Text of Three Draft Resolutions To Be Considered at Membership Meeting Thurs. Jan. 18 @ 6:30 pm
1. Resolution on Reducing Local Incarceration Rates
WHEREAS, on November 7, 2017, Whatcom County voters REJECTED the most recent request for a new jail tax (Proposition 2017-6) by a landslide margin of over 17 percent;
WHEREAS, the U.S. has the world’s highest rate of incarceration, about ten times higher than the rate in much of Western Europe, and six times higher than our own norm before the 1980s, and the Whatcom Democrats Platform states, “Current rates of incarceration are a national shame”;
WHEREAS, Whatcom County’s incarceration rate has more than tripled since 1970 (Vera Institute of Justice, “Report to Whatcom County Stakeholders on Jail Reduction Strategies,” September, 2017 (hereinafter VIJ), 5);
WHEREAS, the Whatcom County jail population is unnecessarily high because:
- More than two thirds of 2016 admissions to the jail were for non-felonies, and overall, the vast majority were nonviolent charges, and even among felonies, three of the top five charges were for drugs (VIJ, 15,16, 27);
- Almost half of those assessed bail could not afford it, so that 59 percent of those being held were pretrial (VIJ, 12), and although Washington Court Rule 3.2 allows for use of unsecured bonds, which does not require defendants to deposit any money upon release but holds them liable for the full amount if they fail to appear, Whatcom County courts do not use these bonds (VIJ, 35-36);
- “More than half of jail admissions for probation or parole violations had no new charges” (VIJ, 27);
- Whatcom County incarcerates Latinos and Native and African Americans at three to five times the rate of white people, creating disproportionate impacts on already marginalized communities (VIJ, 14-15);
WHEREAS, on October 11, 2016, Design2Last, consultant to Whatcom County, produced an initial report on updating and maintaining the existing downtown jail and the Irongate jail with a preliminary cost estimate of $32-million, or $1.6-million per year for the next 20 years;
WHEREAS, on October 17, 2011, Jay Farbstein and Associates, consultant to Whatcom County, recommended that Whatcom County expand its consideration of what is needed in a jail to consider and evaluate a downtown location and/or keeping the existing Irongate jail. To date, Whatcom County has not evaluated the benefits, cost, and options of a downtown location;
WHEREAS, we wish to support the excellent work of the Whatcom County Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Task Force in bringing together stakeholders (including the courts, prosecutor, sheriff, county council, and city councils) in working on practical ways of implementing local criminal justice reform aimed at reducing incarceration rates;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that we, the Whatcom Democrats, call on our county and municipal officeholders to fully implement the recommendations of the Vera Institute Final Report:
- County Council, City Councils: People who cannot afford to pay fines for low-level county and city civil offenses should not be jailed;
- County Council, Courts: Based on a risk assessment, use the least restrictive terms of release from jail, in particular the use of unsecured bonds, which is a promise to appear and setting of a monetary amount that does not need to be prepaid. If they fail to appear, they are liable for the full amount. This is permitted by Superior and Limited Jurisdiction Court Rules: Sup. Ct. Crim. R. 3.2(b)(3) and CrRLJ 3.2(b)(3), and ensure that defense counsel is present at all bail determinations (VIJ, 37). Any risk assessment should avoid software whose algorithms are concealed as “proprietary,” because that is inconsistent with the transparency essential to justice.
- Courts: We encourage, where appropriate, the use of home arrest or bracelet monitoring;
- County Council: Establish a sobering center for people arrested on DUI and other charges related to substance abuse (VIJ, 31).
- County Council, Prosecutor: Promote public health solutions as an alternative to incarceration for controlled substance use such as the Seattle LEAD program: “Preliminary evaluations of the Seattle LEAD program have found that participants were nearly 60 percent less likely to be arrested after enrollment than people who went through the traditional criminal justice process and more likely to obtain stable housing and employment” (VIJ, 31);
- Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Task Force: Create oversight and accountability mechanisms to ensure successful and sustained jail population reduction (VIJ, 48).
- Sheriff, police departments: Expand use of “book and release” practices (VIJ, 28-29).
- Sheriff, police departments: Equip law enforcement officers throughout the county with the tools needed to de-escalate and divert people experiencing behavioral health crises, many of whom end up in jail only because officers have limited resources to respond to people in crisis (VIJ, 32).
- Courts, Prosecutor: Develop mechanisms to prevent jail admissions for technical violations of probation or parole (VIJ, 34-35).
- Courts: Develop a case flow management plan to reduce time to disposition and shorten defendants’ length of stay. The Whatcom County Superior and District Courts and the Bellingham Municipal Court are not meeting state and national model time standards for case processing (VIJ, 44-45).
