Sunday, March 31, 2013

Byers And Brickworks?

The Trojan Heron is confused. The advertisement below has appeared in the Journal and related papers, and it shows Byers standing in front of the Brickworks and smiling with select contractors.

But Byers doesn't have anything to do with the Brickworks or the Agricultural Guild, does she? Not her too?!? The Ag Guild already had a mess on its hands back in 2010 when Lovel Pratt served simultaneously as Ag Guild Project Director and County Council woman. Now, a Council wannabe is talking about her experience with $20 million in construction projects and standing in front of the Brickworks, one of the most recognizable construction projects in the county.

If Byers or the Ag Guild have anything to do with one another, they should explain their relationship; otherwise, what is this advertisement saying?

Also, we'd like to know how many contractors, beyond the hand-picked OPAL few, really intend to support Byers. Aside from being environmentally pointless, the CAOs are some of the most anti-affordable-housing, anti-business, anti-people, anti-middle-class laws to ever hit our books. That's the feedback we consistently hear from contractors and realtors, especially those who have attended the head-shaking CAO training put on by the County.

Byers supports the revamped version of the CAOs. Do contractors really support her, or is this just a bad April Fools joke?


In lawsuit news, the suit regarding the CRC ballot propositions continues with some new revelations over the past week. This lawsuit seeks to overturn Propositions 1, 2, and 3 approved by voters last November. Those propositions are the reason we are having new elections right now.

The main points of that suit have been covered well by other media, but the had to issue three versions of the same story over the past few days because of confusion (by our Prosecuting Attorney's Office) over what was actually approved by voters. It all has to do with Section 4.34 of the Charter, which sets forth rules for changing residency districts.

All along, one of the arguments made by plaintiffs in the CRC suit has been that the propositions separately modified overlapping sections of the Charter in a potentially conflicting and confusing way. Plaintiffs argue that the propositions presented at least the theoretical risk that a voter could have simultaneously approved and rejected the same Charter language. While appearing to deal with separate and mutually exclusive issues, the three propositions actually amended identical secondary provisions of the Charter.

Now, it appears that such a possibility may no longer just be theoretical. At the moment, it looks like we actually may have multiple versions of Section 4.34 of the Charter. Last Thursday, the plaintiffs filed a new petition asking the Court:
The citizens of San Juan County are left completely in the dark as to which version of 4.34 controls, if any. Is it the 4.34 amended by Proposition 1? Or the 4.34 amended by Proposition 2? Or the 4.34 amended by Proposition 3? There is simply no way to know.
The controversy over Section 4.34 arose because the Winter Council is discussing whether to ask voters to entertain yet another change to the number of districts and representatives on the Council. Some versions of Section 4.34 say this can be done only by the CRC, whereas other versions of Section 4.34 leave this question open and allow for change by initiative and ordinance.

As stated by the plaintiffs in their petition this week:
Perplexingly, the voters have seemingly amended three different versions of Section 4.34 - two versions of which are in direct conflict with each other. That is, one version (the Proposition 1 version) now evidently prohibits the alteration of the boundaries of districts by both County Council ordinance and popular initiative, and two versions (Propositions 2 and 3) remain silent on this change and evidently keep section 4.34 in effect with no substantial (although somewhat differing) alterations.
The plaintiffs go on to say:
Also setting aside for the moment the constitutional propriety of whether the power to both amend by ordinance or by initiative can be so suspended in such a manner, it defies explanation that the County can exist with the state of the law in such contradiction. Petitioners pray that this conflict impresses upon the Court the need for an expedited hearing schedule and, a preliminary injunction staying the election scheduled for April 23, 2013 until this matter can be dealt with rationally.
No matter how you feel about this latest turn of events, I think many of us can agree with the following assertion in the plaintiffs petition.
In sum, political chaos reigns in San Juan County.
Legal chaos too!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Doing Things In Secret Sure Is Productive

Most of you probably know that the County is being sued by the Citizens Alliance for Property Rights (CAPR) over violations of the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA), specifically as it relates to the Critical Areas Ordinances (CAOs). At issue is whether three Council members are permitted to meet in private. At first, the Council was advised by our Prosecuting Attorney (PA) that it was okay for three Councillors to meet because it did not represent a quorum (it takes 4 votes to pass legislation in our system). But after the issue was pressed by the Charter Review Commission (CRC), the PA reversed his decision, explaining that a quorum can be construed as either the number of Council members needed to take positive (4 Councillors) or negative (3 Councillors) action.

In the depositions related to the lawsuit regarding the OPMA, many of the participants in the CAO Committee meetings have a poor recollection of what happened during their illegal secret get-togethers (see previous posting). However, in January 2012 the same people spent a considerable period of time in one of the non-secret Council meetings talking about all the great stuff they got done in secret. Stephens even refers to the CAOs directly. Pratt says that she can hardly remember any Council votes where subcommittees didn't get their way.

