Posts Tagged ‘Pacific County’

The Big News from Oysterville!

Thursday, May 21st, 2020

Dan Driscoll, 2017

Maybe if we hadn’t been seriously sheltering, we would have had a heads up.  As it happened, though, we had no idea until we read it in the Chinook Observer — Dan Driscoll is running for County Commissioner!  About him, the article said:  Driscoll, an oysterman, owns Oysterville Sea Farms and had a well-documented legal battle with Pacific County over land-use and licensing issues to his seafood shop.  The battle escalated to the state Court of Appeals, which sided with Driscoll and upheld an original South Court ruling in 2018.

Oysterville Sea Farms, 2015 — A Bob Duke Photo

What the article does not say, of course, is that said “legal battle” did more to qualify Dan for candidacy in this election than any experience that either of his opponents have had, notwithstanding that one is the incumbent!  For years, Dan tenaciously examined, researched, interviewed, investigated county documents, employees, elected officials, state and county law etc. etc.  When the county won their appeal of Dan’s initial win, Dan kicked it up a level and, ultimately,  he prevailed.  It took five long years.  Or was it seven?  Whichever it was, it was unconscionable.

Dan Driscoll, Oysterville Oysterman

It’s not everyone who has the fortitude to take on “the system” or the tenacity to stick to his position no matter the financial or emotional cost.  That Dan did so is, in my opinion, a great example of his character and his ability to stand firm for what he believes is right.

Furthermore, his experience gave him a clear look at the underbelly of Pacific County government — how it works and how it doesn’t and, most important, what an ordinary resident and citizen could be up against in seeking justice here.

Which brings me to what Dan said last evening when I spoke with him briefly on the phone.  His campaign slogan (maybe he didn’t call it exactly that) is “fair and just treatment under the law.”  I can’t think of anyone better qualified to run on that principal.  Way to go Dan!

Pride cometh before… approaches re-open.

Saturday, May 16th, 2020 online photo

I’ve been feeling proud of our county these past few weeks — especially with regard to their decision to close the beach approaches on the Peninsula to help allay the spread of Covid-19.  It was a hard decision to make.  And yet, it seems to me, it was a no-brainer.

Today’s breaking news story in the online Chinook Observer is headlined: “Pacific County approves plan to reopen beach approaches next Monday, May 18.”  Apparently, after due consideration, our commissioners, in concert with the county health department and law enforcement, have looked at various reopening options — including, perhaps,  waiting for a bit or opening only on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  The decision has been made.  Open!  Seven days a week!

I wish I’d been at the meetings.  My question, as always, would have been, “Why?”  One of my earliest memories of my mother being disgusted with me was her answer to my persistent “why” about something.  “Oh, Sydney,” she said, “why’s a hen?”  And I understood perfectly, even at the tender age of three, that I was being a pain in the ass and there would not be a satisfactory answer to my question.

Seattle Times Photo

About opening the beaches, the answer to my “why” question is clear:  The residents of Pacific County are chopped liver.   It’s all about tourism and the economy.  In an earlier story about the deliberations,  Commissioner Frank Wolfe was quoted:

“Closing the beach approaches did seem to help reduce people traveling to the area at first,” Wolfe said. But as the weather improves, he expects more visitors to come regardless of the closures. “The beaches give people a place to go and spread out,” Wolfe said.

“Other than building barricades on 101, I don’t know how we could keep people out if we wanted to, and quite honestly those people are our life’s blood here and we really don’t want to have them stay away,” Wolfe said.

Chinook Observer Photo

Why am I not surprised?  When has our County ever been able to hold a line — any line?  And now, right when the infection rate in Pacific County has been on the rise, we are encouraging tourism?  Will the tourist-related businesses be opened next, regardless of the health-related numbers? Whose “life’s blood” is being considered here, anyway? I thought our County was going to consider health first…   Why did they change their minds?  Why is short term economics more important than the possibility of life/death?

“Why’s a hen, Sydney?”

Was it a honeymoon? Is it over?

Saturday, April 25th, 2020

Well, whatever it was (and I don’t believe “honeymoon” is the correct appellation) there are strong indicators that it’s over.  I’m talking here about our initial dealings with one another as we accepted sheltering and distancing and masking and disinfecting as part of daily life.  The newspaper and social media were full of the kindnesses and outpourings among us here in Pacific County.

