Posts Tagged ‘Pacific County’

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.

…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.