Posts Tagged ‘Pacific County’

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.

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.

It might be a horse race after all!

Saturday, May 21st, 2016
Annual Oysterville Regatta, c. 1870s

Annual Oysterville Regatta, c. 1870s

‘Filing week’ – the official beginning of election season in our state – ended at 4:00 p.m. yesterday.  Apparently, Pacific County Commissioners Steve Rogers (District One) and Frank Wolfe (District Two) will not be running unopposed, despite expectations to the contrary.  Two “last-minute” challengers threw their hats into the ring so perhaps we can look forward to an exciting summer and fall right here in our own back yards.  After all, everyone loves a horse race, or in the case of the residents on the banks of Willapa Bay, everyone loves a boat race!

Oysterville is represented by the Commissioner in the District Two position.  I understand that Fred Hill will be running against Frank as he did the last time around.  Presumably, Fred feels that now that Frank has had a term to prove himself (one way or another) it’s time to take it to the voters for confirmation… or not.  Ditto the challenger to Steve Rogers of South Bend.

I imagine that the citizens of Oysterville will be watching closely, attending any ‘debates’ and posing questions to the candidates.  For the first time in forty years, we’ve felt a bit shaky about our relationship with the County.  The ordinance providing for the Oysterville Historic District and for the County-sponsored Oysterville Design Review Board has come under close scrutiny by County officials this year and not all Oystervillians have been happy with the resulting interpretations and suggested solutions by the powers-that-be.

Community Meeting, October 20, 2015, Oysterville

Community Meeting, October 20, 2015, Oysterville

Come to think about it, not only Oysterville residents have been concerned.  As last October’s meeting with the Commissioners at the Oysterville School House demonstrated, Oysterville’s status is, at the very least, a Peninsula-wide issue.  The determination about the Historic District’s future and related issues concerning Commissioner oversight of the DCD (Department of Community Development) are bound to be matters of discussion and debate by the electorate-at wide, not just by the residents of our little village.

So hold onto your hats, Frank and Steve!  We wish you fair winds and following seas but… sailing into term two may not go as smoothly as expected!

“Chopped Liver” Here

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

Winter/Spring 2014 - Summer/Fall Sou'wester

I believe it’s still considered bad form to toot your own horn and probably even worse form to criticize the efforts of others. I am about to commit both offenses in the name of setting the record straight and I apologize right up front to anyone whose toes I step on.

There is a newish site on FaceBook (at least new to me) purporting to be about Pacific County history. Hooray for that! I’m all about our Southwest Washington history. So I took a look and one of the first things I saw was some place name definitions: “Beard’s Hallow” and “Dead Man’s Hallow.” I thought I might have wandered into a Harry Potter book by mistake. We have Hollows here with an ‘o’.

Still… I wanted to commend the effort until I took a brief look at those and other entries – lots of guesswork and “I think it’s” or “I may of spelled it wrong” and it made me a bit crazy. K is for KidnappingThere is a plethora of excellent information available about the place names of Pacific County, not the least of which is a double issue of a recent Sou’wester. “A Sense of Place, Names of the North Beach Peninsula” researched and written by TOOT! TOOT! yours truly.

I was not surprised to see that it was not a title listed on the “Books I Have Read about Long Beach Area” on the same site – after all it is a magazine, not a book. Never mind that the Sou’wester magazines (published quarterly since 1966) are one of the most reliable sources of Pacific County History and, should top any list of reading material about the area.

Book Cover for Dear MedoraAs for the books that were listed – great, as far as they went! However, there was not a single title by TOOT! TOOT! me, even though sixteen of the eighteen books I’ve written about our area are still in print. Not one. I definitely felt like the proverbial chopped liver. (And, in case this is the reason, let me disabuse readers right here and now of the notion that I write for children.  I do not.   My ABCs series are about basic facts; not alphabet books for youngsters.) But, I consoled myself that I was in good company. James G. Swan’s The Northwest Coast or Three Years’ Residence in Washington Territory was not on the list either. It’s a book that should be required reading for anyone purporting interest in our area history. Period.

