a further obfuscation, some CAO supporters (e.g., Lovel Pratt) have frequently characterized their opponents as ignoring CAO law. That is exactly the opposite of the reality of the situation.

Peterson believes the current proposed CAOs have several fundamental and fatal legal flaws. He is unlikely to vote for the proposed CAOs without major changes. He has circulated to the Council a list of the minimum changes that he feels are necessary to gain his support.

That brings us to yesterday's Council meeting. The five pro-CAO councillors, especially since the election, are eager to pass the CAOs unanimously. Unanimous approval might convey some legal legitimacy upon the new CAOs that they wouldn't otherwise have. Probably more importantly, though, three of the existing councillors are likely to stand for election (Miller, Pratt, Stephens). After all the CAO criticism aimed at the councillors, unanimous approval of the CAOs might rehabilitate their electoral chances. During the consistency discussion yesterday, we saw the Council dealing with all these subtexts while at the same time not saying a word about them. The words we heard were about public notice and schedule, but every councillor was pondering whether the five could accept the demands of Peterson with enough time to fulfill the public notice and related administrative requirements of the law. We even saw Patty Miller deliver a rather desperate lecture to Peterson (see the discussion around the 6:39 video mark) about the information he needed to provide to the rest of the group in order to strike a deal.

Can they swallow Peterson's changes? Can they get the changes done in time for a 6-0 vote before their lame-duck terms expire, or do they press forward as is?

Only time will tell, but with respect to the CAOs, one councillor is definitely not like the others, and the Trojan Heron is very glad about that.

As a postscript, I would like to point out the paradox embodied in the argument that says we must listen to the State about the CAOs while at the same time we overwhelmingly voted for a State initiative that rejected federal law.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Iceberg Government

Who runs this County? Is it the people we elect? Sometimes it's hard to tell.

Many of the posts on this blog present evidence of how this County operates. We've shown emails of public officials and contractors conspiring to avoid public participation. We've seen State officials tell whopping lies. We have accounts from former citizen-committee members about being led around by the nose by staff and consultants.  We've watched consultants dodge questions and ignore evidence contradictory to their recommendations. We continue to hear double-talk, such as the State contending it has no authority over the CAOs yet the Council uses them as a scare tactic. Latest case in point, we currently hear some existing Council members saying that they have to pass the CAOs otherwise the State will slap a building moratorium on us.

A building moratorium? For what? As a penalty for all the horrible pollution here?

Threats. Sometimes our government seems to be nothing more than a network of bullies insisting that the public be ignored. Along those lines, the latest veiled threat from the Friends came out in the past few days. You can read Kyle Loring's buzzword-laden diatribe here, which combines several environmental themes shotgun style in an effort to strike a chord with the public on something ... anything. Having trouble getting traction on your CAO position?  Mix in a little coal outrage and re-launch.

Let's look at one of Loring's CAO comments:
San Juan County is on the verge of adopting one of the weakest critical areas ordinances in the Puget Sound region. The ordinance’s buffers are designed to allow 40 percent of all local pollution into our streams, lakes, and seas.
This is akin to saying we have the weakest air pollution laws in the region because 100% of our air is allowed to flow unfiltered into our lungs and homes. It's like saying that we have the weakest food laws in the region because we are allowed to eat 100% of the produce from our gardens. We have some of the weakest standards for public responsibility in the region because we let our grant-funded local environmental non-profits baldly misinform and conspire against us.

When our local smoking-gunners can't rely on authenticated facts or sound logic, they rely on their network to back them up. That brings us to "iceberg government," which is the term I've coined for the unseen people and organizations who really wield power here. They drown out and "out-consensus" the views that conflict with their bureaucratic self-interests. They freeze out the public good.

