Letters | Jan. 27 edition

Slow down on island roads

Two weeks ago Gary Bauder wrote about losing his dog, Doyle, to a hit and run driver right by his driveway. I have lost many cats on our road, Nordstroms Lane, in West Sound.

The last cat I lost was in October. He was our working “mouser,” keeping the voles and mice down in the orchard, garden and pastures. Cats don’t understand not to hunt the ditches or cross the road.

Cars speed down Nordstroms Lane going down the hills on both the West and East ends and because it is a straight run. The County Road Department put up orange diamonds on the speed signs and now, to try to enlighten drivers, have even added lighted speed monitors.

I would like to keep the speed at 35 MPH, but if people continue to speed and ignore the signs, I will ask for it to be reduced to a miserable 25 MPH, which I know will draw many complaints. (So please drive the limit!)

There are children who live on this road who aren’t even allowed to use their mailbox because of their parents’ fear of traffic. Animals are being killed by thoughtless speeders. Remember why you moved here – not the fast pace of the mainland. Please slow down.

Susan Fleischer

West Sound

Incredible community response to food bank

It is the policy of the Orcas Island Food Bank to give credit where credit is due – and credit is definitely due! The Orcas Island community is doing an amazing job of keeping the food bank stocked and ready to meet the substantial need this winter.

What a blessing it is to live and work among people who are so committed to tangible investment in their neighbors and their community. To see the spirit of generosity being passed on to the next generation in the hundreds of pounds of donated food this winter from food drives by groups of students from all the island schools has been a source of great encouragement. Hearts like theirs can change the world!

Thank you for your thoughtful donations of time, money and food, sometimes off your own shelves. Thank you for being the kind of community that cares about one another, and thank you for the example that you set for the next generation.

Keep up the good work – we aren’t the only ones who appreciate it!

Board members and volunteers

Orcas Island Food Bank

Re: Heartbreak on Orcas

This is in response to the letter “Heartbreak on Orcas” by Marion Rathbone in the Jan. 6 edition.

Almost three years ago I was blessed with the opportunity to move to beautiful Orcas. I received full-time employment and secured housing. The Orcas community took me under its wing also. I have never in my life been blessed with the opportunity to be involved in such a generous, hard working, loving atmosphere. Many of my lifelong dreams have been accomplished in such a short time here.

I feel it is petty gossip and revengful reaction to gossip that has influenced the way you currently feel about the community. How about not sweating the small stuff and let bygones be bygones? Let’s forgive and forget and work to ensure that Orcas continues to be the positive, loving, and supportive community that is remains to be today.

Lastly, I’d like to give a big thanks to all of the members of this community who have taken me under their wings, and given me the opportunity to live an exceptional life here!

Thank you, thank you!

Eros Belliveau


Sounder commended for arts writing

Congratulations on some of the best arts writing I have ever come across. I have a lot of that in my work history, having been public information coordinator for the Sun Valley Center for the Arts and Humanities for five years.

I am going to recommend your model to couple of writers on the arts here in Sun Valley, Idaho. Your writing is bright and engaging, but also incisive and world class.

I have bookmarked your online publication as a good resource.

Edith Wiethorn

Sun Valley

Orcas Park and Rec needs to secure funding

If you are like me and voted to form the Orcas Park and Rec district, you probably thought that Orcas Rec program was safe! Think AGAIN! It seems that the district is formed but as yet unfunded and those directors we voted in are saying it could take them a whole year to figure out how to fund the district. In the meantime the department must limp along without funding. The county will allow the district to continue operation so long as it operates in the black, which means it is operated on the backs of the two employees of the district. So please urge the directors of the Orcas Rec. district to get their thumbs out and come up with a plan this month NOW! Their first order of business should be to secure the district and its employees. The voters are obviously in the mood to support the district. If they wait a year they may no longer be in the mood. Urge action now.

