Saturday, February 15, 2014

Exposure Is Everything

There is a parable about a man walking down a road and repeatedly falling in a hole. He tries to avoid the hole, but his efforts are fruitless. He tries to patch the hole ... he tries to put up barricades to avoid the hole ... he tries to put planks over the hole so he can safely cross ... nothing works ... he falls in every time. In his frustration, he pleads to a friend, "What can I do to stop falling in the hole?!?"

His friend tells him, "Take another road without a hole."

This could be a parable about the CAOs. The County continues to fall in the same hole every time. The latest 78-page draft of the CAOs is no different from any previous approach. Like all previous Councils, this Council just doesn't get it. They don't understand "protection." They don't understand "risk." They are trying to follow what they believe are State mandates. They timidly react to every letter from the Department of Ecology as if they were in the presence of the burning bush.

Protection is inextricably linked to an exposure scenario. Football helmets provide protection during a football game, but they offer no protection if you wear them at a cocktail party. The risk of getting bonked on the head at a cocktail party is de minimis anyway, so the extra cost of wearing a football helmet is wasted. For the same reason, you would be foolish to undergo chemo therapy just because you might be afraid of cancer ... or just because you might have been exposed to de minimis levels of carcinogens. The cost and side effects are high whereas the benefits are non-existent.

We have a 78-page CAO that explains in great detail how to wear a football helmet at a cocktail party. It tells us what color the helmet should be ... how thick it should be ... what the internal padding should be ... how the chinstrap should be worn ... and on and on. It references Best Available Science (BAS) by experts who proclaim that football helmets prevent concussions. The Friends and their allies at the State say that, without the biggest football helmets in the universe, our risk of dying from a concussion is extremely high.

No. The absence of a "protective" measure (i.e., a helmet) does not create risk. Risk arises from our behavior and ambient factors (i.e., cocktail party versus football game). The absence of a remedy may fail to mitigate risk, but the absence of a remedy does not "create" risk.

Regarding the CAOs, we occasionally hear public officials say, "Tell us what needs to be fixed and we will fix it." To those officials, listen carefully ... it is unfixable because you have chosen the wrong path. If you do not first evaluate exposure scenarios, it is pointless to prescribe a remedy.

The perennial complaints about the CAOs fall in the following general categories:
  1. The County is imposing protective measures without providing county-specific evidence of an exposure scenario justifying those measures.
  2. The State and County habitually (and erroneously) say we are in a high-risk situation only because of the absence of their favorite purported "protections," not because there is any evidence that our behavior is creating an exposure scenario with excess risk.
  3. The "protections" being foisted upon us, land use restrictions, would not be protective anyway. If we did find ourselves in a high-risk exposure scenario, land use restrictions would be the least effective way of mitigating the risk. Other, less-costly remedies would likely be vastly more effective.
If there is a fix, our CAOs should simply say, "We will develop and implement site-specific remedies to mitigate excess risk related to critical areas, commensurate with our ability to measure such risk and directly link site-specific development activities as the cause."

Unless our public officials can get some simple concepts through their thick heads, we will always find ourselves in the same hole.


  1. Lest we forget. We did not need to go through the years, time and money spent on creating a whole new CAO. All we were supposed to do is review it.

  2. And political cover has been abundant. There is no and can be no excuse for continuing this march given all the easy ways of CYA for Council.

    To do this CAO madness to an entire island population for no good reason is the true definition of a heartless, worthless person.

  3. Well, there is a fix. And, the fix is in. The CAO is a protection racket. Wouldn't want you should get a concussion or something would we? Looks like you need a really big helmet. For your own protection know what I mean?

  4. Let's see--there is no demonstrable problem caused by single family homes and even if there were, this silly CAO rule wouldn't address it. Add in that the oppressive costs of trying to build anything anywhere will be the last straw for any kind of real estate or construction recovery, and it's just perfect.

    Why did voters dump Lovel and almost dump Jamie? The CAO. Should we have bothered? Apparently not. Hughes is too busy to deal with the pesky issues that actually affect citizens and Jarman has had challenging health issues. Stephens is making political hay, flying back to D.C. to network and bring us National Monuments and other questionable gifts.