At first no one said much about the people that were not complying with the Governor’s directives.  Granted, they were probably the minority.  Surely, they’d step up as time went by, we said.  (Whenever I begin a statement with “Surely, ” my husband is certain to say, “Don’t call me Shirley.”  Which always puts me in better touch with reality.)

A letter went out to all the owners of second homes here (49% here on the Peninsula; 63% here in Oysterville) asking them to please, stay away for now.  (They haven’t — not here, anyway).  Then our one of our county commissioners was quoted in a Seattle paper, “If you live in Seattle, stay in Seattle.  If you live in Portland, stay in Portland.” The edges began to unravel…

As one could predict, the movers and shakers  in the hospitality industry spoke out, worried about getting back to “normal” if we alienate the tourists now.  Long time visitors spoke out resentfully feeling that the dollars they’ve spent here over the years entitles them to come when they want.  Part-time residents quietly just kept coming. And going.  And coming back… perhaps feeling safer here and letting it be known that they were bringing nothing other than their own food.

Even when it’s an unhappy ending to an actual honeymoon, most things get worked out… at least for a while.  But it usually requires willingness and some conscious effort. I hope that we full-time residents can maintain our equilibrium and support one another with kindness and understanding as we make our way through this.  It will make it a lot easier as we decide what the “new normal” will involve.  Meanwhile, stay well, stay safe, stay home.

Father Tom William’s quintessential words of wisdom come to mind: “It’s the least we can do; it’s the most we can do; it’s all we can do.”

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  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:    I’ve always wondered what might happen if one of those fragments got loose.

Just sayin’…

The Safety Sign Blindness Syndrome

Sunday, September 9th, 2018

My late friend Kaye Mulvey and I had an on-going discussion about driving the speed limit.  Kaye was a proponent of driving as fast as she felt was “safe” whether it exceeded posted limits or not.  She considered me a wimpy driver and once said to me in a somewhat derisive tone, “I’ll bet you slow to the suggested speeds around curves, too!”  I conceded that she was right and I think of her every time we drive to and from South Bend.

Like last night, coming home from Seattle, Nyel (a proponent of what I’ve come to call “Kaye’s Way on the Hiway”) was the one at the wheel.  I was white-knuckling and biting my tongue.  During the sixteen-mile stretch from Johnson’s Landing to our turn at Sandridge Road, we both took note of the new signs – or at least we think they are new.  Each time we approached a curve, a DO NOT PASS sign appeared.  Immediately thereafter, a PASS WITH CARE sign would show up.  Over and over and over again.  (It’s a very curvy stretch of road.)

I wish I’d have counted how many.  It actually became humorous – a grand distraction for Sydney-the-Wimp.  “Whatever happened to noticing the solid yellow lines on the highway?” Nyel asked several times.  “Would you even have time to pass between a PASS WITH CARE sign and the immediately forthcoming DO NOT PASS sign?” I wondered.  Distracting became annoying.  And I began to ask myself when those signs had gone up and if we had just not noticed them before.  Had we become sign blind?

When we got home, late though it was, I looked up sign blindness.  It must be some sort of phenomenon or syndrome, I thought.  And, sure enough!  There is an entire article called “Overcoming Safety Signs Blindness.”  It is written by a man named David Arnold and begins:  Having worked in the safety signs industry for more years than is good for a person, I have come across the phrase ‘Sign blindness’ on numerous occasions. In my experience it invariably tends to be used in one of two ways: Cluster Sign Blindness and Familiarity Sign Blindness.

He goes on to talk about those two problems, what surveys have found, and the suggested solutions to be considered.  I don’t think WSDOT got the memo.  Not the part on Cluster Sign Blindness, anyway.   I also see (doncha love Google!) that the signs cost $21.95 plus $5.00 shipping fee from Amazon.  Plus the cost of installation.  Times how many signs?    Our highway taxes at work.

Luckily, it’s a no-brainer.

