Dogged Pursuit of a Failed Vision?

Wherein, we correct some misassumptions but still ask the questions

Wherein, we correct some misassumptions but still ask the questions


Author's Note:  I was wrong and owe the prosecutor an apology.  I'm sorry.  I am told on good authority that the header designating the Chief Deputy Prosecutor on the draft revision was in fact a pagination carry-over from the footer of the previous page.  Further, my source reveals that the edits referenced below actually originated from new council member Todd Donovan.  Perhaps he can explain?


Tonight's County Council meeting is starting to look like the shootout at the O.K. Corral.

The prosecutor Todd Donovan has apparently reacted badly to the County Council taking a leadership role to guide jail planning efforts following the defeat of the county’s proposed sales tax levy last November.  County voters previously approved three separate tax measure to assist with a new jail and operations.  Unfortunately, most funds have been diverted to operations while the administration chose to let conditions in the jail deteriorate.  In the run-up to the elections, jail officials stated publicly that animals enjoy better conditions at the pound.

Is it possible that an animal could have come up with a more appealing proposal for voters to consider?  We had our chance when Nyima the dog ran against the prosecutor, but as far as I can tell, the auditor never even counted the mutt’s votes.

Since the defeat, the council has been working with citizens and staff to outline a framework of policies designed to address problems with the current incarceration system, to help control and contain costs, and to more thoroughly evaluate siting criteria and options.

Not s Surprisingly, the prosecutor’s office Todd Donovan has a few objections.  Their revised draft resolution commences on  page 206 of the current agenda.  The agenda section begins on page 198. Todd Donovan The prosecutor wants to strike language related to:

-The desirability of transparency in the process
- More fruitful discussions between stakeholders
- The lack of crucial information buttressing arguments behind the failed proposal
- The need to support the new Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Task Force
- The need to seriously consider the Task Force’s recommendations
- The need to provide behavioral health services outside the jail
- The need for better data for comparing proposals
- Producing spreadsheet models for public examination
- Consideration of national. state and local trends in prevention, alternatives, behavioral health and re-entry support
- Minimizing the facility size
- Minimizing facility costs
- Locating the jail where it best serves all stakeholders
- Explaining the origins and rationale behind the Ferndale location
- Greater examination and explanation required for consensus building
- Why the downtown sites were torpedoed
- Why an inapplicable county ordinance was used to steer site location outside the city of Bellingham
- Why a big, flat, rural jail was preferred over a multi-level central location
- Consideration of the efficiencies of a central location
- Consideration of the existing jail’s defects and prospects for rehabilitation
- Transparent reporting and more careful examination of jail operating costs
- Consideration of the rapidly rising costs of operation
- Consideration of why other counties have lower bed rates
- Re-evaluation of the anticipated 20% increase of per diem costs
- Reviewing current jail levy expenditures relative to operations vs. capital costs
- Considering a more equitable funding mix
- Hiring an independent, unbiased criminal justice planner to evaluate proposals

Don't believe me?  Read it for yourself! It seems to me a bit like barging ahead like a bull in a china shop and disregarding the concerns of concerned citizens and voters, but what do I know?

I’ll leave it to the sensibilities of our esteemed readers and citizens to decide for themselves if the prosecutor’s Todd Donovan's course is worth pursuing.  But if you agree with me that the prosecutor and sheriff have yet to reveal a good reason for their giant, rural jail proposal next to Homeland Security, then I suggest reaching out and giving a word of encouragement to your council representatives.

You can always write them at

About Tip Johnson

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Member since Jan 11, 2008

Tip Johnson is a longtime citizen interest advocate with a record of public achievement projects for good government and the environment. A lifelong student of government, Tip served two terms [...]

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