  5. Once the CAO goes into effect, watch the FOSJ website. There will likely be a new fundraising request, asking for money to vigorously aid in enforcement of the new important environmental protections. Money to employee "watchers", file protests against every permit request, and carry on with never ending litigation to tighten the restrictions even more. Evil never sleeps...

  6. The next big push by the FOSJ will be for "climate change mitigation". We must stop using fossil fuels, limit electrical power consumption, decrease the amount of meat being eaten, eliminate general aviation aircraft, abolish mechanized agriculture, etc, etc, ...


  7. And so it came to pass that Friends Watch was established.

    If the Friends are keeping an eye on you, who is keeping an eye on the Friends?

    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?


  8. when asked, if the concern is for toxics, why not regulate the toxics. Answer " too difficult to enforce" this is not about critical areas protection. It is everything about the overwhelming desire to enforce.
    It is exactly the opposite of any respect towards individuals. It pits a regulatory body over citizens instead of cooperative approaches that respect people.

  9. You want us all to pay for site-specific studies just to get a permit to build something? Do you understand the time and costs related to doing a statistically significant site-specific study that could support a development proposal? I think this is not a realistic solution as well meaning as you may be. We need development regulations that even moderate income people can afford to comply with.

  10. Comments from John Evans, Doe Bay, Orcas
    Hats off and a mega salute to the Heron. This piece is the most clearly stated, logical and common sense report on the whole CAO mess that has been written in the years this fiasco has been unfolding.

    If the Heron has a philosopher on staff, they might address the question of why in the world the Friends, the County Council, County planners and those on the fringes of the environmental movement want to exercise this level of control over their neighbors.

    For the life of me I just don't get what the personal satisfaction or the reward is gained from holding a club over the citizens of the County.

    It only takes two votes and a refined snese of purpose for our current Council to set this mess aside and do the right thing for our community and frankly for the environment. The regulations, as currently proposed, will do little if anything to keep our islands from "falling in the same hole" yet again. We are on the wrong path to achieve the result of a healthy community and a healthy environment that most of us wish for.

  11. @9:54

    Building a home shouldn't be like getting a hazardous waste discharge permit where you are subjected to endless monitoring reports and site specific studies. The burden of proof should not be on homeowners. Leave people alone. Single family homes and many other activities are given passes (because they are de minimis) when it comes to SEPA, for example. Why should we be subject to endless county environmental review when the state environmental review law exempts us? That could be one benchmark. If our activities are not subject to SEPA, then leave us completely alone. There might be other reasonable thresholds developed.

  12. @ECK and @9:54

    In reality, the whole GMA is bogus and just needs to be repealed.

  13. @ECK

    Or just leave things alone. Tom Starr gave testimony about the CAO that is exactly right. We've been complying with all sorts of requirements for decades. Were they meaningless? Were all the protections that Tom had to comply with just a waste of time? Just leave things alone. As @6:03 said, we were required to review, and if necessary revise. No one has proven the "if necessary" part. Patty Miller kept falling for the state line that our old CAO didn't consider BAS. However, as ECK points out, BAS doesn't focus on problems anyway, so "considering BAS" only matters if you have a problem in the first place. We don't.

  14. There is nothing in the science about risks created by residences, and the "absence of data" argument -- another favorite bullying tactic by the state -- is not the reason. There is no data on the risks created by residences for the same reason there is no data on the risks of surfing in Arizona.

  15. This situation may well be the death of peace in San Juan county. Hatfield McCoy style hatred bigotry etc.
    For the life of me I cannot accept this horrible new way of life, being subjected to overview in every action, or activity.
    How can anyone not hate these people, not the people the ignorance they assign over us. There is a very deep seated evil looming over us. I never thought Those I thought were good people would let this happen.

  16. @10:15
    There was a bill in the state legislature last year or maybe started in 2012 with several small (population) counties attempting to withdraw from GMA planning. Bob and Rick were made full aware and encouraged to contact those involved and try to get SJ removed as well.
    What has Rick done since taking office. The one clear swift action we have seen is appointing his campaign manager to the MRC within weeks of being sworn in. Then it took 6+ months to fill the remaining slots.
    Aside from that, what else had been done?

