Welcome

If you’ve just signed up for the MWF 5AM Indivisible email written by Jerry LeClaire, you’ve arrived at the right place.

This website is a work in progress. It serves as an archive of my writing. I send an email between 4:45 and 5:15AM each MWF. Depend on it. If you’re signed up to receive it and it doesn’t appear in your inbox check your Spam folder and your Promotions folder. If you still cannot find it please let me know at jerry@jxindivisible.com.  I’ve learned that email is not the sure thing I once thought it was.

I hope you find what I write useful.

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry

Planning vs. Sprawl, Part II

Time to pay attention

Tuesday’s Spokesman article by Emry Dinman, “Development in the Latah Valley put on hold for a year as strained infrastructure examined,” is worth your attention both for the good of the people of the City of Spokane and for the political implications. The story of the development moratorium is worth examining—especially in light of the current work on updating the Comprehensive Plan. This is area of the moratorium (from Dinman’s article and the City of Spokane website):

The Grandview/Thorpe and Latah/Hangman Neighborhoods are worth a visit. You wouldn’t want to be trapped there in a fast moving wildfire pushed by a west wind, like the fire that burned part of Medical Lake and a significant piece of the West Plains last August. The landform of the Latah Creek valley itself constrains access and egress on the east side of both these neighborhoods. Both are dependent for east side access on the high-speed, four-lane U.S. Hwy. 195. Although governmentally part of the City of Spokane (as well as Spokane County, as we’ll see), the only connections of these neighborhoods to the city depend first on either U.S. 195 or U.S. Interstate 90. Once you’re on one of these thoroughfares the connections to the City of Spokane are limited by the terrain: either Hatch Road (on the southeast) or by wending one’s way on Thorpe Road across Vinegar Flats and up W 7th Avenue near I-90. Access from the west is limited (especially for Grandview/Thorpe) and subject to closure by fire. Indeed, residents of Grandview, during one of last summer’s fire scares were left to evacuate into a traffic jam in a maze of streets running down W 16th Ave onto U.S. 195. (Check it out on Googlemaps if you lack the time to explore. The “Terrain” option under “layers” in the lower left corner helps you see the constraining landforms of the Latch Creek valley. The flattest creek bottom east of 195 has been built up for a century. Much of the rest of the land east of 195 is not suitable for development,)

These access issues are so striking that they were pointed up by the Washington State Department of Transportation in a letter four years ago: 

WSDOT was so concerned about adding traffic to the interchange at 195 and Interstate 90 that they sent the city a letter in February 2020 warning that the state agency could be forced to limit local access points to 195 if the city didn’t build out other streets. In the letter, WSDOT Eastern Region Administrator Mike Gribner asked the city to halt any development near 195 until those improvements are made.

Given these very real concerns the City of Spokane City Council voted in September 2022 to impose a six month pause on building permits in the Latah Valley while they considered raising the fees builders and developers pay up front to connect to city services. Predictably, builders and their strong allies, Spokane County Commissioner Al French, and City Council Members Bingle and Cathcart, were vehemently opposed. (Mr. Cathcart, it should be noted, is the former government affairs director of the Spokane Home Builders Association.) In a video referenced below builder/developer Jim Frank of Greenstone Homes says, “Building moratoriums don’t solve problems, they just delay the inevitable.” 

The recent vote that passed the City Council’s new moratorium was 5-2 with Council members Jonathan Bingle and Michael Cathcart voting against (Note that both of them represent the other side of the City [Northeast]). According to an earlier Spokesman article, CM Cathcart “acknowledges that the area has severe infrastructure needs, [but] believes that an anti-growth or ‘not in my backyard’ mentality is also motivating supporters of the new moratorium.” Hogwash.

There is something very wrong with this picture, considering that, by Spokane County Commissioner Al French’s own notation (see below), several infrastructure projects in the 2001 Comp Plan that might have addressed these access issues never happened—and here we are, twenty-three years later.

This is not just a City of Spokane issue to be addressed only by the City of Spokane City Council. Spokane County Commissioner Al French is busy lobbying for more building in the Latah corridor. He appeared with developer Jim Frank in a half hour presentation on KSPS in April lobbying for additional development in these neighborhoods and proposing (somewhat dubiously, I think) to fund infrastructure improvements with “tax increment financing (TIF).” As I see it, TIF is a method of paying for the present lack of infrastructure by offering builders a subsidy, basically a mortgage based on expected future growth, to build more structures that, in turn, will require infrastructure themselves. This use of TIF looks like economic sleight-of-hand (at least in this particular setting)—but that’s a topic for another day. 

