Candidates and advocates reflect on outcomes
We asked candidates in the recent general election to offer thoughts about the races and what to expect going forward. Their responses follow.
Noma takes prosecutor’s position
Republican Arian Noma will be Okanogan County’s next prosecuting attorney after he defeated incumbent Democrat Branden Platter by 60 to 40 percent. Platter was appointed to the post in August 2017 after prosecutor Karl Sloan resigned.
With Noma’s election and the retirement of Assessor Scott Furman, Okanogan County will no longer have any elected officials who are Democrats. Noma describes himself as “a liberal Republican” and appreciates the party’s support for individual rights.
After the election last week, Noma provided the following visions and plans for the county prosecutor’s office by email.
Noma has vowed to seek “100-percent complete prosecutorial reform, top to bottom” in the way the county handles non-violent offenders, particularly juveniles. To this end, Noma said the prosecutor’s office would “exercise discretion, attempting to rehabilitate as many persons as possible without the punishment of incarceration or convictions.” If offenders do not demonstrate a desire to reform, prosecutors will “be forced to seek maximum criminal penalties for the sake of the community’s health,” he said.
Juvenile offenders are in desperate need of placements that provide an alternative to incarceration, said Noma. He pointed to changes in state law that give prosecutors more discretion to use diversion for juveniles accused of minor crimes or for a first offense. The law allows prosecutors to propose alternatives even for felonies, with the exception of violent offenses and sex crimes.
The law adds community-based and restorative-justice programs to existing alternatives such as victim-offender reconciliation programs. It encourages prosecutors to pursue these types of interventions.
Noma said he is not currently aware of alternative placements in Okanogan County, but wants to develop options so the law can have a meaningful impact in reducing recidivism.
To promote job-training, education and literacy programs for people accused of non-violent crimes, Noma intends to encourage community members, employers and schools to take risks on juvenile and young-adult offenders.
To improve communication and cooperation between the sheriff’s and prosecutor’s office, Noma intends to offer monthly trainings and question-and-answer sessions and to maintain open communication. He’ll also look for opportunities to partner with the sheriff at community events.
To address the high rate of drug-related crimes in Okanogan County, Noma intends to concentrate resources on serious offenders while attempting to rehabilitate low-level offenders and addicts. He wants to improve the support system for these individuals and to relax requirements for alternatives to incarceration, such as a court-supervised program that provides counseling, monitoring and treatment for individuals with non-violent drug or DUI offenses.
As prosecutor, Noma will advise the county commissioners and other departments on legal matters. He vows to do so “in an ethical manner, following all laws, rules and regulations, while upholding the rights of the citizenry.”
Hawley leads county law enforcement
Tony Hawley, a 23-year veteran of the Okanogan County Sheriff’s department, said he is “very excited to be elected sheriff for Okanogan County.” Hawley has worked for the past six years as a patrol sergeant.
“I am sure I have a lot to learn about the office, but I am excited to be entrusted with the responsibility,” said Hawley, who takes office on Jan. 1.
In his campaign, Hawley said he would work to ensure that the sheriff’s department is responsive to community input about public safety. He also said he would work with the community and the county commissioners to increase personnel in the sheriff’s department, to better address the increase in drug-related crimes and the needs of a growing population.
Drug issues will need a collaborative community effort, and Hawley proposes that the sheriff’s department work with other organizations to help reduce the demand for drugs through support, education and treatment.
The sheriff’s office will use a core group of detectives in a Narcotics Task Force and experienced patrol deputies to deal with drug-related crime. Hawley proposes rotating patrol deputies through short terms at the task force to directly assist and learn more about the drug-specific investigations and local drug culture and networks.
Hawley said that he wants to improve school safety with a School Resource Deputy program, which also provides opportunities for kids to have positive contacts with law enforcement. Hawley has been trained in evaluating school security through a program called School Shield, and said he will work to bring the training to Okanogan County so more officers and deputies can become trained to evaluate school safety and work with teachers and administrators.
Hawley also emphasized the need to improve an aging communications system utilized by law enforcement, fire and medical across the county through incremental upgrades that will support emergency services.
Jim DeTro returns as county commissioner
Republican Jim DeTro has won a third term as county commissioner for District 3, defeating independent Salley Bull 55 to 45 percent.
In an interview this week, DeTro provided the following visions and plans for the county.
DeTro intends to pursue the priorities he campaigned on, including keeping the North Cascades Smokejumper Base in the Methow Valley in perpetuity. The U.S. Forest Service has been evaluating options for the base, which requires upgrades to conform with federal aviation standards. DeTro wants to push for an act of Congress to keep the base in the Methow.
DeTro has been focused on what he calls the “apex-predator” problem posed by wolves and grizzlies. He’s been working with regional governmental officials in the Eastern Washington Council of Governments and with law enforcement, tribes and wildlife officials to address the threat large carnivores pose to livestock.
Unfunded mandates continue to pose significant problems for the county, said DeTro. Virtually every year, the county fights for full payments from both the state and federal government for programs that compensate counties with large amounts of nontaxable public land, said DeTro.
