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.
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.”
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.