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March 25, 2015 — Letters to the Editor

Brad Skiff




Prepare to protect your rural way of life

Federal and state agencies are preparing to introduce grizzly bears and additional wolves into Washington’s rural counties.

The anarchist environmental groups Earth First and Earth Liberation Front have attempted to create habitat for these animals since the 1980s by sabotaging loggers’ equipment, tree spiking, damaging electric transmission towers, bombings and other illegal activities. They have shifted tactics and have graduated from universities with master and doctoral degrees in environmental studies and law. They are now employed by state and federal agencies and some are elected to state legislatures.

They are not proposing re-introduction into King and Snohomish counties, which were once these animals’ native habitats. These counties have large urban populations with average household incomes exceeding $70,000, which equates to political power. The proposal is to introduce grizzlies and wolves into Eastern Washington counties, with low populations and low incomes. Many of the rural ranchers there have a daily struggle to survive by grazing cattle and sheep, and raising hay.

The record setting multi-million acre wildfire of 2014 has destroyed much of the rural lands growing ability and even small towns. Combined with the closure of businesses, nursing homes, and rural hospitals these small ranches and towns are on the edge of survival.

The addition of grizzlies and wolves that prey not only on elk and deer, but also on ranch raised sheep and cows, may well spell the end of rural living in these Eastern Washington counties. Residents need to develop a strategy on how to survive and protect their way of life. It appears none will be forthcoming from state or federal agencies or the Washington state legislature.

William Riley

Soap Lake

Newspaper should watch county closely

Your recent column about the importance of ensuring government meetings and records are open to the general public interested me.

I have been struggling for some time to get Okanogan County commissioners’ minutes posted on their website in a timely manner. Currently, the minutes stop at mid-December of 2014. In every other county I researched, the minutes are online within two weeks of a meeting date.

When I then requested minutes by email, my request was ignored. This, despite the fact state law requires all requests for public documents are handled within five days.

Several of us have also requested hearing aids at planning sessions, where Mr. (Perry) Huston and the board discuss issues regarding land use, etc. without bothering to use microphones. This makes them difficult to understand for those of us with hearing problems.

Aids were presented, but they did not work. When we then requested these planning sessions be recorded for us, we were told that wasn’t allowed. It seems the sole secretary is kept too busy on other more important matters, such as working to turn the federal lands over to the states.

Keeping the public informed of these actions, as required by state law, is a low priority.

Good government, like charity, begins at home. Now that you have seen the light yourself, perhaps The Chronicle will become more involved in shining a brighter light into the shadows of the commissioners’ chambers.

Jessica McNamara

Omak

Please, turn lights on when driving

After having lived just outside New York City and traveling up and down main roads from town-to-town, people zipped right past me. I’d notice police cars, but no one seemed to get pulled over for speeding.

Finally I asked what it takes to have to get a ticket. Here it is — don’t go out in the fog, rain, snow, mist, etc. without your headlights on. That’s a $400 ticket. Get smart with the officer and it cost another $200.

So why don’t we have the same process here in Eastern Washington? I almost hit someone coming out of Safeway because they didn’t have their lights on. Everyone else had lights on, including me. But not her, and she was driving a small gray car. And she had two kids in the car.

I’d like to ask everyone out there to please turn on their lights when it’s dark or inclement.

Linea Clouse

Omak

DNR should be shut down entirely

I had some tree trimmings around my house last spring. Conditions seemed appropriate for burning, so I started three small piles afire. I had water available a couple hundred feet away, shovels, etc. But the wind came up and I quickly lost the battle.

We called 911. Within a half-hour Okanogan County rural firefighters were there and put the fire out in minutes. About 5 acres burned. extending a few feet onto a couple of neighbors’ properties.

The fire was completely out when the Department of Natural Resources showed up. They were there for a few hours — maybe three trucks. There was a lot of visiting with each other and Okanogan County firefighters.

After an hour or so, I asked what DNR vehicles were still doing at my place. I was informed that a DNR official would come to my place five days later and walk the burn with me evaluating conditions.

I made sure I was home, but nobody showed up.

This spring, I received a $3,000-plus bill from DNR. The invoice listed all the names of the employees and trucks, each itemized.

I emailed Rep. Joel Kretz, who looked into it and gave me options. The only one that seemed even close to what I might try was going to small claims court. But since I had no clue what I should have done for documentation — I took no pictures or written notes — I paid the $3,000.

I know Joel is working on improving the DNR operations. But my suggestion is just to do away with the agency.

Case-in-point, the Carlton Complex wildfire, a perfect example of what they actually do — just sit around. I witnessed a truck at Sun Mountain Lodge parking lot in the middle of the fire last summer, with five employees doing a little work with a hose reel and visiting, despite fire all around the area.

Same story where I live. There is a large block of property that is leased out. I see DNR trucks pull in, guys walking around, some taking a nap. If there is any way we tax payers could do away with this useless agency we should pursue it as best we can.