DeTro said the county bills the state annually for almost $600,000 in Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT), but receives only $150,000. “That’s a half-million-dollar shortfall. It would really help with unfunded mandates. It’s a constant battle,” he said.
Planning for limited water resources and verifying water availability for new development are a continuing area of concern, said DeTro. The state Department of Ecology recently barred new wells near some streams and lakes in the Methow, meaning people can’t build homes there. “It’s a moving target, with different direction and new asks from Ecology every day,” he said.
In the Okanogan watershed, the county has funding to study water adequacy and to develop a new management plan. A committee has held its first meetings on this issue, he said.
DeTro is a member of the state Wildland Fire Advisory Committee, which was formed in 2016 to advise state and federal fire managers about concerns in fire-affected communities, and to help these communities make best use of their firefighting assets.
He’s been pleased and encouraged by the progress and changes made by the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to respond to wildfires while they’re small.
DeTro praised DNR’s short- and long-term firefighting strategies. “It’s old-style initial attack, where firefighters attack as soon as the siren goes off, and don’t wait for paperwork or decisions on jurisdiction,” he said.
DeTro praised Hilary Franz, who was elected as commissioner of public lands in 2016, for her focus on the east side of the Cascades. He said DNR has committed to adding even more firefighting resources in Eastern Washington next year.
DeTro would like to see similar changes at the Forest Service. He’s encouraged that the agency has hired new regional managers and local rangers who are familiar with the Pacific Northwest. They’ve been active in taking a different approach and an “on-the-ground attitude,” he said.
Goehner wins 12th District seat over Diamond
Republican Keith Goehner defeated Independent Ann Diamond for the Position 1 House seat in the 12th Legislative District. Goehner will replace Cary Condotta, who did not seek re-election. Comments from both candidates follow:
“I’m grateful for the support from the district and looking forward to the challenge of representing everyone in the district,” Goehner said. “I’m excited to take the rural voice to Olympia and communicate the concerns and needs of people in the 12th district. I want to help others in Olympia understand the issues we face here.”
Goehner said he’s interested in looking at sales tax reform and indigent defense, as well as ways to revisit the Washington Supreme Court’s Hirst decision on water availability.
“The Legislature feels like they dealt with it but there are some concerns that need to be addressed for rural people,” he said.
Methow Valley resident Diamond, who outpolled Goehner in Okanogan County, cited “little successes” from her vigorous campaigning
“People surprise you,” she said. “After the primary I heard from scores of people who had been frustrated and dismayed by divisive politics as usual, until they started to do something. The act of meeting neighbors, talking on porches, knocking on doors, gave them hope. Doing something – a letter, a meeting, an afternoon canvassing – became part of a larger movement of civil engagement.”
“We had no polls, no PACs, no political parties,” Diamond continued. Just neighbors and community members who pulled together for change.”
On the campaign trail, Diamond said, “I found door-knocking healing: people were mostly kind … and generous. I had offers of water, pizza, employment, art tours, even dinner invites. From Grand Coulee to Waterville, small town civility is real. I had forgotten that hospitality and welcoming the stranger is normal for eastern Washington.”
Steele wins second term
Incumbent Republican Rep. Mike Steele won re-election to the Position 2 House seat in the state’s 12th Legislative District, defeating Democrat challenger Valerie Sarratt of Twisp.
“I plan to continue to focus on economic development and rural Job creation and growth,” Steele said. “I will continue to work on policy around career-connected learning, and career and technical education.”
“I continue to hear about workforce housing and the shortages every community is facing with that segment of housing in Washington state,” Steele added. “I have some specific work I will be doing with both sponsored legislation and the Capital Budget Committee, of which I am a member, to offer some solutions for this shortage.”
After I-1631: an advocate’s view
Jasmine Minbashian, executive director of the Methow Valley Citizens Council, was a supporter of Initiative 1631, which she described as an imperfect but necessary solution.
“The vote was so close, even in the face of all that oil money [opposed to the initiative],” Minbashian said. “The petroleum industry poured nearly $30 million into defeating I-1631 and it worked. Clearly, our biggest challenge will continue to be the influence of outside corporate money on democracy.”
“But this election also exposed another major challenge we are facing as a nation, a state, and as a community: the ‘rural-urban divide,’” Minbashian said. “We desperately need to cross that divide and bring people together to create a common vision for the future. Change will come at the community level, one conversation at a time. If we can bring this community together, we will succeed next time around.”
Minbashian sees positives coming out of the I-1631 campaign.
“Thanks to the yes on 1631 campaign, tribes, labor leaders, social justice organizers, health care workers and environmental groups are now working together in new and exciting ways,” she said. “Leaders in both the Washington state Legislature and the House of Representatives have both signaled that climate change will be a priority issue in the next year. The Methow Valley Citizens Council will be working at the local level to build support for those and other climate actions, as well as holding our local officials and decision-makers accountable to the realities of climate impacts. The Methow Valley has the potential to lead the way on climate action in our state and the nation. We have so much at stake.”
Ann McCreary, Marcy Stamper and Don Nelson contributed to this article.