Commissioners vote to apply for grant to develop an "Olympic Peninsula Sustainable Communities Consortium"

By Sue Forde and Lois Krafsky-Perry,
Citizen Review Online

September 27, 2011

Port Angeles, WA – A packed room of approximately 120 concerned citizens awaited the Clallam County Board of Commissioners for their regular meeting on September 27 starting at 10 a.m.  The issue was a letter to be signed authorizing the creation of a “consortium” to be led by Cascade Land Conservancy based in Seattle, WA to be funded by a “grant” from the US Department of HUD (Housing & Urban Development).

The terms would include a “contribution of matching funds or in-kind support” by the taxpayers of Clallam County.

The grant request, titled “Sustainable Community Regional Planning Grants” would create a partnership of various federal agencies to create a “multi-jurisdictional collaboration and leadership to build a region-wide plan for creating Sustainable Communities.”  The “region” includes Clallam, Grays Harbor, Jefferson and Mason counties. According to the HUD website, "Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant Program is a consortium of units of government, regional planning agencies, and non-profit organizations."

According to the letter, the Consortium, “with lead applicant Cascade Land Conservancy” will initiate ‘meaningful’ analysis, build relationships, and create a foundation to ensure the working landscapes and rural economy of the Olympic Peninsula continue to thrive, the communities grown in a ‘sustainable’ fashion, and ‘quality of life’ is maintained over the next 100 years.”

The stated goal of Cascade Land Conservancy (CLC)  is to “conserve” land – in other words, take it out of private property ownership.  According to their website, CLC is the “largest land conservation, stewardship and community building organization in Washington State.  For over 20 years, The Conservancy has led efforts to conserve more than 173,000 acres of forests, farms, shorelines, parks and natural areas.  It has partnered with dozens of communities across the region to protect and restore our neighborhood trails and parks and helped cities make smart choices about future growth.” 

County Administrator Jim Jones advised the roomful of people that money could be used toward the creation of the "consortium" from projects already underway in the county, and that matching funds from the county would require a minimum amount to be paid of $30,000 - with an unlimited funding amount.

Most of the individuals attended the meeting after having been alerted to it at a meeting of Concerned Citizens of Clallam County (FourC) the night before, where local citizen Rich Hale - who had learned about it by attending the Commissioners' workshop the day before - asked that it be announced by the evening's speaker Clint Didier.

Doherty and JonesSeveral went forward to testify against the letter to be signed. Only one spoke in favor of the letter: Sam Gibboney, representative of Cascade Conservancy, who had made a presentation to the commissioners promoting the idea a week earlier, according to Jones after Sequim resident Joanne Estes raised the question about how this grant request got on the Agenda in the first place. Jones said the commissioners received a letter from Cascade Land Conservancy (CLC) asking the commissioners to sign on to the grant request. They were then given a 25 minute presentation by Gibboney. She is the Greater Seattle - Olympic Peninsula Conservation Director at Cascade Land Conservancy and president/owner of ISE Consultants (environmental services). She was also Steve Tharinger's campaign manager.

Sue Forde testified against the idea of a "sustainable communities"-promoting consortium, tying it to ICLEI (International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives) now called  ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability), which promotes UN Agenda 21 and the Earth Charter, stating, "This 'multi-jurisdictional collaboration' to build a 'region-wide' plan of 'Sustainable Communities' takes away from the ability of citizens in Clallam County to have a voice in their own government.  These planning groups are made up of representatives of tribes, agencies - both federal and state- and an 'occasional' - one or two so-called 'stakeholder' - using the consensus method of reaching decisions.  It is a far cry from the form of government as described under our U.S. Constitution and our Washington State Constitution." Read Forde's entire testimony here.

Port Angeles property owner Pearl Rains Hewett, shared that there are 190,315 acres of private property and a large percent already under federal control. "How could you consider the US Department of Housing and Urban Development grant?" she asked.

Sandra CollinsSandra Collins, who has been an attorney licensed in several states other than Washington State, challenged the commissioners. "You are a small group of people making decisions for millions of citizens who have never had the opportunity to vote. While we pay taxes---we want nothing from the UN (United Nations). You want to control water, food, and property. Your group seems to believe that we will all take whatever you throw at us without saying a word.  You are wrong. You seem to be making all the decisions for all of us, and doing so under the table, believing that we will go quietly into the night. "We are Americans; we don't go quietly into the night," she said.

I ask you now where you get your authority.  It is certainly not in the Constitution, the Bill or Rights or the Declaration of Independence.

We are not the UN.  We have no interest in joining the U.N.  We do not want you going forward with this chicanery."

Bob McGonigel went forward to ask Commissioner Steve Tharinger if Sam Gibboney happened to be his campaign manager in his latest campaign, where he successfully ran for the State Legislature, and Tharinger replied "Yes". Lois Perry later came forward and asked the attorney for the county to determine whether it might be a conflict of interest for Tharinger to vote on this issue due to the relationship. No response was given.

McGonigel spoke again at the end of the meeting concerning conflict of issues for Tharinger, specifically about voting to give grant money to Jim Kramer of ESA Adolphsen to conduct the Shoreline Management meeting, as Kramer was also a contributor to Tharinger's campaign; and a recent vote in a water issue matter involving Tharinger's former partner and campaign contributor Dave Leroux, where a favorable vote was made by Tharinger on Leroux's behalf. (See testimony.)

Dennis Wilheim, who has logged for a living for 40 years, asked: ""Do you actually know where wealth begins?" He said all wealth begins from extraction of our natural resources. Natural resources, like farming, logging and fishing, are the backbone of our economy. "This shrinks our wealth. It's hurtful to rural communities," he stated. "You people are cutting a fat hog," he said.

Commissioner Tharinger raised the issue of United Nations' involvement on the Olympic Peninsula, saying he didn't think the UN was "interested" in the Peninsula. He said that the designation of UN biosphere "helped" with tourism, bringing people to the county from all around the world. (Ed. Note: The UN biosphere designation actually restricts people - see Explanation of the Biodiversity Treaty and the Wildlands Project by Dr. Michael S. Coffman).

Mike chapmanSequim resident Kip McKeever said he opposes accepting any more programs or grants. Clallam County GOP Chair Dick Pilling also spoke in opposition, as did Port Angeles resident Richard Hale. Joanne Estes from Sequim said the overwhelming majority believes in protecting property rights, the reason for people being here. "Land is being taken, one regulation at a time," she said.

Elected DCD (Department of Community Development) director Sheila Roark-Miller spoke against signing the letter, as well, stating it would be a further burden on the employees of her department, taking time to attend more "planning" meetings. She said she doesn't like the "ties" that come with the grant, and having to "jump through the hoops". (Roark-Miller is the only "elected" DCD director in the U.S., thanks to a vote of the people in Clallam County to make the position elective.)

Commissioner Mike Chapman (I) suggested the Commissioners wait for more discussion, and then later said he would not sign the letter. He said he had "grave concerns" about the content, and that the county doesn't need more "planning", that there are plenty of plans already in existence, and that funding is needed now to implement the existing plans. "We have plans for the next 20 years," he said. "What we need is the money to implement them. I support Sheila [Roark-Miller] in her position."

Commissioner Mike Doherty (D) and Commissioner Steve Tharinger (D) voted to sign the letter and apply for the grant money, with Tharinger recommending an initial funding amount of $300,000 of in-kind contributions to be supplied by Clallam County toward the project, if the grant is received. (According to Tharinger, the funding would be supplied by monies already being used for other projects.)

We will be following this issue as it unfolds.