Put another way, when rules go rogue, the rebellion is commenced.
The issue here concerns the avowed purpose and mission of the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (PSCAA) which has cited me for violating a burn ban that occurred on a rental property of ours unbeknownst to me last December 7, 2013.
Pay $1,000 or appeal.
My ‘day in court’ will be almost a year following the incident.
In preparing my case, here’s what I’ve found.
According to the “Smoke Reduction Zone Winter Report 2013-2014” – a Power Point presentation at the PSCAA Advisory Council meeting of July 9, 2014, Slide 11 declares the “Days between Observation and NOV (Notice of Violation) issue: 2013 – 16 days; 2014 – 7 days.”
But that’s not true.
At least not in my case.
The first notice we received from the PSCAA about what happened on December 7, 2013 was received by certified mail on February 21, 2014, complete with photographs of the bonfire.
That’s 74 days.
Not 16 days, much less 7 days.
Members of the PSCAA Advisory Council are on record as expressing concern over the elapsed time between violation incident and violator notified.
In the December 11, 2013 meeting minutes of the aforementioned council, members question Kimberly Cole, Supervising Inspector, about NOV delays – delays allowing for the potential of continued violations if NOVs are not timely.
According to the minutes, “the agency has improved the process of sending out violation notices and that they are going out faster than last year.”
While relatively speaking seven days (2014) are “faster than” 16 days (2013), in my case we’re talking 74 days.
And, to add insult to injury, another 70 days would go by during which no word – at all – was received from the PSCAA as to my letter of March 1, 2014 noting the immediate corrective actions taken.
No word, that is, until the bill for $1,000 arrived in the mail on May 1, 2014.
That’s a total of 144 days for something that should have happened by way of a simple phone call.
During those first 74 days between violation and notice thereof, three more burn bans would occur in Lakewood, Pierce County and beyond: December 25, 2013; January 13, 2014; and January 26, 2014. This, as it would turn out, explains why PSCAA Council Advisory members expressed concerns about delays in notifying violators given the potential of continued pollutants placed in the air.
Common sense and courtesy, not to mention keeping as priority the mission and message of the PSCAA: “Clean healthy air for everyone, everywhere, all the time,” suggests, if not demands, prompt attention to violations and thus prompt corrective actions as in notification of violators ASAP, all goals most certainly made possible via the reporting requirements of Burn Ban Patrols which, in Lakewood, are comprised of Lakewood Police Department Community Service Officers (CSO).
In emails obtained by Public Disclosure Request (PDR), among the protocols for those out-and-about surreptitiously taking pictures using specialized nighttime cameras of suspicious fires to determine if there’s smoke, time is of the essence.
“PSCAA will ask that all the Smoke Observation logs be submitted to us ASAP, but no later than 3 days after patrol was conducted. Lakewood’s patrol staff will, to the best of their ability, submit the electronic observation reports and photos by the end of each day’s shift. This may require organizing the evening’s 4-hour patrol shift to 2 hours of patrolling to allow for up to 2 hours of report submittals.
“The Lakewood Field Staff should, whenever possible, complete and submit the Smoke Observation Report, including uploading the photograph(s), to the Agency immediately after making the observation. The Smoke Observation Report will be completed (including uploading observation photos) and submitted as soon as possible after an observation is made, but no later than the end of the burn ban patrol shift in which the observation was made.”
But the absurdity of bypassing common courtesy – not to mention keeping as priority the mission and message of the PSCAA which, translated, would seem obvious to alert violators to take prompt corrective actions – is illustrated in yet another PDR email between one of Lakewood’s Burn Ban Patrol members, and Kim Cole, PSCAA chief enforcer:
“I’m still tying (sic) to get a good front photo of (address withheld). The owner was outside today, and came over to chit-chat with me before I had a chance to snap one. Argh!
“I’ll try it again tomorrow. I’ve positively verified it’s the right house, but want a pic that will stand up to a challenge. Don’t want to lose one because all you can see is shrubbery and a smoking chimney thru the branches.”
So what is this about?
If clean air is indeed the objective; if the potential for continued violations is real; if the truth is not being told even within the Clean Air’s own agency; if a CSO cannot even talk about the matter at hand in broad daylight to a citizen who comes over to chat the day after a suspicioned fire but rather presumably hides the camera or gives some lame excuse for being out and about taking pictures – then does not all of this not only make suspect the intent of this Enhanced Enforcement piece of the PSCAA but also do not such methods negate and frustrate any attempt to rectify the situation in a timely manner?