By Royce Meyerott
The majority of islanders who I know are honest, thoughtful, and very community oriented. All really care about the pristine islands that we inhabit and would do almost anything to preserve them for future generations. Many have a family and a job which occupies most of their energy and attention, leaving them very little time or inclination to wade into the political swamps that surround them. Unfortunately, as a direct result of their very positive human qualities, many will be victims of political fraud.
Metaphorically, an example of the fraud may be observed by focusing on a hot dog vender who walks through a local ballgame selling what he calls EcoDogs. He proudly proclaims that the buns are made of grain that is Organic, Gluten Free, non GMO, and Stone ground. The crowd deems the EcoDog healthy and acceptable with no more questions asked. The truth is that the meat that is wrapped in the healthy bun originated from a cattle feed lot and is full of questionable hormones and deadly bacteria. By the end of the season, many are sick and an investigation ensues. It is found that the distributors knowingly wrapped a dodgy piece of meat with a healthy bun in order to forward their agenda.
The updated Critical Area Ordinance is a large EcoDog being sold to the public. It took years of not so critical scientific review by our non scientific County Council to approve a set of rules and regulations that are so invasive that the result may well poison the community. Much like the EcoDog distributor, the Council members and their lobbyists wrapped their agenda with an environmental flag, fully knowing that the public would not support their decisions without this deception. The County Council and their advisors can supply no scientific evidence that our previous Critical Area Ordinance was lacking, or that there is real science to support the new laws. They consistently moved to follow an agenda which can be politely described as “without intellectual rigor”. Like the EcoDog vendor, the County Council may be unwitting accomplices to larger off island puppeteers. The legal over reach of the newly passed CAO will result in lawsuits that may drain the County’s reserves for years.
As an active advocate for the environment I support laws that are well balanced, fair and effective. I am appalled with much of the decision making that I have observed within the County Council chambers. It is quite obvious that the County Planning Staff, under the direct influence of the DOE, has authored the majority of the new CAO. Not only is this inappropriate, but it demonstrates a lack of leadership on the part of the individual council members.
Last November we voted out of office two of the previous council members. That was a good start. I am requesting that islanders pay close attention to the candidates running in the upcoming County Council elections. If we are to heal the rifts that have developed within our community we must elect individuals who have a heart for the environment, proven business experience, and can think for themselves. They must not be the pawns of off island political or governmental machines. We do not need politicians. We need smart managers to run the business of San Juan County–no more EcoDogs please.
Royce Meyerott’s environmental background includes stream restoration with Calif. Fish and Game, a Coho Salmon reintroduction project with NOAA, clean up of 2 Calif.designated superfund sites, and founder of Friends of Fitch Mountain. He lives on San Juan Island and is a director on the Mt. Dallas Association board.