Last Tuesday’s County Council meeting had two disconcerting moments for this County resident.
The first uncomfortable moment was when the Council brought forward nominations to fill a vacancy on the Ferry Advisory Board. At the time that the Council agenda packet was published there were two applicants. Both of these applicants were well qualified and had submitted their applications on time for consideration by all of the Council. During open session one applicant withdrew her name and the second spoke to the council about the ferry. When it came time to approve the applicant a last minute additional applicant was added to the nominees, that of Byron Moye. At this time, Mr. Moye’s application is not available online for public access to view his qualifications for the position he was successfully nominated to. The first applicant, Mr. Jim Dickinson’s application is available online. It clearly shows that Mr. Dickinson would have been a quality member to fill out the Ferry Advisory Board.
All of that said, what bothers me most is not only that Mr. Moye’s application was added at the last minute with no access for the public to see his qualifications for the position, but the whole process of how he was approved. When the Council was asked to begin voting for their choice to fill this vacancy, the role call was to begin with Councilman Browne. When asked for his vote, Browne asked that the role call start with someone else. With further discussion by the Council, it quickly became apparent that Mr. Moye’s application had not been given to the full Council until the last minute (after the deadline). The vote began (at the opposite end) with Councilman Crawford who voted in affirmation of Mr. Dickinson. Councilman Kremen abstained from voting (another uncomfortable and curious moment). Councilwoman Brenner voted in affirmation of Mr. Dickinson. And, then boom-boom-boom; Mr. Moye received affirmative votes from Councilmember’s Weimer, Mann, Buchanan and Browne.
I have two questions from this sham of a nomination and vote:
- Why was Mr. Moye’s application accepted beyond the deadline?
- Why did Councilman Browne ask to have the vote not start with him?
I’ve provided an audio clip of their discussion and their votes and a copy of Mr. Dickinson’s application for you to listen and read for yourself. Listen and see if you agree that this was a last minute setup to prevent a highly qualified person from being placed on the board with someone who, as of yet, still does not have his application available online for public scrutiny? Council Ferry Advisory Vote Dickinson Application
The second issue I question is the Council’s level of unequal treatment of two agricultural undertakings, within the agricultural zoning areas. The Council’s code making does have a huge impact on whether either or both of these activities will succeed or fail. They both depend on the County Council’s actions not to overtly restrict their access to land that is ideal to conduct their business in Whatcom County.
These two industries are; the growing, processing and packaging of marijuana (cannabis) and the processing of livestock to slaughter and package as a value added element to our local livestock farmers.
There is a moratorium in place with an interim ordinance for the marijuana producers that at face value looks like the County Council is doing everything they legally can to facilitate the quick implementation of a secure and successful ordinance for their industry. This moratorium has no constraints on how many, or how big these operations can be. They are only concerned with how close they may operate in Rural Residential (RR), Rural Residential Island (RRI), and Rural (R) areas with relation to their proximity to community facilities, residential buildings, and the potential annoyance from lighting and odors caused by these types of industries.
The County Council did approve a highly restrictive ordinance that allows for the slaughter and packaging of livestock in the agricultural zone, last winter. With barely time for the ink to dry on it, the ordinance was pulled for more tinkering. They have now introduced their intent to further restrict livestock farmers from establishing a slaughter and/or packing facility on their farm by changing from a accessory use for small 7,000 sf operation, to a requirement for administrative approval. It has been testified that the cost of administrative approval is about $10k or greater, which would be hard for a small operation to absorb in an effective business plan. They also plan to continue to limit the number of facilities allowed. There can be no more than three slaughter and three packing facilities permitted in Whatcom County, and on top of that these operations are restricted on what size, how many employees, how many live-cows can be penned at the facility for how long, etc., etc., etc. How can they create a successful business for themselves, their employees and the County? This industry is already heavily regulated by the USDA, and a host of other oversight agencies, so why would you intentionally regulate agricultural slaughter and packing facilities for failure?
Another little talked about benefit from livestock slaughtering operations is that they can sell almost all of their byproducts to local dairy farmers who process manure for bio-fuels. The bi-products from the slaughtering of livestock acts as a turbo-charger to the processing of bio-fuels. This could be a great win-win for local livestock farmers, local dairy farmers and the local bio-fuels industry.
So why are the local livestock farmers not receiving equal treatment? When it comes to business as usual, it appears on the surface that our County Council is greatly concerned for the success of cannabis production, but not so for livestock farmers. And with all of the purported concern for having adequate water to service our farming community, why the fast track for one unknown and as of yet non-existent business over that which is known and has ben in existence longer than we can remember?
I am asking these questions…are you?
~ Kris Halterman