Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Modest 5%-to-10% Proposal

We've been talking about the San Juan County ECONet and the Stewardship Network -- two names for the same thing, like aubergine and eggplant. Actually, you can think of the Stewardship Network as the main entity, and ECONet as sort of like its PSP funding arm.

But how does PSP ECONet funding actually reach the Stewardship Network. After all, the Stewardship Network doesn't truly exist as a legal entity. It's not a 501(c)(3). It's just a group of groups, albeit with a website and regular meetings, and memberships, and coordinators. Well, it turns out the County was funding the Stewardship Network for a while by dispersing the PSP ECONet funds via a Coordination Contract (see the email below). However, about a year ago, the Stewardship Network sought out a different affiliation. They sought to end their contractual association with the County and become affiliated with a new "fiscal agent," the Madrona Institute.

This would mean that PSP grant money would no longer be passed through the County to the Stewardship Network but would instead flow through the Madrona Institute to the Stewardship Network. Accordingly, a memorandum of understanding was drawn up (see emails and images below) that would memorialize the new relationship between the Madrona Institute and the Stewardship Network/ECONet. For its trouble, the Madrona Institute would earn a "modest" administrative fee of 5-10%.

What is going on here exactly? To be honest, we're not entirely certain, but it doesn't look good. The Madrona Institute was founded and is run by Ron Zee. Ron Zee, as you can see from the emails below, was instrumental in reinvigorating the Stewardship Network. Ron Zee (depending on which website you look at) is also the head of one of our local political parties. That political party decided to endorse three candidates in the upcoming local election: Byers, Stephens, Pratt. All three of those candidates are on the record as being very committed to grants, including the prospect of getting millions more in additional grants for the County.

It looks for all the world like partisan Ron Zee endorsed a voting bloc of candidates likely to support a revenue stream for Madrona-Institute Ron Zee that would earn him a "modest" 5% to 10% off the top of a grant revenue stream that potentially could be very significant. And bear in mind that Zee would be the "fiscal agent" for a Network that would be contractually obligated to put out targeted messages that just happen to be quite favorable to his political and financial position, not to mention favorable to his candidate endorsements. Bear in mind that Zee would be "fiscal agent" for a Network consisting of 24 of the most influential organizations in the islands, including 5 major County entities. And all of it would be done without a whisper of consideration by our Council, which (if things were to work out according to plan) would in short order consist of people Zee endorsed anyway. I am sure the Byers/Pratt/Stephens Council would be happy to keep the boss happy by doing everything they could to bring more grants Ron Zee's ... er, I mean, the County's ... way.

It looks like it could be a very cozy fiscal and political arrangement operating under the rubric of "environmentalism" but seeming to have a lot more going on once you peek under the hood. It's very ugly really. By the way, have a look at the email addresses in the second email below. It includes some key people involved in the campaigns of Pratt and Byers. Stalwarts of the Network.

From: Jeff Hanson []
Sent: Tuesday, January 10, 2012 10:21 AM
Subject: Stewardship Network Update and Meeting Notice

Dear Members of the Stewardship Network of the San Juans,

Our next meeting is Wednesday, January 18, from 12:30 until 2:00 and will be held at the Friends of the San Juans conference room above the National Park office on Mullis Street, Friday Harbor. 
  • Katie Fleming of RE-Sources in Bellingham will present information about upcoming workshops on the "Power Past Coal" efforts to inform people about the potential coal exports through Washington. She will be looking for both advice on holding effective workshops on the islands, and assistance with the effort. 
  • Evaluation Criteria for the Capacity Building Grant projects. The projects proposed in the Capacity Building Grant include the Good Steward Awards, a series of outreach events in May of this year, and upgrading our website and linking it to the myPugetSound website. We will briefly review the project components and then conduct a process to develop evaluation criteria, which must be in place prior to the awarding of the grant. 
  • Practical considerations for the grant projects. One of the decisions is to select the coordinator for these efforts. We have about 80 hours of work in the grant for this. Ron Zee, of the Madrona Institute, has expressed interest in doing this work, but it could be done by another, or a combination of people. We will work toward this decision at the meeting. 

We also have some urgent staffing decisions to consider:
At the December meeting, I let it be known that I will be resigning from the ECONet Coordinator position at the end of January. I am currently discussing the contract with my County supervisors, since the Coordination contract is through the County.  Once the direction is clear, I am hoping the result of those conversations results in a next step that has the Network members  selecting a new Coordinator to finish out the contract from then until June 30. I will notify the Network when the direction is clear. In the meantime, though, please consider how we might move forward. Ron Zee, who was instrumental with rejuvenating the Network in early 2008, has indicated that he would be interested in filling out the contract, but the Network should allow others to express interest and complete a selection process, should the County decision permit that (as I think it will). 