As a summa graduate of Bowdoin, Loring might claim some familiarity with icebergs (Bowdoin alums are known as "polar bears"), and he might even claim some experience with environmental truth. Here's a clip from Bowdoin's Kent Island Research Station from 1998.
Kyle Loring ('98) conducted an experiment to test whether false eye-spots taped to the back of a hard hat truly deter Herring Gulls from dive-bombing. To my surprise, after exposing himself to daily systematic walks through the gull colony, he found no difference in the frequency of attacks or the number of direct hits with or without eye-spots -- it appears that we may have been fooling ourselves into thinking that the eye-spots conferred some protection. He did document, however, that most attacks come from behind (60%) or the side (35%) vs. the front.
Maybe his research gave Loring insight into how to conduct attacks regarding the CAOs (i.e., approach issues obliquely, from behind or from the side, not head on), but I prefer to think that it might offer a clue as to why Loring's arguments customarily lack cogency (too many blows to the head?).

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Omnishambles: Where Do We Stand?

The word "omnishambles" has been chosen as the 2012 word of the year by the Oxford University Press. It means "a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged by a string of blunders and miscalculations." With a nod to GBS's adage that Great Britain and the US are two nations separated by a common language, I would like to point out that over here we know "omnishambles" as the "CAOs."

So, where do we stand on our omnishambles?

The final hearing of the CAOs is scheduled for November 27, according to a recent email from Shireene Hale (see below). Can final approval by our current Council be far off? If so, it would be 11th-hour approval by a Council configuration rejected by voters, half of whose members are lame ducks, two of whom where voted out of office, and three of whom are being sued for OPMA violations.

They haven't listened to us yet. Why would they start now?

The final hearing on San Juan County’s critical area regulations is scheduled for Tuesday, November 27 at 10:45 a.m. Copies of the hearing notices and the four ordinances are posted at:

Kind Regards,
Shireene Hale

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mediocre to Awful

Scientific American has an article about a new report that rates our science programs by state.  The report concludes that the U.S. state science standards are "mediocre to awful."

Anyone who has paid attention to the CAOs would have known this already.  On top of that, our local government processes seem to be operating in the same range.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

I'll Agree with the "Lame" Part

Nick Power has a very worthwhile perspective on the status of CAOs relative to the election results. It's a good read.

The last blogpost suggested that the elections were a repudiation of all things County. As Nick Power points out, the overwhelming passage of Prop 3 is a strong indicator of public sentiment regarding the CAPR lawsuit against the County ... because that is exactly what the lawsuit is about.

The three Councilors involved in that lawsuit (Pratt, Miller, and Fralick) have had particularly disastrous terms as Council members. Aside from the multitude of troubles Miller has experienced on the CAOs, the solid waste solution (and tax) she promoted went down in scorching defeat last year.

Long ago, Fralick began his term with robust support for his own solid waste fiasco: to set up a needlessly pricey John-Shannon solid-waste wonderland at Beaverton Valley. In the Council vote on that measure, Fralick was the only member to support it to its death. On the CAOs, Fralick has been the main advocate of Adamus as the way forward, which has not worked out particularly well. In addition, Fralick was a strong anti-CRC backer. Right or wrong on those issues, much of what Fralick stood for, politically, is in tatters. His legacy as a retiring Councilman is empty.

Pratt was involved in the Brickworks failure, but more importantly, Pratt seems to share Shireene Hale's view that she's never met a parcel that didn't need more "protection." Moreover, Pratt also seems to have never met a tax and spending proposal she didn't like either. Put those two tendencies together, and you end up with faux environmentalism that is utterly detached from economic reality. That pretty well approximates the position of Pratt, who has been an endless fount of vacuous tautologies about the CAOs and their impacts.

Below is the article by Nick Power titled "Lame Ducks" which also can be read in the Guardian.

My head is spinning thinking of what Tuesday’s local election results mean for the future of the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO), and I fear that we are now at the point of no return where a misstep by the County will lead to untold economic waste.