In the KSPS video with Mr. Frank, Mr. French notes that he lives in Latah/Hangman and that this is part of his county commissioner district. He says that the 2001 Comprehensive Land Use Plan contained a series of capital infrastructure projects that were identified and “haven’t happened over the years.” Of course, that begs the question, “Why?” Mr. French has been a Spokane County Commissioner since 2011 and before that served on the City of Spokane City Council. Where was he on these infrastructure issues all this time—and why is he now suddenly interested and out talking about them? If he succeeds in his re-election bid this fall, how long will it take for his interest to turn elsewhere?

Challenging Mr. French for his Commissioner seat is Molly Marshall. Molly has been tackling these issues for years through Citizen Action for Latah Valley, a group she and her husband founded. It is time give Molly Marshall, a local resident with a real stake and broad knowledge of the issues in these neighborhoods and on the West Plains, a seat on the County Commission. Let’s give the folks in this district a voice that speaks to their concerns even when it is not election season. 

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry

P.S. Here’s some perspective on the issue of how far we are behind on the issue of infrastructure in the Latah Valley: Mr. Frank, in the video [at around 6:00] says, “The infrastructure needs in Latah Valley with just roads and sewer and water are very significant. They’re in the range of 200 to 250 million dollars.” That’s a quarter billion dollars, billion with a “b”. For perspective, the entire 2024 expenditure budget for the City of Spokane [pdf page 16] is 1.3 billion. A quarter billion is one fifth of the entire 2024 City budget. The Grandview/Thorpe and Latah/Hangman neighborhoods are just two of twenty-nine City of Spokane official neighborhoods. How on earth did we get a quarter of a billion dollars worth of infrastructure behind in just these two neighborhoods?

Planning vs. Sprawl, Part I

ime to pay some attention to the Comprehensive Plan

Is the Spokane County Comprehensive Plan a bit of an enigma? It’s time to learn and get involved. Starting today there are a series of 2PM local meeting that can serve as an introduction to the Comp Plan process and importance (see list below). You can attend in person or by Zoom. Below I’ve taken the liberty of copying Spokane County Commissioner Amber Waldref’s invitation to these meetings. On Friday in Part II I plan to expand on why the Comp Plan is important to our lives in our cities and in our county. Development isn’t just rows of new homes. Sensible, sustainable development requires well-planned streets, sewer, water, and fire protection (think wildfire) at a bare minimum—and within our boundaries we already have areas deficient in all those things. 

For now do a little digging and attend one of these meetings.

County Comprehensive Plan Meetings

I invite you to attend an upcoming County Comprehensive Plan Update Kickoff Meeting. What is a Comprehensive Plan? It’s a 20-year look ahead at how/where we want to grow as a community as our population grows. Where will we put more homes, businesses, and parks/trails? How will we serve future populations with water, sewer, and roads?

At these meetings, planning staff will provide info on the planning process (County must adopt a new plan by July 1, 2026), Spokane’s current/future population profile, elements of the plan, and take public comments and questions. You can also learn about opportunities to be involved in the process and specific chapters like climate resiliency, affordable housing, and open spaces/trails, which is extremely important. Join me in planning for our future! 

May 22, Wednesday, today| 2pm | Spokane Central Library, 906 W Main
May 23, Thursday, tomorrow | 2pm | Airway Heights Library, 1213 S Lundstrom
May 28, Tuesday, next week | 2pm | Cheney Library, 610 1st St
June 3, Monday | 2pm | Medical Lake Library, 321 E Herb
June 6, Thursday | 2pm | Spokane Valley Library, 22 N Herald

Join any of these meetings virtually using this zoom link.

More information on the Comp Plan and ways to get involved can be found here.

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry

The Spokane County Commission

Recommended, worthwhile civic engagement

Thanks to the indefatigable efforts of Suzi Hokonson, I, with several others, have attended a number of the Spokane County Commission’s legislative sessions held at 2PM on Tuesdays in the auditorium on the lowest level of the Public Works building at 1026 W Broadway. (See P.S. for more detail.) It has been time well spent.

