Letters | March 17 edition

Colton Harris-Moore should serve as a warning

The story of Colton Harris-Moore is a cautionary tale of what happens when a society does not provide in a positive way for its children, as when a society spends more on prisons than on schools and more on war than on health care.

We, as a society, have an increasing number of children with ADHD, depression and other imbalances. Medicating, punishing and imprisoning are not useful ways to help afflicted persons regain their stability and centeredness so they can be positive members of society.

When I was in Cuba in 2000, I did storytelling in a neighborhood school. I observed among the children a strong sense of cooperation and looking out for one another. Among U.S. schools, I had been observing competitiveness and bullying. When asked, the Cubans explained that their philosophy as a nation was that one should look out for and be kind to the more troublesome or difficult children. This way they would not grow up to be a problem or threat to the community, but rather a part of it. I would call this“Properganda”!

This cautionary tale is a wake-up to re-evaluate our approach to achieving a civil society that is truly civil.

Rivkah Sweedler

Orcas Island

Thanks for kids’ marine science support

This year’s middle school marine science exploratory class has really flourished. The very presence of this class is due to the generosity of a local couple who has provided the funding for this class to operate for three years. The generosity of the community has not ended there. Donations in time and money from members of Kwiaht, San Juan Nature Institute, Orcas Island Community Foundation, Camp Orkila, Beach Watchers, SeaDoc, San Juan County, Washington State Parks Departments, UW Friday Harbor labs, and the Russell Family Foundation, have provided for my students numerous classroom lessons, hands on research, and field excursions.

I want to give a HUGE thank you to those individuals from these organizations that have taken the time to enrich my classroom. Another huge thank you goes to all of you who contribute to these organizations. Your donations have helped provide meaningful and engaging science that I would never have been able to provide by myself. The expression “It takes a whole island to raise a child” becomes very obvious in this classroom. I am very grateful to teach in a community that realized this.

Thank you so much!

Laura Tidwell

Orcas School

Island community comes together for concert

We have been treated to another afternoon of “ear candy,” provided by the multi-talented performers at the annual fundraiser for the school music program.

It was a tribute to Wally Gudgell Sr., who inspired and mentored so many of our children to use music as their voice, to see and hear our island community come together for an important and uplifting musical presentation.

Our brief enjoyment was the culmination of many hours of dedication and rehearsal from those who are continually willing to share and enrich our basic need to keep a song in our hearts.

Thank you all!

Frances Harvey


Please return stolen yellow crocus to Crow Valley

Clearly, the thief who stole the beautiful green urn of yellow crocus from the front of our shop, Crow Valley Pottery, holds little in the way of design sense. Otherwise, they would have stolen them both! The urns really did make a lovely pair and truly belong together. We have had them for many years. They are very special to me! Please bring it back.

Jeffri Coleman

Crow Valley Pottery

Orcas Island Gets Short End of ‘Tax’ Stick

I am a property owner and taxpayer in San Juan County. I am also a licensed Real Estate agent. I am writing to shed light on the inequity of the property tax structure presently being utilized in San Juan County. In my opinion, the citizens of Orcas Island should be particularly concerned that they are paying more than their share of County taxes.

Even though I reside on the mainland, I am aware of the uproar that was created on Orcas when the Orcas properties were reassessed for the 2009 tax year. Unfortunately for the residents on Orcas Island, the date of assessment for 2009 taxes was actually January 1, 2008, perhaps the very peak of the real estate market prior to the economic collapse. For anybody that attempted to appeal the 2009 tax assessment it was necessary to use comparable properties from late 2007 or early 2008. In many cases, it was difficult to

prove that the County assessments were inaccurate. In almost all cases, property valuations were raised considerably.

The present County system calls for updated assessments every three years. The County will argue that for the two years prior to the 2009 assessments, Orcas property assessments were less than true market value. In 2009, it was Orcas Island’s ‘turn’ to bear the brunt of property taxes paid to the County. This argument has some merit, however, due to some glitch in the system, the County assessor, with approval of County Council, has determined that Orcas Island will not be reassessed in 3 years, but will have to wait 4 years for property values to be adjusted to current market value! This is inherently unfair to Orcas Island residents. Assuming that property values will not magically increase to 2008 levels in the next couple of years, Orcas residents will be paying a higher share of property taxes for one more year than all County property owners have in the past. A pretty good deal if you do not own property on Orcas, not so good if

you call Orcas home.

The present system is problematic, so much so that the issue has been addressed by the State legislature. It is my understanding that Washington State has passed legislation requiring Counties to reassess property annually. Unfortunately, this mandate does not go

into effect until 2014. It is my opinion that the County Council should expedite this change to yearly assessments as soon as possible. It is the only way to treat all property owners within the County fairly. If you agree with me, please talk to your County Council and urge them to make this needed change.

Robert P. Castagna

Maple Valley/Orcas Island

Support water buffers

We all rely on pure water for our health. We share the responsibility to keep our water supplies clean. Our lives and the lives of all living things in our San Juan Islands depend on clean water. Water is not something that you can hold tight. You use water in your house or garden. Then it flows down: down into the soil or down through cracks in the rock, downhill into streams, lakes, wetlands and shorelines. If water traveled alone, that would be great. But water loves companions, and some of its companions are down right undesirable. People have created a lot of useful products that seem wonderful – until chemicals in those products escape and are scattered by the flow of water. Over time, chemicals that are not fully understood, or even measured, are accumulating in our water.

