Newspaper reporter/editor: 1998 to 2003, covered COVID-19 pandemic
for two community newspapers.
Shutdown hit Camano cafe hard, but owner’s used to a challenge
Cookie delivery proving to be perfectly baked, for these times
Underlying illness impacts COVID-19
Past articles, The Everett Herald:
Thoughts on war while honoring the troops
Jaywalking blamed for Mill Creek man’s death
Mill Ceek neighbors protest parking
Mill Creek rallies around family in need
Optimism in the face of (2008) worry
Families feel the pinch of (2002) layoffs
A wider Highway 527 is stalled
Informed children are safer children
Mill Creek park funded by fees
Moms’ club a good time for Moms, tots
Lovick-Nichols race may be close
Heatherwood student wins annual award
Mill Creek budget ‘excellent” this year (2008)
Nonprofit strives to create a bridge between homeless community and city
By JANA HILL
First published in the Snohomish County Tribune, in 2019
SNOHOMISH — It all started with a needle.
“They’re just dangerous for the people and the animals,” said Shayne Bancroft founder of Spruce Up Snohomish, which formed as a nonprofit.
Bancroft was walking his neighborhood when he found a hypodermic needle tucked into a pile of clothes at the library, his adoptive Mom Julie Bancroft said. Shayne said he called the police and they picked it up but left the pile of clothes there, and it began. He met with Snohomish Mayor John Kartak and talked out what could be done to clean up hazards in the city. Kartak helped develop a plan for the organization, and the two began meeting almost every week.
Bancroft and his family of 10 moved to Snohomish about five years ago. He is one of eight kids, five of them adopted. His childhood prior to age 6 was marked by his birth mother’s alcoholism and his birth father’s absence, an origin that left its mark. But Shayne said he woke up one morning, when he was 21 years of age, and had the thought, “I have to forgive her.”
That forgiveness came with action, and a sense of protectiveness.
“We have to protect the people who are struggling also,” he said, referring regularly to the homeless people he has connected with on his clean-ups, referring to them as “our homeless.”
SUS started with four volunteers and has grown to six, and they are accepting more volunteers. The group traverses the city streets to pick up health hazards and eyesores left by local addicts, litterbugs or drivers who toss cigarettes and trash out vehicle windows.
They locate the concentrated areas of refuse and hazard, and clean it up, transporting needles and garbage to the city, weapons, and wallets — emptied and tossed. The police get the wallets; the city gets the garbage and needles. Bancroft said they find five to seven hypodermic needles a week.
SUS does weekly clean ups and has a goal to respond at a moment’s notice. Kartak said he once called Shayne when the gazebo near First Street was messy, from discarded garbage and smeared with a Hostess pie. The group arrived within five minutes, Kartak said.
“What an impressive kid. He has always been, ever since I have known him,” Kartak said, mentioning he met Shayne when he was a young boy. He was walking down Kartak’s street and just stopped to talk. Bancroft’s decision to reach out to the homeless and clean up the city is no surprise to Kartak.
“He was in a position of responsibility at a young age,” Kartak said, mentioning the Bancroft large family. “He has a strong sense of protection that he wants to provide.”
His motivation to help everyone is a personality trait, says his adoptive Mom.
“He has just a very tender heart for people,” Julie Bancroft said. Shayne has no mechanism to be deflated by the word “no,” she said, so when the fix he sought did not exist, he made one.
Since the group’s inception, they have cleaned up numerous locations, some more than once. Spaces they have cleaned include the area under the bridge by Andy’s Fish House, the area along the river, space by the old train Bridge on First Street, and areas behind restaurants and at roadsides. For some locations that serve as homeless encampments, the messes form again so the group keeps going back. He finds time to talk to the people who live there, and sometimes tries to convince them to get help.
Shayne shows a quiet strength and a soft-spoken conviction that he does not hide when talking to officials or the homeless. While continuing an ongoing conversation with a man about the challenges to becoming housed and steadily employed, Shayne cut to the point, interrupting a joke with an observation.
Joking “is what he did before when people started talking to him about how to get help,” Shayne said. “It’s his way of changing the subject.”
He is connected enough homeless community that they will speak to a reporter, because of him.
“He’s trying to do something most people won’t do,” said a man who identifies as Smitty. He says he’s not homeless, but a resident of “the starlight motel.” When that is met with a look of puzzlement, says, “look up, at night.”
Smitty works odd jobs to get food, beer and tobacco. He hand-rolls a cigarette and talks about how he got there, joking at intervals, showing deep smile lines. He makes his living day to day, checking in with local businesses for odd jobs. He said the homeless community is a tribe, and they take care of each other. If one has food, they share with the group.
Shayne listens and pushes back in the conversation. The listening part is not standard for Smitty. When the Seattle-Snohomish Mill caught fire, Smitty said he was looking at it across the river as it ignited. He said he was pointing and yelling but a police officer, “thought I was high on drugs.” He said moments later, the mill fire was more obvious and help was called.
He said he will talk to anyone now. His adoptive Mom said, “He is a dedicated Christian. He sees everyone as equal.”
Bancroft has been warned by critics about the dangers of needle collection, to which he responds that the group is cautious, using a pick-up method that points the needle down. They wear gloves, long pants, and full coverage shoes. Every volunteer is outfitted with protective gear. Bancroft brings sharps containers for collection: red lidded buckets used to safely transport needles.
Critics have asked Bancroft “why not just call the police” to pick up needles? Bancroft counters that the police are busy, and they need help too.
The homeless population is a part of the Snohomish community, Bancroft said, and he does not leave them out of his goal to make them safer. He checks on the now familiar faces, some who live outdoors, as he traverses city streets and picks up refuse.
“I know most of them, and they know me,” he said.
He said it’s important that they “know someone cares about them.” He asks them what they need, and connects them to resources through Snohomish County, if they are open to it. Kartak said help is available if people call 911.
On a sunny day in September, Bancroft claws garbage with a long metal-arm device and moves back and forth between pick-up and volunteer check ins, beads of sweat forming on his forehead. As he works, he discusses future plans that include connecting with other communities, to share resources and information. But Bancroft said the key focus now is supporting the community they are in.
Volunteers pinch trash with metal grabbers fine-tuned enough to pick up a cigarette butt. They clutch middle-smashed beer cans with faded labels and push them into thick plastic, a damp cardboard box and other trash. The environmental and aesthetic impact of roadside garbage is what motivates Sara Thein, the Washington State coordinator for Clean Up Washington, which focuses on keeping public lands such as hiking trails clean. Thein said she and Bancroft share a passion but each has a different emphasis. His is safety. The beautifying of public places, “that’s what I’m passionate about,” Thein said.
The two combined have led to partnerships with government, business and law enforcement for an end-result that is the same: a spruced up Snohomish.
They hope to develop a better system for citizens to alert them of clean up needs, Thein said. That may lead to the purchase of a group cell phone. For now, the all volunteer group relies on the free resource of Facebook, and its regular presence at public meetings.
Nonprofit status gives a sense of “legitimacy,” Thein said. It was also allow the group to offer the tax-deductible incentive for donations, although its treasurer said one donor has already given some funds.
Costs at present include two kinds of gloves, one thicker and more protective and a second made from neoprene — a thinner option that allows for tactile sensation that feels like a bare hand, but provides a barrier to germs. The group also carries trash grabbers, thick black garbage bags.
As for the notion that they should “just call the police” and have them handle it, Bancroft contends the police have enough to do.
“The issue is: they need help; they need assistance,” he said.
Spruce Up Snohomish is accepting volunteers. They are able to accept donations as well, but nonprofit status is not yet complete so they are not ready to offer a tax deductible option. Spruce Up Snohomish meets regularly every other Tuesday at the Snohomish Library, 311 Maple Avenue. The next meeting is 6 p.m. Oct. 1. The Facebook page to connect for clean ups is https://www.facebook.com/groups/spruceupsnohomish/
Kindred Kitchen serves training with kindness
By JANA ALEXANDER HILL
First published in the Snohomish County Tribune, December 18, 2019
EVERETT — Maybe have a “BLAST” — a new twist on bacon lettuce and tomato, with havarti and avocado and dijonnaise sauce, on focaccia, with thick-cut bacon and crisp romaine.
Dance on elegant concrete flooring with jazz playing in the background — the space is not officially a dance spot, but it was for a moment, and it could be again. It may host poetry readings. Today it will host local musicians. Engage Everett, a business networking group, had its meeting here recently.
It is Kindred Kitchen at 3315 Broadway: a cafe and catering business that celebrated its grand opening Dec. 13 inside Hopeworks Station II. The menu offers hot sandwiches and fresh salads and soups, espresso drinks, all-day breakfast options and a kids’ menu.
Doors have been open since early November, and the menu has been rehearsed, reaching Dec. 13 with only minor tweaks, said Kristin Kosidowski, director of food service and training at Hopeworks.
“Everything you see here today is a moment of our paid professional staff,” Kosidowski said.
Culinary professionals are running the café, and in two weeks interns begin jobs here. The 12-week program prepares them for hospitality teaches soft skills, such as being on time, and interpersonal skills, such as dealing with conflicts. The hard skills circle around the alchemies of culinary artistry and hospitality.
Preparation on the way to the grand opening included fine-tuning, so that when the interns begin, the process is already smoothed out.
“Everyone’s a mentor. Everyone’s a coach. Everyone’s a leader here,” she said.
One is Makenna Chapman, lead barista at Kindred Kitchen. When interns arrive in two weeks, she will help with the training. Chapman scanned the roomful on grand opening day and said: “this is five times what it normally is. I’m hoping it continues this way.”
By noon, seating required a search. Customers mingled. The clink of a spoon stirring sugar into black coffee was backed by the hum of conversation and the whistle of milk being steamed for espresso drinks. The café serves Thruline coffee, a Kirkland-based company that roasts onsite and delivers to Kindred Kitchen, while fresh. Thruline owners are two of the professionals working the café.