First, the The Council races.  Simply the defeat of Howie Rosenfeld and Lovel Pratt were in effect a vote of “no confidence” in Howie's and Lovel's support of the proposed CAO.  Here are two self-identified incumbent Democrats, supported by the endorsement of the Democratic Party, in a County which voted 2 to 1 for Obama over Romney, and they both lose.  Telling since both Howie and Lovel have been two of the proponents of the most extreme portions of the revision of the CAO.

Second, the absolute landslide passage of Charter Amendment No. 3 was, a complete repudiation of how the proposed CAO was engineered and drafted  -- largely in secret and without meaningful public comment.  

I fear that the "we're going to pass this thing come hell or high water" mentality which seems to be the mantra of a majority of the Council will be fulfilled, and the fundamentally flawed CAO will become law at the behest of what is now a gaggle of lame ducks.

But it gets worse, much worse.

Because after Flock of Lame Ducks #1 passes the CAO, Flock of Lame Ducks #2, the newly elected short-term County Council, takes over.

Here is where it gets sticky.  Currently there is a very serious lawsuit against the County alleging various substantive and procedural flaws which invalidate the current draft CAO.   Just because Flock #2 is lame, does not mean that they cannot bind the County and settle the suit and enter into a consent judgment with the plaintiff, Citizen's Alliance for Property Rights (CAPR). 

Why would they do that?  Fundamentally, because CAPR's allegations are substantially correct and it would be the right thing to do.  But moreover, imagine that some ducks from Flock #2 want to experience life as a healthy and vigorous duck so they decide to run in this Spring's special election.  Lame-duck-cum-candidate says to himself, “how the heck do I win an election in San Juan County?”  Well, being skeptical of the CAO seemed to work for Bob and Marc, maybe, just maybe, they were onto something.

So here we are, at the last juncture for the current Council to do what is right and to revisit and repair the fundamental flaws in the proposed CAO.  If this opportunity is not taken, the Council has just bought us all some very expensive tickets to Kabuki theater.

Save me the aisle seat.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Vae Victis

While there are still 2,000 county ballots left to count, at first blush the election results seem to represent a repudiation of all things County. The incumbents lost. The Charter lost. In fact, the larger results could be interpreted as a repudiation of all government interference in our personal lives. Taxes lost (at least at the state level). Gay marriage won. Marijuana legalization won. Charter schools won. It's as if the electorate collectively said to the government, "Stay out of our personal lives. Stop telling us how to live, who to marry, what drugs we can take, where to send our kids to school ... and stop taking our money too."

In short, "Leave us alone. We want more choice and control over our lives, not less!"

The current Council is moving full-steam ahead to pass the current CAO proposals by the end of November so they can be enacted by the beginning of March. They may yet accept the CAOs, but the election showed that we reject the people (and government system) that accept the CAOs.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Wages of Sin — Awards from the PSP!

Everyone by now should know about the troubled history of the Puget Sound Partnership (PSP). It's the organization that was earmark-funded by Congressman Norm Dicks while it was headed by his son David. Even after stepping down as its head, David Dicks is still on the PSP's Leadership Council. In addition, the PSP Leadership Council was formerly chaired by San Juan County's own William Ruckelshaus while at the same time his daughter Mary served as the PSP's Chief Scientist. Makes you wonder if the PSP had a pro-nepotism policy.

The money dealings involving Norm Dicks and the PSP were so shady that the organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) gave Dicks "dishonorable mention" as one of the most corrupt members of Congress earlier this year.

Over the last few posts, we've seen Stephanie Buffum, Tina Whitman, Barbara Rosenkotter, and others conspire with one another about public meetings or plan secret meetings to altogether avoid public scrutiny of public information. We've seen them create and defend pathetically bad data which falsely incriminates and hectors innocent landowners.

How fitting it is, then, to have the corruption-haunted PSP recognize these same people as "Puget Sound Champions." And Linda Lyshall (remember, she was copied on the emails about secret meetings) is kind enough to announce the awards via email. In the photo below, Buffum, Whitman, and Rosenkotter are standing just behind two of the four plaques (the two plaques on the left).

