Mar 19 2017

Skykomish – a Polluted, Corrupted Potemkin Village

‘Potemkin Village’: a place where deliberate action has been taken to make it appear ‘everything is normal’ when in fact it is anything but… a purposeful deception designed to obfuscate the facts and hide the truth.

Fake News for a Fake Town

The Monroe Monitor continues to publish warm & fuzzy Fake News stories about the Potemkin Village of Skykomish and its historic Skykomish Hotel. Investigative reporter Kelly Sullivan’s recent article did a bang up job burying the truth, while slandering and defaming the Hotel’s true owners.

The Real News – it’s not quite so warm & fuzzy

Skykomish will never again be normal. It’s the site of the largest environmental disaster in Washington State history. Despite earlier cleanup attempts, soil and ground water remain severely polluted with cancer-causing Diesel oil, Bunker fuel and Hydrocarbon vapours from BNSF Railway’s locomotive fueling operations.

Sky is also contaminated with something that’s even more deadly… the wanton, craven desire to acquire the fruits of others’ labour, by outright theft when necessary (as in the case of the Skykomish Hotel), or by continuously converting taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars into a bountiful cornucopia, just right for plundering by favoured friends, business ‘partners’ and political cronies.

No amount of happy-talk, hopium, fake news or lies can cover up this stinking, putrid stench.

Sky’s sad story can be traced to its long standing, systemic corruption. In this most recent case, money changing hands between a powerful serial polluter, BNSF Railway, and Town of Skykomish officials, along with the sell-out by Washington State’s Department of Ecology (WSDOE), that placed the interests of a mega-corporation above the environment and citizens it was charged with protecting, destroyed not only Sky’s present, but its future as well.

Sky now sits busted, broken and severely polluted, struggling to survive on taxpayer handouts distributed by King County‘s nefarious NGO, 4Culture.org, which has been tasked with putting a smiley face on this ugly wart. It’s a big job, even for an organization as experienced and skilled as 4Culture.

This latest effort to raise Sky from the dead centres around employing yet more chicanery, this time to install a taxpayer funded restaurant and shop in the Hotel’s 1st floor and lodging rooms above.

It just so happens that Sky Town Council member Todd Brunner also owns Brunner Construction, the very company that has been awarded this lucrative project. Nice work, if you can get it.

Keith and Heather Maehlum‘s ‘Revive HistoricSkykomish LLC, which is also closely allied with King County politicos, received exclusive rights to buy the (now stolen) Hotel from the Town for a pittance.

Their agreement appears to allow the Maehlums to retain profits, while transferring losses to taxpayers. It also appears Maehlums are waiting for taxpayer funded renovations to be completed before finalizing the actual purchase.

It’s ‘sweetheart deals’ like this that have allowed the 1% to scoop up nearly every asset while leaving a $20 trillion plus pile of debt for the 99%. No wonder Americans are so pissed off.

Todd Brunner and the Maehlums act as if they were nowhere near the scene of this crime. What the heck, since the Hotel was being stolen anyway, why not position oneself to help tidy things up, and make a few dollars for yourself in the process?

This reminds us of Dr. Josef Mengele, Auschwitz’s ‘Angel of Death’, who maintained he had nothing to do with the ‘unfortunates’ who ended up in the death camp, and ‘since they were already there, why shouldn’t he be allowed to conduct experiments (regardless of how ghoulish) on ‘these walking dead’ that might help Germany’s war effort?’

And, George Soros, when asked during a televised interview why he hid his Jewish ancestry and worked for the Nazis emptying the homes of Jews who had been deported to death camps, responded that ‘if he didn’t do it, the Nazis would have just hired someone else’, so why shouldn’t he make the money himself?

It’s amazing how easily human beings can rationalize and justify their twisted, evil actions.

Can Sky ever hope to achieve the success it so desperately hungers for as long as long as it allows filth, corruption, sleaze and evil to pump through its diseased, sclerotic veins?

Those with ‘get up and go’ already got up and left Sky. The few remaining businesses (two bars and two liquor/convenience stores) now appear to be struggling despite Sky being such a hard drinking town. The barber shop, beauty parlour, candy store and Big Bear restaurant couldn’t make a go of it, even with free rent. Wow!

