Letters to the Editor

An effective and fair commission? Give me a break | Letters

Is the recent conversation about the membership of the San Juan County Planning Commission a “Tempest in a Teapot?”

Perhaps too many adjectives seeking a cause célèbre? I think not, and this is why:

The Planning Commission has nine members, all volunteers, who have an important responsibility to help guide the council through the mine field of responsible land use planning. This commission is held accountable for their “fair and open mind’ in evaluating these important issues.

Today, three of the eight positions which are currently filled (that’s right, 3-of-8) are held by members who are leaders of a property rights group known as the Common Sense Alliance (CSA), and they repeatedly trumpet their commitment to ‘common sense’ solutions to their own development objectives.

Yet, ironically, they roundly condemn any suggestion that these three members are in any way faced with a conflict of interest in their deliberations. Really? Does this make “common sense?”

Randy Gaylord (San Juan County prosecuting attorney) has weighed in on this issue, citing both Washington State Supreme Court and Common Law strictures to self-dealing. One solution offered was to adopt ‘roll call’ votes, thus putting individual voting on the record.

But it is hard to understand how this in any way mitigates the conflict at its source.

A perfect example is the CSA legal opposition to the adoption of the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) which has been approved by the council. Yes, a legal challenge has been filed against the county by the CSA.

Four CSA members were actually on the commission when the CAO was being evaluated. Can you just imagine the outcry from the CSA should a number of the positions on the commission be held by those representing an organization with more moderate, mainstream views on land-use planning?

Does any of this reflect wise government, promoting participative democracy? And is this consistent with common law doctrine, state laws and county ordinances?

The council needs to get serious.

Jon Christoffersen/Shaw Island


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