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Cliff Notes: League Of Women Voters meeting

For your consideration.
(Notes and references below.)

This is a reprint (with her permission) of a comment by Whatcom County Exec candidate Joy Gilfilen on social media that I thought was a great summation of the larger issues surrounding the proposed county jail project: 

via Joy
I do not think this is party politic as much as it is the degenerative passion of an imploding prison industry…and we have to do the work to pull us out of the down-spiral.

Wednesday night at the League of Women Voters meeting, the speaker from Sea
ttle who has been working on these kinds of issues validated everything that the Coalition has been testifying and writing to the County Council, the County Executive, Mayors and Councilmen.

1) No Needs Assessment and no SWOT analysis to base this project on…there is no fiscal basis, no analysis of market trends. The County Executive continues to say there is one, yet has not produced it for the Jail Task Force, for the Council, nor upon request by the Restorative Community Coalition. Why not?

2) The prison industry has spiked and is in a downward trend now, so it is unwise to build a prison for the past, rather than one that reflects the future. This is the opposite of the (county) Executive Branch actions.

3) Over-criminalization is a problem in Whatcom County…with our Prosecutor in charge of the capacity to change it, the Sheriff has the ability to change it, the judges can change the overcrowding issues…all by simple bureaucratic actions. He was very clear that the roots of the problem with excessive incarceration is right here, right now. This is a locally controlled issue – and we were delighted to be second voiced by a man of this caliber. This flies in the face of what the Executive Branch (Louws) has been telling the Council on record.

4) He reiterated the stats provided by the Prosecutors a few weeks ago…that major crime has dropped 25 % in Whatcom County in the past few years. And that juvenile arrests are down about 80% in that same period of time. So why do we need to plan for expansion, when the stats clearly show a dramatic downturn? Furthermore, why are the jail bed stays/days increasing? He stopped short of saying that this might be an administratively created crisis. What he did recommend was to look at what they are doing in Spokane to bring a community coalition together with the Smart Justice banner.

All of this is true, and yes, this is happening on our watch. And it is time to stop the games of politics, and get down to solid business analysis…and on that level it fails also. More later…I gotta go.”

The comment (above) was in response to some back and forth on her original social media post commentary on the Herald article Bellingham council’s resistance casts doubt on jail plan

‘So the Executive says, “the county is likely to ask for something like a 20 cent per $1,000 property tax hike in 2016 to fund emergency medical services.” My gosh, where does he think this money is coming from? This is why it is critical to not put this ballot up to the voters – and to give the public time to find and propose alternatives.’ 

The comments references to the related Smart Justice meeting of the League of Women Voters of Bellingham/Whatcom County can be found on their website, along with a pdf of the meeting PowerPoint which I’ll also link here. SmartJusticeFairJustice – Cook

The incarceration reference information that was cited during the meeting presentation are found here. Smart Justice Fair Justice Incarceration data.

The exec and the sheriff are not presenting the full picture. They are presenting a terribly slanted view that not-so-coincidentally backs up their claims. Please share this information because a complicit local media that seems bent on backing anything the exec and the sheriff say are unlikely to present any of this information to you.


Tax & Spend……..Republican…..

Bellingham council’s resistance casts doubt on jail plan
(Click for Herald article)

Some pretty good reporting by Ralph Schwartz on the most recent back and forth between the City of Bellingham, the last hold out on the County Taxmageddon jail project.

The short version is that the Whatcom County Council punted on the jail vote since they knew it would put the political ball in COB’s court. It was a 6-1 yes vote to approve the plan, but it was also with the understanding that the COB wouldn’t even consider the cost sharing plan until it was approved by WCC.

I say they punted on it, essentially putting the final decision in COB’s hands. ie; Instead of making a decision that’s a rightful representation for the citizens of this county, giving an approval in deference to the COB’s final nod. That’s not leadership. That’s political gamesmanship.

Schwartz’s blog report in the Herald also sheds an interesting light on the position of the Whatcom County Executive, Jack Louws.

“According to an email from county Executive Jack Louws to City Council member Jack Weiss, the county would need to levy a property tax of 28 cents per $1,000 in value (about $75 a year for the median-priced home in the county) to pay off the $97 million bond. But property tax money can only be spent on construction. The county also would need to increase the sales tax by some lesser amount, say 0.1 percent, to pay for day-to-day operation of the jail.