Martin Taylor

Orcas Island

Vote yes for school measures

Our outdated 35-year-old cafeteria is housed within the equally outdated 35-year-old middle school. From a kitchen about the size of a large home kitchen with one range and inadequate prep and serving space, our incredible cafeteria staff puts out breakfasts and lunches for up to 300 kids every school day. Almost all of the equipment is on its last leg and refrigerators and freezers (most very old and energy-eaters) are spread out from the cafeteria eating areas to the loading dock.

The school bond, which you will be voting on (due Feb. 9), includes a new school kitchen with a warm and welcoming cafeteria and commons area where the kids, parents and community will look forward to coming together to enjoy good, wholesome food as well as have an area where the art of cooking and good nutrition may be explored. Also, students will be able and proud to earn credit by assisting the staff for lunches and special events. Presently, just three people bump in to one another, and the efficiency factor is greatly diminished by the actuality that the school kitchen is simply too small and too outdated to serve today’s population in our public school to the best of its ability, let alone allow additional people in the kitchen area to help.

Needless to say, the impact of the Farm to Cafeteria Program will be greatly enhanced by the presence of energy efficient and adequate storage areas for fresh and fifth season products, the ability to accommodate more bodies in the kitchen, and the addition of sufficient areas for serving and processing fresh foods and scratch cooking.

And another wonderful thing about the proposed new cafeteria is the community space it will provide – including the kitchen – for events, culinary classes and meetings. There is simply no downside to building a new cafeteria, and your “yes” vote on the bond will make it happen.

Madie Murray

Chair, Orcas Island Farm to Cafeteria Committee

This letter is in support of the upcoming capital bond and levy for our public school. Although my wife and I do not have children in the school, we are both supporters of the Orcas Island public school system. Having served as a coach for the sports program at the school over the past five years, I’ve traveled to many of the other schools in our region, and seen their facilities. I regret to say that our school doesn’t hold up in comparison. Passing the bond and levy will provide our school with needed repairs and construction that will both upgrade our school, but also bring a much-needed economic stimulus to our local economy. It’s clear to me that it’s time for Orcas Island to focus on our facilities now, and make an investment in the future. Please join me in voting “yes” on the school bond and levy.

Lance Evans

Orcas Island

I am writing to you from experience. I have been part of the Orcas Island School community for 35 years. In 1975 I began substitute teaching at the public school, and followed this by teaching at Children’s House, and being involved in an experiment in alternative education. I also served as a School Board member for seven years. Once again a few years ago I began substituting at the school, and now work as the Farm to Cafeteria coordinator, as well as a teacher in our alternative learning experience, OASIS. I love the school, and I encourage you to do the same.

Due to unfortunate mistakes, and construction “shortcuts,” several facilities at the public school are in need of repair and replacement. At today’s prices this has become a tidy sum. We also have a great need at our Waldron Island School to make major repairs and upgrades; therefore I also address this to my friends on Waldron.

This is a great opportunity to correct some past practices and errors, grow our local economy, by using island contractors and suppliers, and upgrade and build a school/community facility we can all use and in which we take pride. Therefore I urge you to vote yes for schools, and approve the bond for construction. We must also vote yes on the M&O Levy, which supports up to 24 percent of the schools annual budget. That means teachers, maintenance, classroom supplies, lunch program and others.

Please join me as I continue to support the Orcas Island School District with a YES vote on both the school bond and levy.

Bruce R. Orchid


As a member of the Orcas High School Class of 1984, I was one of the first students to attend class in the current Orcas Middle School buildings. In September of 1980, the buildings were shiny and new. Unfortunately, they were built cheaply and consequently, due to structural safety concerns, they are in poor condition and close to being condemned today.

Years later, a new high school was built, and today, some components of that building are in poor condition, including the siding, which requires total replacement. It was also constructed with an insufficient budget.

