Category Archives: Whatcom County Jail

Re: Bill Elfo’s Lynden Tribune Article Supporting 3rd Jail Tax (18OCT17)

A well written comment to a post I shared on facebook. From Joy Gilfilen, President of Restorative Community Coalition and host of Joy Talk radio.

Joy really nailed it on this, in my opinion.

“Thank you Paul for standing up and speaking out against the monstrous jail tax. This is a manufactured crisis to expand the jail industry in Whatcom County. I filed documents that essentially prove this back in 2016 called Noble Cause Corruption.

Today, I would take it further: The economic jail industry expansion game the top three law enforcers in this county are playing is a form of immoral extortion being perpetrated against law-abiding citizens. They are playing a game like jail monopoly in the boardgame world, to see how much money they can take from taxpayers as they put us in more tax bondage or in jail (to divide and conquer) before we figure out their game is complete domination of the board. The only way out is to vote REJECT.

When you get the facts, it is pretty clear that the master big government/quasi-corporate jail industry goal is to expand the market for punishment in the deep northwest corner of the US – on the back of locals. Once people get arrested they lose thousands to the jail industry privateers – the highly paid contractors who make money on the side – that never goes through the county coffers. And most “nice people” who have not been accused or had to defend themselves against the law enforcers and courts have no idea this even happens.

My experience is that the Sheriff specifically right now is using his authority under color of law to dominate the game. Teamed up with the Prosecutor and the Executive, they have been using deceptive methods to hunt down and prey on decent people. One of the most deceptive is the game where they prey on people’s trust in God…for these three all swear on a bible when they take the oath of office. So honest people trust them to uphold honor, freedom and we trust them to protect us.

When these people deceive us it hurts. It took me a long time to finally discover the truth. And it felt like the sickest form of deep betrayal when I finally got the facts, and the inevitable conclusion violated my sacred trust on every level. They are not telling the truth.

After reading the Sheriff’s article in the Lynden Tribune published Oct. 18, 2017 I realized that this was the most brilliant piece of deception I have ever read. It is grooming innocent taxpayers for the takedown – and he is doing it brazenly, in public, so no-one will have time to call him out before the vote. Without technically telling an untruth, Elfo avoids responsibility for the fact that he has been the person in responsible charge who could have repaired the jail using the extra $15.7 Million a year we entrust to him. Instead, in this article, he told readers that up was down, and that down was up…and they should believe him because he is the Sheriff.

Nope. I will no longer shake hands with any one of the top three elected officials in this county. I will not shake hands with the jail director, or anyone else who is persecuting people for profit and punishing the decent citizens who pay their salaries. That is upside down and I will not dishonor my hand…and I stand against paying more taxes to incarcerate more non-violent people and children so that the courts and cops get bigger.

It is with very deep sadness that there is no time left to do a duel of facts in the court of public opinion…for I object to every single paragraph he wrote on both factual and moral grounds.”
~Joy Gilfilen

WHATCOM COUNTY: VOTE NO ON PROP 2017-6

First, my apologies for neglecting to get an update out sooner.

This is an important one though and it needs to be shared everywhere before election day.

WHATCOM COUNTY: VOTE NO ON PROP 2017-6

The linked website above (https://www.whatcom-county-jail.com/) is the focus of a bi-partisan concerted effort to defeat the latest attempt to cram not only another tax down our throats, but a massive expansion of the local jailing industry (yes, that’s what it has become) that looks more to me like an expansion of the prison industrial complex.

Please visit the linked website above and inform yourself on what’s happening and why we oppose Prop 2017-6.

We do need to replace the aging jail, but the current plan is not the way to go about it.

Please read the Vera Institute report on the jail project.  To summarize the report, here is their conclusion:

“Conclusion

Through interagency collaboration and coordination, Whatcom County must address the systemic drivers of jail population growth. This is the only effective means of controlling jail growth. Any attempt to ease overcrowding by building a new facility or expanding the current one will not address the underlying causes of population growth, and the new facility will quickly become overcrowded. Criminal justice and community stakeholders must work together to achieve a safe, sustainable, and fair justice system.”