How can Pratt remember that detail but not details related to her deposition (67 denials)?

The video strongly suggests that the OPMA was violated, not just for the CAOs, but for nearly everything the previous Council did.

Watch the first half hour to 40 minutes of the linked video. It is full of "Holy Crap!" moments.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Ordinary People After Lisa -- OPAL?

The OPAL Community Land Trust is the affordable housing 501(c)(3) run by County Council candidate Lisa Byers from Orcas Island. Some OPAL homeowners have complaints about substandard materials being used in their homes. Allegedly, nine OPAL homes were built using non-structural exterior siding, contrary to design specifications. Complaints stretch back years regarding this issue.

These OPAL owners want their story told, and it appears as if their story is backed by a substantial amount of documentation. Below is the story of these OPAL homes in the words of one of the owners, Roger Adams (click to enlarge any of the 11 pages, or right-click to download).

According to Adams, of the nine homes with alleged off-spec non-structural siding, only one has been repaired ... the home belonging to Lisa Byers.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Odlin Park Tree-asco

No trees were cut down today. Depending on who you believe, either the County decided to delay the cutting of trees for a couple of days in order to understand the concerns of Lopezians or the contractor who was scheduled to cut the trees told the County that he was taking today and tomorrow off because even he has reservations about cutting the trees, especially given all the public attention.

The situation is still murky, but early this morning, we learned that "the flagging on the trees marks them for inspection and removing dead/failing limbs by the contracted forester/arborist." Right now, it looks like two trees (the large Doug Fir in the photo in the previous post) and a White Fir will be shortened to 60 feet and left as snags for "habitat." Both have rot, but of course, many old growth trees have rot and stand for hundreds of years, but now these trees are hazardous to people because of the placement of the campsite.

In place of the tree(s), we are told "As a part of this project we plan to develop interpretive displays about this forest for visitors" and "If the top of the Douglas fir is in good condition once it’s down we plan to work with a local saw miller to mill and build picnic tables and other lumber for park projects."

There was a comment left on the last blogpost that appears to be speaking with authority when it says:
Work on the group campsites at Odlin is complete. The ribbons on the trees were placed by an arborist hired to check the condition of the trees and remove dead, hanging limbs. There are no plans to cut down any of the marked trees, or any of the other trees in the area. At the arborist's recommendation, one diseased, near-dead tree will be shortened to create a habitat snag, and one Douglas Fir will be shortened below severe rot damage caused by an infestation of borers. The arborist said that the tree should then survive. He said the diseased portion of the fir is threatening to fall on its own and could strike a frequently used portion of the park.
We don't know who left the comment, but it seems to correlate broadly with information from multiple sources. Right now, that's all we know.

As longtime Trojan Heron readers understand, we've been critical of the Odlin Park redesign for months for its cost and poor stakeholder involvement. The whole thing seems surreal, especially considering Lopezians are clamoring for money for their decaying shambles of a school, while they have a "new" $1 million park that no one asked for.

We first posted about Odlin in June 2012. We posted about it again in July 2012 when we showed a clip of the Council contending with a request for a budget increase from Dona Wuthnow (bringing the total Odlin project cost to just shy of $1 million). Of the 300 or so postings on this blog, that post is our most-viewed ever, and many of our readers feel the video associated with that post exemplifies everything that was wrong with the previous Council (and maybe still wrong with local government).

Spend spend spend on questionable priorities, and laugh it off. Don't worry about the cost of new regulations, just press ahead. As we said when we first put up the post originally, it shows what a circus we have become.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Odlin Park Old Growth

As part of the Odlin Park redesign, the County has been removing trees (see photo below). Remember, this is the redesign of the park on Lopez that was originally budgeted for $445,000 which has grown (last we knew) to $992,350.

The motivation to spend $1 million on Odlin Park has always been a bit of a mystery, but it is especially mysterious why we are cutting down trees to put in more campsites. Moreover, concern arose today that the County is going to be cutting down old growth trees tomorrow. We don't know if that's true, but here's what we do know.

Over a dozen old growth trees have been tagged with ribbons at the site (see more photos below). We are not certain whether these are "do not cut" markers or "cut" markers. However, even if they are "do not cut" markers, reports are that at least two old growth trees will be logged tomorrow anyway. The trees in question are about 4.5 feet in diameter (and 14 feet in circumference). They're big ... probably 500 years old by some estimates ... and from at least one stump in the area, it looks like one old growth tree has already been taken down. Admittedly, the removed tree had rot on the interior, but we wouldn't be surprised if all the old growth in this area had some interior rot.

