Time for action
After the last two years of devastating fires in Okanogan County and the prediction of continued drought conditions for next year, it is time to address the wildfire problem with proactive leadership and action.
Our principal leaders for this issue are the county commissioners and sheriff, the governor and the state Department of Natural Resources, and the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and the inter-agency fire teams at the federal level. And, the county commissioners are our supposedly closest allies.
It has been three-plus months since the fires were put out, and these agencies and individuals are still holding meetings and commissions to fact-find what happened. While that is commendable and necessary, Okanogan’s citizens need to know some of “the things we won’t do next time,” action plans that will alleviate, reduce or prevent some of the mistakes and losses of last year. The recent Methow Valley News article “County commissioners seek to create nimble response to wildfires” had lots of ideas but few conclusions or action steps. It is time to stop pointing fingers and step up to leading and serving the people. We must expect a lot from our commissioners at this time, so that next summer will be better.
Our county commissioners have not incorporated their co-authored 2013 Wildfire Protection Place into the draft county comprehensive plan, nor have they developed new burn ordinances and future development plans that reflect current conditions and shortage of water county-wide. It is time for the commissioners to tell their constituency why they are not responding with appropriate guardianship.
Do we get improved leadership from our officials, or do we vote in 2016 for better representation?
Sharon Sumpter, Winthrop
Hear are two startling facts I came across recently for Okanogan County: The percentage of persons living below poverty level (2009 – 2013) is 20.7 percent, and in 2014, the percentage of persons 65 and over is 19.8 percent. A fifth of our population is elderly, and a fifth is poor. No doubt, there is crossover — many are elderly and poor. But, to have a vibrant community, we need both healthy citizens of all ages and a healthy environment. It’s that simple.
There are some excellent local services in the Methow Valley, both established and emerging, to support elderly and impoverished citizens. However, it is our elected commissioners we have entrusted with the power to ensure our community flourishes.
Our commissioners — who appointed new Board of Health members with a seeming lack of public health expertise. Our commissioners — who developed a comprehensive plan that ignored citizen input, existing water rights, and recent wildfire information, and are now facing a lawsuit over this very plan. Our commissioners — who did not support a much-needed public transit system. Our commissioners — who have repeatedly cut the public health budget, forcing the Public Health District to dip into reserve funds.
This coming year is crucial for Okanogan County. We need leaders who will give voice to our concerns, and work with all of us to create a future for our county that we can support and be proud of. We have a chance to elect representatives who will ensure our elderly and impoverished have the services they need to maintain their health and their community access. If you would like to become more informed, I recommend you visit the rocon2016.org website. It is a website that was formed by a group of non-partisan citizens to identify, encourage and elect qualified individuals to run as candidates for Okanogan County commissioner.
Karen Mulcahy, Winthrop
Keep police where they belong
If you have an employee that you are paying to do a job and the employee is often out doing jobs for someone else while you are paying him, do you keep that employee or do you terminate him or at least dock their pay for hours away from their assigned job location?
Then why are the mayors and town council members of both Twisp and Winthrop raising taxes but not at least reprimanding their police officers for wasting taxpayer monies when they are repeatedly involved with either enforcing the laws of the other town and Okanogan County when they are allowing, as is the case with Winthrop, a severe backlog of administrative paperwork to go uncompleted? If these officers have so much extra time on their hands that they can gallivant all over the area in their police vehicles, costing the taxpayers money for fuel, wear-and-tear on the vehicles and wages, there should be absolutely no reason for any unfiled reports or other administrative duties.
I understand the necessity for mutual aid. However that should be limited to officer-needs-assistance calls, not routine patrolling of the other towns, county and even state streets, roads and highways, or serving warrants from another police jurisdiction or even in the case of the Winthrop office acting as a taxi cab to the county jail with a prisoner for the other town.
The officers of both towns need to have their pay docked for time they spend outside their respective jurisdictions when not on official town business.
This is one of the reasons, when on the town council for Winthrop, I encouraged the town to install GPS fleet-tracking devices on all vehicles that are used to travel by town employees, to especially include the police vehicles.
Maybe it is time for more residents and businesses to start complaining to the mayor and town council about their lack of responsibility to the residents and businesses of their respective towns, especially with the increase in taxes.
Vern Herrst, Winthrop