Supporting Thrasher

Dear Editor:

The race is on between Ashley Thrasher and Andy Hover for Okanogan County commissioner in District 2. Both are excellent candidates for the position and the selection is difficult.

I have decided to support Ashley Thrasher for the following reasons.

During the public forums she was the most organized and most clearly outlined her position on various issues. During the public meetings she was the only one to point out that the county commissioners made several decisions that were detrimental to Okanogan county and its citizens. These decisions ranged from hiring out-of-area contractors versus local workers; entering into several avoidable, expensive lawsuits; and the commissioners failing to support conservation easements.

She will listen to the needs and concerns of the citizens of Okanogan County and act in a manner that will be open and responsive. She is hard working, organized, thoughtful and yet tough enough to handle the duties required of a county commissioner.

Al Hymer, Methow

Thrasher will be advocate

Dear Editor:

It is exciting to have an election for Okanogan County commissioner that is both competitive and includes candidates that are a significant improvement over the sitting commissioners. I am writing in support of the candidate that I consider the most capable and motivated in the race, Ashley Thrasher.

The single most important quality in a county commissioner is the desire and ability to understand the complex needs of the county’s citizens and our businesses to create conditions that will improve the economy, public health and disaster preparedness for the long term. Ashley Thrasher has the drive and intellect to accomplish this.

I have seen Ashley dive deep into the data and work tirelessly to communicate with her prospective constituents to understand their needs and perspectives. I have seen Ashley seek the counsel of local health professionals to understand the current opiate crisis and strategies for treatment and public health response. I have seen Ashley engage business owners both large and small to understand what the county can do to support private business without limiting the county’s ability to serve our community directly. I have seen Ashley’s multifaceted understanding of wildfire prevention and preparedness.

Above all, I know that Ashley Thrasher will be a powerful advocate for all the members of our county and will communicate in an open and honest way with every one of us!

Joshua Cole, Winthrop

Endless litigation

Dear Editor:

The county commissioners have recently given final approval to both the county comprehensive plan and the zoning ordinance. These documents now will guide land use in the county.

Both the plan and now the accompanying ordinance have been appealed. The first appeal, on the plan alone, was filed in 2015 by the Methow Valley Citizens Council (MVCC) and Futurewise. It was based on the argument that the plan was inadequate and a violation of state law. It over-allocated water resources, ignored the county’s own wildfire protection plan, and failed to identify the agricultural, forest and mineral resource lands on which the county economy is based.

Superior Court Judge Culp, ruling on the original appeal in late 2015, asked the county commissioners and the appellants to work together to resolve these issues in the final plan and zoning ordinance. The commissioners declined.

Thus, after the final approval in July 2016, the appellants, noting that none of their original issues had been considered, were forced again to appeal. This time they were joined by the Yakama Nation, who contend that the plan threatens the tribe’s fishing rights by failing to protect the quality and quantity of groundwater. They also contest as inadequate the county’s argument that regulations are already in place at the project level.

So once again our commissioners go to court, using their expensive private attorney to represent them at a cost of $300 an hour. These expenses will be added to the many other litigation costs undertaken by the commissioners in the past three years.

Despite budgetary difficulties, the litigation checkbook always appears open to them.

Jessica McNamara, Tonasket

Hawkins for Senate

Dear Editor:

When I evaluate the best person to vote for to represent me and my district, I look for the person who has the experience and education to do the best job for us in Olympia. I want to know that he will work for the greater good for all Washingtonians and not be beholden to special interests. A state senator is a very important decision-maker that will be dealing with a variety of difficult issues that face the state of Washington now and for years to come.

I have found Brad Hawkins to have these qualities and more. He is prepared to take on this task. By serving honorably the last two terms as our state representative, he has shown us that he has the ability to put forth legislation, work with others and get the job done.

Let’s keep him working for us in Olympia by voting for Brad Hawkins for District 12 state senator. He is the man for the job!

Ruth Hall, Malott

Candidate decisions

Dear Editor:

First, I want to thank our outgoing commissioner Ray Campbell for his service to the county. Having observed several meetings of the county commissioners, I appreciate that Commissioner Campbell has worked hard at a difficult and often thankless job. 

That said, the bad news is that the county government is in disarray, with a budgetary mess, a demoralized staff and embroiled in multiple costly lawsuits. The good news is that we have the opportunity to elect practical problem-solving individuals to get things back on track.  

Two strong candidates are vying to represent District 2: Andy Hover and Ashley Thrasher. This poses a good but unusually difficult choice. Really, how often do you have to think hard before deciding how to vote? I have met and talked with both candidates and spent time on their websites trying to assess their positions and leadership qualities. While liking and respecting Andy Hover, my decision is to support Ashley Thrasher. 

Ashley’s vision for a thriving county recognizes the diverse needs that exist in our struggling county. The priority issues listed on her website show that she has given serious thought to the challenges of effectively pursuing that vision.  She is working very hard to earn your vote. She is also working hard at preparing to shoulder the many responsibilities of a commissioner. 

In District 1, the choice is far simpler: If you believe the current board of commissioners is doing a good job governing, vote for the incumbent. If you want an intelligent, thoughtful commissioner who makes sensible decisions, I strongly recommend you get to know Chris Branch. Chris has a wealth of relevant experience and is a down-to-earth problem-solver. If we want the endless, senseless, budget-busting lawsuits to end, we need to elect Chris Branch. 