- Courts: Send reminder notices before court dates to reduce “no-shows” and thereby save taxpayer money and reduce judicial delays (VIJ, 39).
- Courts, Prosecutor, Sheriff, Police Chiefs: Encourage the use of restorative justice in lieu of incarceration.
THEREFORE, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we, the Whatcom Democrats, to create a safe and humane environment, call on the County Executive, County Council, and Sheriff to carry out long-postponed maintenance to the existing jail while authorizing a full study exploring options and costs for renovating and modernizing the existing jail, or possibly building a new jail near the Courthouse;
THEREFORE, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we, the Whatcom Democrats ask our state legislators to abolish money bail, as New Jersey did in 2017;
THEREFORE, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we, the Whatcom Democrats ask our federal legislators to cosponsor the No More Money Bail Act.
Referred by the Issues & Advocacy Committee to the Membership Meeting by a 10-0 vote on January 11, 2018.
2. Resolution Supporting a Phase Out & Ban of Non-native Finfish Aquaculture in the Marine Waters of Washington State
WHEREAS, on August 19, 2017 an aquaculture operation managed by Cooke Inc. off the coast of Cypress Island in Skagit County, WA containing 305,000 farmed Atlantic Salmon failed and released tens of thousands of fish into the Salish Sea.
WHEREAS, the Lummi Nation declared a state of emergency on August 24, 2017, deployed an Emergency Response Team, and caught over 43,000 Atlantic Salmon.
WHEREAS, state agencies, as directed by Governor Inslee on August 26, temporarily halted permits for Atlantic Salmon net pens and urged the public to catch as many of the escaped Atlantic Salmon and report the locations of their capture.
WHEREAS, Cooke Inc. assured the public that escaped fish would not survive and native fish were not at risk.
WHEREAS, Atlantic Salmon were still being caught in the Skagit River on December 1, 2018 – three months after the failure.
WHEREAS, numerous studies show the adverse impacts of Atlantic Salmon escapements in the marine and freshwater ecosystems, such as:
- Bisson 2006: Evidence of continual, unreported Atlantic escapes from the industry in Puget Sound.
- Fisher 2014: Atlantic salmon prevalence and occupancy in Canadian Pacific rivers.
- Morton 2017: Evidence of higher disease rates (PRV) in Atlantic salmon migrating through net pen waters.
- Morton, Volpe 2002: Description of farmed salmon captures in 2002.
- Naylor 2005: Overview risks of escaped farmed salmon.
- Volpe 2000: Evidence of reproduction in BC rivers.
- Volpe 2001: Competition study between juvenile Atlantics and natives, quote ‘Recent evidence suggests that this species is now naturally reproducing in Vancouver Island rivers’ and ‘we suggest that Atlantic salmon may be capable of colonizing and persisting in coastal British Columbia river systems that are underutilized by native species, such as steelhead.’
WHEREAS, Washington has a total of 7 active Atlantic Salmon operations in the Salish Sea (formerly 8 with the Port Angeles net pen which was recently shut down by Department of Natural Resources for aquatic land lease violations). British Columbia has about 70 operations — both native and nonnative finfish aquaculture — at least a dozen of which are Atlantic Salmon.
WHEREAS, California and Alaska have banned Atlantic Salmon aquaculture operations in open marine waters and Oregon doesn’t have any.
WHEREAS, the Whatcom County Democrats’ platform makes the following values & policy statements regarding the environment and Tribal relations:
- Health of the physical environment directly impacts the short-term and long-term health of our citizens, communities, economy, and wildlife, and must be protected.
- Preservation of biological diversity, including endangered and threatened species, and restoration of previously extirpated species.
- Washington State, British Columbia: Clean up the Salish Sea and waters emptying into it, and enact new laws or regulations as needed to eliminate pollution at the source.
- Washington State, Federal Government, Whatcom County: Protect our critical environmental areas, including wilderness areas, old growth forests, wildlife habitat areas and corridor, wetlands, streams, the Columbia River, Salish Sea, coastlines, and Pacific Ocean, through vigilant monitoring and planned growth management.
- Concerted efforts to maintain and protect traditional species of marine, animal, and plant life that are critical to Native American cultures and economies.
- Federal government, Washington State, Whatcom County: Fully respect Lummi and Nooksack treaty rights against interference, including traditional fishing rights and sacred burial grounds.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the Whatcom Democrats, ask the Washington State Legislature to pass legislation before March 8, 2018 that accomplishes the following:
- Improve oversight, monitoring, and enforcement amongst the Washington state Departments of Natural Resources (DNR), Fish & Wildlife (DFW), and Ecology (DOE) for the remaining net pen operations in the Puget Sound until their aquatic land leases expire.
