Trouble Maker

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.”

Steve Jobs
The above quote directly applies to me.  Hired as a faculty member in the Sociology/Anthropology Department of Western Washington State College I came into town (Bellingham) in December of 1967 with a degree in sociology and a specialty in community systems analysis.  But more than that, I came into town with a world view that called into question the existence of many of the local systems that made up the community where I lived.  As an academic, I could study the local systems and write academic “papers” on my findings.  I chose to get involved.  For me, knowledge was for use.  It had use value rather than the true value. 

FBI and the local police
Sometimes I needed help in confronting powerful elements in our community and my participation kept secret.  Such was the case when I called in the FBI to confront our police department.  When I became aware that Spedo Suthas, Assistant Chief of Police, and a Sgt. took a Hispanic prisoner out of jail to a gravel pit in Skagit County and beat the hell out of him and dumped him there I contacted the FBI in Washington, D.C. and got them to investigate.  I was afraid of the possibility of a Greek Mafia that would take revenge if they knew that it was I who got the FBI to investigate this member of the local Greek community.  Nor did I know how strong the police brotherhood was.  Would they take it out on me for tarnishing their reputation?  So I said nothing publicly about my involvement until we got a new Chief of Police and at a closed meeting of the City Council I told of my involvement and said that if I ever heard of any discrimination by members of our police force none of them would get a salary increase while I was on the City Council.  I was assured that things were changing rapidly under the new Chief.
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Killing The New Jail Proposal
In September of 1974 a joint meeting of the Bellingham City Council and the County Commissioners was called to review and possibly adopt a consultant’s report on a new jail proposal for the city and county.  The report was several inches thick.  It looked impressive but I doubt any one other than me read it with a critical eye.  At least it so seemed at the meeting.   At that time I was a member of the Bellingham City Council.

After the consultants spoke there was time for the elected officials present to address the issue.  I proceeded to totally destroy the proposal and the elected officials unanimously voted it down. 

Here is a copy of the document that I read at that meeting.


by George F. Drake
Bellingham City Councilman

25 October 1974I.

1. General Considerations

Buildings are means, not ends. Public buildings are constructed to house offices, programs and activities that are also means and not ends. Both the programs and the buildings to house them are but instruments to resolve certain common problems of the community. The “ends” or “goals” being sought are, ultimately, the resolution of the problems that caused the development of the programs and activities in the first place.

Buildings and the programs they house must be seen as answers to the problems they address. There are two major dynamics that affect these answers to community problems, either of which might demand a revaluation of the viability of the answers being used or recommended as responses to the problems. These dynamics are: 1) the nature of the problem itself could change, and/or 2) the range of alternative answers could change. The first is illustrated by the increase in student activism and drug abuse in the 1960’s. A significant increase in the amount of crime and delinquency in an area due to population increase, or a shift in population mobility might also be sufficient to render current “answers” inadequate. The second dynamic is a result of increases in knowledge. An “answer” (program, activity or building) is the best among a range of alternative answers at any given point in time. A change in the alternative answers available warrants a reconsideration of the one chosen at an earlier point in time.

Given the above dynamics a proposal for a new building and a change in programs and activities to be housed in that building would

seem to require:

  1. an analysis of the changing nature of the problem, the resolution of which justifies the construction of the buildings; and
  2. an analysis of the programatic alternatives to be housed in the building.

Logic would demand that a study of 1) and 2) above would consider the construction of a new building only as one alternative among several and only as a result of space needs for increasing program effectiveness and efficiency.

A review of the document prepared at great public expense by a consortium of three consulting firms which recommends the construction of a seven million dollar facility seems to lack the data necessary to come to the conclusions they present. If the above logic has any validity then we could also state that the document is quite inadequate in its analysis of both the changing nature of the problem, and the changing nature of alternative answers to the problem. What we have is one answer (a new building) with justifications for its construction but no information that would allow for any alternative.

II. Assumptions

A. The most serious of all the assumptions implicit in the report, one that is never articulated or openly defended, is that of a need for a four-county regional law and justice authority. What begins as a four-county planning and coordinating program, where coordination is through communication and collective planning processes, now becomes

a mandate for a four-county criminal’ justice system that goes way beyond planning and communicating on joint problems. It now becomes a super-agency that conducts programs, administers facilities, etc. Being located between county and state government this bureaucratic instrument effectively removes problem-solving processes from local control. A real concern is that this creates a regional “limited purpose government” that is not responsible to the electorate.