So why are we building more campsites? Why are we building campsites among old growth trees? Why are we building campsites next to trees that have rot and may be a hazard? Why the heck are we doing any of this? If one old growth tree has to come down because of rot, mightn't they all have to come down ... at least eventually ... especially if they're next to a bunch of campers? It seems like every time the County takes down trees, the result is less desirable than if they had just left things alone ... like the resulting odious Eastsound mosquito factory ... or the pathetic wetland mitigation along Fisherman Bay Road resulting from the $2+ million road improvement a couple of years ago.

As mentioned, reports are that at least some of the Odlin old growth trees are scheduled to come down tomorrow (Monday, March 25), and at least one Lopezian was concerned enough to even put up his own sign on one of the vulnerable trees. If you are concerned about this, write your Council person. If you are concerned about this, write to Dona Wuthnow who is the project manager for the Odlin redesign. If you are concerned about this, show up at the park early tomorrow morning. If you are concerned about it, do something ... now!

Word is that the County is eager to get this project completed so they can get paying campers into the new campsites as soon as possible. The County wants revenue (as usual). They want the new campsites ready for this season. We think the County's got its priorities wrong. The County needs to involve Lopezians regarding the decisions about the trees, the park, and about the wisdom of putting more campsites in the selected location in the first place.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Mean Girls Of San Juan-istan

In the movie Mean Girls, a homeschooled girl (coincidentally named Cady Heron) returns home to America after living with her zoologist parents in Africa for 12 years. She enters public high school and discovers a clique-ish world of girl-on-girl cattiness that is more vicious than any predator she may have encountered in Africa.

In the gender-neutral style of modern America, our San Juan County Mean Girls encompass both men and women, and they are proud of themselves. You can find the rantings of our Plastics on County news outlets. It is difficult for us to comment on recent web-fits by Kivisto, Dehlendorf, Azous, and Rosenfeld since we are not fluent in gibberish, but we can say that they almost always discredit themselves with self-styled hypocrisy. Kivisto, for example, has editorialized in the past about civility (or lack of it) and then pitched a pencil-throwing tantrum at a public meeting. In her most recent piece, Kivisto ridicules the legitimate fear that citizens feel while she simultaneously plugs draconian retaliatory enforcement. Azous gets in on the act too, applauding Kivisto, but we have heard of several islanders who will never let Azous near their property again because of what she has done to them. Rosenfeld opines about fictitious big-money Republican PACs even though the Democratically-endorsed candidates in this election have raised over $68,000. And Dehlendorf ... well ... the only thing that comes to mind when reading Dehlendorf is Aesop's fable about the Ass in the Lion's Skin.

And the fact that our local Mean Girls are ranting recently about blogs and cached web pages emphasizes how bereft of content our local news coverage has become. Like the CAOs themselves, our County news outlets are filled with pages and pages of content-less mean-spiritedness hidden behind phony talk of community and environmental protection. Real stories about island people and the workings of County government are ignored.

The Mean Girls from our islands feel the County is being abused by its citizens rather than the other way around. The "law is the law," we hear them say. They want land-use violators punished ... severely ... and they want as many land-use laws as they can get. Makes you wonder what sort of eco-planning-sharia laws they would put in place if there were no opposition? Have you ever heard them exercise self-restraint? How far would they go? When is the last time we heard any of the Mean Girls say, "Oh, I think that law or enforcement action goes too far?"

There will always be Mean Girls in our midst, but do we want to continue letting them run the place?
"And I was like, 'Why are you so obsessed with me?'"

A Short Post About A Big Lie

In Pratt's papers, we find a note stating that the CAOs are "site specific" and therefore allow for variable buffers. Over and over again, we have heard that our CAOs are complex because they are "site specific."

Let's explain the County's site-specific approach.

Suppose we had a buffer table in the CAOs that "protected" critical areas on your property based upon your eye color. The table might show that blue-eyed people get buffers of 50 feet, brown-eyed people have to make do with 100-foot buffers, and if you have green eyes, you are eligible for the Green Option and don't have to follow the same rules as everyone else.

Now suppose you constructed a separate table for another land-use restriction, this time based on your shoe size.  We could formulate a system where the interplay between your eye color and your shoe size would determine your final land use controls. Besides eye color and shoe size, other specific factors might be brought into play, such as height or weight.

Now, that sort of CAO would be entirely specific to you, but it would be irrelevant for the purpose of "protecting" the critical area.

Similarly, our CAOs are based on site-specific factors that have no relevance to any problem and no relevance to protections of critical areas. Without a site-specific assessment of the source of a problem on a parcel, a site-specific remedy is meaningless.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Pratt Notes Involved In Deposition

Commenters have asked to see the notes related to Lovel Pratt's deposition in the secret-meeting CAO-Committee OPMA lawsuit. They are provided as images below (click any of the images below to enlarge). They'll be the subject of a future post, but for now, have a look and judge for yourself if Pratt and the rest of the Committee discussed only non-substantive scheduling matters.

Oh, and by the way, the BLM lands are now a National Monument too (another link here).