These meetings are typically short, rarely running more than an hour and sometimes only twenty minutes. Even so, just seeing one’s elected officials in person interacting with one another in their official Robert’s Rules of Order format is well worth the visit. The agenda, usually available in print on a table just outside the auditorium and online (See P.P.S.) looks daunting, but typically only a few of the items on the agenda are taken separately. 

These “BoCC Legislative Session Meetings” are sparsely attended by the public, in part because they are held on a workday in the afternoon rather than the evening (something that ought to change). In a hall that would comfortably seat at least a hundred there rarely are more than twenty occupied seats—and only a few of those seats are occupied by visitors. One often finds oneself sitting with (and sometimes being introduced to) the commissioners’ legislative aides or other county elected officials (for example, Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton is sometimes in the audience). Putting faces to names and watching how people conduct themselves in person is valuable civic learning. 

Usually there are only one or two attendees who offer a public comment on general topics near the beginning of the 2PM meeting (strictly limited to 3 minutes each). Recently one particular fellow (sometimes with a friend) “demands” of the commissioners that they “demand” (starting at about 5:40 in the linked video) of the state auditor a comprehensive audit of our voting system. He suggests a DVD (or YouTube streaming) of a documentary titled “Let My People Go”. I have since learned that it features two and a quarter hours of thumping music and an expounding Steve Bannon (among other luminaries). Lately there have been a couple of three minute commentaries on County Commissioner Al French’s mishandling of the PFAS contamination of the West Plains groundwater. (Here at about 2 minutes for one of them.)

There are ways to stream the meetings live or after the fact, but, while useful, that is an inadequate substitute for actual in person attendance. I highly recommend the experience as a way of understanding the workings of county government. Prior to 2016 I labored under the misconception that the county commission was responsible for those parts of the county not under municipal government. The truth is that the county commission is interlinked at many levels with municipal governments, county commissioners are far better paid than city councilpersons, and the commissioners wield far more power and influence. Especially prior to the expansion of the county commission to five from three members that commenced in January 2023, Commissioner French was unquestionably the most powerful, best connected, and one of the least noticed elected officials in Spokane County. 

Spend an hour on Tuesday afternoons getting to know your county government at work. Visitors to these meetings are welcomed, but if you would like a bit of connection and support as a first timer, email Suzi Hokonson at suzihokonson@yahoo.com.

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry

P.S. The Public Works Building is the building to the right (east) of the historic Spokane County Court House as you face it from the street. Unlike the Court House, you don’t have to go through a TSA-like screening to enter Public Works. You just walk in, turn left, then right and go downstairs. I’ve never had trouble finding a place to park on the street within a block. (The meters accept coins, but it can be more efficient to use the ParkMobile app on your smart phone once you have it set up.)

P.P.S. The Spokane County Website takes some diligence to navigate. Seeing the agenda for the 2PM meeting ahead of time isn’t essential, but you can see it by going to spokanecounty.org then “Your Government”/”County Commissioners”/”Agendas, Minutes and Resolutions.” Then look for the “BoCC Legislative Session Meetings” on the correct date and then download. A somewhat easier (and more entertaining) way to see the agenda in advance is through RANGE Media’s Monday “Civics” post, which you can sign up to receive or visit the website.

P.P.P.S. There is a lot of preparation for these “BoCC Legislative Session Meetings” that occurs leading up to and during Monday morning “Strategic Planning Meetings” and Tuesday morning “Briefing Meetings”, both held at 9AM in the main Court House (in a much smaller room). Both of these meetings are typically much longer and are rarely attended by the public in person—but they are open to the public. 

Day Off

But a couple of documentary recommendations

Too much time in the infusion room embarking on a new cancer treatment regimen—and too tired afterwards.

But two documentary movie recommendations, both available for a small fee on Amazon Prime:

Bad Faith,” a history of Christian Nationalism. Spokane audience members will recognize Ken Peters in several short appearances. Peters is former pastor of the Covenant Church (now the Patriot Church), leader of “The Church of Planned Parenthood”, and one time ally of Matt Shea. Shea continues to carry the Christian Nationalist torch at his “On Fire Ministries”. 

The Boys in the Boat.” the 2023 inspirational true story of the University of Washington crew team’s gold medal win at the 1936 Olympics in Hitler’s Germany. The book of the same name from 2013 is a terrific read.

