Count on County Watch
A quiet, nonpartisan group in Okanogan County offers excellent assistance to citizens and residents by reporting on weekly meetings of the Board of Okanogan County Commissioners via notes and video access. Refreshingly, Okanogan County Watch doesn’t advertise, request donations, nor utilize grant money or government funding. Four dedicated note-takers and their supporters from the Methow and Okanogan Valleys volunteer, paying expenses out-of-pocket.
This election year, two of three county commissioner positions are open — a call for voters to take notice. Would you like to actually see and hear our commissioners in action, making decisions on issues that are important to you? Listen to comments of other citizens and residents — or comment yourself? Minimal effort is required, with access to the internet.
County Commissioners govern numerous activities: road maintenance/speeds; juvenile, mental, and public health; county law enforcement; land use/ zoning outside towns; environmental actions, and more. They contribute to decisions of agencies such as the Washington Departments of Fish and Wildlife, Ecology, and more.
County Watch originally addressed delays of up to six months in the commissioners’ minutes, which created a barrier to citizen participation in important issues. Even now, commissioners’ meetings are traditionally scheduled when it’s difficult for reporters to attend in person, due to newspaper deadlines. County Watch later moved on to address this situation by advocating for live-streaming of commissioners’ meetings via the internet.
Now that the county has implemented its AV Capture video option, County Watch weekly information includes links to the livestream and “time stamps” to specific conversations or public hearings. Anyone with access to the internet can now see and hear commissioners, department heads, or citizens live — or watch past meetings.
Although these notetakers don’t request funding, they do request that citizens and organizations take advantage of their services, either through reading the weekend email update or visiting the website. They do need volunteer help filling occasional gaps in scheduled coverage, which can be done effectively from home and on your schedule. To volunteer, sign up for weekly email updates, or to access past and current weekly notes and upcoming agendas, visit countywatch.org.
Don’t give up on pool
My response to Dec. 21 editorial on the pool would be pages long if I included all my thoughts: So, I’ll focus on reaction rather than detailed ideas. My reaction is: Sort of right.
Saying the community is against a metropolitan park district is a broad-brush description. As noted, it was poorly communicated and (in my opinion) poorly designed. When I go to a surgeon for a broken hip and he says my assistant is going to replace your knee and I walk away from the surgeon doesn’t mean I’m against surgery, it means I’ll go to another surgeon. A stretched metaphor, but you get the idea. One key factor: the board and structure. I want a pool. The cost didn’t scare me. I voted against this particular proposal. I don’t live inside the Town of Twisp or Winthrop — yet I am a permanent resident of the Methow Valley. I saw no real representation in the structure for me.
I agree that the Friends of the Pool may be burned out, but perhaps one should think about if there is a different mix of volunteers needed. This does not denigrate their work, but we should ask the question. Trying again is worthwhile but there needs to be something different on the next try. I believe that there should be at least three significant tries (at least) but not the apocryphal to Einstein “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.” He probably never said it, but the point is valid.
Let’s not give up. Let’s talk about some “radical” ideas, like a community center rebuild with pool, gym, library, etc., or something equally radical that taps into other funding sources. Combinations are sometimes better than the sum of their parts.
There will always be those who resist change, or anything that smells like a tax, but there are many who don’t mind pitching in — for the right combination and representation. Don’t give up just yet. Regroup. Change some of the thinking.
Thanks for generosity
We wanted to tell all of the businesses, churches and organizations that provided Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas dinners to many people that didn’t have a place or family to have dinner with, thank you! Hank and I are very thankful for all the wonderful people in the valley for all their generosity, we are truly blessed to live in such a wonderful place. Happy New Year to everyone.
Hank, Judy, Carlan and Jackson Konrad
A different way
As we enter into a presidential election year, I fear for the civic health of our country. I worry we will descend into more anger, polarization and even violence. Four years ago I felt the same way and searched for something I could do to make even a small difference in that trajectory. I found an organization called Braver Angels, which is a large national group working to bridge the political divide. It has changed my life. I have learned what it takes to really listen to others with different political views. I no longer see people as just right or left, but instead as complex holders of multiple perspectives and life experiences. This has helped me to fix a strained relationship with my father and to sleep better at night.
Braver Angels founder Bill Doughtery, a professor of marriage counseling, specializing in couples on the brink of divorce, has crafted several workshops to introduce the skills of depolarization. They have been taught to thousands of people across the country.
Local Braver Angels members are holding our first in person “Depolarizing Within” workshop at the Winthrop library on Feb. 17, 2-5 p.m. It is a free workshop where we will learn and practice skills of listening and speaking in a safe, highly structured setting. Anyone age 16 and older is welcome.
If you are concerned about our political divide and are looking for ways to do something about it, this is a great place to start. To find out more about Braver Angels go to braverangels.org. To register for the workshop go to this link: www.eventbrite.com/e/depolarizing-within-central-eastern-washington-alliance-registration-789884595087.
It will be well worth your time. I promise!
Braver Angels Alliance Co-Chair
In response to the recent letter by John Marshall, I feel compelled to point out some things. First of all NEPA, rather than favoring the status quo is one of the few tools available to keep the U.S. Forest Service in check due to the pressures they face from the timber industry. Yes, our climate is getting dryer and hotter, and the more mature forest trees we remove, the hotter it will get.
The USFS projects are actually creating a forest far more fire-prone. The timber contractors are not taking the smallest trees and leaving all fire-resistant trees in the forest as they should. Instead, they are machine cutting large, fire-resistant trees up to 28 inches in diameter, leaving an open forest floor littered with tree debris, which creates a much drier, more fire-prone forest than what existed before the tree cutting started. In some plots in the Libby Creek Project area, as few as 10 trees per acre remain. This resembles a clear-cut, not a thinning operation. Please drive-up Buttermilk Road sometime this spring or summer and you will understand my concern.
While I appreciate the reference to the Native American practice of lighting fires to clear the underbrush and cutting small trees for their needs, they don’t resemble the projects currently underway by our local Forest Service. The USFS is spending a woeful little amount of energy on prescribed burning. Their biggest priority seems to be getting the trees out.
I am not against any true Firewise thinning of our forests. The kind of USFS project that I would advocate would be to hand-cut trees under 12 inches in diameter and put much more effort toward prescribed burning in the fall, then limb the remaining trees 20 feet up from the forest floor. Fires start on the forest floor, not in the forest canopy.
We don’t have too many trees. We have too many people, too many cars and too much CO2 in our atmosphere, but too many trees? I don’t think so.
Tamar M. Baber