A coconut-milk latte with vanilla is served in a ceramic tall coffee cup with a triangular latte-art adornment: it is smooth and balanced and just sweet enough. The skill in-process here will be passed on when the interns training as culinary artists continue their journey here.
“White chocolate?” Chapman asked, as 4-year-old Riley hefts a 46-ounce pickle jar to the counter. It is full of change and a few bills. He is accompanied by his dad, Andrew Pliss, who awaits a mocha and Riley readies for a hot cocoa. Pliss likes it that he can walk downstairs to the café, with his son. Pliss pays for his mocha with a debit card. It appears
Riley wants to pay for his cocoa, with bills and coins inside the jar.
“That’s my swear jar,” Pliss said.
Asked how Hopeworks has helped him, he said: “I never had my own place.” Riley is handed his cocoa, and Pliss turns to his son, “What do you say?” but Riley is shy. He surrounds his cocoa-cup with both hands, and finds his way underneath the counter to squat to the floor and peek upward. Pliss said Riley gets less shy as he gets to know people.
Pliss is a single dad and just got his son back after going through addiction recovery.
Pliss chats with a peripheral view on a busy Riley, who eventually heads outside with his dad following. Riley swings on a yellow ring just outside the door; it is a decorative kids’ toy painted bright yellow and red, placed in front of the building.
Newly sworn in Snohomish City Councilmember Judith Kuleta arrived for an early lunch. She had the Three Cheese Melt, with Tillamook sharp cheddar, smoked gouda and havarti with sun dried tomato spread. Kuleta said she “came here to support the efforts of Kindred Kitchen and welcome them to the business community in Everett.”
A glass of Passion Palmemousse tea sits atop a table with its feet on concrete flooring in cocoa-with-fleck design. Seating includes cushioned seats. There’s WiFi onsite.
The site is close to transit and a short walk from a visitor parking lot. It sits on the same block, next to RenewWorks Furniture: a second site for job training. The businesses are part of a bigger plan to create a path forward.
The café architecture has a Seattle-industrial aesthetic, planned by GGLO Design, one of the partners for Hopeworks Station II. Many hands went into the creation of the concept site, which has 65 residential units for people transitioning out of homelessness and the challenges that led to it.
By lunchtime, seating was filled. Some searched for a spot and others stood. Dana Daniel, chef at Kindred Kitchen, is looking forward to the training that begins in a couple of weeks. The site has a community room that can be rented for $25 per hour for meetings; the cost is waived for nonprofits. Interns will learn to serve a group, Daniel said, which includes greeting, taking people’s coats, and other steps lending to the dining experience.
She said mentorship teaches work ethics such as attendance, respect in the workplace, and how to keep a workplace “drama free.”
Teens living at the site will have a chance to learn meal-planning on a budget. Daniel is ready to teach them how to make “something so easy as how to make a pizza, so when they get to college” they’ll have the skills to keep their food budget in check.
“This is a wonderful safe place to live, in a wonderful safe supportive environment,” Daniel said.
Homeless community counted in annual ‘Point in Time’ event
SNOHOMISH COUNTY — Under Lewis Street bridge, two sleeping bags were tightly rolled near the riverbank, out of sight for walkers.
They looked new, but the clay ground nearby had no footprints on it. Getting to that campsite took a trip past a no-trespassing sign, a hop over bright orange, plastic-mesh fencing, blocking the entry to private property.
Volunteers tromped through a muddy field on the way, boots sticking in cocoa-colored mud and making a slurping sound on the way to a bush-line, hiding the campsite under the bridge.
It was a drizzly and 50 degrees for the Point in Time (PIT) count on Jan. 24, and a breeze that creates an occasional reminder of how damp it can get when you spend the day outside. The annual event produces a set of numbers, detailing homelessness in the county and in other areas across the state.
The clay ground near the bridge was littered with three shopping carts. Discarded cans of Rainier and Budweiser created a patterned shine in the brush.
“No footprints,” said Rocky Lancaster of Monroe. He is in his sixth or seventh year volunteering for the PIT. He is retired, has the time, and has time to “pay it forward.”
A short walk away from the bridge, hidden in the woods past another no-trespassing sign and more orange mesh were two sites that looked lived-in. The river is high that day. “It might have flushed them out,” he said.
Lancaster has outdoor experience, watching for tracks and evidence of people. He notes deer tracks on another path, near Al Borlin Park. It is known by officials as a hot-bed for homeless encampments, so it made the list for a check on PIT day. The park has gravel trails lined with moss-covered trees. It is remote and lined by abandoned makeshift shelters such as moss-covered concrete pylons, one with an entry and exit to serve as cover and protection. Fallen trees along the river could serve as sleeping space when the river is lower.
Lancaster carries a gift-bag with warm socks and snacks, used as a draw to start a conversation with people camping in area parks. His crew is dressed for the weather in rain gear and hefty boots. They traverse about two miles of ground along the Skykomish River and across Woods Creek, driving from site to site then moving through the woods with a plan. Lancaster will approach first as the other four stand back. Living outside is dangerous, so emotions can run high.
“You don’t want to sneak up on them,” he said. After checking on usual sites, no people are found.
The PIT is used by governments from city to federal levels for funding decisions and to measure progress and change. It is held at the end of January because some homeless people get public assistance, but it’s not enough to pay for indoor living all month. Add to that, “people are more likely to be looking for shelter” in January, he said.
Volunteers sit through a one-hour training prior to the count. They are matched with a staff member or experienced volunteer, and stay in touch with Take the Next Step’s cold weather shelter director, Mike Lorio, during the process. As he trains the first group, he talks about how to make a quick connection and gain trust.
“Don’t make it seem like you’re doing something strange behind that clipboard,” Lorio said to volunteers, prior to the count. “We’re trying to respect them.
Subjective information is the focus, asking people for the first two initials of their names, last name, and date of birth or age. The identifying data is to avoid duplication in the count.
Katie Sanfratella gives her full name to PIT volunteers and a reporter. She is a member of the Monroe community, was at the laundromat on PIT day. Her job with Take the Next Step ended more than three years ago, and she is going through a divorce. Now she reflects on what homeless people needs — she used to help them, now she is one of them. She slept outside the night before on an evening that, at midnight, likely hit 48 degrees.
Cold weather shelters open at 32 degrees.
She confirmed that it was okay to share her story, full name, and photograph publicly, in spite of the privacy concerns some may have around homelessness. She has advocated for homeless people in the past, so she is aware of the stigma. She said she felt empathic before, but she now feels she had no idea. People treat her differently now that she has no address.
“The looks. The disgust. I feel for these folks now,” she said.
In her past work, she got to know the homeless community well enough that they began to see her as a friendly face. Her home behind 7-11 was a draw. People would arrive to talk to her over the fenceline, and come to her door to knock. She’d give them Gatorade and water.
“I spend my food stamps on them. It’s really hard for me to say no,” she said.
Neighbors complained and after warnings her home was deemed a nuisance property and she was evicted. Her unsheltered status occurred during a divorce process, and her love of that community contributed to it. “There was always people at my gate,” she said and sometimes knock on the door.
“I magnetize them, but, you know, they’re humans. The struggle for me is there’s nowhere for them to go,” Sanfratella said.
She did not fight her eviction, and is scheduled to stay at a shelter now. She’s counting her blessings. With her divorce still in-process, she still has access to Boeing health insurance to get care, and may be getting into a specialized mindful-training program in Utah. Her two elementary aged children are safely housed with her soon-to-be-ex husband.
“He didn’t have the same closeness to them. It wore on the marriage,” she said. The connections to people are important, she said, so “they can have a little bit of normalcy in their (lives). It’s what causes the change — unconditional love.”
As to the “why” around the uptick in the homeless population, in recent decades, she points to the cost of living and mental illness, and describes addiction as a symptom of those two problems.
One woman in the parking lot of the laundromat saw it differently, saying that she was following the PIT and offering a banana to one of the PIT participants, so they could pass it on to a homeless person. She did not want to be named, but said that “most of these people are on heroin and meth” and need potassium. She said she gives out bananas, to help them.
“I don’t think people are chasing the high,” Sanfratella said of some homeless people who have substance abuse issues. “It’s self medicating. … We don’t identify (mental health) as being a problem. People put a label on it, (but) we don’t have a mental health system.”
As she views her own life, moving forward, she relates to the difficulty of a comeback. The job-level needed appears inaccessible. “It’s ridiculous. The cost of housing is so insane. It’s almost physically impossible,” she said.
Still, she said she feels blessed: “This too shall pass. There’s value in empathy.”
Sanfratella said the homeless people she has been in contact with are “deep thinkers, amazing people.” She describes their bond and community as phenomenal, due to resourcefulness and ability to survive. Some can build a fort with few tools, or find ways to “bound together” without an official home.
“To be out here is very instinctive,” she said. Survival can include theft, she said, and litter is making them unwelcome. She said sometimes people with nowhere to live lose hope.
“Family has given up on them due to burnt bridges. It’s frustrating to me because no one is there to ask ‘what led to here’?”
The PIT count is a snapshot of what is happening with the county’s homeless population. Interviewers carry a checklist, to determine the demographic personality of homelessness in each community. They also try to get a hint at the “why” by asking what led it, but space is not included for a full narrative, as it is in some medical environments.
“There are express weaknesses to the PIT,” Lorio said in the training.
A story of “why” is sometimes included in medical documentation but the PIT count has less ambitious intentions.
And aside from the “why” behind homelessness, the road back is hard to start once someone has no address, she said.
“You’re not going to get a job if you can’t shower, can’t get enough rest,” she said.
Job applications also require a phone number and address.