You can also read the full report in pdf here:  Vera Institute For Justice Jail Memo

Jail Mailer Public Disclosure Commission Complaint

Re: Whatcom County Jail Mail Flyer PDC Complaint and Evidence Of Noble Cause Corruption In Whatcom County

First off, what is noble cause corruption? It’s a fairly obscure legal term, but it’s really quite simple. Wikipedia defines it like this:

Noble cause corruption is corruption caused by the adherence to a teleological ethical system, suggesting that persons “will utilize unethical, and sometimes illegal, means to obtain a desired result,”[1] a result which appears to benefit the greater good. Where traditional corruption is defined by personal gain,[2] noble cause corruptions forms when someone is convinced of their righteousness, and will do anything within their powers to obtain or concertize the execution of righteous actions. Ultimately, noble cause corruption is police misconduct “committed in the name of good ends”[3] or neglect of due process through “a moral commitment to make the world a safer place to live.”[4]

Conditions for such corruption usually begin where individuals perceive no administrative accountability, lack of morale and leadership, and the general absence of faith within the criminal justice system.[5] These conditions can be compounded by arrogance and weak supervision.[6]

That may not sound so bad on first reading, but it really is and it’s every bit as ‘corrupt’ as other forms of corruption.

When a person in a position of power and authority decides to use and/or abuse that power for the greater good, just about anything can be twisted or manipulated into a greater good scenario. Once that line is crossed, what’s to stop them from using and/or abusing that power in other ways?

It’s especially dangerous when people who are skilled and experienced at articulating greater good arguments, or scenarios, because they are no longer basing decisions or actions on fundamental principles of constitutionality, law or morality, but instead become narrowly focused on how to say, write or push a thing to justify (rationalize) it.

That’s what myself and others contend Whatcom County has done in the most recent Jail Tax measure, the jail mailer, as well as many other aspects relating to the siting and acquisition of the land where the proposed regional jail might go in Ferndale.

The Complaint

This has been in the works for some time now, but I’ve not been able to say anything publicly about it until it was finalized and formally submitted to the PDC, AKA the Public Disclosure Commission. 

The PDC is actively investigating the complaint and although I’m aware of parts of the process, I don’t yet have a full picture or scope of what is happening and where it’s going, so it would be inappropriate for me to say more beyond that just yet. I am being told privately, however, that the PDC has taken issue with aspects of the county’s actions in respect to the jail mailer.

I’m not entirely sure how many people were involved in providing source information for the complaint, but I do know it was more than a few, with some info and minor input also provided by me.

The large majority of the work, the research, the compiling of information, the graphic illustrations, however, were done by Joy Gilfilen and Irene Morgan and they did a spectacular job. It’s very professional, very accurate, sourced and corroborated, and it’s on point with the areas of contention.

There is a lot of information contained in the links provided below so you’ll want to take some time to process and digest it. As you begin to digest the information contained in the complaint and evidence addendums, a picture should begin to form in your mind. If you’re like many of us, you won’t like what the mental picture shows.

Minimally, it should become fairly clear that what you’ve been told, or led to believe, by county officials, isn’t what is really going on. That alone should raise red flags in any county taxpayer’s mind.