We get the government we deserve. Please investigate the candidates and vote for better governance.

Gina McCoy, Winthrop

 Thanks, MVCC

Dear Editor:

What a debt of gratitude we owe to the Methow Valley Citizens Council (MVCC), because the valley we know and love today is the result of their four decades of dedication to the environment, economic diversity and a commitment to our rural way of life.

While the fight over the downhill ski development was going on here, we lived in Hailey, Idaho, where the sale of Sun Valley resulted in an enormous expansion of the ski resort. Was there economic development as a result? Most definitely, but at what a terrible cost. During the 1970s and ’80s, we saw an economic and cultural transition from small town agriculture, ranching, local recreation and community business to an economy based upon real estate development.

The first thing lost was the small town feel. Once that’s gone, it is gone permanently. The same thing has happened in ski resorts all over the west. Good-paying jobs in the construction industry fan a building boom. Normal houses are built for the people doing the building, while at the same time condos and huge vacation homes shoot up everywhere, replacing agriculture and open space. More services are required for the vacation home economy. The service sector of the community has to move further and further away, because mobile homes and trailer parks are zoned out of the existence. Today, there is a morning and evening rush hour where workers commute from 50 or 60 miles away because they can’t afford to live in Ketchum, Hailey or Bellevue.

Sure, the Sun Valley area has a huge sports complex, symphony hall, galleries galore, festivals, high-fashion stores, convention centers, hotels, ski lifts and warming lodges. But if you try to sell an average home there, there may be a few hundred others in your price range on the market at the same time. You need reservations months ahead for all the campgrounds, and forget trying to park anywhere. The locals who have hung in there still have their community culture, of course, but the towns are no longer small mountain towns. It’s more like a mini-city in the mountains.

No, thanks! Thank you, MVCC!

Lynette Westendorf, Winthrop

Thanks from MVCC

Dear Editor:

This past Saturday evening, the Methow Valley Community Center rocked with the music of Family Dog, in celebration of the Methow Valley Citizens Council’s 40th anniversary.

An extensive “Wall of History” displayed a front page Methow Valley News article, dated September 1976, announcing the launch of the Citizens Council. We were founded originally to address Aspen Ski Corporation’s proposed international scale resort. The “Wall” catalogued that 25-year controversy and many other issues on which the council has lead the charge over four decades, especially our work on shaping land use in the Methow and in Okanogan County.

It’s pretty hard to find the words to express my gratitude at seeing our community remembering so many milestones and celebrating the importance of advocacy to influence the character of this most special place. We will be saying thank you to many people for a long, long time for all the effort that went into a fantastic party. 

We can’t say thank you enough to MVCC staff — Lorah Super, Raechel Youngberg and Brian de Place — and all the board members and other volunteers who worked many, many hours on every aspect. The beautifully creative decorations by Kari Bown and helpers lent a truly celebratory air and the “Wall of History,” wonderful food and music kept folks dancing until the final hour.

At the party, we invited folks to share their thoughts about what the Citizens Council has meant to them over all these years. Here’s what long-time member Ed Welch had to say:

“Knowing that MVCC is ever vigilant, I rest easier. I know that thoughtful people are studying proposals and can frame the questions so that I understand. I feel we owe a lot of the integrity and beauty we enjoy in our everyday lives to the work that MVCC does and is still doing.”

We all came away with the realization that a powerful voice of advocacy is as important today as it has ever been. We at MVCC welcome you to add your voice to the chorus.

Thank you!

Maggie Coon, Methow Valley Citizens Council Board of Directors

Other contributors

Dear Editor:

The Methow Valley Citizens Council (MVCC) has been a voice for the environment since its inception. The role of the “town crier” is not always understood or appreciated. The Methow Valley News story, when reporting on the Early Winters Resort project, left out the government agencies and the other citizen advisory committees that did the countless studies, interviews and community meetings about the impacts of this proposed resort and to its surroundings.

These government employees, elected officials and concerned citizens have received little praise or recognition for their search for the science and facts that ultimately showed what could be done or could not be done (developed) in this small rural mountain valley with its unique environment. Having been chair of a few of those fact-finding committees back then I can say that the geology involved with the waste water mitigation, more than our other studies on water availability, was going to be the financial back breaker for this project’s sustainability. There was also the big issue of a nesting pair of spotted owls that were found near the proposed ski lift terminals for the resort.

These countless studies done by the developers, the feds, state and county led to R.D. Merrill’s (the last of the many developers) decision to stop funding the project because of the future escalating costs of mitigation for the resort’s development and maintenance for not only itself but the surrounding communities. These agencies and their citizen advisory committees are the unsung heroes, in my view, of what this valley is today, as they did the “real” ground work for all future development in the valley.

MVCC had a standalone role then as the “town crier” and it kept the agencies on their toes and to seek the answers to so many questions to so many impacts from this development. In the end, I believe, it was our democratic system — government and our concerned citizens’ involvement — that lead to the developer’s decision to rescind their permit request and seek other alternatives for their land.

Happy trails.

John Willett, Mazama/Kitsap