They're champions alright  champions in the same vein as Lance Armstrong. 

From: Linda Lyshall <>
Subject: FW: San Juan Champions Photo
Date: August 23, 2012 8:53:36 AM PDT
To: Linda Lyshall <>

Dear IC and AOC,
I’ve attached a photo of the San Juan Puget Sound Champion award winners. Congratulations to the members of our Implementation Committee: Stephanie Buffum, Alan Chapman, Kit Rawson, and Barbara Rosenkotter, for well-deserved recognition. Tony Wright and Diana Gale from the Puget Sound Partnership gave out the awards yesterday at our San Juan LIO meeting.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Thanks, But We Believe The Friends More Than You!

Suppose you come from an old island family, and you've lived on your property for decades. You have photos of your beach going back 100+ years.

Now suppose that the County identifies "shoreline armoring" on your beach, which the County characterizes as a potential ecological hazard to fish. The trouble is that you don't have any shoreline armoring on your beach, and you don't know what the County is talking about.

So you write to the County to try to set matters straight, but the reply you receive from the County essentially says, "Sorry, but the Friends have mapped shoreline armoring on your property, and I really can't correct the data now that it's in the database."
Thank you for your comments and pictures. The County was not involved in collecting the shoreline modification data used in the Inventory and Characterization Report shoreline modification maps. The dataset was collected by the Friends of the San Juan’s and subsequently passed along to the Department of Ecology to be used in the Washington Coastal Atlas.

Many of the datasets used in the Inventory and Characterization Report were developed by organizations other than the County, including the National Marine Fisheries, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Native Tribes, Department of Ecology and others.

In order to be consistent with the state law, the County collected available information for inclusion in the Inventory and Characterization Report. That said, the County is not precluded from considering anecdotal evidence and your letters and pictures are part of the record that the Planning Commission and Council will consider when evaluating the merits of the updated Shoreline Master Program.

I relayed your concerns to the data providers and they have reaffirmed their original finding. I’ve attached a copy of an email I received from Tina Whitman of the Friends of the San Juan’s. Ms. Whitman, I understand played an active role in the collection of the data.

Without a site visit, I cannot determine the accuracy of this data point.

Please submit your comments to or to the mailing address above.

Thank you for your time and commitment to SMP update process.
Well, thank you very much indeed!  We (the County) believe Tina Whitman and not you, but thanks all the same. We think your homeowner information stretching back decades is anecdotal, but the Friends information is science.

Want to guess what all the fuss is about? I'm sure you've seen old piles of field stones that dot the pastures in these islands. Settlers used to pile rocks during land clearing to make the land easier to work. Many of these piles can still be seen around the county. It just so happens that in the case described above, an old pile of field stone was placed on the upper part of a beach instead of in a field. Roll forward about 100 years or so and along come the Friends, and they map the old rock pile as a "shoreline modification" ... a pile of field stone that's probably over a century old ... and is in rather shabby condition to boot.

See for yourself.  The homeowners are in disbelief (as is the Trojan Heron).
From: Tina Whitman []
Sent: Thursday, September 06, 2012 3:28 PM
To: Colin Maycock
Cc: Stephanie Buffum
Subject: modification inventory question

Hi Colin,

Per your request I reviewed the tax parcel number you sent me in our 2009 shoreline modification inventory ARC GIS geodatabase. 
The attached document shows:
Pg. 1) tax parcel (red dot), armor line from modification inventory (red line), as well as the location of the two photos (black dot and purple triangle);
Pg. 2) the county’s vertical aerial photographs from 2008 with the rockery in question circled in red; and
Pgs. 3) and 4) the two project photos taken at the time of the boat based survey, in June of 2009. 