The Documents

PDC Complaint – Gilifilen vs Whatcom County Officials 11-30-2015

Evidence Addendums to the PDC – Part 1 of 3

Evidence Addendums to the PDC – Part 2 of 3

Evidence Addendums to the PDC – Part 3 of 3

Excerpted from the complaint:

“RESPONDENTS:
Whatcom County Executive Jack Louws
Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo
Whatcom County Prosecutor David S. McEachran

ALLEGED PDC VIOLATIONS – RELATING TO WHATCOM COUNTY DIRECT MAILER Whatcom County Community Report: Whatcom County Jail
-RCW 42.17A – Election Law Violations and WAC 390-05-273 – Normal and Regular Conduct Violations

OTHER VIOLATIONS MAY HAVE BEEN ONGOING PRIOR TO AND CONCURRENT WITH THE ELECTIONEERING TO COMPEL VOTERS INTO PASSING A DECEPTIVE TAX:
-Whatcom County Charter and Whatcom County Code Violations
-Revised Code of Washington Violations
-Washington Administrative Code Violations
-American Bar Association Standards Violations regarding Housing of Inmates
-Washington State Constitution Violations
-United State Constitution and the Bill of Rights Violations

The complainant has reason to believe that serious violations of law may have occurred in Whatcom County during the 2015 Election Campaign season that deserve outside scrutiny.

Injustice under color of law
The system of governance in Whatcom County appears to have been corrupted to encourage voters to pass two more taxes to resolve a conflict created by and benefiting the administration. This created a self-destructive condition in which the drive to pass the tax compromised public safety to justify an expansion that would profit earmarked regulatory government departments and state and national jail and prison vendors; leaving the taxpayers compromised with excessive debt and expanding overhead.”

Jail Contracting & Misappropriations of Revenue

There are probably plenty of other good examples, some even more egregious than this, but let’s take a look at one of the more recent and politically charged examples of county malfeasance: The now infamous ‘jail mailer.’

That mailer cost county taxpayers $28,000 dollars to produce and send out to a targeted audience. The product itself and the reasons for it are bad enough, but what could have been done with that money instead?

I did some rough calculating based on the Snohomish county contract jailing rate of $62.50 per day (See link below) and this is what could have been done with that money instead:

It could have housed 1 inmate in a safe, humane and secured facility for 448 days.

It could have housed 10 inmates for 45 days.

It could have housed 50 inmates for 9 days.

I don’t know Snohomish County’s jail situation, but I’m confident there are plenty of other good examples in that cost range to choose from around the state. (I’m told privately that two jurisdictions in Whatcom County are already doing this.)

The point is this: If you’re a county official beating all the drums and going on a full media blitz to convince voters of the need to increase taxes yet again and to indebt county citizens with the largest taxpayer burden in Whatcom County history, based on jail capacity claims, isn’t it even just a little duplicitous to make that claim in the face of other safer and more humane options?

Jail Services and Alternatives to Incarceration

Write In Candidate For Sheriff: Paul Murphy

Sign - 2

Greetings To All,

Time is short. Too short to address every single post or video being made appealing for a big and expensive jail complex, but I’ll summarize it this way for now:

Of course we want the jail staff and inmates alike to work and be housed in a fully functional, secure, safe and humane environment. That’s a given and I’m hearing no voices in opposition to that, contrary to what is being implied by proponents.

But that does not equate to buying into the hype and the various screeds demanding a $245 million dollar construction ($100 million construction + $145 million loan interest) on Labounty Rd., outside the city limits of Bellingham.

That outrageous number doesn’t even account for the estimated $600 million to $1.1 BILLION dollar (Yes, you read that right) long term operating costs.

We’re looking at a minimum, based on accepted estimates, of $845 MILLION dollars to $1.345 BILLION dollars in initial construction and operating costs over the long term. A county of this relatively small size cannot afford such a lavish expenditure and it’s simply irresponsible to do it.

If elected, my plan will be to build a safe, modern, maximum security facility, within the city limits of Bellingham, adjacent to the courthouse, without raising taxes and on existing funds, to be completed and operational within 4 years.

It CAN be done and it needs to be done.

If you agree, please write in Paul Murphy for sheriff of Whatcom County by November 3rd so we can get the jail project and WCSO expenditures back on an accountable and fiscally responsible path.

Also, I do have written confirmation of the lawful ability for a person to mount a write in campaign.  You’ll find the county auditor email linked on the facebook page below.