Roger Evans knows what that’s like, and he also understands why people may decide not to stay in a shelter, or take help at all.
“It’s your manhood,” he said, citing a Bible verse that says men must work, or they do not eat. Evans volunteers at Take the Next Step to return the grace, for the help he got. He spent 30 years fighting addiction. “The last one was meth. Crack, heroin, I’ve done it all in the past 30 years,” he said. “The program I went through, it was free but you had to put in work.”
His road back was supported, and “every year has been better,” he said. He was able to trade work for a place to stay, because of “a good Christian man. (He) didn’t even know me. Once I got my disability, I started paying rent.”
He said that his $760 monthly disability checks would not pay for the rental costs outside of the situation he is in. But he is grateful. The opportunity to work in exchange for rent was a match for his values.
“We need more affordable housing,” he said.
He explains his past life openly, agreeing to use his full name. He has started a new life and the joy he gets from it is palpable in conversation. He is in touch with his daughter again. “She wouldn’t take my calls before,” he said of the time when he was using drugs. “I have a 4-year-old granddaughter” he said with a smile.
Discomfort is easier to take now that he has a network around him, he said. Coming out of addiction and homelessness was a path for him that included new surroundings, the grace of a local man willing to take him in and allow him to work off his rent with odd jobs, and a treatment program that allowed him to do the same. He got help in West Virginia, where he returned to see his Mom. He worked off the cost of a recovery program, in a model that allowed a trade: work for presence there.
He said it may be even harder for women to come out of homelessness than men. The worthlessness from surviving that way become an obstacle.
He remembers those days, and can encourage people to take action, and get off the streets. “Once you start to address your problems, doors open,” he said.
He points to the Diversion Center in Snohomish County, where people can get immediate help to point their lives in a new direction. He said he is available at Take the Next Step for that reason: to be a sounding board for people who need help, from someone who has been where they are now.
“I can’t fix your problems, but I can walk alongside you and help along the way,” he said. (name) is preparing to get his GED, not because he needs to. He said in spite of his disability, he can do something. He takes his mentorship role to heart.
Evans said any bad day today clean and sober is better than how he once lived. “I don’t have to look over my shoulder anymore. I have true friends. Not just people trying to use me.”
Governments explore remote meeting option as COVID-19 spreads
By JANA ALEXANDER HILL
First published in the Snohomish County Tribune, March 18, 2020
SNOHOMISH COUNTY — Remote attendance and telework are being used as tools to minimize the spread of COVID-19, the viral illness declared a pandemic last week.
Cities and businesses in the Snohomish County area are using technology and existing practices of telework to connect people remotely, avoiding in-person contact for jobs that can be done off-site. The “social distancing” practice is intended to reduce spread of COVID-19, a novel coronavirus that found its way to Snohomish County last month.
The city of Everett directed all employees with the ability to work from home to do so, wrote Mayor Cassie Franklin, in the city’s newsletter. She said the city is taking that and other steps to reduce exposure for vulnerable populations.
“It’s better that we take bold action early, than to be too late,” Franklin wrote.
The Monroe City Council recently amended its Council Rules of Procedure to allow for remote meeting participation “during periods of a proclaimed emergency,” said city clerk Elizabeth Adkisson.
The city currently uses a telephonic conference call option; and at the direction of Mayor Geoffrey Thomas is currently exploring additional tools for remote meetings to include web-based products such as Skype, Zoom, or other tools, Adkisson said. Council members can both participate and vote during remote meetings.
At a recent City Council meeting, Snohomish City Council President Jason Sanders said the city should develop a contingency plan for remote attendance as a tool for COVID-19, as well as other public emergencies. Council members Judith Kuleta and Donna Ray agreed that a plan for remote attendance was needed.
“We’re in an earthquake-prone area,” Kuleta said, adding that if someone was hurt and “laid up, but still capable of helping govern our city” the council should have a tool to include that person.
“I think it’s important to have a contingency plan,” Ray said. “ … If four or five fall ill, we have to have some way of communicating. Otherwise, we delay process.”
Sanders asked for input from city attorney Grant Weed, who said the city could write a policy that, if approved, would amend Resolution 1347 of city code. The key concern is assuring people can hear one another. The other limiting factor is that some visual communication is lost with electronic participation.
“Sometimes it’s just not the same as having your constituents right here in the room to see their body language and participate face to face, and eye to eye,” Weed said.
He said many cities that allow remote attendance cap the times-per-year, or the reasons given to participate remotely. At present, what is envisioned and what is available are different, in Snohomish.
Sanders said one of the lessons learned was that the city is not yet fully tooled for remote access.
“We do not have the IT (internet technology) means — phones, WebEx, etc. — yet to hold a ‘remote’ meeting. I would not be surprised to see changes to our contingency planning regarding Council meetings going forward, as we and other cities work through this,” Sanders said.
The health district and other government agencies at the local to federal levels are expanding telework for employees who can still do their job, without on-site attendance. Some municipalities are exploring remote meeting attendance, with the tools they have in place. For special meetings last week, the health district’s full video, originally live streamed, was posted on Facebook for public review.
The ability for attendance while traveling out of state could also be needed in an emergency situation.
Mukilteo was already prepared for remote participation, and has had the option codified into council rules since 2009.
“We usually use just a phone line, but recently purchased one that can conference in multiple calls. We also have set a computer up with GoToMeeting (software) in case we need to have multiple or all members participate remotely,” said Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson. “With our rules they can vote, as long as they can hear and speak to participate.”
Everett man shares his fight with coronavirus, and a wish for people to stay home and protect the vulnerable
EVERETT — Tyler Chism, 33, is willing to share his experience in recovering from COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, but he’s got one serious concern.
“I really want people to take it seriously and self-isolate,” he said.
It was March 1 when he first had symptoms of what would later test positive for COVID-19 and he immediately chose to self-isolate, just in case. When interviewed nearly a month later, he was still recovering.
When he first got sick, “it just hit me like a ton of bricks,” Chism said. “All of my muscles ached and felt very stiff, and I just felt really uncomfortable. I also lost my sense of smell and taste.”
During the first bout of illness, he had a fever of 100.5 that was sporadic, changing hour by hour. Some symptoms felt different than a flu he had earlier in the year. COVID-19, for him, came with lingering chest aches as well as sharpness in his chest and lungs. Some people have gastrointestinal upset, but he did not experience that symptom. Some of those infected have a cough.
“I didn’t have (much of a) cough unless I breathed really deep,” Chism said. “My lungs stung, like I had gone for a run in the freezing cold.”
He did not request a test at the time. He was staying away from people, and tests were scarce. As a physically active vegetarian who does not drink, he expected a clean bill of health. He thought it was a bad cold that took a turn when he resumed usual activity a bit too soon, at the three-week mark of his illness. He tested on March 12, and had to wait several days for an answer. The results showed he had the illness.
While a surprise, that news came with some relief for his choice to avoid people, except his wife, Laura, 36, who shares a home with him.
Chism works as a tourism and events coordinator for the City of Everett, and has been away from his office since Feb. 28. He continues to work from home now.
He said, for him, “the fever has been the worst part of it — in bed, feeling helpless.” He was sleeping 10 hours at a time.
Still on the mend a month later, he was past earlier symptoms but waiting for his energy level to return to normal. He was cleared to be in public places by a health official just prior to Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” orders, but avoided public spaces anyway out of concern for spreading the illness.
They also said to assume he could get it again. Data on the virus is not yet clear on whether a one-time illness creates immunity for a second round.
Researchers worldwide are putting vaccines and medications through clinical trials to treat, cure or prevent COVID-19. One vaccine started March 16 in Seattle. Doctors await data on the virus and its medical match.
Chism is an optimist, but has his worries: his elderly dad, and as his wife goes through the illness and what symptoms will arise for her. He is also worried about “the health of my family and neighbors (and) the healthcare workers on the front lines of the pandemic.”
For the community, he’s concerned about the financial state of the city of Everett, which many have worked so hard to build. He worries if the events this spring and summer will happen, and how businesses will remain open.
Chism just celebrated a birthday in the midst of it all. For his 33rd birthday on March 15, he and his wife took a picnic to Deception Pass and “we ate lunch with the windows rolled up,” he said.
Chism has gratitude for how it played out for him.
“I don’t want to downplay it,” Chism said. “I seemed to have recovered fine so far, but that doesn’t mean other people in our community will. Let’s keep the elderly and immunocompromised in our minds when we make decisions about leaving the house.”
Gov. Inslee lifts rules for public access, balanced with citizens’ right to know
On March 24, Gov. Jay Inslee’s office walked the tightrope again between public safety and freedom by signing another proclamation to support government agencies all over the state as they work to rein in the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“Transparency in state government and all of its political subdivisions is an important state policy, such that all statutes related to open public meetings and public records are the business of the state,” the March 24 proclamation states. “There are a plethora of electronic, telephonic and other options that make it possible for the public to attend open public meetings remotely.”
He waived elements of the Open Records Act that require government agencies to “provide a room” and allow in-person access to documents for review. In that same action, he halted in-person government meetings and limited those meetings to actions that are “necessary and routine matters” as defined by state law, and matters necessary to address the COVID-19 outbreak.
The proclamation is active 30 days from its signing.
Inslee’s measure also offered specific guidance for government agencies to meet remotely. Some are using the online tool Zoom and teleconferencing to stay socially distant while guarding public access.
Temporary changes to public access laws extend the deadlines for the release of public documents, a requirement that can, in normal times, trigger lawsuits if agencies fail to provide information in a legally defined time-frame.
All levels of United States government are guided by laws that honor a “right to know” what their government is doing.
Medical agencies offer televisits to help slow the spread of COVID-19
SNOHOMISH COUNTY — Health care officials are walking the tightrope to treat COVID-19 while minimizing its spread, and some local health agencies are setting up systems to do both.
