Northwest NEWS

December 16, 2002

Editorial

Opinion

Letters to the Editor

State has little regard for area youth
The state of Washington wants to put a halfway house for violent sexual predators near Carnation and in doing so will risk the safety of hundreds of kids. Within a short distance of the proposed facility there is an elementary school, a middle school, a Girl Scout camp, a Catholic Youth camp, and a Christian Youth camp. The Girl Scout camp and the Catholic Youth camp would be dangerously close to this facility. Kids at these camps sleep outdoors in tents and open-air shelters and would be easy prey for these predators. Carnation is a small town and most of the kids walk to school. This puts even more kids at risk of being abducted and raped. Our town has only a small part-time police department that would be ill equipped to deal with this risk. The state is showing a total lack of regard for the safety of our local kids and the kids from the greater Puget Sound area who attend these camps. Maybe we need an initiative to bring some sense to DSHS and stop them from destroying the safety of our kids and communities.
Gerod Wattier, Carnation

Residents know what is best for community
Your recent article “Carnation on shortlist for sex offender facility,” Vol. 16 No. 49, Dec. 9, 2002, made it seem like this problem only affects Carnation residents and residents just outside the Carnation city limits. What it failed to illustrate is that this facility could undermine communities as far as Fall City, Duvall, Bellevue, Redmond, Woodinville, and maybe even Seattle.
Because the City of Carnation does not have the infrastructure to support such a facility, the DHSH plans to bus the offenders (at an additional expense to the taxpayers) to neighboring communities for vocational training, medical care, mental health care, job placement, etc. These predators may be working as janitors in your businesses. They will be taking classes in the same schools where you take your night classes. They will be going to the same doctors and dentists that you take your children to for their health care. Evidently, the DSHS feels it is much cheaper to chauffeur the predators to wherever they need to go, rather than locating the facility in an area where those services are close by.
As I see it, this facility brings nothing positive to the community and will only suck everything good out of it. Our tax dollars are going to pay for a facility that will only endanger our families, decrease our property values and destroy our quality of living and sense of security - a triple whammy. And it does not stop there. People will stop bringing their children to area camps and avoid the public hiking and riding trails. Corporations and families will cease to take their children to Remlinger Farms and families will eventually move to safer neighborhoods. Growth will cease.
After all, who wants to move to or invest in an area where nobody wants to live? The community as we know it will die. How many lives must these predators destroy? Why must we, as law-abiding citizens, continue to pay for their mistakes?
It seems to me that the federal judge feels that the rights of law-abiding citizens are not as important as the rights of sex offenders. To me, that is “unconstitutional.” If the federal judge feels so strongly that locking these individuals up for the rest of their lives is unconstitutional, why doesn’t the DSHS locate the facility in his community, next to his home.
The article also failed to report on the fact that King County is exempt from many of the laws and regulations that would preclude a private builder from constructing a facility of that size and magnitude on a site that contains seasonal streams, wetlands and landfill ... a site prone to seasonal flooding. Yes, when it comes to King County protecting its citizens, wildlife used to come first, but now it seems that sex predators have priority. That fact that the land is zoned “RA” does not matter because King County is exempt from any zoning laws. The fact that the land is mostly wetland (one of the main reasons that the land was on the market for two years and did not sell) does not matter because King County is exempt from any DDES regulations. And the fact that the land contains fill, making it difficult to locate a septic system (to support up to 12 people) and well water based on current setback rules does not matter because King County is exempt from these regulations. The list goes on and on. Constitutionality? Where is the constitutionality in all of that? When did we let all this happen? When did we allow a government agency to have so much control and power? And why should we allow an organization that does not even play by the very rules that it is supposed to enforce make a decision on what is best for our community?
Why should we allow an organization that hires individuals like the woman convicted of stealing from the state and subsequently hired to work for the Department of Social and Health Services? Should we trust the judgement of an organization that chooses to employ and then protect a known felon, rather than protecting the community that they are hired to serve? Should we be at all surprised that their decisions seem to favor the guilty, rather than the innocent?
And finally, let us not forget that King County currently does not have such a facility as the one proposed, never constructed such a facility, and has no track record for comparison of what works or does not work. Yet this new facility will house the 3 percent worst sex offenders in the state - using our community citizens as the guinea pigs. I am hoping (pleading) that our neighboring communities will join us in the fight to keep this facility out of our areas. After all, we live here so we should know what is best for our community.
Keith S. Drechsel, Carnation