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry

Progress and Reactionary Lies

My favorite digital authors

I am old. I remember the 1960s, the protests, the outrage, the sense of progress attained on many fronts, the real gains in voting rights and personal liberty. That “the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice” seemed almost a given (even though that was not the proper interpretation, click the link). With the reactionary curtailment of voting rights, the Dobbs reversal of Roe, and the flood of Republican-sponsored restrictive legislation, the “bend toward justice” feels fundamentally threatened. It pains me to think that all that progress may be lost and our children and grandchildren will be forced back into a dark, restrictive world from which we thought we were emerging.

I start my day by reading two Substack emails, Letters from an American by historian Heather Cox Richardson and Today’s Edition Newsletter by retired attorney Robert Hubbell. The ending Hubbell’s May 14th Newsletter spoke to me on this sense of pain:

I spoke to a reader today about astrophotography, and the conversation turned to the fractured political dynamic our nation is experiencing. The reader noted that he actively participated in civil rights and anti-war protests in the 1960s and 1970s. He observed that it seemed as though we were losing ground that was captured in those decades.

Many readers of this newsletter likely have the same experience of participating in protests and witnessing rapid social and political change. The reactionary MAGA movement and civil rights setbacks of the last six years seem anomalous. The loss of civil liberties under Trump’s reactionary Supreme Court rightfully raises dire concerns about the world we will leave our children and grandchildren.

But, with a bit of perspective, it appears that the rapid progress of the 1960s and 1970s was the anomaly. Readers who came of age during those decades reasonably assumed that such rapid progress was in the natural order of things. In truth, the progress of the 1960s and 1970s was built on decades of frustrating losses, setbacks, and seeming futility that prepared the ground for future victories.

We may be experiencing another season of discontent that will precede rapid progress. It took the reality of Dobbs to remind us of the hard-fought victory of Roe v. Wade. It took the slap in the face of Shelby County v. Holder to remind us of the crowning achievement of the Voting Rights Act.

In loss, there is pain and remembrance. Fortunately, those who remember the lessons of the 1960s and 1970s have rallied to reclaim the ground gained half a century ago. But to complete the victory, we must involve the next generation—whose rights and freedoms are on the ballot in 2024.

So, spread the word! Do not pass up the opportunity to remind younger voters of what it took to gain the rights and liberties now under attack. Together, we can reclaim and expand the rights guaranteed by the Constitution!

The Weekly Sift

Every Monday I read Doug Muder’s The Weekly Sift. In part of his May 13th discussion of possible bias at the New York Times this paragraph stood out as painfully true: 

You can’t really understand left/right journalistic bias without this observation: Most MAGA positions rely on believing (or at least arguing) things that simply aren’t true: an immigrant crime wave is sweeping through America’s cities, crime in general is up, climate change isn’t real, the Covid vaccine did more harm than good, the economy is terrible, Trump really won the 2020 election (which entails its own full basket of untruths: undocumented immigrants voted, dead people voted, voting machines were rigged …), healthy fetuses get aborted up to (and even past) the moment of birth, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is justified, the Southern border is “open“, January 6 was a peaceful protest led by patriots, the Black Lives Matter protests burned American cities to the ground, and so on. (I’m sure I missed a few.)

You will find an echo of at least one and often many of those fabrications in the campaign literature of nearly every Republican candidate. “Election integrity” is code for “the 2020 election was stolen and we must ‘fix that’.” “Sanctity of human life” is code for “I would vote to outlaw abortion and contraception given the opportunity.” “I’ll protect your gas stoves” and candidate for Washington State governor Dave Reichert’s “‘the guy upstairs’ is responsible for controlling the weather” is code for “Climate change isn’t real and, if it is, there isn’t a damn thing we can do about it, so full steam ahead with fossil fuels!” 

Keep to the high ground,
Jerry

Let’s Vote for Local Media!

RANGE deserves our support

I am a big fan of the folks at RANGE Media and their local reporting. We have a golden opportunity to direct $10,000 to their support. All it requires is a few moment of time on line for each of us to cast a vote. 

Background

RANGE Media is a local news startup founded in April 2020 by Luke Baumgarten and owned by the Spokane Workers Cooperative. (Click that link to check it out.) These are up-and-coming young people who are doing a terrific job of connecting local readers with local government—and they’re doing it on a shoestring. Click here for more about RANGE. If you don’t already receive RANGE’s emailed newsletter I highly recommend you click here to sign up for free (all centered on local issues!). If you appreciate the coverage I encourage you to become a paid subscriber. 

