County commissioners making improvements
Letter to the Editor
Last updated 5/3/2017 at 9:53am
One bright spot in an otherwise troubling political scenario is the significant change in Okanogan County governance made by our two new county commissioners, Branch and Hover, during their first four months in office. Now that they are elected, they need citizen participation and support.
Improvements and involvement opportunities include: On Thursdays at 8 a.m. on KOMW, Branch and Hover address important county issues. A Methow broadcast may soon be available. Citizen comment opportunities are scheduled most Tuesday afternoons, and the commissioners have been open to explanations and problem-solving ideas with citizens in attendance. (Unfortunately, participation has been sparse.)
The process for choosing our county’s newspaper of record is being clarified and revised as you read. County officials may now speak directly with employees rather than going through an expensive Yakima attorney. Commissioners are looking more closely at proposed road vacations. Microphones are used more regularly and minutes of meetings more explanatory, appearing more promptly on the county website. The board has arranged funding for work on juvenile facilities for voter approval, hopefully keeping juvenile offenders closer to home and appropriate rehabilitation.
We have finally elected a commissioner who is both professionally trained and experienced in land-use planning and relevant laws. Branch misses few chances to reiterate why thoughtful and legally defensible land-use planning is so important to our future and financial well-being. From January 2015 through March of 2017 alone, fees for Sandy Mackie to facilitate and defend previous poor county land-use choices were between $217,495 and $216,746 (not including costs nor salaries for employees, which are significant in the Planning Department). But these commissioners have wisely committed to another look at the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance, actually settling with one litigant.
The county has an enormous uphill financial challenge due to lack of progress at the national level, previous county decisions, and changing weather. Do your part to stay informed and communicate! Encourage further needed improvements, such as citizen advisory committees that are transparent and fairly represent all areas of the county.