Archive for the ‘Pacific County’ Category

Shrapnel, Nepotism and Other Weird Stuff

Saturday, November 10th, 2018

Sheriff Scott Johnson

Sometimes I really wish I could get inside another person’s head to get an idea of how in the world they think.   But mostly, I don’t.  Certainly not in the case of our recently defeated Pacific County Sheriff, Scott Johnson.  I am totally content to let his actions speak for themselves and to keep a seemly distance from him and from the fallout that will surely occur from his most recent behavior. At least, I hope there is fallout.

And, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, stop reading this and go directly to http://www.chinookobserver.com/article/20181108/ARTICLE/181109910?fbclid=IwAR2YnULR1-1lzXvwglt_d7GppapcIQq6YqINS2PSzpUfqm8XbxTJ8Oxk6GI.  You will see a “developing news story” from the Chinook Observer with this headline:  “Outgoing sheriff appoints his dad to be undersheriff.”  The article goes on to say that Johnson’s 80-year-old-father is a retired county road-crew worker and, at this point, his qualifications for the job are unclear.

Screen Shot 2018-11-09 at 8:15 a.m.

Also unclear is whether or not our county has an anti-nepotism policy.  (Were I a betting woman, I’d bet not.)  According to the article, Washington state law says little about nepotism, but many cities and counties “allow staffers to supervise, or be supervised, by a close relative.”  So, perhaps, Sheriff Johnson hasn’t fallen completely down that rabbit hole.  Perhaps.

My own take on decision-making by Sheriff Johnson is (and has always been) extremely tentative.  After all, my understanding is that he still has shrapnel in his head from that 2010 shooting he was involved in back when he was a State Trooper. (See the story in the February 13, 2010 issue of the Observer: http://www.chinookobserver.com/20100216/-ive-been-shot-in-the-head-slideshow.)    I’ve always wondered what might happen if one of those fragments got loose.

Just sayin’…

Democracy Alive and Well at the Beach!

Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

It was standing room only last night at in the high school cafeteria where Pacific County residents gathered to hear candidates tell about themselves, their views, and their reasons for running for office in the upcoming mid-term election.  The speakers were candid, civil, and, for the most part, well-prepared.  It was an impressive display of democracy in action.

In my opinion, the shining star was Pam Nogueira Maneman who is running for Pacific County Prosecutor.  If anyone went to that meeting last night with thoughts like “but she lacks the experience…” I’m quite sure that they left thinking differently.  She sat between two candidates with whom she has worked in the past and talked forthrightly about the problems in the Prosecutor’s Office – problems that she blamed directly on the policies and (lack of) procedures that have their origin right there in the workplace of her opponents.  The problems she described adversely affect how the law is administered in our county and how we, as taxpayers and residents, are impacted on a daily basis.  And lest you think otherwise, she expressed clear solutions to those problems – solutions that work in other counties across the nation and that work in neighboring counties where she has worked.

I listened intently during the presentations by sheriff candidates, especially to the questions about ICE.  Robin Souvenir got two thumbs up from me for pointing out that being an undocumented immigrant is NOT a criminal offense in our country.  Sean Eastham, on the other hand talked about being available in case there happened to be a shooting…  He lost me there.  I am not aware that there has been gun violence related to ICE arrests here in Pacific County.  I did not like the inference.

Some time ago, I made the decision not to vote for a single incumbent on a national level.  No matter how hard certain of our elected officials have “tried” to accomplish things in the other Washington, they have remained ineffective.  Impotent and ineffective for years.  Time to clean the closet and get new minds and hearts to work on our behalf, I say.  Last night, I found myself thinking similarly when it came to our county elections.  And, not just the incumbent office-holders, themselves, but anyone who has worked under them.  Last night’s forum simply underscored my resolve as far as the Sheriff’s and Prosecutor’s offices are concerned.

For the other positions – PUD Commissioner and County Commissioner, there are no incumbents running.  While the candidates’ presentations last night shed a bit of light on their preparedness, I feel I must do a little more homework before I am prepared to vote.  Meanwhile, a huge shout-out to the AAUW for making last night possible.  Thanks to them, I know I am well on my way to becoming an informed voter this time around.