- Phase out existing aquatic lands leases and prohibit their renewal in the marine waters of Washington State.
- Direct the state to ban future non-native finfish aquaculture leases in open marine waters.
THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we, the Whatcom Democrats, ask the elected bodies of Whatcom County, the Port of Bellingham, and cities of Blaine, Bellingham, and Ferndale to contact our 40th and 42nd Legislative District Senators and Representatives to urge them to pass legislation as outlined above.
Referred by the Issues & Advocacy Committee to the Membership Meeting by a 10-0 vote on January 11, 2018.
3. Background: Why Electrify Railroads?
Railroad companies were drawn deeply into the fossil fuel economy when the US government created the Interstate Highway system. The creation of a publicly subsidized highway infrastructure was a major cause of high value freight abandoning trains for trucks. Coal was the customer that saved the railroads.
The dependency of rail companies on heavy commodities like oil and coal, did away with regular schedules. Freight trains now depart when deemed full. Not having regular work schedules is a systemic cause of a fatigue-plagued, unsafe work environment that endangers workers, our communities and the environment. Because this problem is inherent to the way railroads do business, it is not something that can be negotiated or regulated away. That risk has until recently been unquestioned, assumed acceptable for lack of an alternative. The nearly catastrophic Mosier, Oregon derailment and explosion of June 2016 fueled a growing public awareness of “bomb trains.” People are asking serious questions about the risks and role of the current freight rail business model. Rail electrification provides a timely alternative to move beyond dependence on bulk fossil fuel transportation.
The continued extraction and combustion of fossil fuels such as coal and oil has been scientifically proven to represent a threat to the environment and the future of the planet. There is a mass movement domestically and globally to radically reduce the continued use of such fuels to power economic development; and other alternative energy sources – wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric – are developing rapidly and appear to be the wave of the future; and
For the transition to a clean economy to be just, workers and affected communities must enjoy access to new industries and good jobs. Investing in rail electrification and modernization is a Just Transition strategy.
In a time when reducing fossil fuel use is critical to restore the stability of a disrupted global climate, rail can offer a major transportation option that is powered by clean, renewable energy, ensuring jobs for rail workers and creating new clean energy jobs for displaced fossil fuel industry workers. As we run the trains on electricity, the rail corridors can be made into transmission routes from remote solar and wind resources to metropolitan markets.
Just about everybody will benefit from rail electrification. Through innovative public financing strategies, railroads will gain an infusion of capital to modernize lines. Increased speed and service-time reliability will make rail transport attractive to freight shippers and passengers, while diminishing reliance on bulk fossil fuel shipments. Shippers at every scale will have access to faster, more reliable cross-country freight transport. A new generation of passenger trains will provide fast, reliable and comfortable transportation to millions.
Rural and tribal utilities will be able to sell power generated on their lands, energizing the build-out of renewable energy across the country, with enormous benefits for communities that have been physically and economically stranded in recent decades. Utility customers will gain a reliable supply of renewable energy that can reduce consumer costs while allowing power companies to shut down old fossil-fuel generators.
Resolution in Support of Solutionary Rail: An Economic “Just Transition” To A Low Carbon World
Whereas, Solutionary Rail is a people-powered campaign that proposes to switch our rail system from diesel to electricity. The catenary lines will double as a transmission corridor for clean energy projects in rural areas. The presence of a means of transmission will create an incentive for new clean energy projects in in rural areas by creating an atmosphere where financing new projects is more feasible.
Whereas, the Solutionary Rail campaign will require a broad coalition of stakeholders with interests that intersect with railroad electrification, modernization and opening corridors for faster transport and renewable energy transmission.
Whereas Solutionary Rail proposes a public-private partnership to fund and oversee this transition.
Whereas, the burden of shifting from an economy based on fossil fuels to one based upon renewal energy should not be unfairly born by workers, including railroad workers; and
Whereas, to ensure that such a transition to alternative energy does not create an economy of low paid jobs for working people – including railroad workers – whose jobs could conceivably be threatened by such a transition;
Therefore Be it Resolved that Whatcom County Democrats support and endorse the Solutionary Rail grassroots campaign by:
- Filling out the on-line endorsement page.
- Announcing your website and to media outlets.
- Encouraging membership to become familiar with the campaign, and to volunteer to help move the process forward.
Referred by the Issues & Advocacy Committee to the Membership Meeting by a unanimous vote on December 14, 2017.