Thank you for your support,
~ PRM ‪#‎MurphyForSheriff‬

I’ll update this website further as I have time, but also check the facebook page ‘Murphy For Sheriff’ for a biographical about me, my platform statement and other comments, relating to what you can expect to see if I’m elected sheriff of Whatcom County.
Murphy For Sheriff

collage-cropped

An Open Letter To Jack Louws

Mr. Louws,

I have some gripes that I want to air (again) and election time seems as good a time as any to do so. (Is there a better time?)

First, our unfinished business:

Bill Elfo is no longer credible. He’s now a proven liar and proven manipulator through the federal courts and through the process of a recent bill that Governor Inslee signed, but I’m not telling you anything. I’m sure you already know that. (I do still have all the court documents and records obtained from the discovery process to prove to any reasonable person what I’ve said here is true.)

When I first brought my whistleblower complaint to you, you were an unknown to me. I had hoped that you would be the man I thought you were, but as I found out in both of the cold and terse whistleblower denials from your office, …you aren’t. You couldn’t be bothered with employee rights, right and wrong, corruption, those sorts of things. You just wanted it and me to go away. I get it.

It’s too late for me to take that vote back though, isn’t it.

You know, and I know, that my claim of political retaliations and internal plotting, the reasons for them, as well as fraud, waste and abuse, were proven in spades. Even though your hand picked ‘independent’ county-paid ‘investigator’ did her very best to minimize what was reported to you, there were facts on the table that even she could not make ‘go away.’

So, just to set the record straight; I know what really happened and I know you also know what really happened, yet you chose to back Elfo’s scheme anyway. You didn’t uphold the law, high standards or even try to stand for what is right. You did so because you had to protect the county power for your later plans. I was just a fly in the ointment and I wouldn’t be able to do a thing about it.

I went to you seeking help from what was being done to me and instead of doing what was right, you fell in line and aided the process along. The complaint remains valid even now should you choose to reopen it, but I know you won’t take any action on it because people like me who will stand up and tell the truth to power about such things are apparently  bad for the jail industry business.

Now onto the current matter:

Like most corrupt politicians, you use ‘plausible deniability’ skillfully to justify your actions and to shield yourself and your decisions from scrutiny. If a person doesn’t have rock-solid irrefutable proof, you ignore or deny all of it, even though you really do know, because it’s ‘plausible’ to do so in the eyes of the uninformed.

Sorry, but that does not a man of good character make.

Keeping people in jail longer than necessary to boost population numbers is wrong. Denying bail or PR (personal recognizance) to people who aren’t public safety or flight risks to boost numbers is wrong. Incarcerating people in the first place who aren’t public safety or flight risks to boost jail numbers is wrong. Repeated court continuances to boost jail numbers is wrong. Manipulating jail population numbers in any form is wrong and you know that.

It’s also wrong to personally profit from a government sector public safety plan that you, as an elected official, have personally manipulated into one carefully defined direction when it’s crystal clear that other viable and cost-effective options do exist. That alone warrants further investigation and I do hope someone is on that. I would and could, because I have the skills and the training, but I just don’t have the time.

In closing:

Despite all of the recent redefining of the term ‘integrity’ into something that sounds warm and fuzzy, like a verbal hug, integrity is not about ‘how you treat people.’ Integrity is about doing what is right. Even if it’s inconvenient. Even if no one else is watching.  It’s honesty, even when it costs you and even when it hurts to do so. Integrity is an unwavering adherence to truth and facts, period.

You, along with the willing co-horts, will probably dismiss this with a wry chuckle as a ‘disgruntled former employee’ or some such thing, but this isn’t just some random, anonymous ‘rant on the internet.’ I have my own personal firsthand experiences with ‘the county,’ 11 years worth, and you for a short time, to rely on that I think other citizens of this county need to know about as well.

Since you, the Bellingham Herald and KGMI can’t suppress, filter or censor this, there’s a good chance some of your voters will see it and may even read it. I’ll let the reader decide for themselves what it is or isn’t. If this costs you even one vote, I will consider it worthy of any scorn directed at me, my time and my effort to write it.