The Everett Clinic is now offering telehealth visits on a computer or tablet device, by appointment, to people older than 3 months of age. They are available by calling 425-257-1400. Openings are Monday through Friday 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Telehealth visits must be scheduled in advance.
The online video appointment is with an individual provider, on a computer or smart phone. The virtual room is for patients who have symptoms of upper respiratory illness, cough or fever and want to be seen for those concerns.
Off-site appointments are available for those with potential COVID-19 illness based on symptoms such as shortness of breath, fever and cough. From those visits, providers can recommend care based on the current Centers for Disease Control and state Department of Health guidelines.
The goal, says the Everett Clinic, is to minimize exposure by hosting this video visit instead of a visit in-person. In turn, the limited in-person contact for sick people will limit spread in the community as a whole.
Western Washington Medical Group (WWMG) is also taking strides to limit transmission of COVID-19.
“We are in the process of evaluating televisit platforms and have done some testing with patients,” CEO and pulmonologist David Russian said last week. “We plan to roll out the televisit option to all of our patients as soon as possible, hopefully next week.”
He said WWMG will accept insurance payments for the televists, but “if insurance does not cover the visit, we will charge a flat fee.” The plan for WWMG televisits is to offer them as both scheduled appointments and urgent care visits “when appropriate. Not all problems will be appropriate for a televisit (for example, a laceration),” Russian said.
To reduce exposure, some patients can be evaluated for potential COVID-19 in their vehicles, Russian said, including testing them in their car.
“This will help protect other patients from being exposed,” Russian said.
Interim health officer Dr. Chris Spitters of the Snohomish Health District advised in early March that phone calls be the go-to for health concerns related to COVID-19. Health officials are trying to avoid what in-person contact can bring: transmission of the virus, if someone does have COVID-19; exposure to it if they do not have it; and displacement of more serious cases, if someone is concerned but does not need medical care.
People with symptoms also experienced with cold or flu can be potentially symptomatic for COVID-19. So those with upper respiratory illnesses that trigger shortness of breath, fever and cough will be seen only at the Everett Clinic locations in Everett, Smokey Point, Shoreline and Bothell.
Other clinics are designated for non-symptomatic patients with other health concerns. For a full list of clinics and conditions they are limited to, go to https://www.everettclinic.com/news/visit-right-walk-clinic-coronavirus-symptoms
The best protection against spreading COVID-19 is the same advice given during flu season:
• Practice good hand hygiene: washing hands often for 20 seconds in warm water with soap, or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer.• Coughing and sneezing are the symptoms most likely to spread illness such as coronavirus, cold and flu: cover your cough with a tissue or the crook of your elbow.
• Reduce fever with anti-inflammatories such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Motrin (ibuprofen) but follow directions of the package, or your doctor if you have special health directives.
Eighty percent of people infected with COVID-19 may experience mild illness. A high level of concern for all flu and other illness includes the following symptoms and should result in a 911 call: difficulty breathing, high fever that does not reduce with anti-inflammatories, lethargy and unresponsiveness.
Additional agencies with telemedicine options:
• Western Washington Medical Group has an online patient portal to contact doctors for non-urgent medical inquiries, and a coronavirus link on its website at www.wwmedgroup.com
• EvergreenHealth in Monroe has a 24-Hour Consulting Nurse: call 425-899-3555 and a website to assist patients with assessing illness: www.evergreenhealthmonroe.com/coronavirus-info
• Swedish has a “Coronavirus assessment tool” in the lower right hand corner of this link: www.swedish.org/patient-visitor-info/coronavirus-advisory
• Providence also has an assessment tool: https://www.providence.org/patients-and-visitors/coronavirus-advisory
• Providence encourages people to use ExpressCare Virtual at https://virtual.providence.org/ Patients can attend from a tablet, smartphone or computer, and be in contact for a live video with a board-certified provider. The experience is $49 or less per visit and many insurance plans are accepted. The service is offered seven days a week, and has extended its hours.
• Multi-Care offers free eVisits for coronavirus. The visits are usually $25. Use promo code “COVID19” to waive the fee. Go to www.multicare.org/virtualcare/ Or for those with trouble accessing the online service, call 253-200-3125.
If you have a regular clinic, keep that number on-hand, particularly if you have symptoms, are older than 60, or have underlying health conditions.
Webpages for most public agencies are carrying updates. Visit these:
Schools and parents are advised to direct questions to the state Department of Health, which has established a call center at 1-800-525-0127, press #.
Task force to move development forward, amid new rules to control COVID-19
SNOHOMISH — Members of the Midtown Planning District Task Force were confirmed by the City Council in a block of all 13 of Mayor John Kartak’s choices.
The council approved Kartak’s appointees unanimously in a near-empty room at the March 17 City Council meeting. The public was discouraged from attending in-person due to social distancing protocols to protect people from COVID-19. “We did not use an audio recording and did not use the microphones to avoid exposure,” said city administrator Steve Schuller.
Council President Jason Sanders said he was happy with the way the selection process worked out, as council considered the 13 candidates’ applications prior to approval. Past discussion circled around how much oversight the council should have.
“City Council praised the process,” Kartak said of the March 17 decision. It included input from Kartak’s staff before selections were made and offered to the council.
Kartak confirmed that no interviews were conducted as part of the process. The 13 will be shouldered with decisions around the Midtown Planning District, located on Avenue D from Sixth Street north to state Route 9 that includes a 9-acre “keystone” property once home to the county’s Public Works operations.
Devising the Task Force recommendations is intended as a 2020 process, penciled onto calendars with a timeline that includes ample public involvement, and a hope to finalize a council decision that could impact the character of the city for years to come.
Sanders said the pool of candidates was impressive, with many high quality options for Kartak to consider. The 39 applicants included former council member and mayor Karen Guzak, who ran against Kartak for his current seat. Also among the applicants were multiple longtime community members such as Keith Stocker and Jan Lengenfelder.
The first Midtown Planning District Task Force meeting on March 31 was canceled, due to the current health crisis playing out worldwide.
“It’s too early to make decisions on timeline,” Sanders said, mentioning the possibility that coronavirus prevention could elevate to “shelter in place” protocols, further limiting the city’s ability to hold in-person public meetings. “If we need to make adjustments for the safety of the community, that is what we’ll do.”
When the 9-acre Public Works site sells or leases, the city anticipates development will begin. It is held up by a clean-up project that was already stalled prior to the announcement of a pandemic. The pace of that clean-up is not related to social distancing, said Randy Blair, Special Project Manager for Snohomish County Public Works.
“It is just taking longer than anybody anticipated,” Blair said.
The county is removing a dry-cleaning solvent at the Public Works site, Blair said. Initially that solvent was not properly disposed of, and it traveled across Avenue D, triggering the need for a clean-up, he said. Preparation is still in-the-works for the site. Blair said the county has two consultants working on marketing and business aspects, to prepare for either sale or long-term ground lease of the site.
The council planned ahead to have representation from city commissions, filling posts in planning and economic development, the city agenda says. Representation from the Design Review Board was desired, by staff and council.
Of Guzak, council member Linda Redmon said, “She has a tremendous amount of background and would have been great.”
When asked prior to the confirmation process what she thought of being passed over, Guzak said, “I’m okay with it” and said she was glad there were so many applicants to choose from.
Kartak did not wish to comment on why Guzak was not selected.
The applicants chosen by Kartak were Gordon Cole, Mitch Cornelison, Van Tormohlen, Raymond Cook, Paula Denney, Karl Houtman, Rio Ingram, Kyle Stevens, Thomas Kreinbring, Katherine Thompson, Jeanette Pop and Alice Armstrong. One youth representative chosen in the process was Ethan Martez.
Redmon said prior discussion on council involvement circled around adding transparency, and the council will have a liaison present in committee selections for other committees, she said. No council liaison sat in on this process.
Additional information on the task force is available on the city’s website, http://www.snohomishwa.gov
Food banks adapt to new rules on movement spurred by pandemic
Jim Scolman photo
Volunteer delivery driver Joni Edelbrock and son Kodi load food boxes in their car for deliver to people in Monroe from the Sky Valley Food Bank. The coronavirus restrictions require food banks to adjust. A coalition of nonprofits and local organizations now deliver food each Thursday as part of a “food caravan” that sprouted in late March in Monroe to be able to continue service. When asked about her day job, Joni said,”This is my first time doing this, I run a pre-school, but there’s not much pre-school going on now.” Kodi is a freshman at Monroe High School.
SNOHOMISH COUNTY — Food banks are getting creative and finding new support, as the COVID-19 crisis unfolds and the need for food-service increases.
Elizabeth Grant, director of the Snohomish Community Food Bank, said the Snohomish site always needs cash donations and could use about one dozen volunteers.
New protocols protect both volunteers and visitors, including a process for food pick-up: A volunteer brings a menu to the parking lot, and clients mark the menu while seated in their cars. The volunteer returns to the food bank and shops for the client, returning to pack food and other items into the trunk. The cart used to bring donations is wiped down when it re-enters the site, Grant said.
Donations come in through the back door, Monday through Saturday, as always, Grant said. “At this time, we would prefer new products or monetary donations, as we would like to reduce items coming from people’s pantries,” Grant said.
Sky Valley Food Bank of Monroe has enhanced its delivery program normally reserved for the people who are ill or disabled. It is now doing home delivery for all clients in the Monroe School District.
Carla Stewart, the administrative director for Sky Valley Food Bank, said donations have dropped significantly with almost no food coming in and cash donations have plummeted in the past month and a half. “Cash is best, as we are working with a skeleton crew to do emergency food boxes right now, and we have very specific needs,” Stewart said.
The best way to donate is through the website at http://www.svfoodbank.org, or mail a check to Sky Valley Food Bank, P.O. Box 724, Monroe, WA 98272. Non-perishable food can be dropped off in the food barrel, in the front of the Monroe Boys & Girls Club, 261 Sky River Parkway.
