Passions inflamed by orators at the Monday night meeting of Concerned Citizens of Clallam County in Sequim spilled over to the Tuesday morning regular meeting of the Clallam County Commission.
Commission meetings ordinarily are sparsely attended, but at the urging of former U.S. Senate candidate Clint Didier and others, the Tuesday meeting was standing-room-only. Most in the audience were there to urge the rejection of a consent agenda item that would provide a letter of support for a Cascade Land Conservancy grant application. Cascade is seeking a Department of Housing and Urban Development Sustainable Communities Regional Planning grant and requested the assistance, including in-kind donations, from the county.
Didier, the guest speaker at the Monday night meeting, fired up the crowd of 250-plus with horror stories about government intrusion into farming in Eastern Washington.
Didier, a farmer, provided a litany of the woes that have attended the introduction of sustainable living rules in Eastern Washington.
He said there is now a push to create 500-foot buffers along each side of every body of water that flows into another body of water. Because no herbicides or pesticides would be allowed, that would remove 61 percent of farmland from full production, he said.
He said the National Marine Fisheries Service finds that unsatisfactory and is asking for a 1,000-foot buffer, which would remove 80 percent of available farm land from production.
Didier summed up his thoughts, saying, “It’s not a Democratic problem and it’s not a Republican problem. It’s an elitist problem.”
Didier also singled out as troubling the county commission’s letter of support for the Cascade Land Conservancy’s grant application and tied it to the U.N. and Agenda 21.
He and the other speakers encouraged those in the audience to attend the Tuesday morning meeting to press the commission to withhold the letter of support.
The public comment period of the commission meeting proved lively, with one person expressing support for the letter and as many as a dozen in the crowd speaking against it. Commissioner Mike Doherty, who chaired the meeting, twice asked the crowd to refrain from applauding, pointing out that it caused problems with the recording of the meeting.
Audience members repeatedly ignored his request.
Bob Sauerwein, a candidate for U.S. Congress in the 6th District, told the commissioners the “free money” from the grant isn’t free. “(Grants) come with control, especially from the U.N.,” he said. “That’s where the money comes from. This will lead to ultimate control of this (county and country) by foreign powers.”
Commissioner Steve Tharinger asked Sauerwein to provide proof of his assertions, saying, “I suspect the U.N. has other things to do.”
Sandra Collins, an attorney by training, told the commissioners, “You’re willing to strip away our rights to our property. You want to control our water, food and property. You people have no authority to do what you’re doing.”
Doherty spoke in favor of pursuing the grant, saying it provides funding for “local planning for local projects.”
“We can get some of our money back,” he told the audience.
He also pointed out that the action to be taken “isn’t a binding agreement. If we get the grant, we would then discuss it. We’d just like to get some federal money here.”
Tharinger’s comment, “I find it amazing that people believe the U.N. has an interest in the peninsula,” prompted a loud burst of spontaneous laughter from the audience.
“This is just applying for a grant,” Tharinger said. “And not a regulatory grant.”
Commissioner Mike Chapman eventually asked his fellow commissioners to pull the item from the commission’s consent agenda, which doesn’t provide for discussion of the item, and to place it on the open agenda. Tharinger and Doherty agreed.
During the open agenda discussion of the letter, Tharinger said regional planning provides benefits, with funding flowing more readily to regional efforts. “This would allow us to prioritize regionally.”
Sheila Roark Miller, director of the Clallam County Department of Community Development, spoke against the letter, saying, “I don’t like the ties that come with grants.” Roark Miller said the requirements of the grant would take the time of her staff, too, for tasks she felt were redundant or simply unnecessary.
Citing Roark Miller’s comments, Chapman said of the letter, “I have grave concerns. We don’t need another plan. We need dollars for sewers, roads, trails.”
“We have plans, locally and regionally,” Chapman said. “We need the dollars to put them in place.”
Chapman’s comments elicited a large round of applause from the audience, but he wasn’t pleased.
“I don’t want your applause,” he told the crowd. “This isn’t all political,” he said. Indicating Tharinger and Doherty, he said, “They’re not wrong if they approve it. It’s just three guys trying to figure it all out.”
Tharinger said, “I agree we want to move forward, but this grant is for planning. That’s the game right now.”
Tharinger said failing to pursue the grant “would be a disservice to the public.”
Many in the audience were unmoved. One person called out, “But we don’t want it.”
The motion to provide the letter of support passed 2-1, with Chapman the lone nay vote.