Reasons for Thrasher

Dear Editor:

Vote for Ashley Thrasher as county commissioner. Why? Ashley’s truly special. Meet her in person and you’ll immediately feel this. A smokejumper recently turned carpenter, she is sharp as a tack, hard-working, does her homework. She’s not affiliated with a political party. She thinks smart management of a county should be non-partisan, not governed by a Democratic or Republican platform. She offers an exceptionally fresh perspective, really “independent.” She’s a key member of a growing three-generation Okanogan County family.

A devoted aunt to kids of her sisters (a farmer and bookkeeper; excavator brother-in-law), Ashley is the niece of a teacher and small businessman. She doesn’t know half-speed. Just as she was voted top rookie in her smokejumper graduating class, she’ll jump energetically into commissioners’ work. Ashley will bring an innovative approach to the needs of all Okanogan residents spending your tax dollars wisely regarding jobs, small businesses, farms, ranches, public health and safety (including wildfires — a firefighter as commissioner, that’s special).

Mac Shelton and Frauke Rynd, Twisp

Solid pioneers

Dear Editor:

This is in response to Joanna Bastian’s recent column (Sept. 28). There is no known record of how Squaw Creek got its name. The word is only “offensive and disparaging” if you make it so. She should have also included the opinion of a Native American woman who lives on the creek.

The mining camp up Squaw Creek was named Methow by the miners and got its post office on Nov. 8, 1894, not when it moved to its present location (postmarked Washington). Neither was it a rough crowd. The only recorded violence in the town was a dispute between two miners in which one got a broken arm and the other a black eye. As to U.E. Fries, please read his book and decide for yourself whether or not he was an evil man. Whites cheated whites and whites cheated Indians, Indians cheated each other and also whites in those days and it still goes on today.

“The mindset of a drunken fraternity?” I think not. Most of the 300 or so men who made up the miners were settlers, farmers and businessmen. W.A Bolinger, Tommy Young, Jack Healam, Charley Grant, D. D. Tonseth, L. M. Tonseth, Nels Johnson, Pete Averill, the Murrays, Jim West, Frank Minnix, John Truax, Alec Watson, Alec McKinnon, Theo and Earl Mills, Thomas Madden — the names go on and on. These men were all solid citizens. The town was never known as a “wild” town. Many men worked in the mines to earn a little cash money to go on farming.

If it weren’t for people like U. E. Fries, the Robinson brothers, Alexander Ross, John (Jack) Healam, Isabel Healam, Olive Cook, Frank Heath, Mabel Whitney Tonseth and daughter Helen and Georgia Miller, who had the foresight to write of their experiences, we would not have any record of how people lived in the early days. We shouldn’t paint them as being anything but what they were — pioneers.

The thought crossed my mind that the article should better have appeared in an editorial column or a letter to the editor as an opinion rather than as a news article. That’s my opinion.

Bob Tonseth, Methow

Supporting Kennedy

Dear Editor:

I have worked in the Okanogan County Treasurer’s office for 34 years, 17 years as the chief deputy treasurer and the last 10 years as your Okanogan County treasurer. As treasurer, I am the chairperson of the Finance Committee along with the Okanogan County Auditor, financial manager, and the three county commissioners. We have monthly meetings to watch very closely the budgets and cash on hand of each current expense for 27 departments and all of the public works funds (10 funds). Between current expense and the Public Works County Road Department, the total budgets are approximately $40 million annually, which the county legislative authority (also known as county commissioners) is fiscally responsible for.

This is a responsibility the county commissioners do not take lightly. In all my years at the county working on financial issues, Sheilah Kennedy is one of the most detail-oriented and fiscally responsible commissioners we have ever had. She takes the time and does her homework when it comes to finance and she definitely does ask the “difficult” questions. After all, one should ask tough questions when it comes to a $40 million budget of the public’s money, and that should not be confused as micro-managing. Everyone is not always going to agree with every decision made, but I try to look at the complete picture and I know at this time Sheilah is the right person for this job. I would encourage the voters to contact the offices that handle budgets and actual cash if you have questions regarding fiscal responsibility. My vote on Nov. 8 will go to Sheilah Kennedy.

