Pepper Fisher

CLALLAM COUNTY – It’s been well reported that the spikes in Covid-19 cases in Clallam County throughout the summer have traced back to large gatherings, beginning around the 4TH of July.

At Tuesday’s Board of Health meeting, Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry Unthank said she’s sometimes asked why such gatherings can’t be shut down or the hosts of large parties ticketed. One main reason is because, unlike Jefferson County, Clallam County doesn’t have a Nuisance Ordinance to allow for that.

“More from an educational standpoint, I think a lot of folks really want us to be able to kind of cite people. People think we can give tickets, and we don’t have that legal authority right now. And so I think it would be an interesting point of discussion for folks that, if that is something people desire, you know, people want us to be able to ticket folks, then there has to be some, basically, legislation around that. There has to be an ordinance to give us that power. Some folks probably don’t want us to have that power. That’s okay too.”

Dr. Unthank isn’t necessarily advocating that the County adopt a Nuisance Ordinance, but she says it’s a conversation worth having if people want to give law enforcement that tool.

Sheriff Bill Benedict gave us a little perspective on the matter, pointing out that the Governor’s Stay Home-Stay Healthy Proclamation is law under RCW Chapters 38 and 43, but he says it’s his understanding that the Governor did not intend, in most cases, that law enforcement criminally enforce them. In fact, most enforcement has come from Labor and Industries.

That said, when it comes to adopting a Nuisance Ordinance in Clallam County, Benedict says he’s all for it. But for him it’s not about Covid-19.

“I have long advocated for that nuisance ordinance because we would use that in law enforcement as a tool that we could put to very good use to prevent a lot of conflict that often results in violence. The problem is that we have a populace that is very skeptical of handing those tools over to law enforcement right now.”

Benedict said the ordinance would also be useful as a noise ordinance. The current Noise Ordinance only applies to loud, amplified music.

The Sheriff reminded us of the push to adopt such an ordinance about 10 years ago, and why it failed.

“There was plenty of will for it. However, it was kind of like a silent majority. All the people that wanted it didn’t show up for the hearing. It was a bunch of people that were very loud, rude, that they wanted to make a point and they were way, way off target on this. So at that time and place, there was a very vocal minority that objected to it.”

For now, what we’re left with in this time of Covid-19 appears to be what we’ve been asked to do all along: take personal responsibility.