So, plenty to consider. If you cannot attend the meeting and have thoughts on any of the meeting topics, please let me know!

The next e-mail will be a forward of a variety of interesting  information for EcoNet members

I look forward to seeing many of you next week,



Jeff Hanson
EcoNet Coordinator
Stewardship Network of the San Juans
From: Karrie Cooper []
Sent: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 1:37 PM
To: Aileen Murphy; Amanda Azous; Andrea Wieland; Barbara Marrett; Barbara Rosenkotter; Brian Rader; Cindy Hansen; David Loyd; Debbie Ruggles; Doug McCutchen; Ed Hale; Erin Corra; Fiona Norris; Helen Venada; Jana Marks; Janna Nichols; Jeff Hanson; Jenny Atkinson; Jenny Roberts; Jerald Weaver; John Aschoff; Joseph Gaydos; Judy Cumming; Julie Knight; Kari Koski; Kathleen Foley; Katie Fleming; Kristen Cooley; Laura Arnold; Lincoln Bormann; Linda Lyshall; Liz Illg; Marilyn OConner; Mike Kaill; Noreen Ignelzi; Patos Light Keepers; Phil Green; Richard Lee; Robin Jacobsen; Ron Zee; Russel Barsh; Scott Williamson; Shann Weston; Shireene Hale; Shona Aitken; Soundwatch; Stephanie Buffum; Susan Key; Ted Schlund; Tina Whitman; Tom Cowan; Mindy Kayl
Subject: March 21 Agenda Stewardship Network - ECO Net

Dear Stewardship Network Members,

Our upcoming March 21st meeting we will be welcoming Tom Reeves to inform us on the proposed San Juan Islands National Conservation Area.  Attached you will find a draft letter of support to Salazar that we will discuss following his presentation. 

Also, please note the MOU from Ron Zee which details the cooperative relationship and operations between the Madrona Institute and the Stewardship Network. This item requires action in our upcoming meeting, so please review carefully. 

We will continue to begin our meetings with breif updates from everyone.  In order to make this time effective and efficient, please come prepared with a couple of priority items to share.  Also, if you are willing to write down and hand in your updates, I can easily add them into our meeting notes. 

Thanks for all you do!

Karrie D. Cooper
Stewardship Network of the San Juan Islands
 - ECO Net Coordinator
812-322-0453 work cell
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge


  1. Ron Zee was Kevin Ranker's campaign manager for County Commissioner. Ron Zee was the local Democrats representative to the regional 40th District Democrats laying groundwork for Ranker's Senate campaign. Ron Zee became the manager of the San Juan Conservation District just after Ranker was elected to the County Commission. Ron Zee personally spearheaded the establishment of the Leadership San Juans program, which is directly affiliated with his Madrona Institute. Ron Zee's wife is directly involved with the Ag Guild's Brickwork's project. Ron Zee attacked Rich Peterson's re-election campaign after Rich voted against Lovel Pratt's demand to plunder Land Bank funds to support her Brickworks project. Lovel Pratt was forced to recuse herself from voting on the matter due to her blatant conflicts of interest in the project. Ron Zee used his property for a large night time bonfire gathering of several hundred angry demonstrators seeking raw political power to overthrow Rich Peterson. There were reliable reports of near violence at that assembly. Ron Zee was directly involved in organizing a highly partisan opposition campaign to elect Laura Jo Severson to replace Peterson. Vandalism of campaign signs became commonplace. Severson's campaign invited both Kevin Ranker and Jeff Morris to directly endorse Severson in photos of the three of them together appearing on the campaign website. This was a flagrant disregard of the nonpartisan nature of the elected positions as defined in the Charter. In the face of all this, Peterson prevailed with a substantial lead over Severson, with published lists of supporters reaching across the spectrum.

    Who is Ron Zee, and what are his goals? If there is one person in San Juan County who is systematically destroying our rural character, it is Ron Zee.

  2. Wow. Wasn't Ron Zee on the Charter Review Commission too?

  3. Yes, and he is head of the Conservation District, but let's face it, many of the Network people are everywhere. Take Linda Lyshall, for example, she's a County employee, on the MRC, involved in Leadership San Juans, is on the Steering Committee for the Network.