Leah Mc Cormack, Okanogan

Retain Kennedy

Dear Editor:

There is another firestorm happening in Okanogan County.

No, thank goodness it is not another catastrophic forest and rangeland fire.

It is a storm, however, just as dangerous to our way of life.

The firestorms of 2014 and 2015 are the direct result of the environmental groups dictating policy and management of our public lands for the last 27 years. This has proven to be disastrous to our people, destroyed private and public lands, burnt over a million acres of our natural resources and threatens the very survival of Okanogan County.

These same environmental groups, Conservation Northwest, Futurewise and Methow Valley Citizens Council, have members that are supporting the Represent Okanogan County propaganda campaign. They are also the very same groups that continue to launch lawsuits at our county commissioners for protecting our private property rights from extreme and restrictive environmental regulations. Members of these organizations are supporting and funding all of the candidates running for our county commissioner seats in District 1 and 2 — except for Sheilah Kennedy.

Please do not believe the propaganda and fabrication tactics that these liberal environmental groups are flooding the media with. Follow the money, seek the truth.

If you value our constitution, private property rights, access to public lands, common sense forest management practices, small government by and for the people in Okanogan County then join me in voting to retain Sheilah Kennedy.

Sheilah is truthful, sincere, very hard-working and dedicated to protecting our rights as well as the customs and culture of the Okanogan. She has devoted the last four years of her life to serve the people of Okanogan County. She has worked tirelessly to oppose the constant environmental attacks on our way of life.

Vote for the principles we all hold dear, please vote for Sheilah Kennedy.

Kathy Power, Okanogan

Hover is best choice

Dear Editor:

It’s time to make our decisions on the upcoming November election. First, please vote and join in on our democratic process in this election. Second, please vote for Andy Hover. Why: I have known Andy for years as the manager of the Winthrop Ace Hardware and North Valley lumberyard. He has run a tight ship in both places, keeping these businesses connected and vital to our community. Andy also knows the farm and ranch communities. Andy and his wife, Jen, own and operate the Highland Cattle Company and also a chicken farm, and are versed in the farmers’ and ranchers’ needs.

Andy also supported the recreation industry in our valley in which the Methow ski trails run through the Hover-managed farm. Andy has supported the trail system and wants our valley and county to be tops in recreational opportunities.

Andy Hover will make a great commissioner for District 2. He will listen and be open to all citizens of our community and county

Mike Real, Winthrop

Wyss in the 12th

Dear Editor:

The 12th legislative district is blessed to have an opportunity to vote for Jon Wyss to represent us in Olympia as our next state senator.

In all the years that I have known Jon, he has always worked hard to preserve and protect private property and individual rights above all other special interest legislation.

Jon has always promoted open and transparent public process even when it would have been easier to slip under the radar and scrutiny of the public and follow the status quo/good ol’ boy systems already in place within local and state departments and legislative bodies when dealing with matters pertaining to his families’ business interests.

Jon has never relied on having his personal relationships and their “name” carry the weight for him, but instead has always rolled up his sleeves and stepped into the foray many times working hard to successfully bring together all interests involved to create solutions that everyone can live with.

Jon has selflessly taken many hours and days away from his family and personal life to work hard on behalf of us all without any compensation nor complaints for years.

Jon is highly respected in our communities, state and nation by people from all walks of life and many elected offices.

Please join me in voting for respectable, hardworking and honest leadership and representation.

Vote for Jon Wyss.

Verlene Hughes, Omak

Commissioners ignore citizens

Dear Editor:

Tenets of the U.S. Constitution basic to our democracy lie forgotten on the dusty back shelf of our Okanogan County commissioners’ office!

Democracy is a government wherein decisions are made not only by elected representatives, but also by the people. Our commissioners have violated this basic philosophy too often, by:

• Ignoring citizen input regarding water issues, year after year. 

• Turning people who had a right to testify against the vacation of Three Devils Road away from a public hearing. 