On Feb. 9, Orcas voters will have the choice to support a levy and bond that the school board and administration have thoughtfully crafted to repair and rebuild facilities while supporting essential programs that will effectively serve student learning for the next fifty years. Over the course of the last four years, school officials have diligently worked with our community by turning over many stones in the study and investigating our public school’s current facilities and programs. What they found is a deteriorating school facility, that in my humble opinion, does not reflect the greatness of this community.

Washington state ranks 42nd in the nation for funding our public schools, and compared to similar districts, Orcas ranks relatively low in levy support. The result is a school district that is poorly funded. When schools have good financial support, teachers can focus more energy on teaching, infrastructures are functional, there is enhanced pride and confidence within the students and most importantly, students are more successful.

Fortunately, we have incredibly dedicated teachers, paraprofessionals, support staff, administrative staff, school board members, volunteers, parents, and resilient students who make our school great. Imagine the greatness our students can achieve with properly funded programs and facilities.

Children are the future of this community. We have an opportunity to do it right this time. Please join me in voting yes for the Orcas School Levy and Bond.

Kevin O’Brien


We’ll be voting yes for the school’s bond and levy on Feb. 9. With three kids enrolled in Orcas Island Schools, I guess that’s easy to understand. I hope everyone realizes that the M & O levy measure is entirely essential. As for the bond, I think it’s clear that we get a good return by employing locals to update 50-year-old systems in the great brick building: stemming the flow of wasted energy, bad air and water. Adding life to the timeless old gym, which will always be both useful and fashionable, is the kind of good planning I think we all understand. That the library and middle school buildings are through, that’s what’s troubling. After college, I arrived here on Orcas just in time to enjoy what was then the brand new high school (now the doomed middle school). Choral Society rehearsal was in the cafeteria, and it served well, while the Orcas Center idea was brewing. I do remember the dedication and anguish of those past administrations. The disco era part of campus is indeed through though; in fact, it’s probably becoming dangerous. I’m finding solace in the idea of a fresh new campus. I’m thinking: we’re smart to do this now, while it’s affordable. I’m glad the School Board is being so thorough, and aiming so high.

Ian Lister

Orcas Island

Vote no for school measures

In the Jan. 20, 2010 issue of the Sounder the editorial urged a yes vote on the pending school bond and levy stating that it would result in paying a little more in taxes. The bond and levy are for positive reasons, but at what cost? The Sounder and those supporting these ballot measures continually state the low combined tax rate it would result in. What is not being addressed are some important details. The amount of the bond, $35 million, is given but I have yet to be told for how many years this bond would be for. The combined cost of the levy and bond is given, $1.33 per $1000 of assessed property value. Unlike the publicity for the recently passed property tax lid lift, the actual cost in the average person’s property tax is not given. If you quickly do the math, the cost for a home with an assessed valuation of $500,000 will be $665 per year or $55.41 per month. Only when these important questions are answered can one make an informed decision whether or not to vote for these items.

Ronald Ambler

Orcas Island

At the present time I suggest a “no” vote on the school measure for the following reason.

Social security said there will be no cola-cost of living adjustment for the following year 2010 and for the next 2011.

The department of labor said there was no rise in the cost of living during the past year and I assume they also mean there will be no rise in the next year, also.

The CPI – Cost of Living Index was published by the Labor Department and I assume they are telling me to live with my same budget I had last year in 2009. Does that mean I should not receive an increase in my rent, food, gas, ferry and school fees.

Therefore, if I have to live in my last years’ budget, I suggest the school try to do the same.

Therefore, vote “no.”

Henry D. Weeks


My heart sank when I read the Sounder’s article on the proposed school bond levy. $35 million? Can that possibly be correct? When every family and business is cutting back, working more, scrimping and saving to make ends meet how can we propose a $35 million expenditure that will more than double our taxes?

I had to laugh when a school spokesman theorized that taking this $35 million out of our local spending ability to pay for this bond would actually be a “boon for our island” and would bring some money into those local hands that may be involved in the actual construction process. The spokesman failed to mention that this will also take $35 million, plus interest, out of the hands of the residents of Orcas. Some boon that is.

