The following is a brief chronology of Yelm’s water actions that clearly paints a picture of the steadfastness in which this city’s aim was on the side of developers, instead of inquiring into and being guided by supporting the public’s interest:
1. “April 2005, [the Yelm City Council ] voted to prohibit future discussion of the topica moratorium on moratoriums” on the public mentioning the word “Wal-mart” to the Yelm City Council. Many of the current council members, including then Mayor Pro-tem Ron Harding were on that council. With Harding declining to participate in the local newspaper’s public forums as a 2005 mayoral candidate, the Jefferson Muzzle Award given the Yelm City Council in early 2006 became the defining theme throughout Harding’s tenure – the disdain of public comment and discourse. Read more
2. June, 2006, Environmental Planning expert Bill Hashim wrote he “offered to write a grant that would provide free Smart Growth technical help for the city. Council members were appalled that I thought Yelms growth was not smart, and as they were bantering at me I heard one of their voices wanting to know whether I thought they were dumb. I left the meeting wondering what the heck just happened and then I realized that our council members were not aware of the sustainable communities program called Smart Growth.”
3. October, 2006: Ed Wiltsie, Professional Engineer, P. E. (now deceased) went “on the record stating the Council’s traffic and groundwater decisions have opened the City of Yelm to major issues including potential future litigation, if not addressed soon. Even Mr. Beck [Community Development Director] stated in his Staff Report recommendation to the City Council of October 23, 2006 that they “consider the points raised by Mr. Wiltsie…”
“While the respect and admiration was noted from the City Council towards Mr. Wiltsie and his report, not one member of the City Council raised their hand to say they would like to table the adoption of Ordinance 858 amending the Yelm Comprehensive Plan” based on Wiltsie’s remarks.
4. February, 2007: “The NVN reported in its January 19 and 26 editions about Yelm Mayor Ron Harding turning over the first blade of dirt in the new Tahoma Valley Golf Clubhouse owned by Thurston Highlands Associates Steve Chamberlain and Doug Bloom, also featured in the February Yelm Chamber Prairie Viewpoint. Yet in the January 19 NVN, The owners of the golf course, also the developers of Tahoma Terra and Thurston Highlands, offered to give the city water rights if half of the available water could be used for the Tahoma Terra development.
“Now, Thurston Highlands owners are working with the City of Yelm to exchange water rights, get approval for the Thurston Highlands development, Tahoma Terra issues, the City of Yelm is fronting funds for the Thurston Highlands EIS [Water study] and now the Mayor does the groundbreaking for the Thurston Associates owned Tahoma Valley Clubhouse. Couldn’t the Mayor turn over those duties to the Yelm Chamber President or some other city luminary like Larry Schorno or recently retired Thurston County Sheriff Edwards?”
“And now a very nice donation to the Mayor’s Scholarship Fund by Thurston Highlands Associates owner Bloom. Couldn’t Mr. Bloom have made an individual scholarship donation in the name of the “Doug Bloom Scholarship” instead of via the Mayor’s Fund? In his position, the mayor will be required to represent all constituents and perhaps comment on the Thurston Highlands application, Tahoma Tera construction & creek flooding, Tahoma Valley Golf water rights exchange and the EIS. I know everyone will all say they see no conflict of interest, yet any observer would have to say HMMM! Surely seems Thurston Highlands Associates and city officials’ interactions are getting very, very cozy, indeed! Is there some preferential treatment going on?”
No effort was made to avoid a conflict-of-interest between Mayor Harding & the one of the developers in JZ Knight’s case with the City of Yelm.
5. February, 2007: “Yelms City Council has stated public funds will not be used in private for-profit developments.”
“The City of Yelm has no contract, pro-rata or otherwise with the Thurston Highlands Associates for the SW Aquifer study.” Yet, the City of Yelm approved over $600,000 in taxpayer money to fund the Golder Water Study for a private, for-profit development. The city said the pro-rata share would be determined later in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The developer went bankrupt and the pro-rata share was never determined nor repaid to the taxpayers.
6. February, 2007: Kevin Farrell as a private citizen posted comments relating to an NVN story of Feb. 2, 2007, “I wanted to respond to the inaccurate statements that Grant Beck, Community Development Director for the City of Yelm, apparently made to the Nisqually Valley News regarding the recent meeting on Thompson Creek,” issues allegedly caused by developmental construction.
7. November, 2008: “Can the City of Yelm approve new development without proof of an adequate water supply?”
Thurston County Superior Court says No!
8. May, 2009: The Yelm Community Blog breaks the story that Thurston Highlands, LLC defaulted and left the city with hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid taxes and services. The report is undisputed and picked-up by The Olympian as a series of posted public documents demonstrated the city’s lack of sound business principles in protecting the public’s interests.
9. July, 2009: “A Citizen Responds: JZ Knight Sets the Record Straight on the City of Yelm Water Issue in Public Ad” in local newspapers after the “NVN used copious amounts of space in its May 22nd and May 29th editions to publish the Citys misleading comments and disparaging remarks about citizens who speak out against improper and unlawful City conduct.”
“JZ Knight bought space for full page ads in the Nisqually Valley News (NVN) & The Olympian to alert citizens to the Citys failure to protect the local aquifer and to provide a reasonable opportunity for citizen input.”
10. October, 2009: “In a letter dated October 26, 2009, Mayor Ron Harding wrote private citizen Alice McMonigle to condemn her water rights. Mr. Harding stated that the city intends to acquire those rights ‘through the exercise of power under eminent domain for the purpose of providing municipal water for the City Water System.'”
These are just a few of the incontrovertible facts that show a concerted effort at running roughshod over citizen input.
WHERE WAS PROTECTING THE PUBLIC’S INTEREST?