RANGE has an opportunity to obtain a cash infusion of $10,000 if enough of its fans vote for RANGE in an internet-based Public Choice contest (one of a number of grants) by The Next Challenge for Media and Journalism. From RANGE:

Next Challenge is a national competition awarding big money to “groundbreaking for-profit and nonprofit startups that will reinvent media and journalism in the coming decade.”

That’s us. We’re groundbreaking. We’re also in the “Future of Local News” division, meaning we’re “pioneering a sustainable new business model for local journalism.” And while we’re not working with covered wagons and dying of dysentery, we are building something rare in local news — worker-owned community journalism — and that comes with its own set of trials. Namely: we need money, and this competition is one way we can get it — but only if we have your support! 

Specifically, if you vote for us, we could win the Public Choice Award, which would bring us an extra $10,000 in this competition! This award would help us continue bringing you the deep analyses and investigations we’re known for, like our ongoing reports on tragic conditions in local homeless shelters, the policy and politics around sex labor and religious extremism in Eastern Washington. 

Click here to watch a video of Luke making the case for worker-owned news and to vote for RANGE. (The platform will ask you to verify your phone number and we know it’s annoying, but we promise it’s like two steps!) Voting closes at 11:59 p.m. PT on Sunday, May 19!

I voted. (Start by clicking here.) It took only a few minutes and a little brow-furrowing as I fussed with the phone number verification steps (no doubt meant to screen out things like using an internet bot to mess up the voting). It does look like you have to have a phone that can receive text messages in order to get verified, but, hey, if I can do this so can you :-)! 

For High Ground readers who don’t live in Spokane, you should vote, too. RANGE is digitally based, can be read anywhere with an internet connection, and it produces a lot of interesting articles.

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry

French and the PFAS Cover-up

Scathing testimony

Last Monday the Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) held a public meeting at the HUB in Airway Heights (12703 W 14th, parallel to and half a block south of Hwy 2). Its purpose was to discuss its recent enforcement order requiring Spokane International Airport (SIA) to complete a remedial investigation and feasibility study concerning PFAS contamination on the West Plains. Spokane County Commissioner Al French did not attend—in spite of the fact that he represents this part of the Spokane County and is heavily involved with both the SIA and a public/private development group know as “S3R3.” Perhaps for Mr. French it was best that he was not present. Below is the transcript of testimony given at the meeting. It contains information that every voter in western Spokane County should know concerning their county commissioner.

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry

Airport Public Comment to Ecology JH May 6, 2024 at the HUB

I’m John Hancock, a West Plains resident since 2006, in the Fairchild PFAS Zone on Deep Creek.  I’m a leader of the West Plains Water Coalition, but I speak today only for myself.

THE AIRPORT’S DISDAIN FOR ITS NEIGHBORS IS AN OUTRAGE

A thousand pages of internal PFAS communications illustrated a single strategy—dodge responsibility for contamination from firefighting foam.  After the Airport’s own PFAS well testing, its only considerations were legal and political.  There is no record of science or health inquiries.  The factual uncertainties of regulation and toxicity were treated as an opportunity to evade, not a responsibility to discuss, or protect.

Moral or ethical principles of care for neighbors have been absent from Airport management.  But that’s the clear and inescapable duty of the elected officials, both City and County, who own the Airport, to ensure that it operates responsibly, in service to citizens, not just passengers.

The 2-part mission of Spokane County government is economic opportunity and quality of life.  It says so on the first page of its website, side by side, not as hierarchy.  Airport’s expansions seem unchecked since its PFAS discoveries in 2017.

Mr. French’s conflicts of interest were built into his economic development fever.  He was the only leader with both knowledge and power.

He was the only leader with both knowledge and power.

Concurrently, he led the Commission, the Airport Board, S3R3, and the Board of the Health Department.  Twice, he prevented a half-million dollar PFAS assessment grant for Dr. Pritchard’s comprehensive exploration of nearby groundwater.  Al’s loyalty to the Airport’s real estate speculation is illustrated by the Airport’s first response to Ecology’s cleanup order: “We believe that these reckless statements by Ecology have removed all economically beneficial use of this property and may constitute a taking of the subject property that the Airport was seeking to sell.”

The customary legal standards of conflict of interest for any boards of directors require disclosure as a first step.  This ensures that other persons and systems know about the issue, establish the facts, and confirm that legitimate conflicting goals or methods are decided by additional persons or agencies.