New technology needed
I believe that the county needs to redesign the proposed Brightwater plant to utilize the latest waste treatment technology. Using reverse osmosis membrane equipment, the entire waste water plant could be put into underground vaults. The only above-ground portions of the plant would be an access door and a small vent a few feet in diameter. This technology has been demonstrated in Duvall and Monroe and is currently being installed at the Tulalip reservation north of Marysville.
By placing the facility underground, the neighbors would get a new park and the community might get some badly needed ball fields. Property values would increase and everyone would be happy. The more modern technology is more expensive to install than an above-ground plant but it’s operating costs are significantly lower. By spending more money up front, the county could be seen as a positive force for progress rather than an ugly intruder.
Peter Michel, Woodinville

Aquifer danger will not stop Brightwater
I have been reading with great interest the letters from concerned Woodinville residents who wish to stop the construction of a sewage treatment plant in their neighborhood.  However I should like to offer my neighbors a piece of advice: Place not thy faith in the presence of a sensitive water resource, like an aquifer, to deter Mr. Sims and his Council from the execution of their designs. You may recall that Mr. Sims and his Council were quite happy to permit the construction of a 15,000 unit mini city, and a service station with its fuel storage tanks, over the Redmond Watershed atop Novelty Hill.  This despite the strong opposition of local residents not to mention the City of Redmond.  Mr. Sims and his Council have proven themselves remarkably insensitive to such mundane considerations such as quality of life and the environment when presented with the opportunity of approving large budget construction projects.  
So, my Woodinville neighbors, if you really want to stop Brightwater, I’m afraid you’ll need to find a more potent consideration that will persuade him to abandon his course of action.
William G. terKuile, via e-mail

More money is not the remedy
The Guest Editorial in your Dec. 2, 2002, issue titled “Legislature must keep commitment to public schools” is a very well written political advocacy statement setting forth rhetoric similar to that used in the successful campaign for the misguided Initiatives 728 and 732, both of which should have remained in the collective bargaining process. The conclusions and attitudes the author attributes to the “public” and “voters” certainly do not reflect the responses within my circle of acquaintances.
I’m of an older generation that experienced the initiation of collective bargaining to the education profession. As an elected school board member in those years, I associated with many fine and dedicated educators. As beginners in the negotiation process, we however made many positive accomplishments on behalf of students.
As the years passed, negotiations have taken on a serious adversarial relationship with the goals and tactics of the teachers’ union being orchestrated by non-district interests. The use of district-wide strikes has become commonplace in recent years, eventhough they are illegal. The absence of any significant consequences in strikes, financial and otherwise, makes striking by teachers an easy, inexpensive but very divisive tactic, and for what? Not better education as is their plea, just better salaries and/or working conditions.
In the early 1980s the President’s Commission on Secondary Education prepared a report, “A Nation At Risk,” wherein one of the conclusions I recall was that the decline in student achievement, the motivation for the report, corresponded with the increase in teacher union activity. Where are we today? A highly organized, wealthy, articulate and persuasive teachers’ union orchestrates public education in this state.
Another of the President’s Commission finding 20 years ago was that there were too many incompetent teachers in the nation’s secondary schools. In 1981 our local papers reported the results of a state of Washington study in which approximately one-third of the state’s high school teachers had inadequate training to teach their assigned subject. And now, 20 years later, it was reported recently in our papers that approximately the same percentage, one-third of the certified staff tested, did not pass this state’s competency test, a result that has been repeated in numerous other states in this nation.
So what has been achieved in the last 20 years of increased funding for education including significant salary increases utilizing an archaic salary schedule? Apparently no increase in teacher competency, student achievement has not significantly improved, in fact in some subjects it has declined and nationally we rank far down the list world wide. But we do have an abundance of computers, some architecturally unique school facilities, small class sizes in some locations and a more greedy, self-serving labor union. Are we getting our money’s worth? I urge everyone to become familiar with their district’s contract between the certified staff and you, the tax payer.
In the rest of the real world, productivity is frequently a stimulus for improved working conditions including salaries. In the education business, student achievement should serve that same role. If the only thing that the teachers’ union president can suggest to better prepare students for today’s competitive workplace is increased funding, then I suggest that the history of this business as well as the plethora of parameters measuring the achievement should clearly cry out the conclusion to the informed public that the public education monopoly is broken and more money is not the remedy. Try competition. It works in other businesses.
Joe E. Monahan