Saturday, July 28th, 2018

Some years I agonize over which bubble to fill in on my ballot.  Luckily, that’s not the case this time around, at least not for this primary election.  I’m totally clear about who I’ll vote for.  That’s because I’ve made a couple of very clear guidelines for myself – voting guidelines based on the way things are going for my own particular household in this specific political climate.

First and foremost, I do not intend to vote for a single incumbent – not at the federal level and not at the local level.  It’s not that I don’t think some of our elected public servants are doing the best they can.  Sometimes, I even agree with their positions on specific issues.

But, the bottom line is that I don’t see any evidence that they’ve been effective when it comes to getting anything significant done.  I’m tired of all the rhetoric and bluster, the stalling and the political posturing.  Enough already!  Let’s get some new faces in there to take the place of the career politicians. Let’s clean house.

Additionally, when given a choice among new faces, I’m voting for women.  I’m tired of governance by testosterone.  (Sorry, guys, but you’ve failed us on gun control, on health care, on immigration – on nearly every humanitarian concerns.)  I think we might get a whole lot farther on matters of importance if we could break out of our macho mold for a while and stop giving consideration only to bottom lines.

I imagine I’ll get a lot of blow-back concerning this blog.  So be it.  Each of us must follow our own conscience and our own heart.  But, in case you’re looking for a coupe of guidelines to help you through your ballot, feel free to follow mine.  Just sayin’…

Take-out from The Bend

Wednesday, June 13th, 2018

My grandparents always referred to South Bend as “The Bend.”  I don’t know why exactly.  I do know that most of their local day-to-day (more like once or twice a month) dealings were centered across the bay in the early days – the cleaners, the bank, the dentist, the barber, were all in The Bend.  Important business was usually transacted in Portland which, in the early part of the twentieth century, was the most accessible big city.  It wasn’t until automobiles and roads arrived that travel on the Peninsula, itself, became easier for north end residents.

These days, we seldom go to South Bend.  Not unless we have jury duty or other business at the courthouse or at the Pacific County History Museum.  Otherwise, South Bend is a place to go through rather than a final destination.  We usually stop there to use the public restrooms (thank goodness for them but they are truly the embodiment of “pit” in pit stop) on our way to and from Seattle.  That’s it.

Yesterday, however, we were passing through about four o’clock on our way home from the Emerald City and Nyel suggested to nip in to Betzy’s Tienda Mexicana to check it out – maybe pick up something to take home for dinner.  Great idea!  We have heard great things about their food but we seldom are there before their 4:30 closing time.

As it turned out, there weren’t many choices.  “We’re out of rice,” the pleasant cook said.  “It takes two hours for us to clean up, so we don’t have much left by this time of day.”  Nevertheless, she put together enough ingredients so we could build four “quesadillas” when we got home – two with chicken, one with beef, and one with barbecued beef.  It smelled delicious and tantalized us all the way to Oysterville.

It didn’t take long to put it all together after we got home – lettuce, onions and cilantro, hot sauce, sour cream and – of all things! – parmesan cheese.  We zapped the four taco shells which were folded around the chicken and beef and mozzarella, added the other ingredients and voilà! (or the Spanish equivalent).  Dinner was ready! Not quesadillas exactly.  Not tacos exactly.  Not Mexican exactly.  Nevertheless… a six or seven on a scale of one to ten.  We’ll probably try it again.

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’.

Excuses and Reasons and Cop-outs, Oh My!

Thursday, October 5th, 2017

In Long Beach, WA

The front-page headline in yesterday’s Chinook ObserverFireworks flip-flop unlikely after survey.  The subheading:  Not a Ban, a Better Plan’s survey doesn’t sway Peninsula’s leaders.

Why am I not surprised?  Same old, same old.  Lots of rhetoric but no action by the leadership of our county.  Despite a 76.7 percent support for some sort of limits according to the informal survey by the local ‘Not a Ban, a Better Plan’ group, our leaders are not planning to take any action.

It seems to all boil down to the fact that there is “…no simple solution” according to one of our County Commissioners.  I don’t remember that the survey had anything to do with “simple.”  Once again, our leadership seems to be flummoxed by the complexities of ‘just say no.’