The FAA gives the Airport an operating license, naming both requirements and opportunities.  We air travelers experience uniform expectations and obligations at every airport.  But SIA operates here as an independent enterprise, on properties owned by City & County.  SIA is not any sort of exempted federal facility, in spite of its assertions that “we were only following orders.”

But duties to FAA don’t excuse the airport from local or state law. 

The just-released opinion letter from FAA to SIA says, “In general, there is no bar on an airport using its own revenue to discharge its legal liability or to settle cases even where liability has yet to be adjudged.”

This 3-page letter says that SIA must follow local environmental requirements, on its own dime.  Beyond acknowledging PFAS as the topic, FAA’s requirement for the use of AFFF is not addressed.

So far, we don’t know whether SIA followed FAA’s safety requirements for firefighting foam.  But we do know that Airport did not join a national study about AFFF, [1] published in 2017 by the FAA and the National Academy of Sciences. 176 Airports participated, but not ours.

This report “is a comprehensive resource for understanding the potential environmental and health impacts of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) typically found in aqueous film-forming foams (AFFFs).

The report will be of particular interest to airport industry practitioners who wish to learn about the issue, take steps to identify areas of potential concern at their airport, and implement recommended management and remediation practices.

The report features a primer on PFASs that summarizes their composition, structure, and sources, as well as potential environmental and toxicological concerns about PFASs, regulatory issues, and how PFASs may affect airports.

The report also provides a discussion of AFFF management in an airport setting and recommended practices to investigate legacy environmental impacts, potential risks, and remediation options.”

Airport’s PFAS correspondence obtained through FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] showed no evidence of either contributing to or learning from this industry-wide study.  Two former Airport Board members have explained that such a research opportunity would not have received Board attention, nor would groundwater investigation costing less than $50,000.  Instead of assessing the current science and health dangers, or contacting WA Ecology, Airport called on its lobbyists and lawyers.  Airport’s hope was regulatory relief.  The CEO, Mr. Krauter, sought to escape his trouble, not admit it.  

SIA has grown fast, an accomplishment for which Mr. Krauter, and Mr. French have shared so much mutual self-glorification.  Mr. Krauter wins national awards from his peers, but none that I know of for environmental stewardship or ethical leadership.  I doubt that his performance evaluation invites opinions by the Airport’s neighbors or the County voters.

A former safety chief at Fairchild told me about a long-time Airport Fire Chief, who was prideful about evading regulations he didn’t care for.  That man’s duty, as the FAA report summarizes, probably included the safety obligations and record-keeping of AFFF training, storage, spills, and containment. 

SIA wasn’t interested in Fairchild’s PFAS, revealed in 2017 by the WA Department of Health, in the municipal wells of the City of Airway Heights.  Just 2 miles separate these two airports, where AFFF was used the same way since the 1970’s.  AFFF training drills often involved firefighters from both Airports.

Airport’s own drinking water was safe, because surrounding properties, then and now, receive DoH-regulated municipal water from the City of Spokane. Airport’s personnel and visitors drink PFAS-free water.  Not so the neighbors, and we had no way to know.

Airport’s behind-the scenes efforts towards regulatory relief were threatened by Washington’s new PFAS disclosure requirements, effective in 2022.   Airport chose not to comply, as its own records reveal.

Airport’s real estate speculation, across 14,000 formerly-agricultural acres, is largely hidden from public awareness.  It includes the two main paleochannels, in which PFAS flows most easily and quickly. Its public/private real estate development venture, with the meaningless name S3R3, operates in secret, behind the twin screens of confidentiality of real estate and legal affairs.  Its governors, Mr. French and Mr. Krauter, both involved in Airport groundwater PFAS, may not have ever officially revealed it to either S3R3 or its customer-developers.  We still don’t know, because the S3R3 Executive Director has not been allowed to discuss the matter.  He refused to attend a public neighborhood meeting even as a listener.  S3R3 is not a party to the Ecology cleanup, because it has no firefighting operations, so anwers to this question require an additional investigation.  Isn’t it interesting that S3R3 was founded in 2017, the same year as the Fairchild PFAS revelations and the start of the Airport’s own sampling?  I think that the “buy low, sell high” opportunities of quasi-government economic development have been too juicy to risk truth-telling about groundwater.