Mirror Mirror ... Who Remembers The Least Of All

In one of the recent pleadings regarding the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) lawsuit, there is a declaration from a paralegal who has gone to the effort of quantifying the level of non-responsiveness of our public servants.

Before we get to the tally, for the sake of background, remember that the OPMA states the following:
The legislature finds and declares that all public commissions, boards, councils, committees, subcommittees, departments, divisions, offices, and all other public agencies of this state and subdivisions thereof exist to aid in the conduct of the people's business. It is the intent of this chapter that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly.
"Governing body" is "the multimember board, commission, committee, council, or other policy or rule-making body of a public agency, or any committee thereof when the committee acts on behalf of the governing body, conducts hearings, or
takes testimony or public comment."
"Action" is "the transaction of the official business of a public agency by a governing body including but not limited to receipt of public testimony, deliberations, discussions, considerations, reviews, evaluations, and final actions. "Final action" means a collective positive or negative decision, or an actual vote by a majority of the members of a governing body when sitting as a body or entity, upon a motion, proposal, resolution, order, or ordinance."
"Meeting" means "meetings at which action is taken."
Remember, too, that there is no dispute about whether the CAO Committee meetings took place in secret. They did. The dispute concerns the content of the meetings. The position of the participants is that they only discussed scheduling and not more substantive matters, despite documentary evidence (notes and emails) to the contrary.

When questioned about the meetings, this is how the deponents remembered (or did not remember) events.
  • Lovel Pratt was deposed on January 3, 2013, and she expressed 67 denials of knowledge (63 "I don't recall", 4 "I don't know")
  • Richard Fralick was deposed on January 3, 2013, and he expressed 22 denials (21 "I don't recall", 1 "I don't know")
  • Patty Miller was deposed on January 4, 2013, and she expressed 63 denials (51 "I don't recall", 12 "I don't know")
  • Shireene Hale was deposed on January 17, 2013, and she expressed 100 denials (52 "I don't recall", 31 "I don't know", 17 "I just don't have a specific recollection")
Mirror, mirror on the wall ... who remembers the least of all? Looks like it's Hale, followed by Pratt, Miller, and then Fralick.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I Don't Recall

The San Juan County Chapter of the Citizens Alliance for Property Rights (CAPR) just issued a press release (see below) containing information about the depositions in their lawsuit regarding Open Public Meeting Act (OPMA) violations. We'll be delving into this more in coming days since some of the information is in the public record now.

Pratt cites her experience as one of the key reasons to support her election. Her website says:
San Juan County needs leaders with experience, good judgment and expertise; leaders who are dedicated, accessible, and responsive; leaders who will make decisions in the best interests of our entire community.
This is what Lovel Pratt will bring to the new County Council.
But the OPMA lawsuit suggests she can't remember key portions of her experience. She doesn't seem all that responsive either. Was she making decisions in the best interest of our entire community? Irrespective of her campaign statements, she probably can't recall.

Have a look at the press release, which is presented in its entirety.

County Council Rejects Settlement Offer

Citizens Alliance for Property Rights (CAPR), recently submitted an offer to settle the lawsuit with San Juan County alleging violations of the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA). The County Council rejected the offer.

The CAPR case is about open and transparent government. This is a priority to more than 85% of the people who voted in the November election. Our Prosecutor states, The policy reasons for open government are very strong.”  CAPR agrees wholeheartedly with Mr. Gaylord here.

However, the actions of San Juan County in this matter seem to be contrary to the words of the Prosecutor and the policies of the Council. Section 2.4 of the Council Rules of Procedure requires that, “all meetings of the Council shall be open to the public.” This rule was not followed in this case where secret meetings of 3 council persons and staff occurred more than 20 times before coming to light and being stopped.

In fact, the County has taken steps to further conceal and block attempts to gather information. This is not a commitment to open government. On 2/20/13 the County filed a protective order in an attempt to block the deposition of Deputy Prosecutor Jon Cain. The County has further attempted to limit our discovery. In depositions of Council and staff members the terms “I don’t recall,” “I don’t remember,” “I don’t know,” were used more than 250 times. What is the County trying to hide?

In the deposition of former subcommittee member Lovel Pratt, which lasted less than 4 hours, she stated that she didn’t know or couldn’t recall answers to simple questions more than 74 times. When presented with her own notes taken at the meetings she did not recall what the notes referred to:

“Q. Do you recall in the February 3rd, 2012, meeting anyone from staff asking what were the views of the Council members as to wetland buffers, stormwater, site specific and variable buffers and/or medium risk approaches? Do you recall staff requesting any guidance from the County Council members in attendance on any of those topics?
Pratt. I don't recall.
Q. So you don't -- why were they discussed?  Do you have any idea?
Pratt. I don't recall.
Q. Ma'am, this meeting is only less than a year old, and you just don't recall?
Pratt. I just -- I don't recall the specifics of this particular meeting.  I'm sorry.
Q. There's no need to apologize.  You just don't recall?
Pratt. I don't.
Q. And these notes don't refresh your memory?
Pratt. Sorry.”