You should also know that I do plan to vote for Joy Gilfilen to replace you. She and I don’t agree on a lot, but we do agree on the important things, like local economics, senseless taxation, government overreach, over spending, protecting the ‘little guy’ and such. Perhaps most importantly, I’m confident that she does have integrity and that things would have turned out differently for me if she were the county exec.

Good day,
Paul Murphy

The Louwsy Jail Deal: A Whatcom County Jail Boondoggle…

Public Corruption Files: The Louwsy Jail Deal: A Whatcom County Jail Boondoggle…

….that put a few cool million in Whatcom County Executive Jack Louws’ pockets. $4.19 Million to be exact.
(Edit:  I’ve been corrected on the dollar amount since it’s really not known exactly how much Jack Louws made on his property deal. It’s believed to be closer to $3 million and I said ‘Oh, is that all?’  Apparently he had to pay a company to construct a building on that property first, before selling it,….a company he owns…..;/ )

Well no wonder Jack Louws is so set on railroading the project and ramrodding the suspiciously ‘chosen’ jail location….. that Whatcom County residents have already paid for, $150,000 per acre, in an area that is assessed at an average $30K per acre.

That’s kind of a coin-ki-dink, isn’t it?

What other purpose would Jack Louws have had to buy an adjacent property in a nowhere location,….unless he knew in advance that would also be the location he would himself secretively select, stick to and defend, when many other much more cost effective options exist, as the one and only location that would be acceptable for a jail project that he is also pushing?

This is unacceptable and the way this process has been undertaken from the outset is corrupt.

Sorry, but there is no other word for it.

It didn’t quite make sense then, but I can see now why Jack repeatedly denied my well proven whistleblower complaints, requesting he intercede in Bill Elfo’s manufactured termination of my employment from Whatcom County.

Good work over at Northwest Citizen. I wish I had more time to do that sort of gumshoe investigative work, but I can’t. I’m too busy trying to survive.

Click here for the original report by Northwest Citizen.

The 2011 Dr. Farbstein Report

The Jay Farbstein Jail Report of October, 2011

The county paid, I have to presume this because I haven’t found a bill or payment for this yet, Dr. Farbstein a substantial amount of county taxpayer dollars to analyze the current jail situation in late 2011.

Dr. Farbstein is a well educated and highly credentialed architecture and design consultant with numerous achievements to his credit. Dr. Farbstein is the principle and mentor of Jay Farbstein and Associates, Inc of Los Angeles, CA.

Dr. Farbstein is a board member of the EDRA, Environmental Design Research Association.

Dr. Farbstein holds a PhD from the University of London, a Masters degree in Architecture from Harvard University and a Bachelors degree from the University of California, LA. You can read more about Dr. Farbstein here and here if you like.

Can we just suffice it to say that Dr. Farbstein isn’t a newbie to architecture, design, or planning and that he knows what he’s talking about?

The following observations and recommendations are excerpted from Dr. Farbstein’s report, which can be read in it’s entirety here: Jay Farbstein Jail Report 10 12 11

I hope every citizen of Whatcom County will read his observations and recommendations as not only a very astute and well informed unbiased third party, but as a highly educated, very experienced and credentialed expert in his field.

When you’ve digested what you’ve read here, please compare that to what two biased elected officials in particular have been telling you. One in particular, is how we got from 13 potential site options,……….to one,……with no dialogue, debate, public input, transparency, or explanation whatsoever from any county official.

To the primary observations and recommendations of the report (Bold emphasis as indicated in Dr. Farbstein’s original report). Again, the original report can be read here Jay Farbstein Jail Report 10 12 11:

Observation 1: While the JPTF (Jail Planning Task Force) is clearly a very dedicated, hard-working and intelligent group, it has been charged with responsibilities well beyond the capabilities of citizens and corrections professionals.