I’m inclined to support the School’s Maintenance and Operations levy, if someone can explain why it is being increased two and a half times! I voted for the additional rec program costs and the recent levy lift for the county, as these were modest and appeared to take into account the fragile state of our island economy, but I will not support a massive increase for an opulent facility with new sport fields/track and classrooms that would cost $35 million when much of the school plant could be refurbished and brought up to code for a third of that amount. This is excessive!

We have friends on this island who are young hard-working families struggling to make it, as well as long-time resident seniors who cannot shoulder the staggering weight of the proposed levy’s financial burden. In fact, we can’t afford it ourselves. We have two children who we had hoped would be students at the school, but if this bond passes we will be forced to move to a community that is more affordable. The income the school receives from the state for each student enrolled, in the case of our two children, will be lost to another school district. I fear our case will not be unique, and enrollment on Orcas will dwindle. As more and more families are forced to move away, the tax burden on the remaining few will only get heavier and heavier.

I’m sure the school board has already lined up several influential families to write the Sounder on “what a great investment this will be in our island’s students” …. blah, blah, blah. But I will not support it. And if it does pass, I will not be here to pick up the tab. Propose a modest bond that simultaneously preserves our ability to educate our children – and keep food on the table!

Jack and Diane Wheeler

Orcas Island

Response to Puget Sound letter

I completely agree with last week’s letter writer – we’re not geographically in Puget Sound. In fact, when the representative from the Puget Sound Partnership presented the “Puget Sound Starts Here” campaign to our local San Juan Stewardship Network, there was a howl of protest from the group. But, we are clearly in the heart of the (now officially named) Salish Sea. The Salish Sea, named for the indigenous people of the region, stretches from Desolation Sound in Canada to the north to Tumwater to the south, and includes the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Away from the dense population of Seattle and environs, we do have a healthier marine environment here. And with that we have a great opportunity. With some good knowledge and common sense, we can keep our relative paradise for the future. And that’s what the Puget Sound Starts Here campaign is all about. It reminds us that the the waters of the Puget Sound, er, Salish Sea, starts in our yards, driveways and kitchen sinks and and by taking some simple actions we can help keep those waters cleaner. Simple actions like using compost instead of fertilizer, washing our cars on vegetation instead of a driveway, and just plain using less detergent when we wash clothes and dishes. The waters start where we live. And we can help keep them clean and healthy.

Jeff Hanson

Outreach coordinator, SJC Marine Resources Committee

Yes, Karey Keel-Stidham is correct in her letter titled “We are not Puget Sound.” The San Juans are not geographically part of Puget Sound. However, the San Juans are part of the federal Puget Sound Chinook Salmon Recovery Plan, as the San Juans play a vital role in salmon recovery due to our geographic location. That doesn’t mean the San Juans are in Puget Sound but we are interconnected with Puget Sound.

All 22 stocks of ESA listed Puget Sound Chinook salmon use the San Juans at some point during their lifecycle, as do other species of salmon such as coho, chum, pink and sockeye. Hundreds of thousands of salmon migrate from Puget Sound and British Columbia. Our waters provide critical habitats such as kelp and eelgrass along with important prey resources such as forage fish and insects for salmon. The San Juans provide a nursery and rest stop for juvenile salmon in preparation for their oceanic journey. So “our fish” are “their fish” and vice-versa. And the success of salmon recovery is dependent on all of the connections and recovery efforts occurring in the Straits and Sound.

Thus the San Juans are an important component of the Puget Sound recovery plan for Puget Sound Chinook salmon. And this creates the sometimes awkward “lumping” of the San Juans with the Puget Sound. 

Thank you for the opportunity to attempt to clarify why Puget Sound is used when referencing the San Juans.

Barbara Rosenkotter

San Juan County Lead Entity Coordinator for Salmon Recovery