LIO will have profound impact on our property rights | Guest Column


Would you sign a legal contract with an organization willing to undermine the voice of citizens and pad the coffers of local government to get their way?

May 25, our illustrious County Council did just that.

Not only is the council going to decide the status of our property rights, they are going to do it without the input of the citizens who will be directly affected.

The council agreed by a 5-1 vote (thank goodness for the wisdom of Rich Peterson, San Juan North, the sole holdout) to establish a Local Integrating Organization (LIO). The LIO is a subsidy of the Puget Sound Partnership (PSP). PSP was just cited by the State Auditor for illegal use of public money to the tune of $4.8 million.

The LIO was established to set environmental priorities and policy for the next decade, under the auspices of salmon recovery. The LIO Steering and Implementation Committees are composed of members of the tribes and other organizations, without representation of the citizens who will be most adversely affected by their decisions.

One of the main reasons the council is selling the citizens short in this process is that the PSP proposes to give the council money. Unfortunately, this particular special-interest group has now gained the ear and attention of the council.

At the council meeting May 25, a packed audience of local citizens spoke to the council, unanimously asking them not to agree to this resolution. However, in the face of this opposition, the council overwhelmingly voted to sign the agreement. The council had an opportunity to delay the decision to allow the State Auditor’s office time finish its investigation and determine if the PSP operates in a legal manner. By signing the LIO resolution, the council disregarded the Home Rule Charter and the Growth Management Act, where local participation and Best Available Science is required.

Adding insult to injury, Councilman Richard Fralick, Orcas West, derided the citizens who took the time to attend the meeting and speak by saying our comments were disjointed and wrongly asserted. I would like to see him back that statement up with facts.

Is this the kind of respect that we citizens, who take the time to speak at public meetings, deserve from our elected officials? Is the council doing this for the money they will get from the PSP for participation in the LIO?

I urge all citizens to take notice of and become involved in what is occurring in San Juan County with the Critical Area Ordinance (CAO) and its connection with the PSP. What our short-sighted council is trying to do will have a profound impact on our island community, economy, and our long-term property rights.

— Bob Levinson is a professional geotechnical engineer. He was a candidate for San Juan County Board of Freeholders in 2004.

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