Recommendation 1: In order to be in a position to make recommendations on many of the requested topics, the JPTF (and the County) need substantial input and analysis that can only be provided by a qualified and experienced corrections planner. The County should take immediate steps toward obtaining the services of a corrections planner. This will likely entail several steps before such services can begin. These include the preparation and publication of a request for qualifications (or for proposals), receipt and evaluation of submissions, interviews and contracting. Even if expedited, it is likely that this process will take three to four months and it could take as long as six months. To assist in this process, a sample scope of services for jail planning is attached to this report. The scope covers the first three main steps in jail planning (needs assessment, feasibility study, and facility programming).

Observation 2: While the needs assessment prepared by the Omni Group in 2008 contains some useful data and analysis, it is lacking in certain important respects. First, it fails to evaluate scenarios that would entail implementation of further jail population management measures. This is part of the reason why it results in projection scenarios which may entail over-building of the jail. Second, it does not appear to have included a detailed profile of the inmate population. This information would be of great utility both with regard to the first item and also in further detailing the types of facilities and programs needed to serve the anticipated population. Third, the study did not include an examination of release mechanisms; this would also allow recommendations to be made concerning potential improvements in processing and other programs that could reduce length of stay (and therefore population).

Recommendation 2: The first main task for the corrections planner should be to update and expand the 2008 needs assessment, including the three elements identified above.

Observation 3: The Whatcom County justice and corrections systems are progressive and the various agencies and components appear to work together well and command each others mutual respect. However, an effective mechanism for shared problem-solving does not appear to be in place. (The Law and Justice Council, we were told, is perhaps a bit too unwieldy for such a purpose.)

Recommendation 3: In parallel with hiring the corrections planner, Whatcom County should create a Criminal Justice Planning (or Coordinating) Committee. While this committee could act on other issues, its main focus, at least initially, should be on reviewing practices and policies that impact the jail population. While jail population
management is not an explicit objective of many of the justice agencies, the charge of the group can be couched in terms of improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the system (including improvements in public safety and reduction of recidivism) – or other goals which are broadly shared. Of course, several of the key members of such a committee are elected officials with specific mandates – so they can only be invited, not compelled, to join and participate. Other jurisdictions which have created such an entity have found that it can have many positive outcomes.

Observation 4: Prior studies and current discussions have focused on two main jail facility options: a “vertical”/downtown solution or a “horizontal”/out-of-downtown solution. The former has been criticized as potentially extremely tall (with up to 2,450 beds, it would require a huge skyscraper) and the later was said to require a very large site. Evidence and opinion has been marshaled that suggests that it is much cheaper to build and operate a
horizontal jail. While construction may be cheaper, this consultant is not convinced by the evidence presented so far that horizontal version would be much (if any) cheaper to operate. In addition, there are many other costs and perhaps benefits (monetary and intangible) that result from or accrue to jail location (certainly including transportation) which need to be included in the evaluation of options.

Recommendation 4: Expand the jail facility planning options and the sophistication of their evaluation. Revised (and likely lower) projections of need will reduce the scale of both of the options so that the vertical one may not be out of scale with downtown Bellingham and the horizontal one may not require as extensive or expensive a site. Abstract “rules of thumb” and results from other studies1 about costs of construction and operation should be avoided in favor of broader and more specific analyses that take into account likely staffing patterns, types of construction, site acquisition and development costs, and ancillary costs and benefits including transportation and time taken for law enforcement bookings (weighted by frequency from the various agencies), as well as many other important factors. It may be worthwhile to perform a comparative life-cycle cost analysis of options which would provide an excellent contribution to decision making and selection among options and help the County understand the long-term operating costs they would be buying into. (Admin highlight)

In addition, the range and variety of options should be expanded to include at least the following two items. One is the potential continued use (or expansion) of the existing work center, which appears to be a serviceable and appropriate facility. Among the questions that should be explored are these: do the original planning permissions and agreements allow its continued operations; what would be the cost to replace it or the likely value to be obtained from selling it; can it be expanded and to what extent (for added beds or for support services that could support the balance of the jail system such as kitchen, laundry and warehousing, all of which would provide work opportunities for the inmates), etc.? If the existing ±150 beds were retained and support services expanded at this site, it would substantially reduce the scope of the remaining jail bed needs, and the required area of the building and site. This might allow options to be feasible which would not be if they had to accommodate the entire jail program.

