Letters to the Editor

Regarding 150 Nichols St.: We need legislators who are looking after our interests

The recent three "yes" votes by our County Council, on the approval of spending Land Bank funds to develop a Farmers Market site on Nichols Street, is very troubling.

These three council members' willingness to vote "yes" on an issue without answering or investigating the concerns voiced about this project, or in considering the legal consequences, should be embarrassing to these council members. It was clear that approval of this purchase would have triggered a lawsuit and an ethics complaint being filed against Council member Lovel Pratt, whether she voted or not on the project.

It appears that these council members were influenced by individuals who had a financial stake in the project, or by friends of those who had a financial stake in the project. Our citizens need to give special thanks to Council members Richard Fralick and Richard Peterson for their research of the concerns. In fact, Richard Peterson went the full distance by contacting and talking to business owners all along Nichols Street. There were many reasons the Town of Friday Harbor had bowed out of this project due to "hair raising" possible consequences, and there are many reasons our County should not be involved as well.

The problem is not just the fault of the council. Individuals working for the county are inappropriately pushing pet projects or projects for friends. For example, the manner in which Stan Matthews wrote his one-sided "news" column for the county website, or consider the comments of the Land Bank representative, Lincoln Bormann, at the Farmers Market group/Ag Group special meeting on Aug. 29. Lincoln Bormann told these members, Don't worry, the Land Bank is not going away and it will be there in the future to support the Brickworks Project ...

It was also inappropriate that at this 501(3)c meeting, members stated they just had to develop more "raw political power" and then they introduced a person running for the County Council. This is bullying tactics designed to get your way by whom you know or control.

Decisions about community projects paid for by the taxpayers need to be based on merit and costs. These projects should also move forward in an open public process. Why was it that the full council never knew about, or had a voice in where Sen. Kevin Ranker's state funds were to be used?

This council vote relates directly to our Draft Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) concerns because the CAO issues are very complex and have clear case law about many of the concerns citizens are voicing. When council members choose to vote on something without investigating all aspects and ramifications of various proposals, they end up passing poorly thought-out legislation and they place the county in legal jeopardy. One of the best ways to become educated is to answer the questions asked by citizens, rather than just accept what staff or lobbyists sell and tell to them.

We do not need waste in government. We need legislators who are looking after our interests. These three council members need to reflect on the manner in which they made their recent vote, and they need to answer the questions and concerns that have been brought to their attention regarding the draft CAO, before they bolt toward a vote which has been drafted and based on misinformation and the desires of special interests who have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to influence our county legislation.

Citizens deserve answers to basic questions that we keep asking, "Show us what the problem is?" One cannot properly address a problem, if one does not thoroughly identify the problems and search for a variety of ways to mitigate the identified problems.

Frank M. Penwell, president
CAPR San Juan

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