B. Another assumption is that of the relationship between physical proximity and cooperation.

  1. “Close physical proximity of the various criminal justice agencies is critical to their increased interaction; this report therefore recommends that all of the components be grouped in a criminal justice center on one site” (Section I, p. 2).

We question whether “close physical proximity” must be interpreted “on one site,” and suggest it might be sufficient to have all units within one or two city blocks of each other, such as they now occur.

  1. “In viewing the organizational configuration for the criminal justice center, it is important to recognize the interrelatedness of the constituent agencies. By providing planned spaces for each of these entities within one facility, the various functional improvements and benefits to the regional criminal justice system can much more readily be achieved” (Section I, p. 3).

This is a repeat of the assumption noted above. No evidence is presented anywhere in the entire document indicating that courts run more effectively when they are twenty paces from a jail cell or a communications center runs more effectively when next to the criminal records section.3. “While interagency cooperation between the Police and

Sheriff’s departments could be effected without facility changes, we believe that such cooperation could be significantly enhanced by the existence of the new facility” (Section I, p. 7).

Again, why would moving the Sheriff’s Office and the Police Department a thousand feet closer cause a significant enhancement in their cooperation? No consideration is given to functional cooperation (records, communications, etc.) without full merger. Why not?

C. Another assumption that should be made explicit and proven

is that of increased efficiency due to the new building design.

“If financial or other considerations preclude construction of a complete criminal justice center, the civil courts and possibly that section of the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office which deals with civil matters could remain in the existing Whatcom County Courthouse until circumstances permit their inclusion in the facility. While these two functions have minimal impact on the operations of the criminal justice system, it should be understood that their removal would likely result in an overall loss of efficiency of the court system and the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. Removal of any other criminal justice agencies from the proposed new Criminal Justice Center would seriously detract from the efficiency of operation and the opportunities for interagency cooperation discussed above (Section I, p. 9).

Again, the “efficiency of operation” is never demonstrated, just assumed. Part of the assumption is that the current system is relatively inefficient. The major flaw with Section I of the report is the fact that there is no comparison with what currently obtains showing a clear cost/benefit ratio by building a new structure. No alternatives to building a regional Criminal Justice Center were ever discussed or evaluated!

Ill. Critical Review of Section II of the Report

The parts in Section II that speak of functional integration or

cooperation between Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office and The Bellingham Police Department warrant consideration. Such integration and cooperation may or may not require a new building.

  1. The staffing requirement alternative (Section II, pp. 37-38- 39-40) are absurd. They indicate that in the next 21 years there will be a need for a police force in Bellingham two and a half times the size of the current department, while population in the city is estimated to increase by only 37% (and this is the high estimate! Population projections are on page 63, Section II). There is no explanation why this growth in personnel is so much greater than population growth.
  2. This same rate of personnel growth is projected even with a functionally integrated Police and Sheriff’s Department but with 15 fewer staff because of the savings due to “greater efficiency”—a personnel saving of 5% at an expense of millions of dollars!
  3. On page 44, Section II, Table 4, the number of District and Superior Court filings are projected to grow by 173% over current filings, while population growth (Section II, p. 63) during the same period will be but 37% over current figures. Why? No explanation

is given other than projections to the 21 year period from the preceding four year period. Yet the figures in Table 3 (Section II, p. 43) show the rate of increase has dropped—1971 over 1970 = 15% 1972 over

1971 = 24% 1973 over 1972 = 9%. A “least squares” or linear re

gression is hardly called for in making projections from this data.

  1. Table 5 on page 45 Section II indicates a staffing level in

the two court systems, Superior Court and District Court of 2.69 times

the size of the current staff—again, with a population growth of only 37%. Why?

  1. Table 7a (Section II, p. 72) has an error in the label of the total row. “Total type 1 and 2” should read “Total 2.” “Total type 1 and type 2” is missing.
  2. Table 7c (Section II, p. 74) shows a curvilinear relationship over the three-year period. This indicates caution should be used in projections unless reasons are known for the shape of the curve.
  3. Table 7d, Section II, is absurd. One cannot have 1.8 murder ers sentenced in 1973! Nor 21.3 burglaries, etc. The table does show that driving while intoxicated, and public intoxication, constitute 64% of all misdemeanors in 1973 (unsentenced) and 23% of all bookings that year. This should be noted in projected bookings because of the new law on treatment of alcoholism offenders.