I know my Oysterville grandmother is rolling over and over in her grave up at the Oysterville Cemetery. She believed firmly in hiding your light under a bushel. My Bostonian grandmother, on the other hand, lived by the rule, “If you don’t toot your own horn, no one will toot it for you,” TOOT! TOOT!

According to Our County Commissioners…

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016
Frederick V. Holman 1852-1927

Frederick V. Holman 1852-1927

Although our county was created February 4, 1851, records of the County Commissioners of Pacific County do not begin until June 29, 1852.  John Meldrum was president of the board, Washington Hall and Dr. Elijah White were the other commissioners, but nothing in the county records shows how they were selected. The following are from notes (by Ruth Dixon, founding editor of the Sou’wester) taken from the minutes of early commissioners’ meetings:

  • First white child Frederick V. Holman born in Pacific County, Aug.29, 1852 at Pacific City.
  • Territory of Washington, County of Pacific, May 3d, 1853 – Beginning at his Northwest corner at a stake in Shoalwater at John W. Champ’s Northeast corner thence East twenty chains to a Bluff bank marked X thence East twenty chains to an inaccessible corner from the Bluff thence South fifty chains to a corner also not accesable [sic] thence forty chains to a Spruce tree eight feet in diameter…
  • March 3, 1856 – Ordered that the following rates of toll be established on the Ferry from Chinook to Astoria as follows Viz: for conveying each and every person from Chinook to Astoria during the month of March, Apr, May, June, July, August, Sept. Oct. at rates of $1.50 for each person, and during Nov. December January and February at rate of $2.00, Cattle and horses $3.00 each, hogs, sheep or similar stock $1.50 each – Freight at the rate of 25? for each one hundred pounds.
    Building the Road over Davis Hill, Oysterville

    Improving the Oysterville Road, 1870s

    March 2, 1857 – rates raise 50 cents on persons and to 30 cents per amt. on freight.

  • Aug 22, 1870 – Ordered that the Report of the road Viewers at Chinook relocating the portions of the County Road that have been washed away be approved and said relocated parts of the Road be declared a County road and ordered that the Sheriff of Pacific County be authorized and commanded to prosecute the Supervisor of Road District No, 4 if within one month from this date the fences placed on said Road from Chinook River to Chinookville to obstruct the same be not removed.

Kidnapping the County Seat!

Sunday, February 7th, 2016
"An Outing on the Bay"

“An Outing on the Bay”

According to all reports, Sunday February 5, 1893 was cold and miserable – “slushy” Commissioner John Morehead called it. While the good citizens of Oysterville huddled in the uncertain warmth of the church’s woodstove, two plungers sailed across the bay from South Bend. One went straight to Oysterville; the other headed for the dock at Nahcotta.

After fortifying themselves at the local saloons, the hundred-or-so men converged on the courthouse at Oysterville.  There, according to Morehead: …the two parties went into a huddle to talk over their method of procedure. Finally, an egotistical tailor and taxidermist named John Hudson, who afterward was an exhibit at Chicago World’s Fair from Pacific County, stepped forward and after rolling up his sleeves, so as to show his well-developed biceps, assumed an attitude and kicked in the door of the court house. The mob swarmed in and seemed to be more intent on satisfying their curiosity than in carrying away the contents of the offices.

County Courthouse in Oysterville 1875-1893

County Courthouse in Oysterville 1875-1893

The rest of the story is a familiar one – at least to those of us who live in twenty-first century Oysterville. Ultimately, the South Benders did take away some of the records and the furniture and, wrote Morehead: in due time the contents of the court house were removed over to South Bend by the usual method of transportation.

But it’s the last part of the Commissioner’s story that I like the best: To show that there was no demand at that time for nerve tonic in the booming city on the banks of the Willapa, bills were presented to the Commissioners for services rendered to the county while looting its property. It is unnecessary to say that those bills were disallowed by the board without a debate, by a two to one vote.

A Sign Marks The Site

A Sign Marks The Site

That infamous day of 123 years ago was the first Sunday of the month, just as this is the first February Sunday of 2016. There aren’t too many other similarities. Today, the temperature is a mild 57° with sporadic sprinkles predicted. The church is empty except for the occasional tourist and the courthouse is no more. As far as I can tell, this will be just another quiet day in greater downtown Oysterville.