If you believe that open and transparent government should be a priority of San Juan County and if you believe that all meetings of the Council should be open and transparent, then we need your support. Send any donations to CAPR San Juan P.O. Box 1866 Friday Harbor WA 98250.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Two Views Of Anonymity

As our readers know, we at the Trojan Heron are great fans of anonymity. We care what people say, not who says it.  Anonymous writings, especially of a dissenting political nature, are as old as the republic. They are as American as apple pie.

For example, Benjamin Franklin used several aliases over his lifetime, including "Poor Richard" of Poor Richard Almanac's fame. Other aliases used by Franklin include the following:
  • Silence Dogood
  • Caelia Shortface
  • Martha Careful
  • Busy Body
  • Anthony Afterwit
  • Alice Addertongue
  • Polly Baker
  • Benevolous
Anonymous writing is an effective and societally beneficial form of dissent when a culture of fear pervades a society. At the Trojan Heron, we believe there is most definitely a culture of fear in San Juan County today ... fear of governmental and social retaliation for speaking one's mind. It is a repulsive aspect of life here. We believe wholeheartedly in government transparency while believing equally strongly in personal privacy. Often, however, our fellow citizens seem confused by the distinction and want the reverse -- government opacity and personal transparency.

No. We cannot agree.

Below are two views of anonymity drawn from the pages of our local press/blogs over the past few days. First we have the view of Rick Steinhardt of Orcas Island, the husband of Friends Board member Janet Alderton.
The trouble with Anonymous by Rick Steinhardt
To the editor,
We have experience with anonymous blogs in these islands. To some they seem harmless enough. However gossip is like a virus, it goes from the source from person to person. Distortions can occur with repetition and these distortions naturally increase with distance from the source. Soon the original comment which may have been tongue in cheek turns into new "facts" which can be quite harmful. 
When one makes an anonymous commentary one is disclaiming any responsibility for the consequences, which is both cowardly and irresponsible. This is specially true in our society where it is easy for unstable personalities to obtain guns.
Responsible editors do not print anonymous letters for very good reasons. If you know of someone putting out an anonymous blog, let them know they are being both cowardly and irresponsible.Together we can restore civil discourse and make real progress dealing with the important issues that face the San Juan Islands.
Rick Steinhardt Deer Harbor
Next, we have the view of "Peter Smith," an alias used by a Lopezian speaking out against the Lopez school bond measure, which will be on the same ballot as the County Council election in April.  "Peter Smith's" posting on Lopezrocks was removed because of the use of an alias. The Trojan Heron feels this amounts to censorship, and nearly every other news or blogging outlet in San Juan County engages in similar censorship behavior. We fail to see how censorship protects our community.

First, Peter is not my name.

I am a concerned parent who does not want to voice my opinion publicly because I fear how the administration will treat my kids at school. There has been a lot of talk about the district taking a firm hand when it comes to kids who are speaking out about things that differ from the administrations views.

This same fear is shared by parents who speak out. This is not a new thing, and infact just happend, about a different subject completely, about a month ago around a group of students who were concerned about some use of alcohol by students attending a school dance. So, as a parent, the report that this happened to a student speaking out about the bond, does not even surprise me.

As a parent this bond concernes me as well. I understand that there are real needs to fix issues with the building, but also feel, as do many other parents, that this has seriously overshot that need. I know that the administration will say, "well we had community outreach and you did not participate" and they would be correct. We did not participate because we were afraid for what that participation would mean to our children's experience at school. We have seen what happens to the kids of parents who speak out, and we did not want that to happen to ours.

The concern that we have about the bond that there are so many importnat needs that should be addressed way before this one. Is it good to have a new school with all the modern upgrades and a new administration office and a private gym for the staff? SURE! But lets address more pressing issues first. I had to buy a math book this year for my middle student child because the school did not have enough to go around and she was being asked to share with another student. There are real needs from a teaching standpoint, from a bullying standpoint, and from countless other places that should take overwhelming precedence over building the perfect building. There are real concerns by school staff around the bond and about the focus its passing would take away from core issues that need so desperately to be addressed NONE OF WHICH THEY CAN VOICE PUBLICLY EITHER.

I am writing this because the voters of Lopez need to know that a yes vote on this measure is not a yes supporting the students, it is a yes supporting the administration.

Those who have a stake in the school, as parents, teachers, administrators, and students are clearly afraid of the repercussions of speaking out. It is sad, but it is true.

PLEASE VOTE NO and support those who know that this is not about the needs of the students or a better education, or increasing college preparation or placement or providing real world life skills. This is about a dream list of what could we do to a school campus if we could do all we wanted to do.

