Be sure to vote

Dear Editor:

With the circumstances surrounding the presidential election this year, some regular voters are apparently choosing not to vote. 

I would like to remind everyone that even if you choose not to cast a vote for president, your local elections still depend greatly upon your vote. It is not unusual for a local candidate to lose by just a few votes — even one, in one school board election I remember.

You may cast a vote for only the county commissioner positions or any other office and still have your vote count. It is not necessary to mark your ballot for every position. 

Remember that county voters in all districts should mark their ballot for either Chris Branch or Sheilah Kennedy for District 1 commissioner, and either Ashley Thrasher or Andy Hover for District 2 commissioner. In the general election, we all get to vote for commissioners, regardless of our district.

Also, if you haven’t registered to vote, don’t despair, there is still time! Oct. 10 is the deadline for registering by mail or online. Registration forms are available online to print and mail or to complete online. In-person registration may be done until Oct. 31. The county auditor’s office is located at the Okanogan County Courthouse.

Ballots will be mailed to all registered voter well before the actual Election Day. Don’t forget to mail your ballot by or before Nov. 8 in order to avoid any questions regarding postmark. We want every vote to count!

Clare Paris, Tonasket

Important votes

Dear Editor:

An old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But if it’s really broken, sometimes you have to open up your toolbox to get it running. This election cycle, the voters of Okanogan County have an opportunity to get their county running smoothly again — and the tools available are their votes. 

For several years, incumbent commissioners have run amok in their positions of authority, doing their best to sabotage almost everything remotely connected to the “public.”  Failing to support public transportation and public health, attempting to outsource juvenile offenders as well as other traditional public services out of the county, turning over traditional county roads to private entities and efforts to transfer public lands are all part of the pattern.

Through poor planning and land use decisions, they’ve also managed to embroil the county in multiple unnecessary lawsuits, wasting thousands of taxpayers’ dollars in the process. The list could go on.

Well, here’s the pitch. There are two candidates in the general election who possess the drive and requisite skills to fix many of these problems. Ashley Thrasher (District 2) and Chris Branch (District 1) have both demonstrated a willingness to connect with their prospective constituents and delve into the complicated issues facing the citizens of Okanogan County. We urge you to support them both in the upcoming general election.

Please put away your conceptions of Ds and the Rs for one time and vote for these two independents. Remember, this is a countywide election and every registered voter gets to vote for the candidate of his or her choice in both the district races. They may end up being your two most important votes on your ballot this November.

Jim and Gail Brennan, Twisp 

Invest in public health

Dear Editor:

Our Public Health District is under-funded, and, therefore, has difficulty providing timely services to its citizens. It is charged with community and environmental health, including infectious disease management, maternal/child health, immunization management, nursing assessments, regular food establishment inspections, food handler permits, well and septic permitting and inspections, and solid waste disposal. These are state-mandated services and a shared financial obligation of the county and state, but the county has been reducing its share of the obligation.

In 2009 during of the economic downturn, the district had 22 employees. The economy of the state has rebounded but the district has not. It now has 11 employees and three are part-time. The mandated services are still the same; the staff is cut by more than 50 percent.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation published its 2016 findings for Okanogan County’s health statistics, and the results are grim for us. We are ranked 36th out of 39 Washington counties; 26 percent of our residents do not have health insurance versus the state average of 11 percent. The state average for children at the poverty level is 13 percent; our county has 33 percent of its children in poverty. Okanogan County’s teen pregnancy count is twice the state average. We currently have a drug overdose epidemic. These negative outcomes are solvable.

Poor rankings are a consequence of reduced funding, reduced staffing and rural demographics. Let’s tell our county commissioners to invest in public health and improve our citizens’ quality of life.

Sharon Sumpter, Winthrop 

Making our county better

Dear Editor:

This past week I was lucky to have my son, a retired Navy Master Chief, visiting with us.  As we were discussing the upcoming elections he mentioned to me the diversity of his sailors and how they represented all nationalities and political views. His time in the service had given him the strong belief that this country is not made up of people who are always “red or blue” but are actually purple. Friends and neighbors don’t always share the exact same beliefs, however ,they can and do respect one another. They do believe that through discussion and compromise they can bring about change.