The ‘Community’, which the media now says is ‘coming together’, didn’t much give a hoot when the crimes against it were actually being committed.

Instead, residents contented themselves to sit silently at meetings, consuming little sandwiches, fruity drinks and cookies handed out by the Railroad’s public relations team, while WSDOE and BNSF apparatchiks assured townies they weren’t really going to bend them over too hard before giving them and the town a good fucking. Guess they were kidding?

Today’s fresh crop of political cronies, parasites, schemers and scammers busily hoovers up 4Culture’s latest batch of taxpayer funding, while townies scratch their heads, wondering how to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

As if all this weren’t bad enough, the threat of soil liquefaction now casts a dark pall over the town, making it even harder to scam ‘johnny come lately’ investors and naive home buyer wanna bees into purchasing land, houses and structures that sit atop cancer-causing pollution and unstable soils.

Who does the Monroe Monitor represent?

The Monitor appears to be part of a well orchestrated, on-going effort to cover up misdeeds by some highly placed politicos, including some who wear black robes, and even including one member of Congress.

While the Monitor’s Fake News stories conveniently fail to mention the town’s horrific pollution or deadly soil liquefaction, they never forget to portray the Hotel’s real owner as the scrooge who neglected the historic structure, destroying not only it but the town’s economy in the process. The facts tell a very different story.

It was the Hotel’s owner who single-handedly fought to get WSDOE, the Town and King County to require BNSF Railway to clean up the terrible mess it had caused.

It’s never easy standing up for truth, justice or the environment, especially when dark, powerful and vengeful forces are involved, and while no one likes placing a target squarely on their own forehead, it’s the price we must be willing to pay to live in a free, open and self-governing republic.

The die was cast for Sky’s destruction when it was revealed in court that several Town officials had taken money from Warren Buffett’s BNSF Railway in exchange for agreeing to back the Railroad’s ‘preferred’ cleanup plan, which was essentially no cleanup at all, rather, the paving over of pollution with new fill, a bit of asphalt and some grass.

The Town even got stuck paying for a multi-million dollar Wastewater Treatment Facility, despite having their high priced attorney on speed dial.

The cost of actually removing the pollution was estimated at over $500 million, so it’s easy to understand why BNSF greased the skids and fought tooth and nail to avoid performing a real cleanup.

Unfortunately, Skykomish will now remain severely polluted forever.

Karma is a Bitch

Like a boomerang, Fake News has a way of coming back and hitting its promoters in the head.

Main Stream Media (MSM) continues to demonstrate that it cannot be trusted to present accurate, factual, truthful news.

The Monroe Monitor’s Fake News pieces are part of what’s driving a growing segment of the public to seek alternative sources.

Audience migration to alternative news has made it increasingly difficult for MSM to make ends meet. Staffing is being cut to the bone and expensive reporters are being replaced with AI (artificial intelligence) bots, but it still costs real money to produce Real News.

Fake News, on the other hand, requires little more than a bit of imagination, some key-stroking and minor content reconfiguration, but taking short cuts comes with a price.

Powerful mega-corporations, shadowy NPO’s and nefarious NGO’s like 4Culture now spoon feed prepackaged, agenda-driven articles, stories and video propaganda directly to MSM (which regurgitates it to audiences as if it were Real News), causing credibility to further erode, leading to what has now become a downward spiraling Doomsday Loop.


Sky’s fate was sealed the moment Town officials took BNSF money in exchange for allowing the Railroad to avoid a ‘real cleanup’.

The systemic corruption that has destroyed Sky now tears apart the very fabric that binds our nation together. Without the Rule of Law, our Republic cannot stand.

Thanks for taking your valuable time to read this post.

Below is a more detailed discussion of the Monroe Monitor’s above referenced article, along with responses from SkykomishHotel.com.

The article’s ten main points have been extracted, followed by the Hotel’s response.

Monroe Monitor:

Skykomish Hotel a Community Effort
Brunner Construction making progress renovating historic building, economic generator
Kelly Sullivan, Monitor staff writer
2/13/2017 1:50 PM


Point #1: [Todd Burnner] “The previous owner had neglected to repair a chronically leaky roof, so the structure was subjected to the elements”.

