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Dano challenges Inslee to forgo salary until lockdowns end

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | January 22, 2021 1:00 AM

EPHRATA — A Grant County official announced he will not take his salary until restrictions on businesses are lifted by Gov. Jay Inslee, and challenged Inslee and other state officials to do the same.

Grant County Prosecutor Garth Dano sent a video to the governor’s office Jan. 5, “Concerned Citizens of Grant County,” detailing some of the local effects of the restrictions and asking Inslee to rescind the current lockdown orders. Dano and other Grant County residents and elected officials speak in the video, which has had about 1,500 views and can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6OCNaiAWlg.

The video included Dano’s challenge to state officials to decline to take their salaries.

Dano followed that with a letter to the governor’s office Jan. 20.

“To date, I have received no response from you or your staff concerning the plea from Grant County citizens to reopen our economy,” Dano wrote in his letter. “I am personally declining to take my salary until you end your orders, out of respect and support of Washingtonians who have lost their jobs or businesses as a direct result of your orders.”

“I am seriously troubled by the lack of communication or response from your office,” he continued. “As one elected official to another, representing the interests of the people of this State, I find it inexcusable and disrespectful that neither you or your staff have extended to me the common courtesy to respond to my attempts to speak with you.”

Dano said in a separate interview he believes the pandemic offers a serious challenge, but state officials should show more flexibility in dealing with it.

“This one size fits all is crazy,” Dano said.

Mike Faulk, deputy communications director for the governor’s office, said he didn’t know if the governor planned to defer his salary.

“I have not heard of any such plans,” he wrote in an email. “The question itself reflects a misplaced frustration with the governor for how the pandemic has unfolded. The virus is what’s hurting our communities right now, not the measures taken by the state that are totally appropriate for this moment in time. These restrictions are necessary and are backed by a robust body of scientific evidence about how the virus spreads.”

People in the governor’s office apparently watched the video.

“Members of the governor’s staff have seen and appreciated the views expressed in the video,” Faulk wrote.

Faulk said Inslee and his staff understand the concerns of Washington business owners.

“Our office talks to stakeholders in the business communities most impacted by these restrictions every day,” he said. “We hate what has happened to businesses coping with the most restrictive measures right now, and the governor has targeted hundreds of millions in state funds toward these businesses, as well as tenants and landlords. Many times that amount was distributed to local governments via the state through federal CARES Act dollars.”

Faulk said the restrictions are necessary.

“Lifting many of the current restrictions would result in exponential growth of the virus and overwhelm our health system, which is a disaster that would hurt even more people than we’ve seen among people and businesses affected by COVID. Our health is essential to our freedom, and the pandemic represents threats not just to people with COVID but anyone with ongoing medical needs, including non-urgent needs that could worsen over time with a lack of access to consistent medical care,” he wrote.

State officials consulted a number of groups when establishing the standards, Faulk said.

“We have considered every avenue and the measures we settled on came after months of feedback — positive and negative — from stakeholders in local government, business, health, education, labor and more,” he said. “There is a popular myth out there that these decisions have been made in a bubble, and it’s just not true. The businesses, small and large, are all limited to 25% capacity. Bigger stores can fit more people before they hit 25% capacity, but it’s still a uniform standard and if big stores violate that, they will face potential enforcement actions.”

Dano said state officials should emphasize vaccination. After medical personnel and emergency responders, Dano said state officials should focus on vaccinating those most at risk for complications from the disease, including people more than 70 years of age and people with medical conditions.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at cschweizer@columbiabasinherald.com.