This brings me to our local county commissioner race. I am voting for Andy Hover as our District 2 Representative. He has demonstrated that he has a holistic view of our county. He understands that he is representing District 2 but as a county commissioner he must also take into consideration the needs of the entire county. He believes the diversity of our county is an advantage and knows that the “one size fits all” decisions made by our current commissioners have not brought us together. His goal is to understand the needs of each district and to help all of our citizens realize their goals. Often those goals are the same throughout the county but at times they are not. He believes by open and honest discussion we can have realistic compromise and make our county better. 

I will also be voting for Chris Branch for county commissioner representing District 1. I believe he shares these same values. We as a county can be successfully purple.

Roxie Miller, Winthrop

Flouting the law

Dear Editor:

I appreciate your calling attention to County Commissioner Jim DeTro’s ATV escapade in Winthrop last week (“ATV Issue rolls back onto streets of Winthrop”).  DeTro said he “wanted to make a statement,” and he did. The statement he made is that he is willing to violate city, county and federal law and brag about it. None of the roads he and his buddies rode on are open to ATVs — be they managed by the town of Winthrop, the county, or the U.S. Forest Service.

As you say in the article, it’s a moot point whether or not ATVs are allowed on Highway 20. Winthrop and Twisp can decide for themselves whether they will cite ATVs operating on Highway 20 within town limits, since there is some ambiguity in the state law. But there is no question that other town roads are not open to ATVs unless the town passes an ordinance opening those roads to them, a move that faces strong opposition. Further, the Forest Service roads opened in 2015 — including the ones his group rode on from Conconully — are closed to ATVs unless and until the agency opens them in a travel plan supported by an analysis of the environmental impacts of opening them. Finally, ATVs are not allowed on the section of the East Chewuch Road that connects the closed Forest Service roads to the closed town roads.

That DeTro managed to lead a group ride violating three sets of laws without getting cited is disturbing. I wasn’t aware that county commissioners are exempted from the law.  I guess I should have known, since as a board they managed to violate several state laws when they opened 600 miles of county roads to ATVs and when they adopted a comprehensive plan and a zoning code, as well as submitting a redraft of the county’s Shoreline Master Program to the State Department of Ecology that doesn’t comply with state law. Too bad DeTro is not up for re-election; we could make a clean sweep of these government officials who care not a whit about following the law.

Melanie Rowland, Twisp

Leadership experience

Dear Editor:

Eyebrows rose when a young woman not born in Okanogan County rallied more votes than the incumbent, moving on to the Nov. 8 general election for District 2 Okanogan County Commissioner.

But the excellence Ashley Thrasher has shown in managing her campaign should come as no surprise. As a voter in District 3, I will now able to cast my vote for her and would like to share my reasons:

As a wildland firefighter for seven years, Ashley internalized Hot Shot training in the five principles of High Reliability Organizations (HROs), later practicing this training as a squad boss, incident commander, and a smokejumper. HROs operate in unforgiving social and political environments. They are organizations with a potential for catastrophic failure with nearly error-free performance including naval aircraft carrier operations, nuclear power plants, intensive care units and wildland firefighting organizations.

HROs focus attention on emerging problems and then deploy the right set of resources to address those problems. They utilize the following principles. HROs:

• Ignore no failure, because even a small error can snowball into tragedy.

• Deal with complex situations and analyze root causes, rejecting simple diagnoses.

• Understand that front line employees more easily identify failure and opportunities for improvement than executive leadership can.

• Have the ability to anticipate trouble and improvise when the unexpected occurs, identifying errors and innovative solutions in a changing environment. 

• Expertise, rather than authority, takes precedence in an HRO.

As an engineer, I am keenly aware of the importance of these practices. Ashley’s incredible work ethic, passion to represent all the people and experience in utilizing these five principles are already demonstrating the impartiality and competence we need now at the Okanogan County Courthouse.

Dave Sunde, Tonasket