“That would provide the city with the opportunity to do other public health and safety programs with the remaining 0.1 percent that would be available in the bank for the city to use in the future,” Weiss said Wednesday, June 10, in an interview. “That is something, my own personal thought is, that I am most in favor of — an approach like that. Other council members feel similarly.”

In his email to Weiss, Louws said a dual request to voters for property and sales tax hikes wasn’t feasible.

“Making two asks for the jail project is problematic to explain to voters, and problematic to legally tie together on (the) ballot,” Louws wrote in the May 19 email.

Besides, Louws said, the county is likely to ask for something like a 20 cent per $1,000 property tax hike in 2016 to fund emergency medical services.”

Hang on to your wallets and purses out there in rural/unincorporated Whatcom County……the tax man has eyes on your property/assets to fund his big jail project and he thinks you’re too stupid to understand the difference, or it’s not lawful, or something. The additional taxes for emergency medical services seems almost an afterthought to Louws.

I know that we recently underwent a sizable property tax increase and I know most other people in our circles did as well. Now there are trees galore out here in the county, so maybe Louws isn’t wrong to think that money just grows naturally on the trees out here in the county? I don’t know, but the current tax burden is painful as it is without any tax increases.

I sure wish I could find these magic money trees….

Case Study: Pennington County Jail, SD

County Information
There are many examples that could be studied to have a good grasp of what a proper jail facility that meets all pertinent national corrections standards. I picked this one because of the total cost of the two phase jail expansion project. $18 million. You read that right, $18 million dollars to expand and replace their existing 276 bed facility. (Ref: 11th paragraph)

Pennington County, South Dakota, aside from not having a border exposure like we do here, along with a smaller county population of approximately 108,242 (based on current U.S. Census data), does have some interesting factors that bring it into a rough equivalence with Whatcom County.

Namely Rapid City with a population of 70,812Ellsworth Air Force Base,  Thief River Falls Regional Airport and Mount Rushmore National Park, all of which bring considerable business, tourism and travel to Pennington County. Ellsworth Air Force Base is a military base obviously, but it is also essentially an international airport which USAF personnel and retirees use for ‘space A’ travel.

Having said all of that, Pennington County is not the same as Whatcom County and I’m not suggesting it is, but there are still many useful comparisons that can be drawn from studying their jail expansion project evolution. It all seems to have been very well thought out, well planned and perhaps the more interesting point,….with agreement and support from all county stakeholders.

“The current capacity of Pennington County Jail is 580, not including the 20 holding cells in the Booking area. The Pennington County Jail continues to embrace progress as it adapts to meet the ever changing needs of the citizens of Pennington County.” (Ref: last paragraph.)

Ref: Pennington County Jail History

The Jail Project
The jail expansions happened in two major phases resulting in construction and timely completion.

PHASE I: Pennington County Jail Annex, Pennington County, South Dakota, Skyline Engineering (Completed in 2006.) (Click link for downloadable pdf of Jail engineering doc from Skyline Engineering, LLC.)

The Pennington County Jail project included:
—A new 4-story, 128 bed multi-level security facility.
—Two full floors of additional shelled space for future development.
—The building is situated on the Courthouse Complex campus, adjacent to the Public Safety Building and the existing Jail.
—A new connector from the central plant to the facility.
—A three level parking structure was also included in the project.
—92,000 square feet.

Construction cost: $10 million

PHASE II: Pennington County Jail Expansion Project, Skyline Engineering (Completed in 2009.) (Click link for downloadable pdf of Jail expansion engineering doc from Skyline Engineering, LLC.)

—Completed two additional floors.

— 41,500 SF project involved finish of the shelled spaces.
—The second floor was finished to include 58 beds of minimum-security configured in sleeping bays.
—The third floor was finished for 24 cells of medium-security.
—Added 8 cells of maximum-security space.
—Additional dayrooms, showers, recreation spaces, multipurpose spaces and support facilities were developed for each finished level.
—The Mechanical and electrical designs extended the existing systems to support the new spaces.