IV. A Critical Review of Section III of the Report

The main fault with Section III is that there is no interaction

effect on Section II of the report. In other words, the effect of a

good corrections program on “days in jail,” etc., is not figured into

the figures used for the size of the facilities. After beautiful

rhetoric on community-based corrections we find the words:

“In the first place, the existing jails are so structured that less isolation and fuller development of programs and services in the jail are almost if not altogether precluded. Secondly, community based alternatives to incarceration for both pre-sentence and post-sentenced prisoners are very scarce, thus limiting the options and reinforcing the use of jail confinement as the exclusive remedy” (Section III, p. 1) .

The implication is that since no community facilities are available we must build a bigger jail even though that has been acknowledged as an inadequate answer for the corrections problem. The first sentence on page 2, Section III, states:

The purpose of this report is to evaluate existing facilities and practices in the Northwest Region, and to consider the possibilities for new construction and the development of new correctional Concepts on a regional basis.”

One should notice that the regional basis of the analysis is a “given” and not subject to question. The General Summary of Recommendations on page 3, Section III, begins:

“We are making four general recommendations for changing the current detention and correctional systems in the Northwest Region. These are summarized as follows:

I. Establish a New Regional Correctional Facility in Bellingham with a Comprehensive Rehabilitation Program for Sentenced Prisons Who Must be Confined.”

See what happens when a regional answer to a problem is mandated—a

regional facility becomes necessary.

We looked for the data for the above recommendation and found it lacking. What we did find was the following:

  1. A series of recommendations on handling prisoners that have nothing to do with the age or quality of the building they are housed in. Pages III-4 through III-26 deal with these generalities.
  2. On page III-27 we find a paragraph that suggests the rest of

the entire document should be thrown away.

“From a purely financial point of view, maximum use of alternatives to jail also makes sense: it can save the

county millions of dollars. To maintain one person in a

jail which meets todays standard costs about $8,000 per year. To build a new facility costs per prisoner bed approximately $30,000. This cost amortized over a 30 year period would add $1,000 to the yearly cost of maintaining a prisoner. No community alternative, with hospitalization as a possible exception, comes close to costing $9,000 to maintain one person for one year.”

  1. There is rw discussion why these programs cannot be effected in the current facilities or in something other than a 7 million dollar structure.
  1. The Appendix (III-66 + 1 ff) is useless. The number of questionnaires used for The Whatcom County analysis was 17 out of a population (annual) estimated to be over 450 persons. Such statistical presentations fill reports of consultants, but ruin credibility.

  1. A Critical Review of Section IV of the Report

This section, based on untested assumptions and poor data is a waste of effort.

  1. Conclusions

This report seems to have been written as a defense of a prior decision to build a new criminal justice building in Bellingham. To build a building that is unwarranted by the facts presented would be a horrible waste of the taxpayer’s dollars, but even more serious is the threat to local general purpose government as we know it. The creation of a super-agency lying in the limbo between county and state government would be a de facto abrogation of local responsibility and accountability to the electorate for the functionings of our government


The lack of consideration of program needs and program changes suggested in Section III of the report in the data projections in part II or design considerations in part IV seems to indicate that “someone” wants a building awfully badly. We wonder who he (she? they?) are? What role do they anticipate playing in the new superagency? Obviously they are not too interested in changing anything other than bringing all interrelated agencies under one authority.

We could end up reaffirming our faith in 19th Century correctional systems by building a seven million dollar monument to the past.

What is needed is a review of alternatives to incarceration and an expansion in funding to those alternatives so as to preclude recidivism and enhance rehabilitation. Those who measure progress by the number of new buildings built or miles of streets paved rather than the extent to which a pattern of human behavior is changed will delight in the report. Those who wish to affect the crime rate (delinquency rate) might better explore other program alternatives rather than more brick and mortar.

