Attacks on CAO lack ‘common’ sense | Guest column

John Darrah - Contributed photo
John Darrah
— image credit: Contributed photo

By John Darrah

As the long process of crafting a CAO comes to a head, we might take stock of what we have been doing.

Initially, we must recognize that we have been using fertilizers and pesticides, driving and washing our cars, burning wood and doing other things that adversely affect our commons — our air and water. We are doing these things (all perfectly legal) at a greater rate than five years ago and we are all of us responsible. We are all part of the problem.

That said, what have we done to address this? We have delayed the CAO process, perhaps deliberately by those of us who want it to go away. Once the CAO hearings proceeded into earnest we began to identify the outcome as a “sea of regulations” from our hostile government. The proponents called it a set of rules that we impose on ourselves through the political process but that’s hardly a cry to rally supporters.

We also made Friends of the San Juans a whipping boy. This pesky group of do-gooders kept bringing in scientists and scientific studies. We found two ways to deal with that: 1) demonize the group and 2) deflect attention away from salmon-related science, framing the issue rather as “property rights.” This way lawyers rather than biologists have the spotlight.

On the possibility that someone would offer less for a real estate purchase if there were strict environmental protections in place (protections for and from neighbors as well as for the commons), we warned that the CAO would lower property values. This is a tough sell but if repeated enough it may work.

It was suggested that loud, angry outbursts at planning commission meetings would help as it had done for the Tea Party, in Texas, and elsewhere several years ago. That didn’t seem to work here on the islands.

Since these approaches could possibly have a negative connotation for us, we allied ourselves under the mantle “common sense”. Well… it made us feel better.

It is disheartening to hear that the CAO may pass the council in its current restrictive form. But no worry. If it does, we’ll file a lawsuit and perhaps do it all over again.

— Editor’s note: John Darrah, a retired King County superior court judge, is a part-time resident of San Juan Island, where he built a workshop in 2002.


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