Construction Cost: $5,800,000
Total jail project cost: $15.8 Million.

—The footprint of this building would easily fit in the parking lot adjacent to the Whatcom County Courthouse and would actually INCREASE parking as well as inmate capacity.
—The footprint of this structure would easily fit on the property already owned and permitted on Division Street too.
—In either location, the jail logistical/transport issues have already been worked out.

Why couldn’t an additional floor or two (or more) of maximum security space be added to this design for the Courthouse parking lot area or Division Street? A floor or two could also be added for alternative/medical/mental health services. They could be added subterranean to minimize building height.

In fact TWO more entire structures like this could be added to BOTH locations, as well as razing the current Sheriff’s Office/jail afterwards and building a brand new SO and it would still be a fraction of what we’re being told now.

Pennington County Sheriff’s Office
“The Pennington County Sheriff’s Office has 372 employees, an annual budget of approximately $28 million, and serves over 100,000 citizens spread out over Pennington County’s 2,784 square miles. We also serve a high number of visitors and tourists to our area as Pennington County is home to Mount Rushmore National Monument and Ellsworth Air Force Base.”

“City/County Alcohol & Drug Programs (CCADP) – provides a safe place for individuals struggling with the difficulty of addiction. CCADP houses the City/County Detox Center and serves a host of other individuals through various treatment programs. We currently have a capacity of about 110 beds.”

“Jail – We are very proud of the fact that our 587 bed jail complies with the national standards set by the American Correctional Association, (ACA) which safeguard the life, health and safety of our staff and individuals incarcerated within our jail.”

Ref: Pennington County Sheriff, South Dakota

In conclusion, if certain people weren’t playing political games, this expansion could have already been completed AND PAID FOR years ago with existing funds. Instead, today, twelve years after the first .1% jail tax was approved, we are still mired in costly and complicated political games, political agenda strategies and the like, primarily from two camps.

This should be a done and over issue, which could have made way in time and resources for progress on other fronts of public safety concern which I’ll come back around to later.

(In-progress. I’m short on time at the moment, so I’ll finish up/edit this later. I just wanted to get the rough information out now while it’s being debated, instead of waiting.)

Joy Gilfilen For County Executive

Joy Gilfilen has thrown her hat in the ring for the position of Whatcom County Executive.

Updates can be found on her facebook page: Joy Gilfilen For Whatcom County Executive.

Joy has some good ideas on how to reduce local incarceration and how to get the local criminal justice apparatus to work in a more efficient manner for all concerned.

She’s also against the big county jail project.

Some would no doubt ask me why I would choose to support a candidate with so many different views than I have as a conservative.

In response, I’d tell them that #1: I know what real conservatism is and I also know what it is not. I’m not a ‘republican,’ I’m a conservative. They are not the same things. They once were, but they aren’t today.

Too many people have confused playing sides, as in the other half of the local (D) vs (R) Hegelian dialectic, as ‘conservatism.’ It’s not. True conservatism is actually very close to classical liberalism, sharing many aspects. Libertarianism and classical liberalism are very close cousins, both of which overlap significantly with real conservatism (Note *)

#2: I’ll support anyone that is upfront and honest about what they believe, even if I disagree personally, providing they are willing to let the people’s voices be heard and will allow that to override their own preferences when that’s been made clear in a true democratic fashion.

Joy meets both of my criteria and as such has my support.

Currently, there are officials trying to hoodwink citizens of this county in order to further expand government and further tax already overly tax burdened citizens.

As a real conservative, those are two things I cannot abide.

* : This writer does not condone or accept the classical European and neo-European views of the various political ideologies or the political spectrum. I prefer the Americanism views, which incorporated the best of the best of the world, created a Representative Constitutional Republic form of government of We The People and in doing so changed the world for the better.

Regional Jail?

The Revised Code of Washington (RCW), the laws of Washington State, has a lot to say about what a sheriff can and cannot do.

In writing this it occurs to me that I may have inadvertently stumbled across why the new jail has been referred in the past as a ‘regional jail’ or “regional justice center.’ I haven’t heard the phrase recently, so perhaps someone figured out that maybe wasn’t the best marketing approach?