Saving the Bus System
One of my earliest involvements as a “trouble maker” in Bellingham was the issue with the bus system.  The local bus system was privately owned but was going bankrupt.  The drivers had an initiative before the Bellingham City Council asking that the city take over the running of the buses.  The City Council members and the Mayor were opposed, citing higher taxes.  No one spoke for the users of the system so I, as a sociologist, intervened with a questionnaire given to all users of the bus system that allowed them to speak out.  Based on my research the city acquired a bus system, now, known as WTA it is one of the most admired in the State of Washington.
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Recreation Commission
I was a “troublemaker” writ large when I took on the Recreation Commission.  The Recreation Commission was a non-governmental organization the board of which was comprised of representatives of the City of Bellingham, Whatcom County, and the local school district.  The City of Bellingham provided most of the funding.  Chairman was Hal Arneson, former Bellingham High School letterman in many sports and letterman at the University of Washington.  He was a local sports hero.  He was also on the Board of Education and was Chairman of the Board of Realtors, a highly respected and well-known member of the community.  None-the-less I won the battle and the Recreation Commission was dissolved.  To me this Commission epitomized what I called the “good old boys network.”   For years there was no change in membership.  These same names appeared as officers of other community organizations.  They did not like me.  Even the Bellingham Herald had an editorial supporting the Commission and dismissing my efforts at change.  Read the story here.
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WARC and the United Way
As President of the local chapter of the Washington Association for Retarded Children (WARC), I confronted the United Way and won.
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Bellingham Housing Authority fight
Another good example of the “old boy’s network” was the Bellingham Housing Authority.  The members had sat on the board for decades with little change in membership.  Again, they were from the Bellingham “old-timers” and were well-known in the community and sat as members of other boards and commissions.  My strategy was to go to the RCW, the state law establishing Housing Authorities.  Then I went to the WACs, the Washington Administrative Code to see how the law was translated into action requirements.  I found that they had broken the law from the year they were formed. I then went public with a call for them to “shit or get off the pot.”  They were ignoring the needs of the disabled, the poor and other elements of the population and were only catering to the elderly.  Housing became a major public issue and the new mayor dismissed all but one member of the Housing Authority and a new day dawned for housing in Bellingham.
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Bellingham Herald Carriers Protective Association
My developmentally disabled son was a paper carrier for the Bellingham Herald and I took care of his bookkeeping.  I thought it would be simple to discuss the problems that I encountered with the Managing Editor of the Herald.  No so.  So I formed an organization of parents of carriers and we picketed the Herald Building.  Soon we had staff from company headquarters coming to Bellingham to spy on us and handle the situation to the advantage of the newspaper.  We eventually won but it was scary to know that a major news corporation wanted us “out of the way” so they could conduct business as usual.
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WARC and the School District
Perhaps the most serious confrontation I was involved in was the potential lawsuit against the Bellingham School District for several million dollars and/or placing charges against the School District with the Washington State Office of Education.  The State Director told me that if what I said was true [it was] he would initiate an audit of the financial records of the Bellingham School District for the preceding five years and levy fines of such magnitude that the local district would have to have a special levy to raise the money to pay the fines.  We opted to go another route.  Read the story here [2.7].  Yes, I was a troublemaker.  One of the crazy ones. Where did I get the chutzpah (cajones in Spanish) to confront one of the most sacred institutions in the community, our local school district?  Again, we won.
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Senior Activity Center
You don’t challenge the most respected Senior Advocate in Bellingham, Catherine May, without expecting a real fight.  She was the director of the Senior Activity Center and well known not only in Bellingham but in Olympia where she was always advocating for seniors.  I challenged her and won.
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High school students study race
Pacific Grove, California was the Methodist Church home base in California, comparable to Ocean Grove, New Jersey.  It was a ‘dry’ town and very much a religious community.  Then here comes George who shows what a racist community it was.
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Saving the school psychologist
I didn’t become a troublemaker on coming to Bellingham.  I had a reputation long before that.  When teaching high school in California I became known as a troublemaker and while not fired I was urged to find employment elsewhere.  Here is how I took on the Board of Education and won.
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HERO’ Found to be a  FRAUD
It took guts to call one of the most respected Korean War heroes a fraud but I finally decided to do so.  The fight is still going on.
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Libel suit
Call a student illiterate and you are in trouble.
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Gota de leche
Even in Colombia in the Diplomatic Service I was a troublemaker.
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I resign
Firing the head of the Whatcom County Opportunity Council.
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