Our project mapped all shoreline armoring (hardening) greater than 5 feet in shoreline length.  The rock fill at the base of and along that section of bank met that criteria and as a result were mapped.  I don’t know if it has been since been removed, or if it’s a difference of opinion regarding more typical ‘bulkheads’ (the definitions of which vary widely depending on your discipline and region of the country and world)  versus ‘armoring’, but the photos indicate the presence of placed rock in 2008 (san juan county’s vertical aerials) and 2009 (modification inventory field photos).



Tina Whitman, MS
Science Director
Friends of the San Juans
P.O. Box 1344 Friday Harbor, WA 98250
(360) 378-2319

The County's CAOs in a One Sentence

No matter what side of the Keynes/Hayek divide you might be on, I think the following quote by Keynes (about Hayek) is an apt description for our County's CAOs, and nearly everything else the County does in the environmental arena too:
It is an extraordinary example of how, starting with a mistake, a remorseless logician can end in Bedlam.

What's a Puppet Master to Do?

Stephanie Buffum is learning that the life of puppet master isn't the life of leisure that it's cracked up to be ... what with all the County employees needing constant TLC to advance the Friends agenda from the inside. It's work rigging public meetings.

Below is yet another email between Stephanie Buffum of the Friends and Barbara Rosenkotter, Salmon Recovery Lead for our County. Recall that Buffum and Rosenkotter have a special relationship (aka Stephanie Rosenkotter), even sharing rants where they liken themselves to Ghandi, Rosa Parks, and MLK.

In the email below, Buffum is informing Rosenkotter of her selection to run an upcoming County SMP meeting (now make it so Barbara). Buffum's preferred speaker is unavailable, so she is resigned to the inevitability of having to make do with Colin Maycock who is, after all, on "our team" as Buffum puts it. Remember, Colin Maycock is nominally in charge of the County SMP update, but it doesn't seem like he's de facto in charge from the looks of this email.

Why don't we stop pretending and just include the Friends on the County organizational chart as the County Department of Natural Resources, which has been an ambition of Stephanie Buffum's for years anyway. The Friends already have a more direct line of authority to some staff than either the Council or the Administrator.

Note: We don't know who "Tim" and "Bob" are referring to in the email below, but we suspect Bob Fritzen of Ecology. There are several possibilities for Tim, including Tim Beechie of NOAA, Tim Strickler of the PSP, or Tim Quinn of WDFW/PSP ... maybe even Tim Hyatt of the Skagit River Cooperative or Tim Trohimovich of Futurewise ... or Tim Gates of the Washington Department of Commerce. But we admit that we don't know, but maybe one of you does.

From: Stephanie Buffum []
Sent: Friday, January 28, 2011 1:29 PM
To: Barbara Rosenkotter
Subject: Feb 24 - SMP speaker

Hi Barbara,

I spoke with Tim in detail on Wed. He is sympathetic and overwhelmed with his new position which now also includes Watershed Lead for Thurston County.

After much discussion, we determined that Colin would be the best person, with Bob being back up in the back of the room. I saw Colin’s most recent SMP presentation to the county council and with some minor tweaks to make it fit 15 minutes I am confident that it would be fine. Especially if Bob is in the room as back up for questions. Since this is only an SMP appetizer I think this will work fine with our limited timeline.   Tim was going to be talking with Colin yesterday at the SMP coordination meeting for planners in Olympia. I asked if he would provide some extra tlc to Colin. He may not be Tim, but he’s on our team and we need to do what we can to make the most out of his skill set. I would be happy to meet with him and refine his presentation with him. He’s going to have to improve his public speaking and there’s no time like the present.  

So, it seems like it may make the most sense for you to approach Colin and Bob.  I am getting prepared for our BIG meeting on Monday and a bit stressed for time this next week.

I look forward to meeting on Monday 2/14 at your office to refine the agenda.

Stephanie Buffum Field
Executive Director
360. 378.2319 office
360.472.0404 cell