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[Commissioner] Fwd: BOCC Position, District 3

Subject: [Commissioner] Fwd: BOCC Position, District 3
From: "Sharron Coontz" <>
Date: Mon, 1 Dec 2008 15:54:35 -0800

TO: Thurston County Democrats
FROM: Sharron Coontz
RE: Board of County Commissioners, District 3

I have decided, at the urging of many county residents, to apply for this position. My recent work with the Friends of
Rocky Prairie to keep the Port of Tacoma from building a huge cargo transfer center just south of Millersylvania State
Park has convinced me that I need to do more. My success in making contacts and building alliances with public
officials, state and federal agencies, and non-governmental organizations shows that I would be an effective country
commissioner. I believe that I could make a significant contribution to the county and its needs in that office.


As a fourth generation Olympian whose great-grandparents homesteaded here, I have a deep and abiding love for
Thurston County. Lately, I've also had a deep sadness as I've seen some of the county changed forever in negative
ways. I've been fighting what I considered a potentially catastrophic change to the county with the South Sound
Logistics Center issue, and now I feel it's important to carry that struggle further and find ways to protect our county's
precious resources, stop irresponsible growth, and make sure that Thurston County remains a lovely and
compassionate place to live.


I've been spearheading the efforts to save Rocky Prairie for over a year now, and was active with the group for months
before that. During this time, I've learned a tremendous amount about the region, including the roles of many
committees and commissions I didn't even know existed before, and I've learned about the relationships between the
county and several other state and local agencies and how they interact. I still have a great deal to learn, but having
successfully mastered a huge array of very complex information quickly, I feel certain I can continue to do so.

While I lack the arrogance to claim I have the best qualifications for the job, I am convinced that my success in
gaining the ears and active support of many important leaders shows an ability to both persuade and unify when
working with others, even those with very different politics from mine. (For example, many people were stunned
when I managed to convince Rep. Richard DeBolt to make a public statement critical of the Port of Tacoma's decision
to site the South Sound Logistics Center at Rocky Prairie.) I have had, and continue to have, a great deal of
interaction with the county staff and officials, and have been developing relationships there as I've worked on this
issue. Although much of my experience has dealt with land use, I doubt that there is any one candidate who is well
versed in all of the county's activities, and I am committed to learning what I need to know quickly.

I would bring with me to the position a successful record of working with many areas of government, having
organized, for example, the participation of several state agency directors and managers in a coalition with federal and
n.g.o. leaders to work together in our dealings with the Port of Tacoma. These and the other contacts I've made could
be very helpful to the county. I also feel certain that my experience in education will prove valuable in my work for
the county, as it has helped me ask the needed questions of others and explain my position to them.

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[Commissioner] Fwd: BOCC Position, District 3


Since the solutions to many of the county's problems are long term, so must my commitment to the position be. I am
only undertaking this challenge having considered the ramifications of such an extremely serious commitment. If
chosen, I would draw on my grass-roots organizing experience to mount a campaign and run for election as requested.
I see this as important, since many of the accomplishments I'd be working toward would of course take time to


There are, of course, many issues I'd like to address as commissioner, and I hope there will be time to discuss them
more fully in an interview. But I've listed some priorities below.

1. We need a sensible long-range funding system for the county, one not so susceptible to the vagaries of the economy
that the budget needs frequent drastic changes. This is especially important in the social services, courts, and
enforcement areas. The fact is, not having enough staff to address a policy decision when it needs addressing becomes
a policy decision. (An example of what I mean by that is what happened with the proposed rezone of Rocky Prairie.
The county said they hadn't enough staff to address the rezone this year and, intentional or not, that became a decision
to leave the property unprotected.) This can seriously affect the health, safety and welfare of citizens and land.

I am not an economist, but I think the current economic crisis has demonstrated the danger of trying to run government
services on a business model -- that model has failed rather dramatically. So while I have a huge amount of respect for
the county staff members with whom I've worked, one of my first actions would be to reach far beyond them to voices
not always heard by government agencies, setting up meetings with many economists, seeking those with new, fresh
perspectives to brainstorm creative solutions to this chronic problem.

2. While addressing the long-term solutions for the budget, I would like to encourage some short term ones, such as:
a more aggressive recruitment and use of interns from the local and nearby colleges and universities to help in areas
where staffing has been cut; and encouraging a creative look at community service options to help lower incarceration
costs where latitude exists in the sentencing regulations of "victimless" criminals.

3. I believe that growth needs to pay for itself instead of burdening the current citizens with the huge infrastructure
costs associated with it. Impact fees need to be increased to reflect actual impacts. Also, developers often buy land
that is zoned for low-density use, and accordingly pay less for it. They then turn around and ask for a variance or a
rezone that allows for much heavier development. If the land had already been zoned at that level it would have cost
much more. There should be a mechanism in place whereby if rezoned, the land is immediately re-appraised and the
developer pays the county for the difference in land cost.

4. Our county needs much more emphasis on the enforcement of county regulations. For example, both builders and
county staff have made clear to me that the heavy emphasis on the permitting process is helpful financially, but since
the builders know that there's very little enforcement, many of them simply ignore the regulations once they've
received the permits, often with serious safety and environmental consequences. I've also heard many citizens
complain about faulty or failing septic systems they've seen on neighbors' land and the lack of the county's ability to
initiate action.

5. We need to end the practice of trying to support the Development Services Department solely by development
fees. This practice leads, in my opinion, to a certain acceptance of undesirable projects by a staff that knows such
action represents job security. You can turn a desperate firefighter into an arsonist if s/he has been told the job will
soon disappear if there aren't more blazes to fight.

6. Currently, there's a fox-guarding-the-hen-house-policy of allowing developers to do their own Environmental
Impact Statements. They're allowed to hire their own scientists and essentially come up with their own "best" solution
to problems they find. It's necessary to work with other agencies and n.g.o.'s to fix this problem, and in the meantime,
find a temporary solution for the county.

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[Commissioner] Fwd: BOCC Position, District 3

7. I would like to see more interaction with the public at commission meetings. Concerns shouldn't just be listened to,
in my opinion, they should be discussed.

In conclusion, it's my opinion that with the recent election not just Thurston County, but the whole nation has a
renewed sense of hope and energy, a willingness to change the way we've done things. I've been reinvigorated by
Obama's victory, and feel that others around here have too. So perhaps the fact that I'm not a known political insider,
and am not politically ambitious, can be seen as a plus as I offer to work hard to help the county I love. I hope so.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sharron Coontz
3716 - 85th Ave. NW
Olympia, WA 98502

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