“Our normal procedure is a shopping model,” she said. They closed the week prior and tried a drive-through service, but “we needed too many volunteers to make that happen, so we started our home delivery service.”
She said the current plan is to deliver boxes of non-perishable foods to households every Thursday. Families in the Monroe School District who need food can call the Food Bank at 360-794-7959 to be added to the delivery list.
The food bank is also working with the school district to make sure kids continue to receive weekend emergency backpacks, and also extra food to get through the week.
The best way to help right now, she said, is “help us with funding to buy the food we need and keep paying our bills! We don’t need volunteers at the moment, but that could change quickly, so if people want to help with our food delivery, call us and we’ll put you on the list. We are currently getting help with the food delivery from Cascade Church, Christ the King Church, Take the Next Step, Orange Star Farms, and the Monroe School District.”
In Everett, Volunteers of America Director of Development Jessica Moore said that “the need is incredibly high right now.”
The VOA’s most needed items are canned chicken, tuna, fruit, and soups that are either canned or packaged; bottled water; cereal and breakfast items; baby food and formula; diapers; boxed dinners; healthy kid-friendly snacks; and snack bars.
The VOA Food Bank, at 1230 Broadway, accepts food donations Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
When donors arrive to drop off food they can knock on the door and someone will come out to assist, Moore said. The building is closed to the public at this time and they have be serving the community from the parking lot, she said.
For cash donations, donate online at http://www.voaww.org/donate or mail checks or money orders to: VOAWW, P.O. Box 839, Everett, WA 98206.
Street-life behind him, Diversion Center graduate makes plans for a new life
MONROE — Sitting in the back of a police cruiser, 33-year-old Joshua Johnson is open to talking about the life he sees ahead and why he just graduated from the Snohomish County Jail’s Diversion Center.
“I got nothing to hide. The world’s seen my worst,” Johnson said.
Johnson has lived outside. When the Monroe Police found him, he was in a recycling bin. He said they were going to take him to jail, but took him to detox instead, describing the law enforcement meet-up as “divine intervention.”
He went through the process of getting detained and being transported to detox and it felt familiar.
“It scared me that I was getting used to it,” he said.
He has been to rehab more than once since he was in his 20s. That’s when the heroin use began. The Diversion Center program he took part in to get on-track is designed to divert people away from incarceration, after experiencing homelessness or substance abuse issues.
Johnson has lived with addiction for 12 years, spending two of them sober. He regrets the harm his addiction caused.
He plans to be an electrician. Suboxone helped start his recovery but he’s decided to let that go. He is taking the goal of 120 narcotics anonymous meetings in 90 days. He is determined.
He has healthy outlets: he plays guitar, he likes to hike. In a conversation about “The Body Keeps the Score,” by M.D. Bessel Van Der Kolke, he listens intently to the process described by the medical doctor and writer: rhythmic exercise is medicinal for anxiety and depression. Johnson mentions he already has plans to start boxing.
Remission from addiction is possible, says an article in Psychology Today about recovery, but Johnson knows success is harder than it sounds. Eyes locked with his interviewer, he says, “No, you have to be vigilant.”
Johnson has recovered before. His drug of choice is heroin, and he remembers when he and the opiate first met.
“They were prescribed to me by a doctor,” he said. He upped the prescribed dose on his own and found he could ride his quads all day, even with an injury. Remembering it now, he said opiates feel “like a brain hug, and you’re not cold.”
One in four people who try heroin become addicted, according to addictioncenter.com.
Johnson has tools to stay on-track. He drew some from the treatment program he just got out of.
“How was your vacation?” asks one of his guides. She’s prepared to walk him through the paperwork to get an Orca card and another card to buy food.
“Vacation?” he asks, then she mentions his 28-day treatment. “Oh, I got healthy. I got to dig into some emotional issues. It was good.”
When he enters clean and sober housing, he’ll be walking distance from a bus stop. Six months of his time there is paid: $650 per month, for a community housing environment. He shares a room and intends to get back on his feet in a few months.
He will be headed to the union hall to find out the steps to take, to become an electrician. Previously he worked in flooring, but “my knees won’t take it” and at one time he trained to be a barber. He spent $9,000 on privately owned education to train for a job. It closed, and the money could not be recovered, and the credits could not be used.
Private business credits do not transfer to other schools.
He said what has worked well in recovery is “a spiritual program and impulse control.” He is advised to stop with his first thought before making the next choice.
“My first thought is not always the best one,” he said.
Asked his challenges, he said, “my challenges are people and places.”
Elisa Delgado, embedded social worker for the Monroe Police Department, said people in recovery are often advised to stay away from their old stomping grounds. Friends who used with them will be there, and seeing them can lead to old habits.
Johnson is establishing his direction. He said his recovery so far has taught him how to dig down to the root causes of his drug use. He said his depression is “very manic. I’d have moments where I’d be extra happy,” but Wellbutrin helps with that.
Opiates were a salve for depression and anxiety. The depression came on when he was a teen, and he told his Mom about it. He relayed that she told him, “you’re not old enough to be depressed.” He said he never liked alcohol but was drawn to “anything that made me feel different.”
When he hit his 20s, Johnson started using heroin. His Mom found out and drove him to rehab.
“She didn’t know what to do,” he remembered.
Anxiety has been a problem for him too, and looking back he was surprised that they go together, in the same person.
“I didn’t know what anxiety was. I just thought I was out of breath,” he remembered.
Sitting in the back of a Monroe Police Department cruiser on the way to clean and sober housing in Snohomish County, Johnson was asked what brought him to here, in this police car.
“I’m here now because I was tired of being tired. It was getting really cold out and my family deserves to have (a son and brother back).” He has other siblings. One is still out there. One died. When he lived homeless and chasing his addiction, “I wasn’t a service to anyone but myself.”
Getting help was not natural for him, because it was not part of his family culture.
“We’re a John Wayne family,” he said, enduring what comes along. His demeanor confirms that: upright, stoic, firm handshake, eye contact with conversation, even when peering through a partition in the back of a police cruiser.
Asked what he will do now, he says, “Whatever God has planned for me.”
Johnson said he has regrets, for causing harm to feed his addiction. And he has insights on why there are so many tents outside, along I-5 near Seattle and elsewhere throughout Snohomish County. He says there seems to be a war between the haves and have-nots. Some places exist that could be used for housing, but they sit idle. People isolate on phones and social media — a contrast from the outdoor living he just left behind. Homeless people spend time together, and they listen, he said.
He is back in touch with his Mom and asked what she thought of his recovery, he said, “She’s ecstatic.”
What does he want to tell people who are still out there?
“If they’re in active addiction, stay resilient and never give up,” he said. “Know that someone does care about them.”
Brighter days ahead: Expectant couple moving in soon to new HopeWorks site
Chris Sands and Madi Christofferson (center, wearing pink) look at a unit like theirs inside the HopeWorks Station II mixed-use center in Everett on Monday, Oct. 28. The couple is landing on their feet with a new apartment they anticipate they’ll move into in December.
EVERETT — Christopher Fitch Sands Jr. is not due to arrive until Dec. 23, but when he does his home awaits.
“I’m excited for a door that locks,” said Madi Christofferson as she sat with fiancee, Chris Sands, at her side.
The two will marry Aug. 28, and will soon be tenants at HopeWorks Station II, the new center at 3331 Broadway. The units there are co-located with three operational businesses where residents can do internships, developing new skills and contacts.
A tour gave the expectant couple a feel for what their new home will be like. As a construction tradesman, Sands’ eye was drawn to the building’s sustainability elements. It has 532 solar panels, 87 bicycle stalls, a community recycling program, and has LEED Gold Certification showing a feather-light carbon footprint.
They look forward to their new space, and look back on serious challenges as Hopeworks in Everett prepares to take them in.
The 64-unit space has onsite job training resources with internships. Sands has his sights set on work as a climber, topping trees from heights that would cause some to wince.
“I’m kind of at home in those types of professions,” he said, recalling work as a commercial fisherman, one of the most dangerous professions.
Sands’ last job demanded six 10-hour days a week in construction. He was a fill-in for two companies, whenever they needed help. That impermanent status was part of a six-year struggle to stay off methamphetamines, in a stretch of time that included lapses. His recent work paid the bills. Then, Madi got sick.
“I was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum, which means my body doesn’t process HCG hormones that pregnancy produces,” Christofferson said.
At one point, her doctors were ready to implant a port in her arm, because she couldn’t eat. She was in the hospital twice a week. At first, he said his employers were understanding as he rushed off to be by her side. Eventually, they had to let him go. His recent job loss led to the couple falling behind on rent.
Sands looks calm when talking of his job loss, his risky work, and a motorcycle crash at 90 miles per hour that he walked away from with only a scuff on his helmet and two road-rash scrapes. But when talking of how sick she was, his face looks strained.
“It’s just hard because there’s nothing I can do,” he said, remembering the past eight months.
Whenever she looks a little nervous, his hand finds hers. They are engaged, but he already calls her his wife. Christopher Junior, the baby boy they look forward to meeting in about a month, is thriving.
HopeWorks aims to keep the momentum of those plans flowing by reducing the checklist of worries: Sands has lived in clean and sober housing before, where the ousting time-frame is swift. He said some places give 20 minutes to vacate, and his last eviction from clean and sober housing came with 20 days notice, after a disagreement on when his laundry could be done.
He looks forward to knowing she is safe while he’s away. Christofferson is planning on eventually returning to school to be a K-3 teacher. She started toward the goal before, but “the baby kind of pushed things back a little bit.”
She said she will pick up education plans again, but “there’s no deadline this time. Just kind of when I’m ready.”
“It’ll happen,” Sands said, “I push her to do things.”