• Astonishing unawareness of important constitutional rights such as freedom of the press. (Sheilah Kennedy publicly questioned whether the Omak Chronicle had “violated its contract” as newspaper of record because an editorial mentioned that the voters were watching.) 

• Ignoring citizens recently who personally requested that the commissioners follow their own 2013 Resolution (No. 102 – 2013) mandating a public hearing on issues such as transfer of federal public lands to the states and counties.

• Minimizing citizen involvement by keeping sensitive information from the public. There were over 14 times as many executive sessions per meeting date (2.3 as compared with .16) between 2013 and March, 2016 — after citizens had begun publishing notes of commissioner meetings on the Internet last October. 

The commissioners chose a dictatorial style until public outcry over possible transfer of juvenile offenders to Medical Lake forced them to listen. It may benefit them to find employment where they can disregard our Constitution at will. Recent references to constituents as “green slime” and disregard for public opinion other than from huge landowners or friends has no place in our democracy.

Since the political parties seem unable to effect the needed change, consider voting for highly qualified non-partisan commissioner candidates with no allegiance to any party platform: Chris Branch and Ashley Thrasher. 

Richard L. Tingelstad, Twisp

Bogus claims

Dear Editor:

In at least two of the candidate forums I have attended, in Malott and at the PUD this past Wednesday, Sheilah Kennedy has repeated the point that a large percentage of those who signed the petition not to vacate Three Devils Road were not living near the road. She implies that the opinions of these people do not count, ignoring the fact that Three Devils Road is a very scenic ATV and tourism route. She also discounts second-home owners and absentee landowners in the area whose mailing addresses may be from outside Okanogan County — but whose property tax dollars she is only too glad to collect. Some even vote in our county. She discounts the very ATV enthusiasts, hunters, tourists and others she claims to support.

Her bogus claims that this is simply “all about property rights” fail. What public roads do not have occasional problems of disrespect from the minority of people throwing beverage cans or other trash along the way? What if we all tried to have those roads vacated if they cross our property? This common problem is what started the Adopt-a-Road program.

Sheilah should not be re-elected because of her lack of understanding of what made this country great. 

Jerry Brannon, Chiliwist

Accountability problem

Dear Editor:

Incumbent County Commissioner Sheilah Kennedy’s campaign slogan is “accountability.” But, has she really been accountable and listened to the citizens’ concerns these past three-plus years? 

She and the other commissioners were not accountable to the hundreds of citizens who protested against the Three Devils Road closure. She ignored their comments and voted to close the road to people living near the road, for tourism and ATV use.

She has not been accountable to the taxpayers nor the county’s finances when the commissioners decided to litigate at least five lawsuits against the county instead of negotiating settlements. These legal costs need to be spent on required services and infrastructure.

She was not accountable to current state law nor respectful of citizen input into the recently revised comprehensive plan. In the commissioners’ hurry to accomplish this major task, she now shares responsibility for a comprehensive plan that is flawed and currently being sued by three different groups.

She has not even been accountable to the future of agriculture and ranching with a new zoning ordinance that says there is enough water for 1-acre densities of up to five mobile homes or five multi-family apartments throughout most of the county. This group is her constituency! For two of the last three years, there have been water shortages, droughts, wildfires caused in part by lack of water, and some farmers did not grow crops. Are you ready for your well to run dry in the future like some Midwesterners, who live above the Ogallala Aquifer, are now experiencing?

In this November election, it is time for us to be accountable to our county’s future and vote for new leadership and much better management than has occurred these almost four years.

Stuart Rick Gillespie, Oroville

Spinning reality

Dear Editor:

True to form, members of the group claiming to Represent Okanogan County (ROC) are taking a little bit of fact and putting their own spin on it in an attempt to suppress open dialogue among the citizens of Okanogan County when that dialogue pertains to them or their county commissioner candidates.

Members most recently took offense regarding a letter I wrote questioning the tactics used at public “forums” of which they were an active part. Quoting only a portion of what I said and adding that I wrote they had “sponsored” the forums, they proceeded to suggest that I do research prior to voicing concerns.

I would like to thank ROC members for then proceeding to confirm the points I actually did write about.