We hope that our water will be pure and healthful. But often your water is contaminated by your own actions or by your neighbor’s actions. So, you can drink purified water, but did you know that you breathe in droplets of water when you shower? Cancer-causing and other chemicals can go straight into your blood from your lungs. And, as we age, we become more vulnerable because our immune function declines.

Sensible buffers protect our ground water, our lakes, and our wetlands by capturing and purifying contaminated water. Buffers protect your health. The living soil converts toxic chemicals into harmless breakdown products. The irregular surfaces and complex ecology of undisturbed natural buffers trap water and inactivate the toxic chemicals that water transports much more effectively than a garden or an orchard. Sensible buffers are a terrific value. The cost of building artificial water purification facilities that equal the capacity of sensible buffers would be prohibitive. Because undisturbed buffers of native plants filter and purify the water that we all rely on, property owners who maintain undisturbed buffers of native plants should receive a tax credit.

For your health and for the health of our islands – support sensible buffers.

Janet Alderton

Orcas Island

Public works roadside broom control

Public Works has initiated a program of controlling and slowly reducing the broom strands along selected stretches of county roadside through timed mowing.  Last July, after the broom’s yellow flowers started to wither but before seedpods filled, Public Works, under the guidance of their roadside technician, Christina Newhall, mowed dense stretches of broom on Orcas, Lopez and San Juan Island on county rights of way. The County’s Noxious Weed Control Program wants to offer our thanks and appreciation to Christina and to Public Works for their efforts in controlling broom, spurge laurel, tansy ragwort and poison hemlock on the sides of the roads.

Broom control is a year-round project, but with two peak seasons, each with different control methods. Now, when the ground is moist, is the best time to pull the plants. Smaller ones (up to one foot in height) may be pulled by hand, but for the larger ones, a weed wrench or even a tractor and chain may be necessary. While using a weed wrench extracts the entire plant, roots and all, it disturbs a lot of soil, bringing buried seed to the surface where it germinates easily. Thus a broom patch needs to be worked on about every two years until the seed bank is exhausted. The other option, as chosen by Public Works, is to cut or mow late in the season, optimally between the end of full flowering and the ripening of seedpods. At this point the energy reserves in the roots are at their seasonal low. Plants that are half inch or more at the base will probably not re-sprout from the roots, while younger plants may recover, necessitating mowing in successive years. This method eliminates the seed production and contains the invasive tendency of the broom.

Richard Lee

Judy Jackson

San Juan County Noxious Weed Control Program

Thank you to Sea View Theater

The Oscars have been handed out. Everyone has been thanked. Except our own Mr. Mount, who for 50 years, has kept the Sea View Theater in operation in spite of the fact that only, approximately, 30 to 40 people show up on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday nights. So, thank you Mr. Mount.

Also, this year, he brought us most of the Oscar nominated films prior to the actual awards ceremony. So, thank you Mr. Mount. However, I have to say that I would be ever so grateful for some foreign films and documentaries.

And to those 30 or 40 people who do manage to show up on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday nights, thank you.

I know most people get their movies via Netflix. I do too. But I still enjoy going to a movie theater to sit in the dark with a bunch of strangers (less likely here on Orcas) who laugh at inappropriate times and annoy me by wrestling with that last kernel of corn in the bottom of the bag.

My suggestion is to once in a while get off the couch, turn off the 52″ HDTV and, in the words of Mr. Mount: “We’ll see you at the movies.”

Monica Kezar

Orcas Island

Thanks for help with recent play

I want to thank everyone involved in our recent play “Noises Off.” From the nine wonderful actors on stage to the 20 people who helped helped with back stage and set construction and costumes and props and makeup and everything that goes into making a successful play. Special thanks to Darvill’s Book Store for all the time they spent selling tickets and answering the phone and helping people after they ran out of tickets. Thanks also to The Exchange. Without their loan of materials (like doors!) we could never afford $10 tickets.

I also want to thank the 430 people who saw the show and helped us set an all time record for attendance.

We were all pleased that our sneak preview fund raiser for Kaleidoscope generated nearly $2,000 to help them with their important mission.

It took us just three days to dismantle the wonderful “Noises Off” set to prepare the stage for Playfest ’10 which is coming up rapidly.

See you again at our next production!

Doug Bechtel

Actors Theater of Orcas Island

It’s important to complete the census

Once every 10 years, we’re asked to take less than five minutes to complete a simple questionnaire known as the Census. Very few civic responsibilities we’re tasked with can return so much for such a limited investment of time and effort. The results of the Census determine not only the number of legislative representatives a given congressional district is allocated, but impact a geographic area’s entitlement to many kinds of grants and/or aid.

Unfortunately, 10 years ago, San Juan County had the lowest participation rate of all counties in the state. Let’s all do our part to ensure that our county is not needlessly passed over for grants or aid we’d otherwise be entitled to. Please take the few minutes necessary to complete and return your Census form.

Barb Skotte