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Overcoming legacy, new commissioners need support

Letter to the Editor


Last updated 1/25/2017 at 10:23am

Public participation and support from citizens are essential to carrying out improvements that are now underway by our newly- elected Okanogan County commissioners. These commissioners have inherited significant difficulties, including dealing with a budget that was balanced by incurring large loans at the end of 2016. They need our support.

But improvements are already being made. County agendas for the following week are now being published on the county website on Fridays (including citizen comment periods), assisting especially working people in attending meetings of interest. County officials may now communicate directly with employees regarding concerns rather than only through a well-paid Yakima attorney, hopefully easing the taxpayers’ burden and improving employee relations.

Newly-elected Commissioner Chris Branch’s public statements have been especially impressive: 1) that the MANNER in which the county conducts business with departments, volunteer groups, and others should be done in a respectful fashion, 2) that large county expenditures incurred for litigation may be avoided by actually listening to and communicating with the parties involved. The hope that this communication will really occur was aptly stated in a Methow Valley News editorial under “Headlines we’d like to see in 2017: County settles or abandons all lawsuits, commits to open, legal processes.”

A spectacular example of unnecessary litigation expense is the lawsuits arising from our previous BOCC’s denial of their duty to protect the future of ground and surface water through the planning process (comprehensive plan and related zoning ordinance). Claims of the county being suddenly “dumped upon” by Whatcom County’s Hirst decision are unworthy. A paper trail spanning years of input to our BOCC from the Department of Ecology, Methow Watershed Council, Methow Valley Citizens’ Council, Center for Environmental Law and Policy, the Tribes, Futurewise (a state-wide organization with offices in Spokane), citizens, and others demonstrate that a “heads up” regarding such water issues was consistently ignored.

Please support any efforts of our new commissioners to move forward by getting past the rhetoric and previous refusals to listen and communicate. Avoid our often-used “back door” approach: participate and communicate in the public forum.

Isabelle Spohn



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