His family drives his career plans. As a climber, he can “be home as much as possible with the kids, and for the most part when you’re doing that work it’s 8 to 2, and it’s really good money — a couple hundred bucks a day.”
The couple met in Narcotics Anonymous, a program that provides an anchor for both of them. He has spent six years working his sobriety; she is approaching the one year mark. Both are comfortable sharing widely, about their path to recovery.
“Anyone who knows me knows I’m in Narcotics Anonymous,” Sands said.
She and Sands both understand what it’s like to have an internal threat. He said he just keeps “trying to be a better me than I was yesterday.”
Asked if they are glad to have a safe place to stay, his thoughts are for her.
“I have a checkered past,” he said calmly. “So, as far as the safety for myself, that doesn’t give me a thought. Now, for her, it’s extremely important.”
For more information about the HopeWorks program, go to hopewrks.org. HopeWorks is an affiliate of Housing Hope, which draws on the holistic concept to providing both housing with housing-related support services such as life-skills training, childcare, case management, and employment services. Housing Hope also offers homeownership opportunities for low-income individuals of Snohomish County and Camano Island.
Find a Narcotics Anonymous meeting by calling 425-609-6170 or go to www.everettna.org
For substance abuse help, call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or go to samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline
Animal sanctuary trying to overcome water shortage
MONROE — With the sound of papery swish, his head plunged into a feast of alfalfa and hay.
A full water bin sat to the side of 2,900-pound Blue, who munched contentedly. His barn, shared with eight other cattle, draws about 50 gallons of water daily. It usually auto-fills into insulated bins that draw from wells on the 85-acre Pasado’s Safe Haven site in Monroe. Lately, though, it is filled manually, several times a day.
“We’re kind of in a pickle,” sanctuary director Stephanie Perciful said. “There’s no record of where all of our water wells are. We don’t know if we have a leak or if our well is producing.”
The wells at Pasado’s Safe Haven started underperforming in July and now set off low-water-level alarms multiple times daily. The added work to delivering water doesn’t seem to impact the 200 to 250 on-site animals, but is “taking away from productivity” for the agency, Perciful said.
Pasado’s houses abused, abandoned, hoarded and neglected livestock and domestic animals that are taken from homes due to illegal treatment. The nonprofit does not publicly release its location, due to its role in housing animals that are evidence in court cases. The agency also sends an investigator to crime scenes, assisting law enforcement when animal cruelty is suspected.
Right now, Pasado’s resources are diverted to deal with a well problem that will cost approximately $500,000 to resolve, in a process that will connect them to the city water system as early as spring, but possibly in the summertime.
Water has been trucked in, first from Water Buffalo in Bonney Lake, near Puyallup, and now from Kenmar in Mount Vernon. Water activities to deal with the well problem are costing $2,500 per month, with that cost encompassing water being trucked in, port-a-potties, having animal-related laundry washed off-site, needing to purchase disposable items to avoid water use for dishes, and other tasks.
Other changes the sanctuary is taking are costing money, such as using reusable kitty litter boxes replaced with disposables. Comfort levels are challenged as well, with caregivers going without running water overnight, as the wells are shut down to refill. Pasado’s 39-strong human team uses portable toilets and hand sanitizer to reduce water use during the day.
The advice from an inspection was to “find the leak,” Perciful said, but Pasado’s cannot even guarantee where the wells are. Their system was built gradually, over the 25-plus years the agency has been in operation. Records do not exist for all the volunteer-constructed wells and piping onsite, she said. Surrounding residents have also had trouble with water resources, she said, suggesting that a plan to restore a well-system may be too expensive and lead to a dead end. So the choice was to seek a city water connection.
The daily need for the full sanctuary is estimated at 1,000 to 1,500 gallons a day, said Wendy Ogunsemore, Pasado’s communications director. Pressure washing is scheduled regularly in all onsite pens; animals sometimes need bathing, after being trapped in unsanitary conditions; and the animals receive veterinary care onsite, including spaying and dental work. Pigs needs a mud bath to keep from getting sunburned, and birds need ponds to cool off and bathe. Domestic animals from hoarding experiences are not litter trained or potty trained, and many need veterinary care, so laundry duties are plentiful.
Multiple barns are connected with dirt roads, traveled with a four-wheel drive or a Kubota utility vehicle.
The animals do not seem to notice a problem.
Poppy is a wiry haired, mix-breed Guinea hog with a content expression and an affinity for pumpkins and berries. She races to the gate of her pen, then roots and nuzzles the front of a running shoe as guests enter. Offering a welcoming gaze upward as if to say, “look how shiny my black hair is,” she moves in a half-circle and curiously nibbles to find out how socks taste.
“I’m the snack lady,” Perciful says, explaining the sanctuary-wide fame she has.
Perciful said the nonprofit agency houses dogs, cats, pigs, goats, donkeys, sheep, turkeys, ducks, chickens and alpacas. The animals are rehabilitated with medical care and socialized, and can stay indefinitely, or may be adopted as pets or members of hobby farms. As an official sanctuary, adoption rules are set by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.
Adopted pets “cannot be used for food, and no milked cows. They’d have to breed them and take their baby away,” Perciful said.
Many of the abused and neglected animals taken into Pasado’s were from homes where domestic violence took place, Perciful said. Hoarders are a second category found in their investigations. Ogunsemore said animal-hoarding is its own mental-health ailment, and once animals are taken away, the suspect will shift to another type of animal unless they receive care.
Pasado’s helps ease dark memories of animals taken from cruelty cases, by providing veterinary care, proper nutrition and adoptions.
Ziggy is a longtime resident. He is a turkey, with two close friends who visit him for his personality and back massage talents. Volunteer Sabrina Bonaparte lies face-down on the ground for Ziggy as he walks with clubbed, inward facing feet on her upper back, “I get several back massages a day,” she said.
“One of his favorite things is when I play music for him,” Brandon Blake said of Ziggy. He and wife, Sabrina, have been volunteering at Pasado’s for more than two years. “It’s changed our lives.”
Pasado’s has already begun the process of connecting to the Highland Water system, which will cost about $500,000 estimated to connect its 85-acre site to city water. The process is expected to be complete in the spring or summer. To donate, call 360-793-9393. The agency’s website to make a donation is www.pasadosafehaven.org/ways-give/
Students develop artistic skill in afterschool drawing-program
Addi Dormaier, 7, considers next steps for her drawing of the movie character Bolt.
SNOHOMISH — A student saunters in the door to a portable classroom at Seattle Hill Elementary and lets his backpack tumble, then his coat follows, landing in a lump on the floor.
His eyes pan a table filled with multiple colors and pages in white, black, and brightly colored mediums next to stacks of paper, each with outlines of cartoon characters. Multi-colored construction paper is in a stack in front of a whiteboard with the cartoon images he can draw.
“Any idea what you’re working on today?” asks Lori Meyer, after school program teacher and substitute at Snohomish schools.
“No,” he says, panning the table with a glance.
Some students have their project already planned before they walk into Art Wizards, an after school program at Seattle Hill Elementary. It is a fine-art drawing program offered through a private business, all over the Puget Sound.
Nearby after school programs are in Snohomish, Everett and Mukilteo.
Meyer said art education is important because “it’s an outlet for kids to be creative and feel good about (their project).” In addition to a sense of accomplishment, she said artistic actions contribute to math-skills and spatial reasoning: logical thinking is enhanced with both. Meyer has a master’s in business and is working toward a master’s in art with the goal of continuing her 18 years of art-teaching, as a career-path instead of an outlet.
Preparation for the class is focused on taking the mystery out of drawing, with step by step guides for beginners and more detailed projects for advanced artists. Some of the students have five years of drawing experience. The tables are arranged so options are progressive: easy projects first, harder ones moving down one table. The easy projects have the steps spelled out and defined in visual stages, and require less detail. Harder projects communicate less, and ask more of the artist.
Meyer watches students filter in. Some are still deciding which character they will draw today and with what tools: pencils to outline, and markers to darken and set that outline before adding color with a smudgable medium such as pastel or chalk. Mediums include plain white paper; gray and colored pencils, markers, watercolors, and pastels. The pastels look like oblong, straight-edged crayons. They are boldly bright handheld chunks that colorize the page and the artists’ digits. The effect can be messy, but the crowd of about a dozen is wearing enough color that any mishaps are likely to blend in.
First-grader Addi Dormaier, 7, drops her glittering pink backpack to the floor. The green accents on her tennis shoes swish quickly as she moves through the room, eyeing the table of project-options. She has blue-framed glasses adorned with stars on the handles.
She snaps a page into her hand then finds a space at the window, sitting on top of a desk so she can reach to place the page on the window.
Then she pulls the pencil across the page in mentally pre-arranged curves to draw the movie character, Bolt. The light through the window makes it “easier to see because of the brightness,” she explained.
In minutes, fourth-grader Autumn Gipe, 9, saw the method as valuable, and took a seat next to Dormaier atop a desk near the window. Gipe spent much of the hour drawing Bolt. For about five years, Gipe has worked to develop her drawing skills. She likes the more detailed drawings, and said her artistic activity started at home.
“My Mom was really good at drawing, and when I was 4, I was watching, like, videos on how to draw,“ she said.
Gipe got through the early frustration of her craft with ample practice and the videos online that show project steps. She said early on, she was focused on just one drawing that felt too hard to do well. Each time she did it, she was frustrated with the process and unhappy with the result, but she kept trying.
“Every day I kept drawing that same picture,” she said, then she progressed, drawing other pictures. “I like to challenge myself.”
The level of challenge is a choice in Art Wizards. The focus is on putting kids in a place where they will persevere, but also know they have a guide and an insight on what steps to take.
