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WA: Sheriff rallies citizens to fight commissioners’ reckless budget cuts

Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza has called on citizens to help him fight more budget cuts by Thurston County Commissioners, following last year’s $1.2 million reduction in the Sheriff’s Office budget.

The commissioners’ massive spending on useless projects and their reckless abuse of power have left the county without the most basic public safety protection.  Last year’s budget cuts took six sheriff’s deputies off the roads.  The Sheriff’s office had already been severely reduced in prior years.

In an open letter to citizens, Sheriff Snaza detailed how further budget cuts could cause serious harm to the community.  Read Sheriff Snaza’s entire letter here.

From Sheriff Snaza’s letter:

Sheriff John Snaza.  Photo from Thurston County

Sheriff John Snaza. Photo from Thurston County website.

The population of our County continues to grow and the calls for service have significantly increased. At the same time we have lost the resource of six deputies. The Sheriff’s Office is currently at 1992 staffing rates, yet population and calls for service have skyrocketed.

Our highest priority and life threatening calls are creating a public safety issue with delayed responses to these emergent calls.

Anybody who runs a business or manages a home budget knows this can’t be sustained.

I’m always aware that we are the ones that people call when terrible things happen – and we have to be there for them. What can I say to someone that is being attacked in their home? They don’t want to hear “Your call is important to us, please remain on the line and a …….”

“You can’t live in a great community without having a safe community”. Crime control is like any other maintenance task and prevention pays off. If you allow things to get out of control, it can cost a fortune to restore order.

The costs are those crimes that induce the most fear in us of coming home to find your home burglarized, robbed, or your car has been stolen.

Crime also has a major impact on socioeconomic development, and reduces the county’s ability to achieve other objectives, such as creating jobs and improving health.

Sheriff Snaza asks citizens to contact the Thurston County Commissioners to voice their concerns.  He also asks them to speak out at the public hearing for the budget October 6, 2014, at 5:30 p.m, at the Thurston County Courthouse.

At the prior budget hearing, Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney Jon Tunheim (D) addressed his own office’s budget cuts.  He asked the commissioners which pedophiles, rapists and DUIs he should not prosecute and release to harm more residents in Thurston County, as a direct result of the budget cuts.  The commissioners gave no answer.

Why can’t Thurston County afford to stay safe?

Thurston County citizens are less safe for two main reasons.  First, the commissioners have repeatedly spent their budget on massive projects that don’t benefit the public, and they lose lawsuits caused by their abuse of power and negligence.

Over the last four years, the Thurston County Commissioners have heaped over $80 million in reckless expenditures and debt on taxpayers, with nothing to show for it.  Future generations will also be burdened with the millions needed to pay for the commissioners’ last four years of major blunders.

In 2010, the Thurston County Commissioners added over $60 million in accruing debt and expenses to build a jail that had been overwhelmingly voted down by their constituents.  After ignoring the citizens, the commissioners then ignored professional opinions, and built a new jail with such a flawed design that it couldn’t be used.  Four years later, the “new” jail still sits empty.

Simply paying the annual maintenance costs for the never-used jail keeps three deputies off the road.

In the July trial of Maytown Sand and Gravel LLC/Port of Tacoma v. Thurston County, a jury found the Thurston County Commissioners guilty on all counts of: negligence, negligent misrepresentation, tortuous interference with a business expectancy and violation of constitutional right to substantive due process. According to one of the attorney’s involved in this case, “the evidence at trial was so damning against the County and the Commissioners that the jury determined it ‘shocked the conscience.'”

The jury awarded $12 million in damages to Maytown Sand and Gravel and Port of Tacoma.  This is the largest land-use verdict ever won in Washington State history.

karen valenzuela photo

Thurston County Commissioner Karen Valenzuela. Photo from Thurston County website.

From Commissioner Karen Valenzuela’s deposition in this lawsuit:

Attorney: Are you aware that if the county loses this case, then the taxpayers of Thurston County are on the hook for the amount of the judgment, less whatever insurance there is?

Valenzuela: Haven’t thought about that, no.

Attorney: Never crossed your mind?

Valenzuela: No.

Attorney: These constituents… these taxpayers are your constituents, aren’t they? Thurston County?

Valenzuela: Again, haven’t thought about this.

Thurston County Commissioners chase away potential revenue sources

Thurston County’s Commissioners have chased away major revenue sources by imposing the extreme Critical Areas Ordinance, and successfully pursuing a local Endangered Species micro-listing for Rochester-area gophers, for that community’s rodents’ alleged trait of massive penises.

In 2012, mega-auctioneer Ritchie Brothers and The Housing Mart both moved a few miles south into neighboring Lewis County, to escape Thurston County’s extreme land-use restrictions and the problems caused by sharing land with well-endowed rodents.

Their departures left a gaping hole in the county coffers.

Extreme regulations now imposed on the strategically located property in southwest Thurston County—previously slated for business and residential development—has dried up more potential revenue sources.

Thurston Commissioners’ irrational fears create new opportunities for criminals

For years, the Thurston County Commissioners and their staff have justified their neglect of citizen safety by spreading irrational fears.  In the following 2012 video, Commissioner Sandra Romero defends her extreme land use policies by saying that, without them, Thurston County residents would not be able to see nearby Mount Rainier.

Mount Rainier is a 14,410-foot active volcano.  The entrance to Mount Rainier National Park is about fifteen miles from the southeast border of Thurston County.  To date, the only impediment to seeing Mount Rainier has been ordinary clouds, and volcanic ash from nearby Mount St. Helens—even from Seattle’s urban core.

 

Melissa Genson

Melissa Genson, a resident of Washington State, is the regional editor for Watchdog Wire - Northwest. Contact her at Northwest@WatchdogWire.com.

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Categories: Budget and Finance, Courts & Law, Must Read, Politics, Waste, Fraud and Abuse
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