Russell Brantner

Tonasket

Grizzly ‘forum’­­ was one-sided program

This is in response to a letter published in the March 18, 2015, edition of The Chronicle.

Forum — A place or meeting where a public discussion is held. (Oxford American Dictionary).

What took place in the Okanogan County Public Utility District auditorium March 4 was not a forum. Neither was it a meeting.

It was a one-sided presentation. Government agencies and their so-called conservation group “partners” made no pretense at giving those that disagree with them any input. The tactics show the decisions have already been made and that these agencies are only going through the motions that will later allow them to claim the public was given the opportunity to have a say in the proposal.

The letter writer said he met with presenters and his questions were answered. He received a one-sided response and the “inviting room setup” only showed one side of the subject.

He said, “There were plenty of places to sit and write.” But there was a single, small table in the back corner of the room with a box for the comments.

Be careful you don’t get this same set up if you disagree with the next government proposal.

Leigh Thomas

Riverside

Illuminate actions of the commissioners

I applaud your recent column on governmental transparency and hope The Chronicle will soon illuminate actions and expenditures of our current county commissioners.

For example, commissioners’ Resolution No. 28-2014 supports transfer of federal public lands to Washington State or Okanogan County; management of federal lands by Washington DNR (even considering errors during the Carlton Complex); outreach to the American Lands Council and other organizations lobbying nationwide for such transfers. The Lands Council is supported by membership dues from 47 counties nationwide, a total of $219,000 (averaging $4,660 per county.) How much of this $219,000 came from Okanogan County? 

County officials spend time drafting letters criticizing state Department of Fish and Wildlife and U.S. Forest Service land management decisions, legal errors, resulting in expensive litigation by watchdog groups (such as attorney fees of $300 per hour), the wolf situation in other regions, discouraging grant money for a publicly approved transit system and salmon recovery (economic generators.) Our commissioners stalled passage of the Shorelines Master Program for the past four years and took eight years — over twice the average length of time — to revise the Comprehensive Plan, 50 years old. The Comprehensive Plan, zoning and draft shorelines program still inadequately consider potential emergencies involving mudslides, inadequate fire egress, migratory river channels and recent climate trends.  

They instituted a three-minute limit for citizen testimony (even if only two or three individuals testify) and canceled contracts for citizens voluntarily pulling weeds on their own roadside properties.

Who is guiding Okanogan County while our commissioners pursue their personal political ideologies instead?   

Isabelle Spohn

Twisp

School employees deserve recognition

The week of March 9-13 was Classified School Employees Week. Those employees provide the many services that help our schools be successful.

Our children’s day begin with the bus drivers who got up in the dark to get the buses warmed and ready. Children arrive at school and are met by the bus duty monitor who greets them and talks to the bus drivers about behavior and safety issues.

Children enter a clean, safe and orderly school carefully maintained by the grounds and custodial staff. The children then proceed to breakfast, where a team of adults has arrived early to feed and clean up after them.

The office staff sort through notes about lunch money, attendance, busing arrangements, lost-and-found items, and take calls on hundreds of different topics. In the classroom, children are assisted in their learning by paraprofessionals working with teachers.

Om the playground, children are joined by dedicated men and women who watch over them and help with social skills and safe play. And if they owe a “time out,” another paraprofessional awaits their presence.

Outside the school, there are several others who watch over all the technological, legal, human resource, financial, procedural and bureaucratic concerns of the district’s families, children and employees. Without their services, the organization would fail to function viably.

I think of school personnel as creating a red-brick building: Teachers are the foundation of learning. Children are the bricks and reason a school exists. Administrators and school boards are the roof that oversee the building. And classified employees are the mortar that holds it all together.

No one part can stand alone. But together they can build a positive, hope-filled future for our children. Classified employees deserve a thank you for all they do. They are truly appreciated.

Principal Jack Schneider

Omak

Turn ‘old’ casino into educational center The soon-to-be abandoned “old” casino needs a reason to remain standing.

I feel very strongly that the Colville Tribes should turn the existing building into a learning center — a place to study, educate and research. University of Washington, Central Washington University, Eastern Washington University and Wenatchee Valley College-Omak could all participate at different levels to make this educational facility work.

We could then “tell” the Smithsonian Institute we have a facility to house the more than 8,000 pieces from our area and many more from the surrounding tribes. Surrounding tribes could work with us to house artifacts for research and their return to their respective tribes. We could tell Burke Museum that 4,000 baskets and hundreds and hundreds of tribal artifacts could be returned so our people may see and honor the custom, culture and tradition of our peoples.

This is not a new idea; the Tribal Planning Department — where I previously worked — suggested this decades ago and it fell on deaf ears. It is time to take back what is ours and allow our graduate students from universities to study their own peoples’ artifacts instead. It is time we increase the need to learn our language and sustain that which makes us a people.

We must protect our rich heritage, artifacts, language, custom, culture and tradition. This is what makes us a people. This is what makes working for the 7th Generation worth doing. This is your opportunity to take a step forward and do it with purpose.

Arnie Marchand

Oroville

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