Eligh Sloan, 12, is a tall, friendly sixth grader and is already an art hobbyist. “This one I came across a few weeks ago. When I was a kid, I used to like 101 Dalmations.” Asked when he was a kid, he said it was at the age of 3. “I draw whenever I’m bored,” he said.
For his dalmation drawing, he said he outlined it “lightly in pencil,” then went over that with a black marker. He found a new technique as he created, turning the pup upside-down to pen the largest dalmation-spot on its back, and completing the shading-stage. In doing that project, “I learned how to see cartoons from a different perspective,” and he practiced attention to detail.
Other students chose their art-subjects for varying reasons.
Alexa Perry, 8, a third grader, started drawing when she was about 3. She likes Bolt, so the choice was a quick one, and the detailed elements of the drawing were a benefit as well. “I like to challenge myself,” she said.
Alexa’s sister Aurelia Perry, 11, is in sixth grade. She picked an easier drawing for just that reason. “I just followed the steps, here,” she said, pointing to the back of the page.
Lucy Choyke, 11, sixth grader, speaks while clapping her hands to punctuate the words she says. “My Mom put me in it. I got ‘permission,’”she said, holding her fingers up for air-quotes.
She said she enjoys the class, which flows with a pre-set structure with ample opportunity for artistic liberation, through decision-making. Students choose the drawing subject, the difficulty level, and the method for creating the project: mediums to where they sit in the room.
To find a voice
Near the end of the hour, any student who has completed their drawing can have free-time to draw something unassigned and of their choosing. The class wraps up with an “art walk,” where kids present what they have created, and develop public speaking skills.
Students line up facing the front of the room and prepare to talk about their work. Owen Choyke, 8, is in third grade. He drew “Evil Wall E.” Wall E is a robot in a children’s movie, and his name stands for “Waste Allocation Load Lifter, Earth Class.” In the story, he was left on a littered Earth, and spends his days cleaning it. During Choyke’s presentation,
Meyer asked for an analysis of the drawing: “How do you know he’s evil?” and Choyke answered “his eyes are red.”
The Art Wizard program was developed by doctorate Ilene Adler, an education psychologist as well as a sculptor and professional artist, according to the company’s website. When children see a scene, Adler writes, they see color, texture, and get some other impression. As the thought-process carries on, then they take in the rest of what they see. The red eyes were a hint of that impression. Super heros always have a nemesis, and there is a reason the viewer knows why: red eyes and the abrupt color scheme of red and black.
Students continued to present, guided by Meyer. “One at a time,” she said, telling another student, “that’s beautiful. I feel like this is one of the best you’ve ever done.”
On another picture, she helped students translate the visual communication created in the drawings, asking questions about details such as the position of irises on the eyes of a cartoon. “Can you see how his eyes are looking over there?”
One student drew a llama wearing a suit, and when asked to talk about her drawing, she explained, “It’s a business llama.”
At the end of the class, some students collected their backpacks and readied to exit.
Some were still working as Meyer reminded artists to sign their drawings. Dormaier sat, star-adorned glasses just inches from her page, eyes fixed on her still in-process Bolt drawing. She pressed the tip of a Crayola marker into the drawing for an added stippling effect, amidst the drawing’s multi-colored background.
While Meyer can speak to the educational benefits drawing can offer, she has moments in the class where she lets them operate with little input: “I want them to find their passion.”
Murder suspect nabbed in California
SNOHOMISH — Bail is set at $2 million for the suspect accused of killing Brandt Stewart, 34, who was found dead just before Christmas.
Jeremy Tod Staeheli of Lynnwood was charged with murder in the second degree, for the shooting that occurred off a logging road about 12 miles from Stevens Pass.
Stewart’s mom, Elizabeth Carmichael, told investigators she rarely saw her son. He struggled with drug addiction for most of his adult life, and was recently staying in a shed at the Snohomish Church of Nazarene. Stewart leaves behind a 4-year-old daughter.
Staeheli confessed to shooting Stewart in the forehead with a 9 millimeter handgun, court documents say. A backpack his mother recently bought for him was taken, as was his wallet. Stewart had a vial in his chest pocket that appeared to contain several grams of methamphetamine. A glass pipe and a small torch-type lighter were found in the snow, near his body, court documents say.
Staeheli has a record of misdemeanor crimes.
Pending in Snohomish County are two assault charges. He is not permitted to have a gun, which factored into the bail amount, as did his flight from Washington to Red Bluff, California.
Detectives were led to Staeheli with information from his Snohomish associates. Stewart was seen the morning of Dec. 22, getting into a red Ford Mustang with Staeheli in the driver’s seat. Surveillance video showed a license plate number connecting the vehicle to Staeheli. One week prior, the red Mustang was seen near the shed, where Stewart was staying.
Staeheli told detectives he knew Stewart and would sometimes bring him food. The two also smoked meth together. On or around Dec. 23, they were driving around, court documents say, and stopped on the logging road. Both got out of the vehicle to relieve themselves. Staheli said he turned to see a knife in Stewart’s hand and shot in self defense, court documents state.
Stewart was found with both hands in his pockets. He had a pocket knife in one of those pockets.
A single spent shell casing for a 9 millimeter handgun was found near the body. Detectives say the same gun was with Staeheli when he was arrested in Red Bluff, California, tucked into his waist band. He was arrested without incident in Red Bluff, two feet from the red Mustang. He confessed to shooting Stewart, sharing details only the shooter would know such as where the bullet hit, court documents say.
Snohomish isn’t taking Pilchuck River water, but it’s there if needed
SNOHOMISH — The Pilchuck River is no longer the source of water for some city residents, but if the city needs those rights in the future, they are protected in a trust agreement through the state Department of Ecology.
“Think of it as a bank account where you might put money into a trust account and it is safe, a lock-box, if you will,” said attorney Adam Gravley of Van Ness Feldman LLP in a recent City Council meeting.
The agreement devised for the city provides flexibility in how to access rights again, protecting the city from the “use it or lose it” personality of water laws, now that the city is leaving the resource unused.
The city’s water supplies are through the city of Everett, said Steve Schuller, the city’s administrator and utilities manager.
Everett gets its water from Spada Lake, a resource that provides water to 65,000 people, which includes 75 percent of the businesses and residents in the county, its website says. Spada Lake is located east of Sultan.
Banking protects the city from losing water rights after five years without use. A state law passed in the 1990s says water banking can make water supplies available during times of drought to improve streamflows and preserve in-stream values during critical periods that contribute to the health of fish populations. It also reduces the cost of obtaining water, if emergency needs occur in the future, the law states.
About two-thirds of Snohomish County was deemed “abnormally dry” as is 62 percent of the state of Washington as a whole. That measurement is as of Jan. 7, and is taken every Tuesday and posted on drought.gov.
The preservation of water rights is a proactive move in case of scarcity.
“You don’t know what climate change will do” to water resources, said Karen Guzak, who served as mayor for much of the water-supply process, and recently retired from 12 years of city service as a councilmember.
The agreement with Ecology is a long-term cooperative framework to secure the city’s water rights for in-stream flows for 50 years. It places in trust the city’s max historic volume of 2,113 acre-feet, Gravley explained. An acre-foot is the unit used to measure water.
“Imagine an acre of land where the water is a foot deep,” he said. That is approximately 1 million gallons. The city’s water right is protecting more than 5 cubic feet per second of flow, Gravley said.
The city has been devising a plan to deal with the aging of their water treatment system and 14 miles of pipeline from the treatment plant since 2009, when Schuller first presented a report to the council. The replacement option can be dusted off in the future, if needed.
A resolution passed in the summer of 2016 directed city staff to pursue three key points: To move residents to the Everett water supply; decommission the city’s water treatment system on the Pilchuck River; and preserve and protect the historical water right, which is based on average use.
Protection of water rights required negotiating a water banking agreement with Ecology, Gravley said.
Without the change, the city would have been vulnerable to loss of water rights.
The change to Everett water also led to a zero percent increase in water rates through 2022.
The trust marks the end of a long water-planning era. The state, tribes, local agencies, fisherman and environmental groups were “all very excited that the Pilchuck River now has additional flows since we stopped operation of the water treatment plant on the upper Pilchuck,” Schuller said. “Low flow in the summer on the lower Pilchuck was a well-known concern.”
The trust agreement is “a win-win for people and fish,” Gravley said.
EVERETT — The Providence Medical Group recently opened an outpatient behavioral health clinic and its founders have a dream: that the stigma of mental health care will someday be gone.
“For me it’s the absolute elimination of stigma” of mental health illnesses and care, said Laura Knapp, a licensed social worker for Providence. One in five people will struggle with mental health in their lifetime, she said, and that number “is probably underreported.”
Knapp facilitates a program co-located with emergency room care at Providence, for adults 18 and over who need behavioral health intervention. The new Behavioral Health Urgent Care is located in the Providence Medical Office Building, 1330 Rockefeller Ave., Ste. 140. It is accepting walk-in behavioral health patients Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Patients are seen on a first-come, first-served basis. No appointment is necessary.
The department helps navigate resources for patients with ongoing mental ailments such as anxiety and depression, paranoia, schizophrenia, as well as situational mental health problems such as new divorces or a personal crises, Knapp said.
Patients may be screened for depression, connected to long-term resources, prescribed medications, referred to other help and assisted with the navigation of resources.
“We screen for depression at every visit,” she said, and the treatment is not always medication.
Studies show that exercise is an effective element in caring for depression and anxiety. Knapp said she envisions a day when there is a therapist at the gym.
Resetting the narrative to equalize mental and physical healthcare as normal is a goal, as is increasing access to care, Knapp said. Challenges to care can include language barriers, lack of insurance and illiteracy. The department helps with those issues.
Prior to the Affordable Care Act, she said, some people could not access help, because of lack of insurance. Now, people with low incomes can obtain insurance through the ACA, but there can be a gap for those with higher incomes. She said the clinic offers payment plans and financial counseling to assure that everyone has access to care.
