Lamenting the Orca Initiative | Letter

The Orca Protection Initiative was struck down in court, despite thousands of San Juan County citizens exercising their constitutional rights granted by our home rule charter. To whale watchers, the Southern residents are commodities, their right to profit from them is “equivalent to a butcher’s right to sell red meat.” Ick.

Prosecutor Randy Gaylord argued alongside the whale watchers to invalidate the Initiative, saying it usurps the county council’s police powers because only they are allowed to adopt ordinances requiring enforcement. The judge agreed. Since all initiatives become ordinances and all ordinances must be enforced, the people of our county have no initiative power after all.

The county’s primary argument, that the Initiative would cost money, was dismissed. SJC is already required to help enforce current Southern Resident Killer Whale distance regulations. Why has our county allowed other initiatives (GMO-Free) on the ballot which require enforcement? Apparently, they can pick and choose.

Home rule has been gutted. A corporate interest has successfully influenced our elected officials and democratic process. Had we known the County would side with the whale watching industry, we would have not wasted thousands of dollars.

Two days after the hearing, at the fair, a county council member stuck out his tongue at a member of our group, apparently gloating over the whale watchers’ victory. This juvenile behavior is unbecoming in an elected official. It’s certainly no way to treat someone who just spent six months pouring their heart and soul into a campaign to help the critically endangered whales.

Sorrel North

Lopez Island