On The Verge

Friday, June 8th, 2018

Have you noticed?  The County seems to be sponsoring a new sort of parking lot.  It’s long and narrow and, so far, appears to be exclusively for old and presumably non-functioning RVs.  We used to call the area “Sandridge Road” or, more specifically, the “County-Right-of-Way-on-Sandridge,” or just “the verge along the back road.”  It’s the constricted, usually grassy, space between the asphalt and the ditches – a sort of no-man’s land that is an inconvenient place to pull over in an emergency.

It’s long been an area where litter collects – trash that is apparently thrown out of passing cars.  When we lived on the bay a quarter of a mile or so from the Oysterville ‘Y’, we used to ‘walk the verge’ every Saturday morning, filling a black garbage bag with all manner of disgusting stuff –  bags of uneaten and rotting meals from fast food chains, used diapers, used condoms – you name it.  We wore vinyl gloves, you betcha!  I imagine that homeowners are still picking up trash along the road.

But it’s hard to stuff an old RV into a litter bag.  I don’t know what the County policy is on abandoned vehicles.  I do know that there isn’t a County Impound Lot.  (Nyel read it in the paper.)  And I also know that the County professes to be out of money.  (Maybe that will change next year.  We just got our property reassessment for the 2018 tax year.  A significant and scary increase!)  I haven’t called anyone to see if there’s a plan for those abandoned RVs.  Somehow, I just don’t want to face the usual bureaucratic blah blah blah…

I was thinking that maybe those RVs are still somewhat habitable.  I was also wondering if there are homeless families who might be able to use them as shelters from the elements.  And… yeah, yeah, yeah… I know there are other problems like heat, water, sewage.  But, if those eyesores are going to continue to take up County real estate, it seems as though they could be of use to someone… Just sayin’.

Letter from the Blacksmith’s Son

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

The following paragraphs are excerpts from a letter written on March 26, 1972 by Clarence Dolan to Katy Kimura who was then the Mayor of South Bend:

I was born at Willapa in 1885.  I well remember when the waterfront was lined up with saw mills and shingle mills and other industries.  Long before Raymond was ever dreamed of, I used to help the Morris boys out and harvest tideland grass where the city of Raymond is today.  Before going to Alaska in 1906, I was offered lots on the main street of Raymond at 25 dollars.  After 3 years in Alaska I returned and found these same lots selling at $750.oo.  I then returned to Alaska and spent 2 more years up there, and on my return, was informed that a bank had paid $4,400 for a lot on which they built their bank.

My parents landed at Oysterville in 1877, where my dad set up a blacksmith shop.  Later on the family moved up on Cedar River on a claim where one of my sisters and a brother were born.  The family then moved to Willapa, formerly called Woodards Landing.  It was here that my twin brother and I were born.  Then in a little over one year, my sister was born, and this completed a total of 12 children born to my parents.  The family originally migrated from Iowa, and on their way to the coast, they stopped in Denver where my dad set up a blacksmith shop where he used to shoe WILD BILL’S black mare for him.  The family then headed for San Francisco, and then by boat came to SHOALWWATER BAY in 1877.

I was about 6 years old when I seen my first railroad.  All supplies came to Willapa by boat.  I knew what PIONEER life was like and the hardships those early settlers endured.  I knew what poverty was like and I do not mean maybe.  I was limited to as little as 3 months of school in one year because the district was so far in debt.  I could easily write a book on the PIONEER days of Pacific County.  It used to be a full day trip by horse team to South Bend and back to Willapa.  I remember such men as Tom Rooney as SHERIFF and Zack Brown who was also SHERIFF of Pacific County, attorneys H.W.B. Hewen, John Welch and Dr. Schenk who married my niece, formerly Pearl Shay, and it just may be that the bank building you live in is where Dr. Schenk had his offices 30 years ago.

Thanks to Steve Rogers for sending me this and to Ken Kimura for posting it on his FB page (which is where Steve found it.)  Great stuff!  I never tire of reading and sharing the memories of the “old-timers.”  More of Clarence Dolan’s reminiscences may be found in various issues of  the Pacific County Historical Society’s magazine, the Sou’wester.

Convergence at the Science Conference

Sunday, May 20th, 2018

No one asked me last night: “What was your take-away from the 2018 Annual Science Conference?”  If they had, I’d probably have answered with one word: “Convergence.”