  17. You know who I really feel sorry for?
    A traveling fire extinguisher sales rep that comes to visit these island.
    Imagine that guy leaving his brief case and sales sample sitting in a hallway of a public building so he can run in and use the public restroom.
    Poor bastard.

  18. Maxims of common law teach that:

    "Unjust is State power where the law is either uncertain or unknown."

    The CAO is an ordinance, therefore it is law. Laws create the state and justify state action. Laws are the state. To the extent people know the laws of a state and consent to their enactment and enforcement, the state is just because it is consensual. If laws are either uncertain or unknown, however, the state is unjust. Unless people know the laws that give the state power to control their lives, the consent that would validate the state’s power is not informed consent.

    Maxims of common law go way back, often times thousands of years. Is there increased uncertainty created by this CAO that did not exist under previous law? Yes. Is it possible to rationally analyze the CAO and have correct knowledge of it? No. Does the general public understand it? No.

    Therefore, no informed consent has been given because the CAO is nonsense and intentionally ambiguous. Yet it greatly expands local police powers over our personal and private activities and affairs.

    This is corruption that can only lead to mischief and evil. We see evidence all around us. It will be quite difficult to put this genie back in the bottle.

  19. Is anyone capable of burning this thing before it burns us?

  20. How about a petition, a petition demanding a public defense? We could do it everyone will sign, if they don't they should be reported

  21. @2:30
    Our council that we worked our tails off to elect were supposed to fix this.
    That isn't going as planned.
    I see the CSA lawsuit as the last line of defense. I read the suit and while it sounds good, I am not sure how solid it really is, or if it has a prayer.
    Beyond that, you are looking at maybe civil disobedience maybe?
    Stopping the FSOJ would be a good 1st step.

  22. @2:30PM - John Evans from Orcas has it correct - all it takes is two of our council members to stand up and say "this will not pass".

    Call them up now and ask them why they are moving this mountain of legislation forward?

    Pick a couple sentences out of the draft, and ask them if they can explain them to you. If they can't, they have no business voting in favor of it.

  23. Rick, Bob - make a motion!

    If you don't even try, we will know where you stand.

  24. If you stand for nothing, you'll fall for anything. I think we know where they stand.

  25. We know they will not do what we need I guarantee it.
    Isn't there something else couldn't a petition work, who has experience and or knowledge? Please chime in

  26. A petition will have no effect at all, if the council members are unwilling to act on its requests. You can petition all you want, but until someone with power (Rick, Bob, Jamie) listens, it is just a piece of paper.

    San Juan County now allows citizen-proposed initiatives though, so we could get enough signatures to get something real and official on the ballot.

  27. Ok let's go everyone willing to help support this effort can help

  28. Support what effort?
    The best and strongest effort right now is the CSA lawsuit.
    Donations to them would be useful. I will send a little something since I am mentioning it.

  29. The fact that so many of us are so completely opposed to the terms of these CAO'S absolutely do not reflect any disregard for natural environmental concerns, quite the opposite. the concern for the environment is properly in the arms of the citizens in the legal position to protect it.
    it is only idiocy that buys into the approach that takes ownership tenancy and proprietary rights and responsibility concerns away from concerned citizens. This makes NO sense, none at all and may lead to precisely what it is said to defend from "Environmental Harm".

  30. A side topic, but you have to ask yourself, what would Menjivar do?

  31. Agree with John Evans, this is probably the most cogent piece to ever appear just about anywhere regarding being on the WRONG ROAD, the wrong path, the path with a big hole in it. I wish every voter could read this piece.

    Only a really stupid person continues on such a path, yes, our current Council.

    Back to action. What if every voter WAS mailed this writing. Hello, Trust Islanders! My checkbook is in my hand!

    And let me be honest, one mailing is never enough. First you build positive recognition (I think Trust Islanders has this...congrats). And, then you build a relationship. It takes sincerity, it takes a righteous cause, and, of course, money. I think we have those things.

    And we don't stop. We don't quit, never ever.

  32. Trust Islanders is here. The time is coming.

  33. @4:47 Exactly right, CSA has been protecting our rights for years now and the lawsuit is our last line of defense. We've been supporting them for years, and continue to do so. Time for everyone to pony up a donation for these tireless crusaders.