Lets keep the most important thing, the most important thing. If we as a community are going to support increasing taxes lets do it supporting a better education, not a better building.

Another Fine Mess On Orcas

Imagine you are a couple living on Orcas. You file a complaint against a commercial property owner who you feel is in violation of the County Code. You sign forms promising your confidentiality.

Let's leave aside the merits of the complaint against the commercial property owner for the moment because that is quite a yarn unto its own. We hope to tell that story from the standpoint of the commercial property developer at some time in the not-too-distant future too.

Back to the couple who complained (and by the way, they were not the only complainants) ... shortly after filing their complaint, the couple themselves come under suspicion for code violations about their home. Armed with a Polaris photo and suspicions of potential violations suggested by the photo, a "third party" notifies CDPD of alleged violations on the couple's property. No one files a formal complaint but an "activity report" is completed by CDPD based on a conversation with the "third party." With this activity report as justification, a CDPD staffer (not a Code Enforcement Officer) begins an investigation of the couple, including a drive-by look-see of the couple's property from a public right-of-way. No buildings can be seen from the public-right-of-way, but nevertheless, the "case" is turned over to a Code Enforcement Officer.

Four days before Christmas in 2011, the couple is traveling for the holidays. Unbeknownst to them, they receive a notice at their home stating that CDPD suspects that they might have an illegal building on their property. They are given 14 days to respond, and it just so happens that the couple returns from their travels on the 14th day. They find that their front gate has been tagged with a notice of violation and a "Stop Work" order.

After a discussion with the Enforcement Officer, the couple is quickly shifted to dealing with Deputy Prosecutor Amy Vera. Also, the alleged code violation shape-shifts a bit too ... from having to do with an illegal building to having to do with something about a trailer as well.

While this is happening, the commercial property developer submits a public records request to the County for all public records related to his situation, including the names of complainants. The County notifies the couple that their names will be revealed to fulfill the public records request. The couple objects via their attorney, stating that they were assured of anonymity and have signed confidentiality agreements to that effect, but the County releases their names anyway.

Needless to say, by this point the couple is feeling rather picked on by the County and by CDPD especially. They ask their local Councilman for help, and complain about two CDPD staff in particular.  The Councilman relays the couple's concerns to Administrator Pete Rose.

Shortly after this, and despite having an attorney willing to accept service of court papers, the couple is served with notice at their home that the County intends to sue them for code violations. The couple's lawyer responds to the lawsuit notice and offers to CDPD that they come to the property to view the building/trailer in question in the hope of pursuing a resolution to the matter. Six months go by ... the County doesn't respond.

While giving the couple the silent treatment, the County (for some reason) decides to pursue a criminal case against the couple.  On October 16, 2012, the Sheriff and the CDPD Enforcement Officer appear before Judge Andrews to say that they have probable cause to search the couple's private property for evidence of  crimes. They get a warrant to enter the couple's property, and they proceed directly to the property with the intent to search it. When the County arrives at the property, they find a locked gate and no one home. So, the Sheriff calls the wife at her place of business and tells her to come to unlock the gate immediately, otherwise the Sheriff will cut the lock on the gate to gain entry to the property. The couple (together) rush home to find a County vehicle, a Sheriff's vehicle, two deputies, the CDPD Enforcement Officer, and the Deputy Building Inspector all waiting to enter their property. Of particular note to the couple is that the two CDPD employees present were the same employees that the couple had recently complained about to their Councilman.

A month later (November 2012), the couple are issued a summons to appear in District Court as they were being charged with four criminal misdemeanors  and threatened with possible fines of $5,000 plus and a year in jail.  And not once has the couple received a notice of correction, compliance plan, or even a phone call simply asking how the matter could be resolved more amicably.

And as far as we understand the situation, the entire matter involves an alleged owner-builder agricultural building of approximately 1,000 square feet and an associated trailer ... not visible from the road ... not hurting anyone ... a victimless "crime" if it is a crime at all.

If you want to find out more, or if you want to support this couple, then please attend their hearing on March 20 (Wednesday) at 1:45 pm at the Courthouse in Friday Harbor.

Is this really how we want our County to treat us ... or our neighbors? Do we really want to create laws (like the CAOs) that encourage this sort of thing? Also, think about this case when you read the proposed new enforcement ordinance.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

You Have Two Cows

A friend sent me a fun summary of "isms" which typically start with "You have two cows." I have posted the list below, and I've tacked on my own entry for "San Juan County-ism" for the way things seem to work around here. Feel free to add on, concur, disagree, or comment.

