Posted by: sweeneyblog | February 4, 2011

The New Jail: Pete? Let’s have a talk

County Executive Pete Kremen? Can we have a talk? Look, I know you did not want to hold a public hearing about this proposed jail. That’s why, after seven years of working on this, it took over 70 citizens petitioning you to hold a hearing about it. We had to use state law to compel you to hold a public hearing and you failed to even do that (read Jean Melious’ take on why this was not a legal hearing.) But enough about the how we got there, let’s talk about what happened at the meeting.

At the meeting, I heard you and your staff run away from your plan to spend $150 million on a jail that is too big and too expensive for our community. I saw the outrage from the 325 citizens who showed up to tell you why this wouldn’t work. They pulled reams of research from similar communities and notes about successful social services programs that reduce incarceration rates. They raised concerns about the wetland you are planning to build this on and questioned why we are building a facility three times the size of the Bellis Fair Mall. Community members showed up in droves, demanding answers about why the old jail, a facility barely 25 years old, is now nearly condemned. They came armed with research drawn from your own plans about what would be a good fit for our community.

What was your response? To tell the community not to believe what you put down in writing: that this jail will be a sprawling 844 bed facility. But to read your lips: you wanted people to think that it is just a worst-case scenario and that it will actually be smaller.

My question for you is: why were you were surprised when we did not believe you?

The people of Whatcom County are losing faith in their County government. I do not want to see you squander the public trust. Remember back in 2004 when we approved a tax for a new jail? We were saying, “Here, take some of our money because we believe this is important. We don’t mind the increase, this is what we need to do to maintain a civil and safe society.”
Where is that money now? It is gone. This issue goes beyond partisanship. This jail you have proposed is too big and too expensive for our community. What we need now is courageous leadership to say, “Yes, we need a jail, let’s make sure it is the right size. I’m pulling the brakes on this project, firing the consulting firm that has bilked us for so much of the public’s money, and fast-tracking a jail that will fit our needs.” The community would stand behind you for that sort of leadership, for a leader who  recognizes that this is a deadend the people will not support. We need that sort of leadership right now.

So Pete, I’m asking you to stand up and lead us out of this dead end. I hope we can come together and find a solution worthy of our community.


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Responses

  1. […] a proposed jail that was 844 beds, a big jump up from our modest 300 beds we have now. I wrote a big long letter to Pete Kremen, trying to straighten him out and after my letter, and let’s be honest, a big community […]

  2. […] the jail the sheriff was proposing. Over 300 people showed up at a public meeting to express their outrage over this monstrosity that would require doubling, and then tripling the rate of incarceration in our county to fill it. […]


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