“What I love about urgent care is we’ll see anybody,” she said.
The clinic is made up of a multidisciplinary team including psychiatric nurse practitioners, a social worker, a substance use disorder professional, a peer counselor, and a patient care specialist who manages the front desk. That mix of providers, including the front desk, is essential, Knapp said.
“It’s important to me that every interaction come from a trauma-informed perspective,” she said, noting that the culture “feels very calm.”
Patients can access psychiatric consultation, medication, and learn of community partnerships and services.
As part of the mission for Providence, the clinic is committed to “increasing access to behavioral health care while eliminating the stigma surrounding this disease.”
Knapp hopes for early intervention in depression, before a person gets to the point of suicidal actions. She said antidepressants are not always the go-to treatment. Some patients are better served with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), counseling, or other treatments that address thought patterns leading to and triggered by depression.
“We talk about behavioral health activation,” she said. CBT is one of the evidence-based practices that can help lift and regulate moods. Most people, she said, “believe all of our thoughts are accurate,” but depressive thoughts are dark. CBT can help shed light on the thoughts that are not accurate, and may lead to emotional pain.
She said depression tends to make people lose interest in doing the things that they love to do, which can deplete moods as well.
According to a recently completed healthy youth survey, there is a high rate of serious depression among youth that is worsening, she said, making the focus of the clinic timely. Even with the clinic so new, and in its second week, Knapp is hopeful that the availability of drop-in behavioral health care sends a message that will be heard by other care providers.
“My hope is that this is something that can be replicated,” she said.
For more information, call the clinic at 425-261-4210.
City tackles squatter issue, with new city ordinance
SNOHOMISH COUNTY — The issue of “nuisance” calls to law enforcement was addressed in two different cities last week.
In Snohomish, a new ordinance requires a property to have utility services and allows the city to take action if utilities are shut off for more than 14 days. The law allows the city to post a “Do Not Occupy” sign and board up windows at abandoned buildings that no longer have utility services.
The law mentions properties that are in foreclosure and often abandoned. In a phone interview last week, Mayor John Kartak said it is not targeted at any one group or demographic, such as homeless people.
“This is not targeted at any particular demographic,” he said, adding “it is a public health and safety issue.” He was referring to buildings with water service shut down, which have non-functioning toilets and sinks.
Kartak celebrated passage of the new law on social media. “This gives the city of Snohomish and our police department a tool that is much more efficient and timely than what is otherwise available, for solving some of the problems in town that threaten the health and well-being of both the individual and the community,” He wrote.
As government leaders often do, he is tasked with walking the line as an advocate for both the sheltered and unsheltered.
Kartak has been a high-profile advocate for low-income people, but regularly comments that he doesn’t support enabling homelessness. He meets regularly with Spruce Up Snohomish, a nonprofit founded by nurturer and watchdog Shayn Bancroft. Liaising with Bancroft keeps Kartak in touch with what the city’s outdoor residents are experiencing.
Bancroft connects through clean ups and his own welfare-check protocols: he talks to homeless people daily, while removing spent hypodermic needles and refuse from around the city.
The city’s new law creates a tool to address calls made by the public, offering the city THE ability to board up doors and windows when a facility is a health and safety hazard, Kartak said.
The law says the city can vacate residents until water and sewer service is restored. If residents violate a “Do Not Occupy” order, they can be charged with a misdemeanor, and failure to secure a residence can result in a civil infraction.
In Monroe, a nuisance building is soon to be demolished, in a move that addresses squatting.
“I’m pleased to announce that demolition of the buildings at the southwest corner of Fryelands Blvd and U.S. 2 began this week. The owner plans to remove the existing structures in anticipation of future development. This is a big step to revitalize this site and a benefit for the entire area,” Monroe Mayor Geoffrey Thomas wrote on social media last week.
Ben Swanson, community development director for Monroe, said the soon-to-be-leveled building was drawing squatters, but at that site the bigger problem was repeat trespassers and vandals. It was used as a makeshift park by teens, and known to officials to be a regular site for fires and graffiti.
“The Mayor, Fire Marshal and Police Chief all pushed to have the building secured or demolished,” Swanson said.
Eastside Masonry Products owns the land, and is redeveloping the site for future use, Swanson said. The owner is in the process of getting permits for a new structure. Its prior use was manufacturing cinder-block type products, Swanson said.
Demolishing the building will take several weeks, and will eventually provide the opportunity for new jobs, Swanson said.
Meth, heroin and cocaine suspects will face prosecution in 2020
SNOHOMISH COUNTY — Two grams of meth, heroin or cocaine will lead to more than a night in jail, as soon as the 2-gram rule is lifted, in early 2020.
Since February of 2018, the “2-gram rule” has given a pass to suspects caught with two grams or less of meth, heroin and cocaine. The rule came before current Prosecutor, Adam Cornell. His predecessor, Mark Roe, created the rule as a way to focus resources on violent crime.
Since the rule went into place, simple possession of these illicit drugs has only resulted in a night in jail. In at least one jurisdiction, suspects were not even booked. With approval of funding at the county level, Cornell said, he is ready to lift the 2-gram rule and resume prosecution, for simple possession.
“We will go back to prosecuting those cases but doing it in a thoughtful, compassionate way,” Cornell said. “We’re still working on nailing down the eligibility criteria.”
Alternative sentencing programs already in process at the county already have eligibility criteria. He said the option for alternative sentencing gives 2-gram suspects a chance to wipe the slate clean, if they complete their court-ordered program, and avoid the collateral damage that comes from a criminal conviction. Prior criminal history can be an eligibility factor for both housing and jobs.
The compassionate way to prosecute is already set up. The county has alternative sentencing set up in the form of specialized courts that deal with mental health and drug abuse, a therapeutic alternative to prosecution (TAP program, and a Diversion Center. The new county funding will staff Cornell’s department, getting it ready to assess 2-gram violators and match them with the type of sentencing that may help.
The rule itself was not intended to blow off crime. Cornell agreed with its intent: It was set in motion to focus resources in the prosecutor’s office on violent crimes. The county is already set up to offer alternative sentencing in the form of a TAP program, mental health and drug courts, Felony Diversion and pre-charging diversion. Once eligibility is determined and pre-charging diversion occurs, the anticipation is 70 to 80 cases in 2020, Cornell’s statement said, even though approximately 150 to 160 were likely in possession of two grams or less in 2019. The lesser impact is due to eligibility requirements and the net that comes from pre-charging diversion, his report to the council said.
Somers’ office said they had no reason to contradict Cornell’s predictions on additional simple possession cases, once the rule lifted. But his office is still concerned about cost.
With Cornell predicting “75 to 80 suspects will be prosecuted, that will be a significant increase in work for public defenders, the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the jail, law enforcement, the courts,”said Kent Patton, communications director for Executive Somers.
But the prosecutor’s office says funding is already dedicated to the problem of simple possession suspects.
Shelly Yale, supervisor for Cornell’s Prosecution Crossroads Unit, wrote in the report to the council that the “2-gram or less folks” are already caught up in the criminal justice system and resources are already directed at them, due to misdemeanor level lawbreaking. Misdemeanor crimes such as theft can impact quality of life for residents, she said. The alternative sentencing options provide the guidance of an advocate to help navigate services, combined with the “external motivation of a pending criminal charge,” she said.
Reasons vary on why people do not seek help without that push and pull. But that lawbreaking is an opportune moment to push people toward positive change. She says the result is preventative.
“For many, it is just a matter of time before they commit a more serious crime that will be charged,” Yale said.
Sometime in early to mid January, Cornell will make a formal announcement to local law enforcement, prior to the official lift in the 2-gram rule.
Cornell’s fact-sheet for the county council anticipates about half of those offered alternative sentencing will “accept the invitation.” He has said in the past that these programs are hard work: sobriety and mental health programs require a commitment.
He announced prior to the council’s consideration of the 2020 budget that he would keep the 2-gram rule in place until staff-funding for his office was secured, to make room for alternative sentencing.
Somers did not include funding for Cornell’s request in his budget proposal, but the county council did. Instead, he proposed a study that would test the impacts of a staffing increase in the prosecutor’s office, prior to implementing it. Results of the study will not be ready until after its parameters are set in 2020, Patton said.
“Executive Somers supports the Prosecutor changing the policy, but if more staff are provided it should be done with a view to impacts across the criminal justice system,” he said.
Cornell said some people will still “end up being prosecuted in a traditional way” in possession cases. Some due to being ineligible. Eligibility criteria may end up excluding suspects with a history of violent offenses, but the specifics to eligibility for alternative sentencing is “to be determined,” he said.
One of the alternative sentencing programs is TAP: more than half of those who completed the TAP program were convicted for possession of methamphetamine. “One year after completing TAP, 92.6 percent of the participants remained crime-free,” Cornell’s fact sheet says.
The anticipated cost for the funding request, by Cornell, was $302,000 to $429,000. The specific amount approved was unavailable by press time for the Tribune.
Prior to passage of the budget, Somers predicted increased court cost that were not yet determined in the plan. The county was already spending 75 percent of Somers’ proposed budget on law and justice agencies, and Somers said staff-funding prior to the lift of the 2-gram rule would further burden criminal prosecutors.
Somers’ intent was to measure that impact first through a study submitted to the council with his pre-Thanksgiving budget proposal. The study was funded in the recently-approved 2020 budget, and its parameters won’t be set until that year begins, said Patton.
The council opted to edit that part of Somers’ budget.
The rule-lift means in 2020, at a time that is to-be-announced, suspects will be booked and referred to the prosecutor’s office. Cornell said an official announcement on the end of the 2-gram rule comes out in January.
Patton said once the rule if officially lifted, “it will be up to the Sheriff and other local law enforcement leaders to determine who will help enforce the policy.”
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