CSA’s response to editorial | Guest column

by TIM BLANCHARD

I am writing on behalf of the Common Sense Alliance (“CSA”) to correct the misconceptions that led to the claim in your recent editorial (“War of the press releases,” May 8, 2012) that CSA bears responsibility for the “mess” in the County’s Shoreline Master Program (“SMP”) update, including the “hoax” story concocted and circulated by the county’s communications director.

First, the SMP update and the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) update are two separate processes proceeding on separate tracks.  The “mess” the editorial describes concerns the recent deadline for public comment in the SMP process, not the CAO. Second, at a CSA Town Hall Meeting on November 12, 2011, Sandy Mackie, a noted Washington State land use attorney, recommended that shoreline residents review the draft SMP Inventory and Characterization draft report (“I&C”) prepared by the county’s consultants, and prepare comments as necessary to correct information about their individual properties. This was a public meeting, and the county planner assigned to the SMP attended it. CSA subsequently received numerous complaints about the lack of user-friendly guidance from the county regarding the 300+ page I&C draft, and worked with Mr. Mackie to develop step-by-step instructions and a form to help each shoreline owner prepare comments on the I&C in relation to their property.  CSA sent a newsletter to its website subscribers about these resources from CSA with links to “instructions to assist you in preparing 10 Pictures and Your Narrative” and “Sandy Mackie’s form to use as the coversheet” at commonsensealliance.net.

On Monday, April 30, 2012, the county issued a press release, and posted a notice on its homepage titled “’Shoreline Inventory Form A Hoax.”  Stan Matthews, the county’s website and Communications Program Manager, also sent an email to local media stating:  “Currently, we cannot say with any certainty who created and distributed the spurious forms or what the motive was.”  As it turns out, it is Mr. Matthews’ motive that appears questionable.

Documents obtained through the Public Records Act demonstrate that Mr. Matthews (and other county officials) had been specifically informed on Friday, April 27, that the form in question came from the CSA website.  Despite this fact, three days later Mr. Matthews began casting aspersions of intentional misrepresentation, deception and creation of counterfeit or illegitimate documents. Even more concerning, Mr. Matthews was still asserting on May 2 that “[w]e knew nothing of the form.”

CSA stands by our efforts to help shoreline residents review and comment effectively regarding the I&C.

– Tim Blanchard lives on Orcas Island