Another potential set of options concern the potential uses, if any, of the existing jail. The County is about to spend about $2.5M on upgrades to the structure and security systems. While the building may be currently unsafe and inefficient to operate as a secure jail, are there other correctional, law enforcement, or governmental uses that could reasonably be accommodated? If there are, what would the cost be to renovate and improve the building for these uses?

Possibilities that could be considered include the following:

• temporary holding and staging for inmates who are appearing in court (if transported from a remote jail or if connected to a new, adjacent downtown jail)
• housing of lower custody level inmates who might be participating in work crews or work release to jobs (or education release to schools) in the downtown area, day reporting (if such a program were instituted – since the location is very accessible and served with public transport), or trustee housing for those who would be needed to work in a downtown jail if one were constructed on an adjacent site
• mental health crisis stabilization center (in addition to or replacing the existing triage facility) which requires security and is intensively staffed anyway
• release location for inmates who were otherwise held at a new, remote jail
• offices for the Sheriff (allowing divisions to be co-located; though parking might not be adequate)
• general county offices or other facilities.

Likely, there are other potentially interesting options which should be considered.

Note that the suggested analyses are mainly conducted during the “feasibility” phase of work (after the needs assessment establishes the overall scope).

Observation 5: Jail planning projects are often driven exclusively by projected need – and that is how this project started – sometimes without regard for what can be afforded. This has sometimes led to what can reasonably considered to be disasters – such as jails that are built and then cannot be opened due to high operating costs, or jail operations absorbing so many resources that other equally important services and programs are curtailed.

Recommendation 5: Consider establishing a construction budget for the project, based on what the County can afford to pay or to finance, rather than allowing “needs” to be established independent of what can be afforded. This would encourage both that priorities be set (so that the most important ones are met) and also that cost-effective
means be explored for achieve the priorities. It is my experience that having a project budget is a great help in focusing the minds and attention of participants in the planning process. It also encourages focusing on needs versus wants, eliminating the “wish list”. Too many projects proceed without a real budget and end up with so-called “value engineering” which can result in poor or short-sighted cuts and real damage to a project’s quality. At the same time as construction budgets are established, it is essential that operating costs be projected (as suggested in Recommendation 4).

Observation 6: This will be one of (if not the) largest and most important projects that the County has undertaken. It will be much more likely to succeed under the guidance of a project manager with intelligence, experience with planning, design and construction (if possible of correctional facilities), people/communication skills, and perseverance. Ideally (and with great benefit), this individual would stay with the project for the four or more years it will take until it’s open and operating.

Recommendation 6: Assign or hire a project manager – or a program management company. The County may not have the in-house expertise or staffing available to manage such a project and could consider either hiring such an individual or obtaining the services of a program or construction management firm. Ideally, this person or firm would come on board starting around the time the corrections planner begins work – but no later than the feasibility study phase.

Observation 7: Jails are highly complex buildings and their planning, design and construction are critical to their mission and long-term operations and maintenance. For most jurisdictions, including Whatcom County, a main jail is built only once every generation. Therefore, the expertise available within the jurisdiction is limited.

Recommendation 7: Having available a team with deep experience in jail planning, design and construction is of great benefit to the quality and cost-effectiveness of a jail project, providing input to decisions made at the planning and programming phases. Thus, it is recommended that Whatcom County get the key design and construction players on board early. This may require a decision about how the project will be procured (traditional, design-build, CM at risk, or other method).

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.

~PM

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….