On Monday night I was down in Vancouver, Washington participating in a panel debate on I-933. It was heated at times, like any old fashioned civic debate should be. But I was troubled to read the newspaper coverage the following morning.

Here’s the bit that stuck in my craw:

Zimmerman said farmers resorted to I-933 because they couldn’t get state government to take their concerns seriously.

He saved most of his ire for the critical areas ordinances that counties must update under the GMA. Those ordinances will require farmers to set aside as much as 250 feet on either side of streams and wetlands for salmon and wildlife habitat. That’s unfair, he said, because developers could pave over that property and leave nothing for fish or wildlife.

What’s wrong with that coverage? Well, it overlooks a few key things: 

  1. During the debate Zimmerman was forced to admit that the 250 foot buffer he was complaining about was only a proposal—a proposal that was withdrawn because of community opposition.
  2. And the fact that the proposal was withdrawn is pretty darn good evidence that state government does, in fact, take his concerns seriously.
  3. Finally, developers cannot pave over the property and leave nothing for wildlife. Why? Because the property he was referring to is zoned agricultural under current law. Exactly the sort of protection that may vanish under 933.

So Zimmerman’s example is not only untrue, it turns out to actually suggest that our current practices, however imperfect, can work fairly well.

Unfortunately, the newspaper article neither refutes his assertions nor mentions his subsequent confession in the debate. And by not putting Zimmerman’s claims between quotation marks, it lends them the weight of fact—a gravity that they certainly do not deserve.