I am writing to correct a glaring factual error in Ms. Alderton’s letter of 2-12-13. I was puzzled by the claim that the “fulfillment of Public Records requests for the CAO Update process has cost taxpayers close to $100,000.” [Letter dated 2-12-13]. Given the fact that the county has an obligation to maintain the CAO files in an organized file for purposes of appeal review pursuant to the GMA, the number cited by Ms. Alderton seemed highly unlikely. I contacted Ms. Alderton to ask for the source of her estimate, but she has not replied. I also contacted Stan Matthews, who has been in charge of public records requests at the county, and asked whether the county kept such figures, either on the CAO or generally. He said no. I recognize that, as a Friends of the San Juans Board member, Ms. Alderton seems to have access to information not otherwise available to mere citizens. In this case, however, she seems to have been misinformed.
As for the notion that the CAO process was not micromanaged by ecology, I suggest that Ms. Alderton take the opportunity to review the public records that show the constant communication between the County, CDPD and Ecology from the very beginning of the CAO process, with CDPD and its consultants repeatedly asking Ecology what to do.
Finally, I am not sure why Ms. Alderton thinks that our unique county could simply have taken another county’s CAO and used it. Whatcom County? King County? It makes no sense to do so. No other county has the history of success in protecting its pristine resources or the voluntary and taxpayer-supported protections of so much land that we do. What would have made sense is reviewing the existing CAO, determining where it was inadequate, if at all, and making the minor changes required. That certainly would not have required several county planner FTEs and hundreds of thousands of dollars for consultants, and may have produced a revised CAO that is consistent and comprehensible.