But before you do that, have a look at the latest election fundraising totals from the Washington State PDC, with candidate tallies listed in descending order.
  1. Lisa Byers - $26,971
  2. Lovel Pratt - $21,807
  3. Jamie Stephens - $18,824
  4. Rick Hughes - $8,768
  5. Bob Jarman - $8,234
  6. Brian McClerren - $4,050
The grand total is $88,654, with over 76% going to the party-affiliated candidates. Individually, Byers and Pratt have raised more money than the bottom three non-affiliated candidates combined (Hughes, Jarman, and McClerren together have raised $21,052).
You have 2 cows.
You give one to your neighbour

You have 2 cows.
The State takes both and gives you some milk

You have 2 cows.
The State takes both and sells you some milk

You have 2 cows.
The State takes both and shoots you

You have 2 cows.
The State takes both, shoots one, milks the other, and then throws the milk away

You have two cows.
You sell one and buy a bull.
Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows.
You sell them and retire on the income

You have two cows.
You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows.
The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island Company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company.
The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more. You sell one cow to buy a new president of the United States , leaving you with nine cows. No balance sheet provided with the release.
The public then buys your bull.

You have two giraffes.
The government requires you to take harmonica lessons.

You have two cows.
You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows.
Later, you hire a consultant to analyse why the cow has dropped dead.

You have two cows. You borrow lots of euros to build barns, milking sheds, hay stores, feed sheds,
dairies, cold stores, abattoir, cheese unit and packing sheds.
You still only have two cows.

You have two cows.
You go on strike, organise a riot, and block the roads, because you want three cows.

You have two cows.
You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk.
You then create a clever cow cartoon image called a Cowkimona and market it worldwide.

You have two cows,
but you don't know where they are.
You decide to have lunch.

You have 5000 cows. None of them belong to you.
You charge the owners for storing them.

You have two cows.
You have 300 people milking them.
You claim that you have full employment, and high bovine productivity.
You arrest the newsman who reported the real situation.

You have two cows.
You worship them.

You have two cows.
Both are mad.

Everyone thinks you have lots of cows.
You tell them that you have none.
No-one believes you, so they bomb the ** out of you and invade your country.
You still have no cows, but at least you are now a Democracy.

You have two cows.
Business seems pretty good.
You close the office and go for a few beers to celebrate.

You have two cows.
The one on the left looks very attractive...
You have two cows.
The County claims the cows are in a wetland and declares them nonconforming.
The Friends sue because the cows can be seen from a big donor's new shoreline mansion.
The ARC, Tourist Board, and Transportation Steering Committee promote the cows as agri-tourism,
The individuals from the County, the Friends, and the ARC/Tourist Board/ Transportation Committee (above) are all the same people.
The Community Land Trust believes the cows belong to everyone.
The Land Bank wants to borrow money to purchase and preserve the cows.
The Marine Resources Committee believes the cows are killing salmon.
You, the cow owner who just wants to be left alone, are discredited as an alleged Koch-funded Republican.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Lower Lovels of San Juan Politics

In Dante's Inferno, the lowest levels of Hell are fraud and treachery, even lower than violence.

One of Lovel Pratt's campaign themes is a strong economy based on family-wage jobs. Here is what Pratt says on her website:
The Council also needs to find ways to encourage and support new forms of economic development, particularly year-round, family-wage jobs that are a good fit for the islands. If elected to the new County Council I will support a strong local economy and economic development that fosters our island way of life.
Barely 6 months ago, this supporter of family-wage jobs seemed gleeful upon discovering that the County isn't required to pay prevailing wages for some of the grant funds it receives (see email at end of this blog entry).
That’s great if L&I have confirmed that we don’t need to require prevailing wages for the septic loan program funds. Please confirm with me so that I can pass on this news on to WSAC.
Not having to pay prevailing wages sure makes those beloved grant funds go further. Nevertheless, there is evidence that Pratt really does have a demonstrated commitment to family-wage jobs ... as long as her family is involved. As part of the court proceedings in one of the recent County lawsuits, Pratt made the following statements in a declaration (excerpts below).
I, Lovel Pratt, declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of Washington that the following is true and correct:
Since my last paycheck from San Juan County, I have received no employment income. In addition, starting January 1, 2013, I now have an additional monthly expense of $1,174.00 for health insurance for me and my husband and our children. (Health insurance for me and my family was previously paid for through my employment with San Juan County.) If the charter amendments are invalidated at this late stage in the election process and the general election is not permitted to go forward, my family's financial contribution to the campaign and our family's financial sacrifice will be for not [sic], to our substantial detriment.
There are plenty more woeful laments of the hardships that have befallen Pratt in her political career in her full declaration, which is included as an image at the end of this post (sans attachments for the sake of brevity). It is interesting reading, especially considering that Pratt's hardships are likely assuaged significantly by having married into a branch of the Cook family of Castle & Cook fame.

