Below is a narrative look at the pattern of what has been happening in these negotiations with Jack as the corporate leader of our county.
It clearly shows the history of manipulation that Jack Louws has now accelerated as he is trying to force Bellingham into a pre-mature agreement. The Council members want answers to their questions. They aren’t getting it. So they are understandably reticent to make an agreement without doing their due diligence.
Yet notice the stress they are being put under by Executive Louws actions – they are being threatened to be excluded from the deal if they don’t make a deal. Frankly, it is a bad deal.
Here is an illustration of the problem. I have included first an exerpt from the article in Cascadia Weekly, that shows where we were about a month ago.
“Speaking to Bellingham City Council in May, Whatcom County Executive Jack Louws volunteered several startling admissions:
“Putting this jail facility use agreement together, I—the administration—somewhat lost track of one of the tasks that we were assigned, which was to create ways to keep people out of jail. Our County Council identified that as something we needed to take a close look at,” Louws confessed.
Today, my observation is that this truly was a startling admission. And untrue.
It is my experience in working with Mr Louws, that this is not a simple matter of “losing track”. To me, this is a flagrant fabrication and distortion. Jack did not lose track. That assignment was derailed to get it out of the way, so that his plan could be fast tracked again. No, his administration did not lose track. Neither did the Jail Planners who were supposed to be delivering a solid plan which was to include a Needs Assessment. We paid $2 million dollars to get one…we still haven’t.
The facts show that there was no intention to look at how to keep people out of jail. The Coalition has been trying to have that conversation with him since before he took office. There is a pattern of avoidance, of denial, of blocking the conversation completely. You can find it in written documents that this avoidance was done on purpose, with intent, and with what I would consider impunity.
Don’t take my word for it. Go read the SDEIS, the FEIS, and you will find dozens of letters of testimony from many citizens raising concerns, asking for alternatives. You will read several letters specifically written by the Restorative Community Coalition that were delivered throughout the scoping hearings, during the Jail Task Force deliberation, during the SDEIS process. I was President of the Coalition so I know how many times we tried to have the conversation.
Ultimately some of the information was published in the FEIS. Over 45 letters and testimonials about hundreds of things were printed. People of all professions were obviously deeply concerned, and solutions and ideas were offered by many. What was the response? Most of all of it was declared repeatedly to be “outside the scope” of planning to build the jail.
Yep, it was outside the scope of planning to build it, because it would have shown how we did not have to build it. So they denied it. And redefined it, and avoided it.
During the planning period, every time people had a chance to give 3 minute testimonies, to ask questions, to ask for information, to ask for reviews…the requests were ignored. There was not one full public hearing on the final FEIS.
Then, in November, when Executive Louws decided to “Fast Track” the purchase of the land in Ferndale, they delivered the FEIS on a Friday night before a 3-Day weekend. Quite a stunt.
The next Tuesday at 8:30 in the morning, there was an unexpected packet of materials on the Finance Committees desk that none of the Council had time to review. The last minute packet was a big deal strategy to move $28 million in taxpayers assets around – a budget action they said.
They bought and sold real estate and moved road fund monies around…just to establish a jail fund. Why? So the Ferndale land could be purchased in 7 days. Why seven days? Because the option to buy the land would expire. Really? No extensions on a big cash purchase of industrial property that had lots of problems on it? When questioned why they didn’t just extend the option, Jack Louws said the price would double if the Council didn’t buy it within the option period.
So, wow. A “Fast Track’ flashback.
All this financial transaction happened before the DLR group even delivered a summary of the FEIS to the Council at 10 am. In that presentation, the jail planners and Executive Louws both gave legal advice to the County Council members that it was perfectly legal for the Council to buy the land without any public hearings. Really?
Heck, they hadn’t even gotten a copy of the FEIS yet.
So, what do you think happened? Seven days later the taxpayers money was used to buy land that would take $10 million dollars to mitigate. And no one even reviewed the Final Environmental Impact Statement in public. We raised the roof every chance we had, and Jack Louws just kept not thinking about how to take people out of the funnel.
Instead, Irene Morgan and I have been asked to “stand down” from asking to do prevention, intervention, crisis and mental health work, and more…But that is a whole other story.
So, no, I am completely opposed to this sales tax initiative and the plan to build a 2nd jail in Ferndale. (We still will need a small one in town…and we still will need a Sheriff’s office in town). This is an alligator of regulatory expansion.
Contact Jack Louws at:
311 Grand Avenue
Bellingham, WA 98225-4082
Contact the Whatcom County Council here:
Whatcom County Council
Email the Council
311 Grand Avenue
Bellingham, WA 98225
Council Office Phone:
and phone numbers
Monday – Friday
8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.