I found this in the City and County Jails Act of RCW 70.48:

“70.48.095 Regional jails.

1) Regional jails may be created and operated between two or more local governments, or one or more local governments and the state, and may be governed by representatives from multiple jurisdictions.

(2) A jurisdiction that confines persons prior to conviction in a regional jail in another county is responsible for providing private telephone, video-conferencing, or in-person contact between the defendant and his or her public defense counsel.

(3) The creation and operation of any regional jail must comply with the interlocal cooperation act described in chapter 39.34 RCW.

(4) Nothing in this section prevents counties and cities from contracting for jail services as described in RCW 70.48.090.

[2002 c 124 § 1.]”

That’s very interesting. Based on the plain reading of this section, RCW 70.48.095, it would appear to me that there must be some type of formal (written) agreement between the City of Ferndale and Whatcom County in order to move a jail from the current county seat, Bellingham, to within the city limits of Ferndale, WA, which is not the county seat.

Also, I found the RCW that mentions the sheriff’s duties to keep an office within the county seat.

“RCW 36.28.160: Office at county seat.

The sheriff must keep an office at the county seat of the county of which he or she is sheriff.

[2009 c 105 § 3; 1963 c 4 § 36.28.160. Prior: 1891 c 45 § 2; RRS § 4158. SLC-RO-14.]”

Now, I have not found (yet) a definition of what exactly constitutes an office, so that could be as simple as a cubicle staffed by one deputy for courthouse operations and security.

If the main WCSO headquarters are located elsewhere, I can see where that could cause security concerns within the courthouse, county offices etc, unless there are additional deputies readily available in the event of an incident, multiple courtroom issues, etc.

This could have already been addressed somewhere, but if it has I haven’t come across it yet.

It just seems much simpler and easier to me, to convince the stakeholders and the taxpayers, to keep the jail within the city limits of Bellingham. For some reason though, Elfo, Louws et al, seem hell bent on getting the project out of Bellingham, even if the cost to taxpayers increases.

I’ve seen some pretty good designs, multi-level facilities that could incorporate multi-level and/or subterranean parking levels as part of a new jail and sheriff’s office. The parking lot adjacent to the courthouse has been suggested in the past by others and that would seem to me an ideal location.

A simple graphic to help illustrate:
Downtown Jail - Steve“What would the proposed 649 bed housing unit look like if it was placed in the downtown south parking lot? This is roughly to scale (based on the DEIS information released on the proposed facility). Reduce the number of cells and you have a reasonably sized jail downtown.

Right next to the courthouse, significantly reducing costs and ancillary expenses. The smart planner could even significantly boost parking space with a project like this. There was even talk at one time of an overhead elevated corridor between the jail and the courthouse to facilitate inmate appearances, interviews, meetings, etc.


Greetings and Welcome to Northwest Outpost.

This is my new blog, but I’m not a new blogger. I’ve been writing and posting online for many years now as a concerned American citizen and resident of Whatcom County, Washington.

Those who live here (and elsewhere), know how deficient local media has been when it comes to anything labeled as ‘controversial’ or ‘extremist’ <insert derogatory label of the day> (read as: pursuing truth) and that which is seen as disruptive to the local establishment status quo.

In writing here, I hope to do my small part to tear back the barriers and the deceptions that get in the way of real understanding and honest discourse amongst like minded folks. Sunshine is the best disinfectant, is it not?

To my way of thinking, a solution to any problem begins first with knowing the facts. A problem must be fully understood in order to come to a reasonable solution. Discussions and debates that don’t revolve around the truth of a matter, the bulk of what seems to routinely occur nowadays, seems, at best, a pointless waste of time. At it’s worst, an intentional misdirect and plenty of that happens too.

Speaking of time wasting, you have my word that I’ll do my utmost to make sure I don’t waste your time. I don’t intend to cover things that seem adequately covered elsewhere and what I do choose to write about receives the best research and due diligence I can muster, being careful to distinguish between what is fact and what is opinion or mere speculation.

If that strikes a chord or two for you, please bookmark this page and let’s see what we, together, can get done for the little guy in Whatcom County and beyond. Many of us, not just me, see needs that just aren’t being properly addressed or discussed here.

Best regards,