Questions about the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s proposed Medication-Assisted Treatment facility won’t be going out on an online city polling system.
City councilors denied a proposal by a 5-2 vote at their Oct. 14 meeting, with Ted Miller and William Armacost in favor of posing MAT-related questions to the public on Polco. The questionnaire program asks city-related questions to registered users.
Councilor Ted Miller, who proposed the idea on Sept. 9, said he’s not interested in how many people are opposed but rather why they’re opposed to the clinic.
“It seems logical to find out why they’re concerned,” he said. “I want to try and keep people together and not keep them divided.”
Some councilors and citizens shared concerns about the online poll being statistically valid, promising unreal expectations and not having equal access for the computer-savvy.
City councilor Jennifer States said she likes giving people more opportunities for input such as through the city’s public forum, but said she feels it takes a scientific expert to structure questions without bias and to receive a quality sample size.
States said that it’s the tribe’s legal right to build at its proposed location next to Costco but “doing a poll creates false expectations of kicking a can down the road by trying to say we’re going to address something that we can’t address.”
States said she’d rather focus on common vision and mitigating possible concerns, like safety at the clinic.
City councilor William Armacost said Polco is one option the city could use along with a polling station in the Sequim Civic Center for those without computers.
“I think the people need to be heard,” he said.
Miller said the poll could have prioritized the largest concerns of the public.
However, city councilor Bob Lake asked if, for example, safety was a small percentage of the concern, is it something he’d still consider?
“Yes, but it’d be nice to know if it’s not a driving issue,” Miller said.
“Most of what I’ve heard, is as long as it’s located somewhere else, they’re all for it,” Lake said.
Miller cited a survey that Sequim real estate broker Chuck Marunde presented to council, stating that 88 percent of survey respondents are not in favor of the “Sequim methadone clinic.”
“There’s two aspects: legal and socio-political. If we can present (to the tribe), 88 percent in Sequim are concerned about MAT. Would you like to modify your plans?” Miller said.
Lake said he felt any poll wouldn’t be “statistically representative of the people” in Sequim.
“I think what we’ll end up generating is false facts,” he said. “So we’d have 88 percent of the people opposed to this, which is way different than 88 percent of the people in the City of Sequim.”
“I get the clear impression there’s a lot of people afraid to take this poll and I think that’s the primary motive for voting against it,” Miller said.
City councilor Candace Pratt disagreed.
“I’m very sad to hear you think we’re afraid of the results,” she said. “I’m not afraid for the results. I’m discouraged with the fact that it’s not statistically valid.”
City councilor Brandon Janisse said he agreed with Armacost’s sentiment that the public should be heard, but he was concerned that the Polco wouldn’t reach all of the citizens and that some people have said they’ve been able to vote more than once.
“I have received emails from people on both sides of the aisle concerned about Polco being used,” he said.
Janisse proposed a gathering between citizen leaders for and against the clinic along with tribal and city leaders to address concerns.
“They represent the groups and at least everyone’s at the table; there would be no bias,” he said.
Lake said eventually sending the proposed project to a hearing examiner would be the right process.
“It’s as democratic as you can get,” Lake said. “It gives everyone’s who is concerned an opportunity. I think a survey is a good tool. It’s the wrong idea.”
“A hearing examiner isn’t going to be interested popular opinion,” he said. “He’s going to be interested in the law. (The) purpose of this is not a legal procedure. (I) think the procedure is pretty clear.”
Following the vote, one audience member told Janisse, “You just lost our vote.”
Earlier in public comment, those for and against the MAT and a survey spoke back and forth.
Roger Sonnenberg, a Sequim resident, held a decorative tombstone during his comment saying people forget about the dash between their date of birth and death, asking city councilors if they want to be known for bringing a MAT clinic to Sequim.
“Council members you’re responsible. You’re responsible for a MAT clinic coming into this town. Not the tribe,” he said. “You’re the people who brought it about by voting for a certain parcel of land for medical use. So please don’t embarrass yourself by saying it’s not our fault.”
Sonnenberg said when the first person dies on US Highway 101 related to the clinic they’ll be responsible, or a large theft, or storefronts close.
“Morally you have to take responsibility,” he said.
Tim Wheeler, a Sequim-area county resident, said he’s in favor of a clinic and contested who is responsible for the health of the area.
“(It) isn’t just members of city council who are responsible. We are all responsible … Before we point a finger at someone else, tell them to be responsible, we should think about our own responsibility,” he said.
“Clallam County is one of the hardest hit counties in the country for opioid addiction and we are responsible to do something to help people who are addicted and trying to get their lives back together.”
Wheeler said the community is only as beautiful as its actions for caring for the ill and those who need treatment.
“We must not point fingers at them, question their morality. They need our help and we should be proud we are stepping forward to help those who need help.”
Sandy Goodwick, an Agnew resident, told city councilors the city is out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act with some of its procedures and signage and that all people going to a MAT clinic are qualified with disabilities.
“If you put together this survey that will demonstrate to me that you are disingenuous about the disability community in Sequim,” she said.
Goodwick added that if they don’t follow ADA laws, they could lose federal funds if a complaint is filed.
She said she’s filed successful ADA federal complaints and that the city council is “on shaky ground.”
Later, Miller said he doesn’t appreciate threats and that the ADA doesn’t “require us to put a MAT by Costco. It just requires us to have MAT facilities.”
To sign up for the city’s Polco surveys, such as “Sequim’s 2019 Community Survey,” visit polco.us/sequim.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.