Is a gas station worth the risk?
Are the risks associated with underground gas tanks acceptable if it puts an aquifer and the groundwater supplying thousands of homes at risk? King County thinks so. The Department of Ecology thinks otherwise. Those of us on wells should all be outraged!
King County has approved a gas station for Redmond Ridge that will be built directly above the recharge area for the aquifer supplying water to thousands of homes, including customers of the Union Hill Water Association. Not surprisingly, this gas station was not shown in the plat approved for Redmond Ridge, but was approved by King County’s DDES as a modification well after the preliminary plat was approved - too late for public involvement or opposition to it. Does this smell like an intentional “bait and switch” to you?
Washington State Department of Ecology experts have put the risk of failure of such gas station storage systems as high as 10 percent, even with the greater regulation required. This is not a “minimal risk” as recently suggested to me by Hearing Examiner Stafford Smith. But King County has never publicly addressed this risk and is unwilling to do a Supplemental EIS to review it today. Quadrant wants a gas station and King County is going to give it to them. If it destroys the aquifer and results in thousands of homes without water. Oh well.
Is one more gas station worth the risk it brings to such a valuable resource as an aquifer?
Michael Costello, Redmond


Still no economical alternative to outdoor burning
(Copy of a letter sent to members of King County Council)
It was disturbing to see in Puget Sound Clean air Agency (PSCAA) Director McLerran’s power-point presentation that the PSCAA intends to effectively exceed federal standards to “protect public health” by “further reducing outdoor burning” and by “replacing wood stoves and fireplaces with certified devices and cleaner fuels (that include) natural gas, propane, and sawdust logs.” (There are lawyers who specialize in natural gas/propane explosion lawsuits.)
The current Hollywood Hill rural-area burn ban does not comply with state law RCW 70.94.743 through .765. Mr. McLerran has previously stated his intention to outlaw outdoor burning in all rural areas of his 4-county jurisdiction as soon as those areas have available the alternative, reasonably economical disposal methods called for by state law for areas where rural outdoor burning is disallowed.
The last waste disposal notice sent me, for a “Woodinville and King County Special Collection Event” in September specifically prohibited bringing to the Woodinville collection point any tree branches less than six inches in diameter, and “no leaves, grass, small branches, sod, or brush” was allowed. (And of course you must have a truck to deliver what’s deliverable.)
Since former Council Member Louise Miller said that you can’t hire a chipper for under $200-$300, we in the current burn-ban rural area still don’t have an “economical alternative” to the outdoor burning that state laws allow us a couple of times a year in the spring and fall; and we must somehow haul our own acreage debris to the landfills - or leave them as fire hazards.
King County should add to its 2003 state-lobbying agenda a strong request to see that Ecology and PSCAA adhere to the legislatively-adopted state laws that do allow rural outdoor burning under strictly-controlled circumstances.
Otherwise regional solid waste disposal costs will go up as rural acreage waste overflows the waste handling facilities.
Maxine Keesling, Woodinville

Letters to the editor are welcome and encouraged. Send them to P. O. Box 587 or 13342 NE 175th, Woodinville, WA. 98072; FAX them to (425)486-7593; or e-mail them to kdiefendorf@woodinville.com. They must be signed and include a daytime telephone number for verification.
They may be edited.