For one thing, it had been an all-day event – multiple speakers talking about eleven different topics from the ‘History of Hatchery Reform’ to ‘Integrating Logging and Salmon Restoration – An update on Ellsworth Creek’ – and I couldn’t really believe how much I already knew about every single topic!  Enough, by far, to keep my mind engaged and my eyes glued to the various power point programs that accompanied each presentation.

Too, I knew many of the attendees and was pleased to meet many more – scientists, oystermen, politicians, writers, historians, fishermen – during the breaks and mealtimes.  (Great food, by the way!  All catered seamlessly by Bob and Judy Andrew of the Cottage Bakery.)  Plus, it was all taking place in familiar territory – the Meeting Room at the Pacific Coast Cranberry Research Foundation’s headquarters on Pioneer Road.  It was only a few weeks ago that I was writing about the creation of that very space as I finished my upcoming book, “Washington’s Cranberry Coast.”

Up first was a report on Washington’s Coastal Resilience Project, a three-year effort to rapidly increase the state’s capacity to prepare for natural events that threaten the coast — specifically,  rising sea level and, as a forerunner, an announcement about what to do if an earthquake should happen right then and there.  “Do not head for your car,” we were told, and we were given directions for walking to the nearest high ground – twenty minutes to the Lone Fir Cemetery.

Already, I felt on ‘familiar’ ground, so to speak.  It’s about a twenty-minute walk to the Oysterville Cemetery from our house.  That, also, is the highest ground near here and, as I have often said, if the big one comes, my plan is to go there, hug a tree, and if worse came to worse, I’d be exactly where I intend to end up anyway…

And, so it went.  From topic to topic I felt a personal connection.  Only a few days ago I had finished reading Robin Cody’s Another Way The River Has.  The last chapter deals with the success of reclamation efforts on the Umatilla River – reclamation of both the river and of the Chinook runs that had been long absent.  The chapter dealt with dams and hatcheries and the Umatilla tribe and federal agencies and more.  It was definitely a precursor to the second topic on the agenda – History of Hatchery Reform.

And then there was the topic about burrowing shrimp – those ghostly critters right outside my front door, on my very property, that, so far anyway, have more rights than oysters or oyster growers or any of the rest of us.  And the update on spartina… now thankfully gone from our property – and the vigilance needed to keep it that way.

And on and on.  Convergence!  I am struck once again how no one part of our lives is isolated from any other part.  If you’d ask, I’d tell you that my interest in and knowledge about this area is its history.  But this conference was a visceral reminder that nothing at all is in isolation – not even the books I read or the burial place of my ancestors or the sucking mud just a few hundred feet from my front door!

You just can’t make this stuff up!

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

Big News in 2010

Once upon a time, about two years ago maybe, I would have said “Only in Pacific County!”  I’m referring to my reaction to yesterday’s banner headline story, “Attorney: Wrong man in prison” – right there on the front page of the Chinook Observer.

If you’ve lived in our county for very long, you remember when Martin Jones was convicted of shooting Washington State Trooper Scott Johnson back in 2010 – a crime for which Jones is now serving a 50-year sentence.  No doubt, you also remember that Trooper Johnson was shot in the head by a .22-caliber bullet which broke apart and remains lodged in his head.  Subsequently, he left the Washington State Patrol due to disability but recovered sufficiently (Say what?) within a few months to run for Pacific County Sheriff against incumbent John Didion.  In our great wisdom (and what some called the “pity vote”) we elected him not once, but twice.

Yosemite Sam

As if all of that isn’t melodramatic enough, yesterday’s news story says that “sworn declarations from local drug dealer Peter Boer” have been filed, alleging that, back in 2010, his brother, Nick, “took credit” for the shooting and sent Peter to dispose of gun parts.  And the report goes on to say, “Peter Boer also alleged a motive, though no evidence has emerged to support it:  Johnson had been shaking down his brother Nick Boer for money in lieu of arrest.”  (Say what?)

And here I thought it was pretty crazy, back in 1985, when Mayor Fred Rutherford fired all the policemen (or maybe it was ‘almost’ all) in Long Beach.  I can’t remember the details except that we got a call at Ocean Park School where I was then teaching that “Everything is under control.  Fred is marching down the center of Pacific Avenue wearing his six shooters and the town is pretty quiet.”  Just like Yosemite Sam!  Perhaps you remember that?  It doesn’t seem nearly so strange in the light of more recent law-and-order events in the county.

