We are certainly going through a rough patch in our country. Pundits are calling it tribalism. I’d say our understanding of democracy is slipping away. When people or parties begin making decisions that do not support what is best for the country — its systems and institutions — it doesn’t take long for things to go off the rails.
Our Democracy is like any relationship: it takes compromise, balance, good cheer, and kindness in order to be sustained. You never get everything you want in the person you love, but you hope for companionship and congeniality; you hope your partner is also your best friend, someone to laugh with when times get tough.
And, at some point, the folks who are wise realize that the relationship itself is an entity that needs nurturance. The relationship is something both parties must consciously create, hold dear, and maintain over time within whatever rules have been agreed to. If your partner pokes you with a stick in the eye, you might be able to come back from that to forgiveness once or twice; but when it happens again, unless you are near sainthood, you will poke back. Then something rough and dark begins.
How we heal the ruptures in our beloved country, I do not know. But I do know that it will take the attention and intention of us all.
But how can we assess where we are versus where we want to be when we cannot agree on what’s happening; when our news media, our means of gathering information, is dismissed as “fake”? It seems that even this statement provokes contortions.
However much mud gets thrown at journalists, I can say this — I take my job seriously. I assess what I see around me and make my best call on it.
So, with that in mind, I’d like to introduce to you Pam Nogueira Maneman — a young, smart, committed, and passionate lawyer running for Pacific County prosecutor. Pam graduated from the University of Washington, Tacoma, and then attended the UW School of Law. She was the first student to graduate from the three-year program in just two years.
Pam knows about “tribes” and “tribal law,” literally. She worked in the Tulalip Tribes Clinic, and says of that experience, “Working at a tribe helped shape my mentality of the justice system. Tribal law does not often aim at simply punishing the action committed. It aims at fixing the issue that led to this action.” This approach seems like something we need now in our country and our county.
Pam has law in her DNA; both her parents were attorneys and she never thought about doing anything else. As a rule, lawyers are fact-based, rational, able to keep their emotions in check as they sort through and evaluate information. So when Pam decided to run against our current prosecutor, that’s exactly the approach she took. She spent weeks going back through three years of Mark McClain’s rulings to analyze what was there.
Here’s what she found. In an average of 54 percent of the time, McClain’s rulings form the bench were at the lowest level or below called-for punishment standards (49 percent of cases in 2015; 49 percent of cases in 2016; and 64 percent of cases in 2017); this despite his claim that he is “hard on crime.” We’d need to ask him about his intentions. I’m just guessing: is our jail simply too full to hold more people convicted of crimes? Is the motivation simply to move cases out of the Pacific County justice system quickly? (If the lowest possible punishment is offered, often it is in exchange for a “guilty plea” that closes a case.)
On the other hand, McClain seems to assess higher than normal bail amounts which often keep people in our jail for longer periods of time. Additionally, McClain is not supportive of a “Drug Court” system that gives repeat drug offenders assistance to get out of their negative drug-loop: DUIs, theft, domestic abuse, etc. The benefits of this program are well-documented across the nation and could bring as much as $250,000 to help our county fight drug addiction, opioid over-doses, and related crime.
Right now Pam is volunteering (she gets no compensation) to counsel those arrested in Pacific County on drug-related charges because she works in the Grays Harbor Drug Court and clearly sees the difference it is making there. (Pam is also a member of the Raymond city council as well as working full-time at a private law firm.)
We have no coroner
At the end of our conversation, Pam also mentions that the prosecutor’s office in our county stands in for a coroner. There is literally a phone that the prosecutor hands off on a regular schedule to everyone in the office, even secretaries, to take a turn on. If a body is found in our county, this phone rings and whoever has the hot-potato that day becomes the “coroner” and must determine the cause of death and sign the death certificate. I was incredulous; this situation seems rife for “Midsomer Murder” scenarios.
Pam suggests that someone from our medical staff at the Ocean Beach Hospital could be properly and professionally trained to handle these calls. It’s only one of many new and improved procedures Pam is looking at in order to serve us as prosecutor. If you have questions for Pam, she has two public forums this coming week: Oct. 11 6:30 p.m. at Hilltop Auditorium, Ilwaco, with other candidates; and at the Adrift Conference Room, Long Beach, from 2 to 5 p.m. (Here’s a blog about her tinyurl.com/y8de4amk )
Also, last week I received several emails about a community issue that has mostly slipped under the radar. Evidently at a recent and not well-publicized meeting, DPR requested a variance for a property at 31510 Sandridge in order to build a heavy equipment warehouse and materials storage facility. This is bayfront property, zoned RR (remote rural). As a summary, this designation allows one residential unit (called “low-density residential”) per parcel and other uses that might accompany that residence — like bee keeping, agriculture, environmental buffer, park, church, etc. — which is why DPR needs a variance for commercial use. The properties around 31510 are all residences.
Surely there must be other non-bayfront property where this kind of commercial activity would be more appropriate. One of the principles of real estate development is for the “highest and best use” of any parcel. Equipment and materials storage on the Willapa Bay would certainly not qualify.
If you have a stake in this concern — and I think we all should! — write a letter to Alexandra Russell, planner, at 7013 Sandridge Road, Long Beach, WA 98631, or send her a note at email@example.com . You could also call Alexandra at (360) 642-9382; or, to find out more about the issue, write Barbara Bailey at firstname.lastname@example.org. The complete PDF for county zoning is here:
In order to function properly, democracy requires informed citizens. Pay attention, be informed!