Posted by: sweeneyblog | July 11, 2013

Sheriff Elfo’s idea of public stakeholders? His Campaign Chair

After all the recent activity on the proposed jail, I decided to file a public records request to examine some of the communication between the jail planners and our elected officials to see what is being discussed away from the public eye.

Sheriff Bill Elfo

Sheriff Bill Elfo

One of the first things I found was from Sheriff Bill Elfo’s email box. The lead jail planner (Reid) had asked Elfo for, “one or two  names of citizens/stakeholders who I can contact to discuss their desires and expectations regarding public involvement in the process.” The planner clarified that, “This will not be the definitive list of all stakeholders.  It will hopefully represent a range of views so that a PIP designed around their thoughts and opinions will find acceptance with the broader public as we implement the Plan.”

You can read the email here.

The request is a great idea. Naturally the jail planners want to talk to the community and get a sense of expectations for the public process. Think about all the outreach that goes into simply updating the library – the jail will have much w

Right off the top of my head, I could think of a whole list of stakeholders: the local neighborhood association, the Ferndale Chamber of Commerce, members of the Jail Planning Task Force, members of the Right Size Jail coalition, members of the “No Jail in Ferndale” group, the Whatcom branch of NAMI, the National Coalition of Community-Based Correctional and Community Re-Entry Service Organizations which is headquartered right here in Whatcom County. You could come up with plenty of stakeholders that would provide the planners with “a range of views.”

Naturally, the sheriff chose his former campaign chair Bruce Ayers (in his role as head of Elfo’s faux-community group, Public Safety Now) and the police chief of Ferndale, Michael Knapp.

This is not how you to build public support for perhaps the largest public works project in a decade. You would think after four years of secretive meetings, missing minutes and inflated proposals that the sheriff might welcome some outside perspective. But once again, the sheriff has missed another opportunity to bring the public into this process.



  1. In his efforts to advance his architectural legacy (the new jail), Bill Elfo evidences a clumsy and slightly lame implementation of machine politics. Perhaps he ought to consult with Joe Arpaio for a few tips on perfecting his approach. He can start by demanding copies of Obama’s birth certificate and follow up with a threat to incarcerate him if he doesn’t comply.

  2. I don’t know about the Elfo campaign chair-guy…I agree that on the face it’s ridiculous, his ‘qualifications’ notwithstanding. Chief Knapp however is a great choice, but again, represents law enforcement, and is hardly representative of Ferndale citizens’ wishes—if he were, how would we know w/out a vote anyway? As usual you nailed it Riley…those ‘stakeholders’ fit the program, the choice of a ‘friend’ in the guise of ‘openness’ is consistent with the smallness of the County officials’ approach to governing…the cities are no better, perhaps worse…Remember the ‘viable,’ alternative sites they were required by law to include in the EIS?—Yeah, and of the finalists, only one had utilities?!—“Viable alternatives”?—were they freakin’ kidding?—It was Ferndale from the beginning, and a week before the EIS addendum window closed they tell the world “It’s Ferndale, it’s official”

  3. When asked directly, he couldn’t say why the Whatcom Re-Entry Coalition was denied membership in the task force, though they asked. I do believe that Lisa McShane was on it, though that may have been a different committee.

  4. […] for decades, most recently as Sheriff Bill Elfo’s campaign chair. It was in this role that he provided the original “citizen oversight” for the jail before the public woke up to find an 844 bed jail being proposed and shut that […]

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