MRAP – Mine Resistant Ambush Vehicle

Lest we be concerned… perhaps it might help us to remember that we’ve come a long way in the last thirty odd years.  Specifically, remember the MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle that Sheriff Johnson managed to get for the county.  No need to patrol the streets with six shooters these days, no sirree!  (You just can’t make this stuff up!)

…you be the judge!

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016
Chinook Observer Editorial 8/3/2016

Chinook Observer Editorial 8/3/2016

As far as I can tell, this week’s Chinook Observer contains more mentions of Oysterville than have ever occurred in any single past issue.  Beginning with an article about Oysterville Sea Farms (“Judge delivers clear win to Driscoll in land-use case”) and an editorial (“Preservation still possible in Oysterville”) followed by a number of letters to the editor and even a guest column, our little village is certainly in the spotlight.

In one way or another, they all have to do with legal process.  And, as we all know, once you get involved in that can of worms, reason and logic seem to fly out the window right along with facts and other pertinent information.  As Shakespeare wrote back in 1597 in King Henry VI, Part II:  “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”  (And, wouldn’t you know – lawyers have been arguing over what he meant by that ever since!)

Maybe the controversy in Oysterville boils down to semantics.  The headline “O’ville design guidelines wouldn’t withstand legal test” summarizes what a Gig Harbor attorney wrote in her guest column on the subject.  I don’t know much about the law, but I do understand something about the English language.  It seems to me that “guidelines” and “laws” are totally different.

Oysterville Design Guidelines

Oysterville Design Guidelines

According to my old copy of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary  a guideline is “an indication or outline of policy or conduct”; a law is “a binding custom or practice of a community: a rule of conduct or action prescribed or firmly recognized as binding or enforced by a commanding authority.”

Furthermore, synonyms for law are listed as “rule, regulation, precept, statute, ordinance, and canon.” Guidelines ain’t in it!   In other words, guidelines are used to guide – which, to the best of my knowledge, is how the Oysterville Design Review Board utilized the Oysterville Design Review Guidelines for almost forty years.  I think Robert Freed’s letter (page A7) of explanation is the most cogent of all the opinions expressed.  In particular, I suggest you read his next-to-last paragraph which begins: “Design review guidelines are intentionally prepared with ‘gray areas’…

But to quote yet another of those common knowledge things, “You can’t fight city hall”… or in our case, the various boards, agencies, and departments of Pacific County.  In that regard, I wish the Observer would have an investigative reporter take on yet one more of those expressions that have become so prominent in twenty-first century parlance:  “Follow the money.”

Where will you be next Tuesday?

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

july-2016-printable-calendarAfter an 18-day road trip, we rolled into town last night to the news that our County Commissioners are holding a hearing at 10:30 a.m. July 12th at the Courthouse Annex in South Bend regarding a newly proposed ordinance for the Oysterville Historic District.  Should the ordinance pass, it will replace the controversial Oysterville Design Review Board (ODRB) and effectively remove the community from design decisions about their own place of residence.

We were aware of the hearing date but not that the newly proposed process, if approved, will remove the community from the equation altogether.  According to the latest research by one of our neighbors:  … there are two big issues around the proposed ordinance changes:  (1) what we just learned about a hearing examiner system – namely, that the community has no right to be heard during the hearing (that is stated in the examiner’s decision) and also has no standing to either appeal it or to request a reconsideration.  That takes a close, community-oriented ODRB process and cuts us out entirely.  That needs to be addressed.  (2) if you read the WHEREAS clauses in the proposed ordinance (go to the county website and it is listed just under the Ordinances link), there are several justifications proposed to be included in the ordinance that sounds like the resignation of 4 ODRB members is what left the County in this position.  That, of course, is misleading and unfair, since several of us stepped up to fill those positions.

Oysterville Design Guidelines

Oysterville Design Guidelines

I would add here that the deadline for applying for the aforementioned vacant positions on the ODRB was May 2nd. Five (count ‘em, five) Oysterville residents applied in ample time for those positions and have NEVER had a response from the County Commissioners with regard to their applications – not a ‘thank you for applying,’ not a ‘we are considering your application,’ not anything.  Our Commissioners apparently disregarded the applications entirely so that they could justify proceeding with the Hearing Examiner process.

