ISLAND COUNTY BOARD OF HEALTH CANCELS PUBLIC MEETING
Accused of Thwarting Citizen Participation and Avoiding Navy Jet Noise Problem
The Island County Board of Health’s surprise cancellation of yesterday’s public meeting is being criticized by Navy jet noise victims on Whidbey Island. Noise victims armed with evidence to support their claims of health harms, including new noise measurements and scientific studies, were expecting a response to their requests for prevention and protection measures.
It would have been the third contentious Board meeting to be dominated by citizens demanding action on their complaints about the toxic noise of controversial ‘Growler’ jets.
The meeting was cancelled because of three ‘no-show’ Board of Health members, all of whom have been accused of being openly hostile to noise victims and their requests. All three of the Board members have supported Navy operations that send Growler jets screaming a few hundred feet over recreational areas and the rooftops of homes. The presence of three out of the five voting Board of Health members is required for a quorum.
Two other Island County Board of Health members, like citizens who had planned to testify, arrived at the courthouse meeting location only to find a note of cancellation, with no explanation, taped to the door. According to one of the surprised Board of Health members, it was the first time such a meeting had been cancelled in her eight years of being in office. All Commissioners were in attendance at a nearby meeting just before the cancellation.
The cancellation followed the issuance of a News Advisory by Citizen’s of Ebey’s Reserve (COER) notifying news media about the meeting and citizens’ intention of attending. The meeting was cancelled about the same time a television news station reported that citizens would be coming to the meeting to speak about the problem.
According to COER, the Navy and its supporters in local government do not want attention drawn to a serious and embarrassing problem they would rather ignore. Frustrated noise victims represented by members of COER and Island Concerned Citizens went over the heads of County officials and took their complaints to the Washington Board of Health on April 19th.
“The Island County Board of Health is dominated by narrow-minded individuals who don’t want to acknowledge overwhelming scientific and medical evidence of noise related health harms. They only see Navy dollars, which they appear to value over the health of the citizens they are supposed to serve and protect,” said COER President, Ken Pickard.
County Commissioner and County Board of Health Chairperson, Jill Johnson, one of the ‘no-shows’ at yesterday’s meeting has been accused of being openly hostile to noise victims. After hearing citizens’ complaints of health harms at the previous County Board meeting she stated, “The best way to protect public health is to have this Navy Economy.” She stated on the record that there was “no need to look into this”, and characterized citizens’ testimony as a “Haight Ashbury revival.”
Johnson has publicly welcomed the Navy’s increase in Growler operations, including those taking place over homes where Growler noise has created what one health expert described as a “public health emergency.” County Commissioner and Health Board member, Richard Hannold, also a ‘no show’, previously voiced his support for the Navy and the “great economic benefits it brings to this Island.” Hannold is a retired Navy Chief and contractor who provided services to the Navy.
‘No-show’ Board of Health Member and Oak Harbor Mayor, Bob Severns, responded to citizens’ pleas for help with a blanket statement of support for the Navy’s “mission.”
Capt. Frederick McDonald, the Navy’s non-voting representative on Island County Board of Health, echoed the same lack of concern for noise victims stating, “I live under the flight path and I love the sound of freedom.”
At two previous County Board of Health Meetings, chairperson Jill Johnson attempted to deviate from the Board’s published agenda and move the public comments to the end of the meeting.
This change in the way the Board normally conducts its meetings would have kept citizens, who took time away from work and families, waiting for hours to voice their concerns.
The agenda published for yesterday’s cancelled meeting had the public comment period moved from the beginning to the end. This move, according to COER, is an attempt to thwart public participation that flies in the face the board’s stated mission.
According Whidbey resident Anne Harvey who came prepared to testify at yesterday’s meeting, “this was supposed to be democracy in action and an opportunity for citizens to speak out. This cancellation with no advance notice was disrespectful.”
COER has vowed to attend the next Board of Health meeting and to seek the intervention of other state and federal agencies and office holders.
The testimony of noise victims to the Island County Health Board on April 19th and May 17th was
recorded and can be heard at: https://www.islandcountywa.gov/Commissioners/Pages/BOH.aspx
For more information about Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve, http://citizensofebeysreserve.com.