Lastly, in her latest letter to the editor, Pratt criticizes her opponent for being fiscally irresponsible because Jarman voted to approve $45,000 towards CAO implementation, and then later he voted to delay CAO implementation. The Trojan Heron feels this is a ludicrous and grasping criticism which is just a desperate effort to distract voters from the millions in debt and $50 million budget that Pratt left in her wake as Council woman.

As has been noted elsewhere, the recent meetings that planning staff held to explain the CAOs to realtors, builders, and architects demonstrated that there are myriad unanswered questions about how the new CAOs could be applied. That being the case, setting a hearing is the only responsible course of action in order to determine whether implementation should be delayed until someone figures out what the CAOs actually mean. Islanders should be grateful to Bob Jarman and others for working to ensure that islanders are not required to comply with rules that no one can decipher.

From: Scott Merriman []
Sent: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 9:52 AM
To: Lovel Pratt
Subject: Re: PIC Grant

Thanks for the update.  I brought the issue up with the Partnership.  I did not contact L and I.

Scott Merriman
Washington State Association of Counties

On Oct 17, 2012, at 9:47 AM, "Lovel Pratt" <> wrote:
Hi Scott,
It looks like the L&I prevailing wages requirement for our septic loan program has been resolved.
Mark Tompkins (see contact info below) could provide more details if needed.
Thank you for your work on this!

Lovel Pratt
San Juan County Council, District 1
Office: 55 Second St. N., 1st floor
Phone: 360-370-7473
Mail: 350 Court Street, No. 1, Friday Harbor, WA 98250

Confidentiality Notice: This email message, including any attachments, is subject to the Washington State Public Records Act, RCW Chapter 42.56 et al.

From: Mark Tompkins
Sent: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 2:30 PM
To: Lovel Pratt
Cc: Bob Jean; John Manning; Ed Hale
Subject: RE: PIC Grant


That is correct.


From: Lovel Pratt
Sent: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 1:33 PM
To: Mark Tompkins
Cc: Bob Jean; John Manning; Ed Hale
Subject: RE: PIC Grant

Hi Mark,
That’s great if L&I have confirmed that we don’t need to require prevailing wages for the septic loan program funds.  Please confirm with me so that I can pass on this news on to WSAC.
Thank you,

Lovel Pratt
San Juan County Council, District 1
Office: 55 Second St. N., 1st floor
Phone: 360-370-7473
Mail: 350 Court Street, No. 1, Friday Harbor, WA 98250

Confidentiality Notice: This email message, including any attachments, is subject to the Washington State Public Records Act, RCW Chapter 42.56 et al.

From: Mark Tompkins
Sent: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 9:12 AM
To: Lovel Pratt
Cc: Bob Jean; John Manning; Ed Hale
Subject: RE: PIC Grant


Yes – our low interest loan project is listed as one of the forms of financial assistance under task 5.  The projects are separate but we can utilize/report repairs completed with loan funds as a deliverable under the PIC grant provided the repair is addressing an identified pollution source. 

In regards to the septic loan program – L&I has indicated that our low interest loan program, providing bona fide loans, does not fall under the prevailing wage requirements. 

The additional funds included in the PIC grant are to enhance the current loan programs and to provide low interest loans to assist property owners remediate conditions that are causing contamination.  The program details have not been developed but my initial thoughts are if we are providing bona fide loans then the prevailing wage rules would not apply.  However, we will need to check with our grant officer to confirm.  Ed, do you know or do we need to ask Blake?


From: Lovel Pratt
Sent: Monday, October 15, 2012 3:31 PM
To: Mark Tompkins
Cc: Bob Jean; John Manning
Subject: FW: PIC Grant

Hi mark,
Is there any relationship between the PIC Grant and the septic system repair funding/grant that requires prevailing wages?
FYI - WSAC is working with L&I on that prevailing wage issue.
Thank you for getting back to me about this.

Lovel Pratt
San Juan County Council, District 1
Office: 55 Second St. N., 1st floor
Phone: 360-370-7473
Mail: 350 Court Street, No. 1, Friday Harbor, WA 98250

Confidentiality Notice: This email message, including any attachments, is subject to the Washington State Public Records Act, RCW Chapter 42.56 et al.

From: Bob Jean
Sent: Monday, October 15, 2012 2:56 PM
To: DL - Council; DL - Department Heads
Subject: FW: PIC Grant

Fyi…not sure if this answers all the questions involved, but it’s a start…

From: Mark Tompkins
Sent: Monday, October 15, 2012 2:54 PM
To: Bob Jean
Cc: John Manning
Subject: PIC Grant


John indicated that council member Miller had a few questions regarding the PIC grant.  Attached is a copy of the semi-annual report that both Ed Hale and I completed and sent to the State Department of Health today.  The grant is just beginning and the QAPP has been completed which will allow the sampling to begin just in time for the rainy season.  Ed & I will continue to work together to implement this grant.

Please call or email if you have any questions regarding this grant.

Mark Tompkins

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