If you care about Oysterville and you have a few hours to devote to its future next Tuesday morning, we hope you can attend the hearing in South Bend.

Thinking of John Didion

Friday, June 3rd, 2016

Saint John DidionThe headline on Facebook from The Oregonian/OregonLive read: John Didion, former Oregon State center on College Football Hall of Fame ballot.  Actually, it said “Fooball” which made me smile even more, if that’s possible.  I was so pleased for John’s family and for John, too, for that matter.  Somehow, I’m sure he’s heard the news.  After all, he was a (New Orleans) Saint from 1969 to 1974 and I have no doubt that he is among a greater company of saints now.

I know zip about the College Football Hall of Fame or how you get into it so I did a little research.  First of all, it was launched in 1951 by the National Football Foundation to immortalize the players and coaches of college football. So far, 977 players and 211 coaches are included.  They represent 305 schools.

According to the online article: John Didion is one of 75 players on the 2017 College Football Hall of Fame Ballot, the National Football Foundation released Wednesday. Didion was a key part of the Beavers’ famed “Giant Killers” and a two-time All-American, earning unanimous first-team honors in 1968. 

John Didion

John Didion (1947-2013)

Like most of us in Pacific County, I remember John as our County Sheriff (1998-2010) and, before that, as the D.A.R.E. officer who came to my classroom year after year to instruct children in “Drug Abuse Resistance Education.”  Before that, back in the mid-seventies, I remember him as the young man who dug the hole for my septic tank when he was working for his father-in-law Bill Niemi.  I knew him as the brother of my colleague Sue and uncle of the three Anderson kids whom I taught in the 80s.  I remember him as one of ‘the good guys’ and one of the nicest men I’ve been privileged to know.

In recent weeks and months, John has been much on my mind.  It was John who discovered the first Pacific County Jail log book in the back of his office closet and brought it to me back in 2010.  He thought I might find it of interest… and, of course, I did.  Jailhouse Stories from Early Pacific County is the result.  Though it makes its official debut June 13th on bookstore shelves, a few advanced copies of Jailhouse Stories are ‘out.’  The very first one should have been for John.

Foot-dragging in Pacific County? Surely not!

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

Oysterville SignLike all other residents in the Oysterville Historic District, we received a letter in mid-April concerning four vacancies on the Oysterville Design Review Board.  Qualified residents were invited to apply.  Deadline for applications:  May 2nd.

I know of five (possibly six or seven) property owners within the District who sent in their applications well before the stated deadline.  That was more three weeks and two Commissioners’ meetings ago.  None of the applicants have heard a word.  Not “thank you for applying,” not “we’re too busy to deal with this right now” and certainly not “you are hereby appointed…”  There is an official silence.

Design Review Guidelines0003But the oyster shell telegraph does not remain silent on the issue.  We have heard that at least one of our neighbors is waiting for some decisions regarding his property and desires those decisions to be made ‘in a timely manner.’ We have also heard that the Department of Community Development does not think an ODRB can be convened and trained within the required timelines – which according to some are 180 days and according to others are 120 days.

It looks to me like 23 days have already been wasted.  The Board could have been appointed and trained (which we are told takes two or three hours) and be up and running by now. So what’s the hang-up?  It would seem to be in the best interests of both the County and its residents to get this show on the road. But… and isn’t there always a ‘but’?

Last January, the Commissioners directed the DCD to develop a new Design Review model for Oysterville.  It would replace the ODRB with a Hearing Examiner, effectively taking the decision-making process for “major and minor construction” in Oysterville out of the hands of its citizens.  That new ordinance is to go into effect by January 2017.

Pacific County CourthouseSuddenly, according to the oyster shell chatter, the new ordinance has already been written (presumably by the DCD) and awaits approval by the Commissioners.  Also presumably, the ‘process’ involved in its adoption would require a public hearing and an appeal period, then appointment and training of the Hearing Examiner – all undoubtedly taking as much or even a longer period of time than establishing an interim ODRB.

So the foot-dragging seems to involve some decision-making on the part of the Commissioners.  Should they appoint an interim ODRB (which could be hard at work until January 2017)  or move ahead more quickly than planned on a new Ordinance? Meanwhile, the clock is ticking… Seems like it’s time to fish or cut bait.  Or at least tell those who complied with that application deadline what’s going on.