In Long Beach, CA

I am reminded of our County’s Comprehensive Zoning hearing that my folks attended back in the 1970s.  One of the proposals (which ultimately passed) was to number and alphabetize the streets on the Long Beach Peninsula.  My mother was appalled.  She hated the idea of getting rid of all the many traditional names like “Huckleberry Lane” and “Skating Lake Road.”  And she said so.

But, of course, our leadership prevailed.  “To make it easier for our EMTs” they said.  (That was in the days before we used fancy terms like ‘first responders.’)  “I just moved back to Oysterville from the San Francisco Bay Area,” my mom argued.  “San Francisco, as you might know, is quite a bit larger than the Peninsula.  They have never found a need to change their charming, old-fashioned street names, nor have there been any complaints from their emergency personnel.  Are you saying that our EMTs are not as smart as their EMTs?”

Successful Gun Amnesty Campaign, Austrailia

Well… there you have it.  The beat goes on.  Perhaps we need to wait until a real disaster occurs – like all the homes on the beach front go up in flames – for anything to change.  Although… maybe not.  Our national leadership certainly hasn’t pointed the way in the matter of disasters and law-making.  “1,516 mass shootings in 1,735 days” here in America according to theguardian.  Meanwhile, Congress hasn’t passed a single piece of gun control legislation, beyond voting in 2013 to renew an expiring ban on plastic firearms, which could potentially bypass security checkpoints at airports and other locations.

But, I digress.

I Stand Corrected!

Thursday, June 8th, 2017

From the June 7, 2017 Chinook Observer

I was expecting a call from my friend Linda so, when the phone rang, I answered with a little bit of a goofy-sounding “hello-o-o.”  (It could have been worse!)  Imagine my surprise when a pleasant sounding male voice said, “Sydney Stevens?  This is Sheriff Scott Johnson.”  Actually, he may not have said the “Sheriff” word but there was no question in my mind who he was.

There was also no question in my mind concerning why he was calling.  The Observer came out yesterday.  And, since it was the first Wednesday of the month, my column was on page four in all its glory.  “Is Pacific an ersatz* county?” was the title and it was poking a little fun (I thought) at a few of the more peculiar (in my opinion) occurrences, historically and recently, in Pacific County.  I might also mention here that the asterisk referred readers to synonyms for ‘ersatz,’ some of which in the context of Pacific County might not be too politically correct.

Right at the start of the conversation (which, I hasten to point out was friendly, low-key, and almost enjoyable), the Sheriff said he’d like a chance to talk to me and offered to take me to lunch.  I don’t know exactly how I responded, but I demurred and he went on to other things.  Mostly, we talked about the MRAP which Scott (I think we are now on a first-name basis) pointed out was all about the safety of his officers – a point I don’t take exception to in the least.  But, when the County is poor-mouthing and raising taxes, I do take exception to spending 8K on a war surplus vehicle that might be too heavy for certain of the 62 bridges of our county.


Aaahhh!  There was the problem.  Scott told me that he was unaware of that problem (I right away declined to reveal my sources, though truth-to-tell he didn’t ask) and went on to explain that he’d been around dump-trucks all his life and many of them, when loaded, weigh more than the 18-ton MRAP.  I thanked him for pointing that out.

We went on to talk about the problems, logistically, of law enforcement coverage in the County.  And we established some ‘mutual points of agreement’ (for lack of a better description). He told me how he had driven through Oysterville just recently (“with my window down”) and how he had finally met Dan Driscoll (“seemed like a nice guy”) at a meeting at the Ocean Park Firehall.  For my part, I told him of the years I was involved in the D.A.R.E. program as a teacher in the Ocean Beach School District. And I told him how, a long time back, Nyel and I had hosted a community gathering in our home for then Sheriff John Didion and Deputy Ray Harrison to talk with us about better coverage here – the idea of neighborhood watches etc.

Sheriff John Didion – 2003

The conversation ended with Scott saying I’d given him one concrete idea: he intends to add a bit of information about the MRAP to other subjects in future talks with the community.  I’m not sure if he said he had no idea people were interested in the vehicle or if he was indicating that he wanted to straighten out any misinformation about it ‘out there.’  Probably a little of both.  He also reiterated his lunch invitation.  I can’t imagine ever taking him up on that but, as they say… never say never.