    Yes, Ron Zee is part of that crowd, but his behavior is typical for that crowd. They all wear multiple hats. The public thinks that organizations A, B, C, D are different but when you plot it out you see that A=B=C=D=County and that the County Council either has no idea or is complicit. We need a Council will will stop participating in this crazy mess.

  4. This and your previous two posts are (as usual) just plain excellent. Thank you, TH, for revealing all of this to us with such clarity.

  5. Ron Zee also ran to become an OPALCO director a year or so back. The big pitch was for "smart metering." Having this guy influencing our electric power utility is downright spooky. Another person who ran in that OPALCO election was Mark Madsen, one of insiders on the Brickworks project play for Land Bank money. He was active with the Ag Guild, and worked closely with Lovel Pratt during all of that hoopla. They both ran together to become OPLACO directors, and seemed to be a team.

    They both lost. Thank God.

  6. The use of the word "modest" is so incredibly manipulative it gives me the creeps.

  7. "A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick"

    In 1729. Swift suggests that impoverished Irish might ease their economic troubles by selling their children as food for rich gentlemen and ladies.

  8. Hey, anyone else notice that the Dem Party site updates have disappeared? There are only old pages -- ones that say Rena Patty is Chairperson.

  9. There are two San Juan County Democratic Party websites, and I'm not sure which is the most up-to-date. I have a feeling this one is current:

    And this one seems to have less up-to-date information:

    And I am pleased that readers noticed the title's similarity to the classic Jonathan Swift essay.

  10. Janice Peterson was right, unfortunately she did not know how right she was. The "gutting" of the new County Charter has given us at least one major party frothing to put themselves in the driver's seat.

    I do believe most CRC members were oblivious to the machinations of a Ron Zee. Their concern was the COST of County government and it seemed so simplistic at the time; Less People, Less Money.

    Ha, Ha. Only it ain't funny. And, it certainly clears the way for the TH to become the party of NO party.

    Does Byers win the prize so far for the most convoluted statement?

    Message to our past dear elected CRC members: Yes, you screwed up, big time, now get off your collective butts and fight to get your County back from the political hacks you gave it to.

    1. The voters were actually the ones that voted in the charter changes not the CRC. If you want better government it is up to all of us to work harder and elect people who will take us in a different direction. Ron Zee is not in this position because of some sinister plot. He is effective because he works harder that the rest of us to place himself in positions of influence. Everyone has the opportunity to do the same thing. Personally i think blaming the CRC and voters for the changes in the Charter is way off base. It will give us better government but only if we work hard to make it happen. No party is in the drivers seat unless we as voters allow it. And Mark my words, Janice was not right.

  11. What was Byer's statement?

  12. I hope this doesn't turn into a CRC debate because it should be a much larger discussion about a more pervasive situation than just the convening of the CRC. At least I think so anyway.

    However, the idea that everyone in the islands has an equal opportunity to participate in our local governance and in our community is, in my opinion, not correct. Doors are open to Network members like Zee and Lyshall that would never be open to people on the outside, no matter how hard they work. I suppose that is one of my basic points, that hard workers of great talent are excluded from participation in favor of people who simply have greater bona fides in the Network, and that ultimately, ANY Network doesn't really stand for the issues that it purports to.

    It's not a story about hard work and talent. It's about the creation and enlargement of a Network that reinforces itself with government funding mechanisms and policy positions that speak the words of public interest, but its members receive the rewards of self-interest.

  13. The voters were really annoyed at the last Council and its inability to address issues like solid waste, out-of-control planners, cell phone service, and the budget--which is still a very big problem. The voters would have done anything to punish the existing Council--they dumped Lovel and Howie, and signed onto the Charter changes. Now, if you honestly think even 50% of them had a clue about what the actual changes were about, you are far more optimistic about the amount of time most islanders can spare to read incredibly confusing ballot propositions.

  14. Looks like all the sycophants who used to be on the County's part-time payroll (but with generous benefits) have been moving to the Madrona Institute, which is of course nothing but the construct of the local Democratic committee chair. It had a web presence but did nothing. Its mission back then was international peace and some such. Now, somehow, with no relevant experience and no evidence of fiscal responsibility, it has managed to extract grants from our local National Parks Service and BLM groupies. To run youth conservation corps. Now it seems to have taken over the County eco-net grant. Imagine what will transpire if the Dem candidates (Pratt, Byers, Stephens) actually get elected. We'll just transfer all County funds to the "Institute" and let the eco-net run everything.