Letters to the Editor, Oct. 20, 2016

Branch has the experience

Dear Editor,

As I consider the issues facing Okanogan County, I can’t think of a more experienced or suitable candidate for County Commissioner than Chris Branch.

I worked with Chris when I returned to Okanogan County after college. At the time he was a senior planner with Highlands Associates and I was new to planning. I learned so much from him about how land use is intertwined with our values.

Chris listens, checks things out on the ground, and considers the range of views and impacts. More than most people I know, he can hear opposing points of view and find common ground. Given the contentious tone we’re hearing all around us with the approaching election, we need thoughtful leaders who are committed to finding solutions that work for more of Okanogan County. I see Chris as that kind of leader; let’s get out and vote for him.


Rocklynn Culp



Support Sheilah Kennedy

Dear Editor,

I was born in 1935, and I am 81-years-old. I have lived my whole life in Okanogan County. I have seen commissioners come and go. I have worked with them from both parties. Sheilah is one of the most hardworking commissioners we have ever had. She works for all the people of the county and our way of life.

Don’t let outside money and false accusations sway your minds. Sheilah deserves your vote. She certainly has mine.

Clair Fisher



Need a clean sweep of BOCC

Dear Editor,

I am one of eight citizen volunteers from Oroville, Okanogan, the Chilliwist, Twisp and the upper Methow who have recorded notes of County Commissioner proceedings during the past year. This effort was initiated because minutes had been posted weeks or months late, and Commissioners had been unresponsive to citizens on essential issues.

On October 27, 2015, the Commissioners discussed sending juvenile offenders to Martin Hall in Medical Lake while the Superior Court Judges and Juvenile Administrator were out of town; it didn’t appear on the agenda, it wasn’t covered by the press, and when Commissioners’ minutes were finally published there was no record of the discussion. We began posting our notes on the website of Represent Okanogan County shortly thereafter.

I agree that Sheilah Kennedy is the hardest-working Commissioner, actually reading important documents and refraining from name-calling or insulting remarks during proceedings.

But concerning her asking “the hard questions” regarding departments’ budgets, consider one item: the county’s Expenditure Detail Report shows that during their first year in office these commissioners overspent their own $6,000 travel budget three-fold (spending $18,444) and raised their travel budget to $15,000 for 2014, $20,000 for 2015, and $16,000 for 2016 . This was while criticizing other departments for overspending and pushing departments to contract jobs to private entities at much greater expense to the taxpayers. Their travel expenses emphasized training with organizations whose extremist ideologies even my Republican friends cannot support, thus encouraging antagonistic relationships between our county and essential statewide agencies, citizens, and the federal government.

We are best served by a clean sweep of the BOCC, electing independent candidates with extensive budget, economic, and county-wide governance experience (Chris Branch) and the work ethic, bridge-building, decision-making talents, and courage to make changes and serve us well (Ashley Thrasher.)

Sincerely yours,

Isabelle Spohn



Not voting for Kennedy

Dear Editor,

County commissioner meetings are public – anyone can observe. Since they are open, the audience should be able to hear and understand the activities of the meeting, and maybe even ask questions. Most organizational meeting standards include advance notice of agendas, timely approval of minutes, available materials for topics discussed, time for discussion, and a record of decisions made. County Commissioners make their executive decisions through resolutions, which are normally recorded in the meeting minutes or may be attachments to the minutes.

But, here is what is happening at the Okanogan County Commissioner’s meetings. There is often no agenda put on their website in advance of the meeting. The approved minutes until recently were months behind in being posted on their website. Resolutions are not posted. More surprisingly, if you want to see a resolution, you must file a public disclosure request! Many Washington counties have their resolutions on their websites. At our meetings, the commissioners talk among themselves in undertones or whispers without turning on their microphones. When a topic requiring a decision and resolution is considered, there are no materials or details for the public – nothing is put on their website in advance, even when staff do have the materials in advance of the meeting. It would be very simple to use their big screen to display documents under consideration so the audience can follow the proceedings.

Commissioner Kennedy’s campaign slogan is “accountability, responsibility and leadership,” but her way of conducting meetings is not accountable, responsible or transparent. It appears that they don’t want us to know what they are doing or why.

Lack of transparency is just one of the reasons why I will not vote for Incumbent Kennedy in November.

Sharon Sumpter



Thrasher will listen to constituents

Dear Editor,

Want a District 2 county commissioner who is hard-working, sensible and trained and experienced in good decision-making? One who will listen thoughtfully to all parties, acquire information and make decisions for the benefit of the entire county? One who has pledged to spend at least one day a month in each district of the county, listening to constituents? That person is Ashley Thrasher.

Ashley’s success as a smoke-jumper demonstrates several things about her character: determination, discipline and a tremendous work ethic. She has operated successfully in a high-pressure real-world environment that is unforgiving of poor decision-making. She brings those qualities to bear in her self-run campaign, knocking on doors and talking to people, working to earn your vote. She is working equally hard preparing herself to take on the responsibilities of a commissioner – meeting with a full range of individuals, constituent groups, county department heads and commissioners from the neighboring counties. She pays attention to the activities of the Board of County Commissioners and provides public comment on current issues such as Juvenile Detention.

The current commission is overseeing five planning efforts, all of which, as stated during their Oct. 3 meeting, they fully expect to result in budget-draining litigation. Lawsuits are difficult and expensive to undertake. They are happening because people believe the commissioners’ decisions are not legal. There is something seriously wrong when lawsuits are numerous and from groups as varied as county judges and landowners fighting to keep roads open. This needs to change.

We need an independent commissioner to help move the county past ‘for the few,’ special interest-driven governance. One who will keep our tax dollars in Okanogan County and spend them efficiently. One who will build bridges and find solutions that do not automatically result in expensive lawsuits. Ashley is that independent person.

Gina McCoy,



Jobs weren’t going anywhere

Dear Editor,

RE: The EDA Grant” for road upgrades article. A couple of things, first off the road isn’t being upgraded, it is a brand new road.

Repeatedly the articles regarding the Grant suggests that without this road the city would lose 136 existing jobs and that 20 new jobs would not be created. Chris Branch’s grant language must suggest that Reman would close down and move away if this road does not go through. In my conversation with Reman management, they have not suggested anything close to leaving town and in fact state that they have invested millions of dollars in development with plans for more development and job expansion even if the road did not get closed next to them and the new road did not go through. It would seem that the Grant written used language that suggested there would be major loss of jobs and revenue in Oroville if the road was not put in. This is certainly not true.

Another erroneous suggestion in this Grant is regarding Heavy Haul roads and Rail Head access. This new road does not join up with any other Heavy Haul roads as it is isolated in a field with narrow, inadequate roads connected to both ends of it. Also, this new road does not even remotely connect with the Rail Head and in fact the old abandoned road is much closer to the rail line!

To consistently repeat that the road is needed to maintain jobs in Oroville is putting Reman in a bad light and causing some pretty hard feelings that they don’t deserve.

Bottom line, Chris Branch and cohorts wrote up a Grant based on false and misleading information in order to gain funding. I don’t know, but I thought to gain money by false information was illegal and called fraud. This type of misinformation can have an adverse affect on future grants. Chris Branch for county commissioner? Nope! We don’t need this type of integrity at the county level.

Linda Schwilke