Letters to the Editor July 2015


The Editor:

We gamble with liability by delaying a new jail.

The existing jail must be replaced, as it is no longer safe for employees and inmates (the jail is about 31 years old. The Seattle Kingdome closed after only 22 years of use).

The county has a statutory responsibility to operate a jail. The current jail was built in 1984 with 148 beds. It now operates at twice the design capacity. As with anything that’s overused, it wears out quickly. The jail’s structural integrity is questionable; parts are difficult to obtain for critical operating systems; inmates break off pieces of the building; the spread of disease cannot be contained and water and raw sewage leak below into the sheriff’s office.

The existing jail cannot meet the current and future demands of the combined volume of municipal and county inmates. Population levels in the jail are impacted by a variety of factors: legislative mandates, mandatory arrests, changes to sentencing laws, community population increase, proximity to a foreign border and use by state and federal law enforcement.

The county council must approve and submit the sales tax ballot proposition to county voters. To delay such an action is placing county employees and inmates in a health and safety risk, which ultimately equates to financial liability for Whatcom County.

Pat Brown



The Editor:

This is for the lady who yelled, “Why does it matter?” when she overheard me telling two kids that they were riding their bicycles on the wrong side of the road. Allow me to explain why it matters.

First and foremost, riding on the wrong side of the road is dangerous. Drivers who are turning out of or into a side road or driveway are not looking for vehicles traveling in the wrong direction. They could very easily turn into a cyclist’s path.

Second, it is rude. Cyclists who are traveling in the correct lane and direction may have to swerve into traffic or off the pavement in order to avoid a collision.

Finally, for those who care little about safety or the sensibilities of others, it is illegal. Per Washington state law, bicyclists are required to follow the same rules of the road as automobile drivers.

Jeff Sterling



The Editor:

Thank you to those brave, passionate activists protesting Shell’s arctic oil exploration. I am in awe of your determination and steadfast focus.

Your activism keeps attention on the fossil fuel debate. I lack your nerve and daredevil spirit, although I feel as passionately as you do.

I recently heard David Suzuki, Canadian scientist, geneticist, author, educator and environmental activist, state that for a healthy body we need clean air, clean water and clean soil. He wondered why anyone would accept a compromised environment, which compromises our health. Why indeed?

We are losing the struggle of climate change because we are still debating its effects and causes and because change is difficult. If we took the challenge to change the destructive course we are now on we may be able to mitigate the consequences. It is past time to move beyond the debate of the causes. We must demand that our government stop subsidizing fossil fuel. We must demand and work towards solutions.

Recently, Pope Francis has announced his plea for our earth. Read his message and take it to heart. To quote the Pope, “Put simply, it is a matter of redefining our notice of progress,” away from consumption to sustainability. People’s voices and actions are needed to let our elected representatives know we are serious. We have a moral responsibility to protect our home.

Naomi Murphy



The Editor:

Our jail needs to be replaced!

Washington statutes require that Whatcom County house all persons charged with felony crimes and for misdemeanor arrests made by the Sheriff’s Office or state law enforcement. We are also required to detain fugitives wanted in other states. The cities are responsible for housing misdemeanor arrests made by their police departments. Due to a cooperative agreement, Whatcom County operates the only jail system in the county and, since 1984, has housed offenders on charges generated by all cities and tribes.

The main jail simply needs to be replaced. Under our charter and form of government, it is not the Sheriff who decides if, when or how the jail is replaced. The Sheriff does not establish tax policy and does not have the authority to set government priorities, place taxation proposals on the ballot or determine how costs are allocated. It is, however, his responsibility to operate the jail in a safe, humane and constitutional manner. He follows the recommendations of the citizen committees and professionals who were asked to assess this problem and reached similar conclusions.

We have reached the point where we must reduce the population of the main jail to more safe and manageable levels. In other words, a population cap. Once that cap is reached, cities and tribes will have to transfer those not released at first appearance to another jail. These procedures will need to begin right away.

Judy Criscuola



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