I encourage Ecology, with the Spokane County zoning and development authorities, to assess groundwater disclosures required in real estate development.  We know that homeowner properties are required in the RCW to disclose water contamination.  Have the Airport and its subsidiaries complied with that law, which in SuperFund neighborhoods establishes a national standard of environmental safety review? 

County’s recent approval of new gravel pits on Hayford Road may have violated this aquifer protection aspect of Washington’s Growth Management Act.  PFAS is proven in this paleochannel, and I fear that both deep-pit mining and dust-control water wells have the potential to spread PFAS-contaminated gravel products throughout the County.  I ask that the boundary of PFAS Airport sampling extends as far as the recent EPA test zone, and that the facts of the Hayford Rd boundary be established by new Ecology evidence shared with the public.

I’m glad that the Airport-area stormwater utility plan was abandoned.  We note that that plan to artificially recharge the aquifer was silent on PFAS, even though key leaders knew about it.  The City of Spokane paid the million-dollar design cost, but there’s no evidence that Airport shared what it knew about the aquifer contamination.

Unidentified Spokane County leaders chose not to notify potential rural property buyers of potential groundwater trouble.  A toothless notice was given to well-drilling companies, asking that they give cautionary notifications to their customers.  We doubt that notification meant much to the drillers, because we’ve heard from outraged new residents on properties developed since 2017, with brand new wells costing $30-40,000 drawing contaminated water from the Airport paleochannel.  Well permitting didn’t miss a beat, because SIA didn’t report the conditions.

At my own home near these 2 airports since 2006, our awareness was noisy planes over my house, growing traffic congestion, and industrial development on the airport margins.  Only in 2022 did I learn about the PFAS flowing 5 miles towards me in the groundwater, from sources known to government but hidden from me.

Because I’m not a scientist or an engineer, the cleanup details are far beyond my understanding.  But for us on the West Plains, the protections owed us by the people we vote for, and the agencies spending our tax dollars, are not hard to understand.  We want leaders who’ll do their best for us, not for themselves.

The current systems find too many excuses why nothing can be done, with pre-rehearsed responses, even when the facts are new.

I’ve tried hard over the last year and a half to speak up for our neighborhood.  Dozens of times in conversation or correspondence with actual agency representatives, I’ve met kind and skillful people who nonetheless give replies like this:

·      “good idea.  But we can’t do it

·      Regulations prohibit us from . . .

·      “you should ask agency X, not us

·      “confidentiality prevents . . .

These are agencies who say that to me:

·      Spokane County Environmental Services

·      Spokane Regional Health District

·      WA Department of Health

·      WA Dept of Ecology

·      EPA

·      Fairchild Air Force Base

·      Air Force Civil Engineering Corps

·      Dept of Defense

These agencies use lawful by arbitrary distinctions between surface water, groundwater, irrigation water, livestock water, and drinking water.  Since Washington was settled, tremendous legal energy has addressed water rights.  That system is all about ownership and quantity, not safety. We need a new and comprehensive method of public water stewardship.  The WA Constitution says, “all the water belongs to all the people”.  But whose duty is it to keep it all clean?

Here in the country, there’s just one kind of water, the original kind. It doesn’t follow government rules and regs.  We need water to stay alive, every day, in the original clean version.  That’s what we each invested in when we moved here, and we understood our duty to pump it out for ourselves.  But PFAS flowing 10 miles underground is not our fault.

Water is the original forever chemical.  The water has not been harmed by the PFAS.  It’s just the carrier of the contamination.  The toxicity harms us, not the water itself.

Government is the only force big enough to fix such a huge, widespread, and dangerous trouble.  I can’t do much myself, and I’m not the cause of PFAS pollution. The logjam of government rescue from government misbehavior must be resolved.

We need impatient new leaders, both professionals and electeds, with bold new ideas for how to solve this.  The old ways can’t do it.

I’m grateful to Ecology and all the persons who want to help solve our PFAS trouble.  Thanks to this Public Comment invitation, I now understand the legal mechanisms in place to ensure safe water in MTCA projects.  Full speed ahead, Ecology, and thanks for listening.

For any person with their own views on any of this, I urge your written comments to Ecology, because they’ll be published in the public record, and easily available online to others anywhere.

This cleanup will take a long time.  Let’s keep up scrutiny, patience, and intensity.

Thank you for listening.  Count me in on the work.