Folks in Okanogan County do research issues and organizations, especially when those organizations claim to “represent” them.

How else would we learn that ROC failed to file as a political action committee while accepting political contributions?

How else would we learn that the very people writing the “research” opinion papers and taking notes for ROC are “moderating” and organizing the political “forums”?

How else would we learn that ROC has tightly interwoven ties to Seattle-based special interest groups such as Conservation Northwest and Futurewise?

The list goes on, but hopefully ROC members understand my point and will attempt to restrain themselves from spinning any more of their alternate realities for the people of Okanogan County.

Trinity Stucker, Tonasket

Editor’s note: The state Public Disclosure Commission has decided that ROC’s “failure to register and report as a political committee when it was first organized in 2015 does not amount to a material violation warranting further investigation,” and has closed the matter.

A win for ROC

Dear Editor:

Re: the state Public Disclosure Commission’s (PDC) decision not to further investigate a complaint about Represent Okanogan County’s (ROC) activities.

We are extremely pleased with the PDC’s findings and decision not to investigate further and to close the case. I think this is due to ROC’s care in focusing on issues important to county residents in all of our public communications rather than on candidate opposition. 

Actually, our decision to report as a political committee helped ROC to further highlight the county’s lax management of finances, the incumbents’ governance by litigation and the incumbents’ placement of personal ideological pursuits before consideration for the health and well being of residents among the many issues. We now have the option to openly oppose candidates so, in fact, Ms. Kuchenbuch’s complaint actually helped to put a new tool in our ROC toolbox.

Secondly, we found working with the PDC extremely helpful. Whenever we had a question it was generally answered within less than a day, sometimes in less than an hour. Their software for tracking income and expenditures is top of the line — and free! While many, who have had no experience with this important organization in keeping elections fair, are concerned about an undue burden of reports, these reports actually helped us get to know our supporters better. It was a real win for ROC! It is an unfortunate result was that we were unable to contact a few of our anonymous donors and must return those donations to the Washington State Treasurer.

The impact of ROC will go beyond the current election. Okanogan residents have been re-energized and are excited about once again participating in determining their leadership on all levels. Many have applauded ROC’s efforts through community meetings around the county that helped bring people together. They are finding that our county has many jewels — The Okanogan Highlands, the Similkameen River, the landscapes of Nespelem, Coulee City, the Methow Valley. All who participate are making new friends with people across the county through this grassroots effort. They are learning more about how our county works and the services that need greater support and attention from the incumbent commissioners.

Gay Northrup, Chair, Represent Okanogan County

Wasting our taxes

Dear Editor:

Regardless of political leanings, people want their taxes to be spent wisely and efficiently. Having attended 14 regularly scheduled county commissioners’ meetings this year, I am convinced that efficient use of our tax dollars is not a top priority for them.  Here is an example: On March 21, a county Public Works employee brought the commissioners a report comparing the costs of outsourcing equipment repair to that of in-house work. The time period addressed was between Sept. 17, 2015, and Feb. 26, 2016.  In that time, the additional amount spent by the county on outside labor, compared to the cost of doing the work in-house, was $25,928.58 ($34,423.28 vs. $8,494.70). This means that outside labor cost 405 percent of in-house work. The considerable costs to haul equipment for outside repair were not included in these numbers.

The sad thing is that much of the work was done in Wenatchee, so local businesses received little benefit. 

When provided this information, the commissioners did not ask questions, request more information, or discuss possible changes to save taxpayers’ dollars. Commissioner Kennedy noted that there are overhead costs that are not visible in the in-house numbers.  There was no attempt to identify what overhead or hauling costs might be. The subject was simply dropped.

Out of curiosity, I added 33 percent to the county’s projected labor costs to account for overhead and benefits. With only that change and no adjustment for hauling costs, the cost of outside labor costs dropped to “only” 305 percent of county labor.

This example is just one of several ways the county commissioners are failing the taxpayers. We in Okanogan County may have little influence on state or national government, but individual votes certainly matter on the local level. It is time for sensible, responsible leadership. In District 1 that would be Chris Branch. 

Gina McCoy, Winthrop