Democracy lost at Weed board hearing on creating a new tax (with video)

quote 2 democracy derailed is democracy deniedHearing goes to the weed board – citizens comments are not heeded– county to create large budget for weed board with little democratic process followed.

The Jefferson County Noxious Weed board held a hearing on April 21, 2014 and although advertised as being a public hearing on the discussion of the proposed assessment, the funding is already a done deal.  And although the local paper reported the weed board is asking for $93,000 to pay for their activities, a weed board representative reported at the April 21 hearing that the amount will be in excess of $122,000. Plus another $50,000 would be collected to pay a contractor to set up the assessment on landowners.

The audience of about 20 people spoke against the assessment.  Many of the citizens were told they could not speak about their dislike for the assessment and could only speak about what to charge landowners, and who would be charged the annual tax.

That did not keep the citizens from speaking out  against lack of democracy in deciding to create a new tax or about the increase use of chemicals to control plants and the shoddy way the volunteer weed pullers are organized. The majority of citizens who attended the meeting believe that with proper volunteer organization and education of landowners, plants can be controlled without the use of toxins.spraying weeds tax composit

The Jefferson County Noxious Weed board has increased the amount and location of chemical destruction of plants from twelve locations from 2010 to 2012 to eleven or more locations in 2013 alone.  These new locations included pathways, park trails, lanes next to homes and gardens and rural areas where people manage their own water supply.  Members of the Jefferson County Ecological Roadsides (JCER) reported that they are unable to locate online or through weed board representatives, records of spray use for 2013 and have only locations reported by the local media.  There are no known published records of the amounts, types or locations of sprayed areas as required by law.  Locations on the county website have been moved.

As reported by records from 2010 to 2012 the  weed board is using mostly glyphosate-based chemicals.  These chemicals have been banned in many countries around the world and are being evaluated by Environmental Protection Agency for destruction of prime habitat for endangered and threatened species as well as a cause of major illness in humans.

Jill Silver, Noxious Weed Board member told the audience that the weed board will not stop using the chemicals and the money will be used to hire more people who will be licensed spray applicators. Silver reports that using chemicals to control plants is a last resort to control of plants, but that the chemicals are effective in their use.

Here is a series of links to short videos of citizen testimony and Jill Silvers response during the hearing.  All citizens spoke against the assessment and increased budget.  (Video provided by Nancy Botta). Thank you Nancy!

  • #1 – Jill Silver of the Noxious Weed Board tries to keep people from speaking about the assessment and the use of the money to increase use of Toxic Chemicals.  Ellen O’Shea speaks anyway.  She reports that the process in place is not democratic and that the citizens should be asked first if they want a new tax before organizing a assessment process.  O’Shea believes that just asking the commissioners if they want new taxes will do nothing to support a democratic process.  http://vimeo.com/92686596
  • #2 – Val Phimister – a property owner asks good questions and reports that the land classifications are not equal – which owners should be responsible…all of us foot the bill…or the land owners who refuse to control plants should clean up their own mess. Use of chemicals to control plants should be controlled. And finally this question: “What is it about Silent Spring that you didn’t understand?” – http://vimeo.com/92695189
  • #3 – Mike Regan – citizen has concerns and questions about process of creating a new tax and how much people will have to pay.  Why are public comments being re-directed?  Will the county commissioners know how many citizens are against the new tax assessment? http://vimeo.com/92758469
  • # 4 – Mike Phimister – concern about the non-democratic process of setting up a new tax assessment.  Asking citizens to come to a hearing in which the deal is already done is not democracy.  Weed Board member states that by law the only way to get money is to assess landowners.  Also the voters will not be able vote on whether the new assessment will go through.  Mike asks will anyone associated with the weed board will be able to be hired for the job.  Jill of the weed board says the hiring process will be open to anyone and the best person will be hired. http://vimeo.com/92770594
  • # 5 = Tom a property owner has concerns about the assessment. Especially concerned about Misc non-classified lands such as boats.  He states the boats bring in lots of invasive species.  –  tax code used to set up assessments is complicated and excludes many who are not controlling invasive plants.  Everybody needs to pay no matter what exemptions they have.  – http://vimeo.com/92782838
  • #6 – Gail Chatfield tries to speak and told to keep her comments only about assessments and not whether there should be increase in funding for the Noxious Weed board.  Gail asks “Will there be a vote on whether there will be a new tax in the county?”.  Two weeks ago the local news reporter reported that this hearing would be about the need for an assessment, now it is only about how much to charge – poisoning the roadsides is now a matter of convenience,  and the need to curtail the spraying activities of the Jefferson County Noxious Weed board. Jill of the weed board states that by law the county commissioners make the decision, not the people.  There will be no public vote – http://vimeo.com/92795493
  • #7 Norm Norton – citizen and farm owner.  In 2010 the County Noxious Weed board resumed using chemicals after a 30-year moratorium on not using chemicals.  Citizens were told at that time that a one-time use of chemicals would be used to control and not eradicate unwanted plants. Now there is a constant and increased use of dangerous chemicals being spread by foot and other traffic throughout our homes, yard, and bodies. This issue should go to the voters in November.  Let the people decide.  http://vimeo.com/92839246
  • #8 Ellen O’Shea speaks against the assessment because the Jefferson County Noxious Weed board, WSU Extension, and the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners have gone against the will of the people in breaking a 30-year moratorium on using chemicals to control plants on county roadsides and right-of-ways. The lives of many species and humans are at risk. The weed list includes essential food for butterflies and valuable medicinal plants. Asks to consider why these pioneer plants here – could be to repair the Earth that humans are destroying. http://vimeo.com/92848864
  • #9 Doug Milholland – Citizen – concerned about the process in which decisions are made to cause an assessments.  He asks that the Jefferson County Board of Commissions put forth an advisory ballot in November on the issue to determine the will of the people – http://vimeo.com/92862729
    • #9 – Bob  Anderson, landowner from Quilcene concerned about assessments  and has read the Washington state rules about assessing people.  The state believes a super majority should be in agreement before an assessment happens.  Bob is able to get Jill of the weed board to retract a statement that says that the weed board is mandated by the state to find funding via the general fund or a tax assessment.  The state does not get involved in funding weed boards. http://vimeo.com/92862729 (last part of video)
    • #10 closing statements and arguments – Jill Silver board president of the Jefferson Count Noxious Weed board responds that education and organizing volunteers will also be used but pulling is time consuming.  Jill says that the county road crew needs a better mowing schedule. But, the weed board will not stop spraying. Jill speaks about the benefits of using glyphosate-based chemicals to control plants. Discussion about the number of plants being added to the target plants list yearly.  Many are valuable to nature and humans.  http://vimeo.com/92888963
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