The facts: Council member Brunner is a liar. The Hotel’s real owner made repeated efforts to replace the roof, each of which were blocked by Town and County apparatchiks.

Regardless, the leaking roof had caused NO damage to the Hotel’s interior or structure prior to the Railroad’s remediation efforts, as photographically evidenced by BNSF’s extensively documented interior and exterior inspection.

When BNSF returned the Hotel following its remediation hoax, owners requested that plastic covering the roof be left in place, as numerous workers had now walked on the fragile roof, further damaging it, and because the roof hadn’t been able to breath, further rot damage had also occurred.

The Railroad refused, and since owners could no longer return to live in the Hotel, due to the Railroad and Town failing to restore operational utilities, as required, the roof’s now severely deteriorated condition allowed things to start going sideways Big Time.

The real damage to the Hotel had however begun much earlier when Town of Skykomish maintenance personnel carelessly restored town water service following a break in the Town’s water main on Railroad Avenue, directly in front of the Hotel the day after BNSF Railway removed the street’s asphalt pavement.

The broken water main flooded the Hotel’s crawl space and ground floor.

When the Hotel reported the flooding, the Town’s maintenance crew cut off water service and brought in pumps to remove water from the Hotel while the broken main was repaired.

Following completion of repairs, the Town crew should have slowly and carefully restored water service to the town, especially considering that the system was now 100 years old. Instead they ‘hammered’ it back on, causing damage throughout the town.

Numerous leaks were reported, including that several kitchen and bath faucets had blown completely off.

The Hotel reported that, in addition to the flooding, its fire sprinkler system pressure gauge was now ‘pegged’ and leaking, the gauge’s needle showing that pressures had exceeded the system’s design limit by at least 300%.

Damage also included serious settling of the building which required doors be removed, planed and reset.

Unfortunately, the most serious damage wouldn’t become apparent until BNSF’s environmental remediation scam was well under way… ‘a construction worker walking by the Hotel observed water pouring from the 1st and 2nd floors, which he immediately reported to the Town’.

Instead of shutting off water service, the Town decided to send Hotel owners an email. Fortunately, owners were able to immediately respond, but over 45 precious minutes had now elapsed, allowing tens of thousands of gallons to cascade with tremendous force as it gushed from a 4” second floor fire sprinkler riser pipe that had blown out.

Forensic engineers determined the cause to be the failure of the riser’s coupling due to the earlier ‘over-pressure event’ and settling of the building due to flooding. Repair estimates exceeded $1.2 million, not including interior furnishings and irreplaceable antiques.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t to be the end of the story. Later, when the neighboring Whistling Post Tavern burned down, fire crews trained hoses on the Hotel for hours in their effort to prevent heat, flames and embers from engulfing the historic structure.

While the Fire District’s valiant efforts were greatly appreciated, the Hotel’s interior was once again flooded, and further serious damage had occurred to the already compromised and fragile structure which was now open to the heavy rains Sky is known for.

Todd Brunner’s lies bear absolutely no resemblance to the truth, and the Monroe Monitor had a responsibility to verify Brunner’s self-serving claims before publishing them as fact.


Point #2: “Actually, the building is very stout,” he [Todd Brunner] said. “It doesn’t look like it to most people, but it is actually in very good condition.”

The facts: Previous owners were subject to a devastating lawsuit by the Town and a never ending campaign of lies from ‘concerned citizens’ like Marilyn Martin and Rich Yargis, business competitors like Charlie Brown, Skykomish Building Department and King County officials like Julie Kohler, stating that the Hotel (due to the owner’s purported neglect) posed an immediate threat and menace to the Town and public, was in danger of falling down, and needed to be torn down.

Now that the Town claims ownership, the Hotel is all of a sudden “in very good condition”. Amazing what a little corruption can accomplish!


Point #3: Skykomish Mayor Tony Grider said “Control of the hotel was not something community leaders ever necessarily wanted or planned for.”

The facts: The Hotel’s real owner is in possession of hundreds of legally obtained audio, video and written communications showing a years long effort by Town, County and State officials to acquire the Hotel without the unpleasantness of having to pay for it, using means they knew were bogus, unethical and illegal. Mayor Tony Grider is a liar.


Point #4: “Action for simple nuisance was taken against Karl Benz and Catherine Riley”

The facts: Action was not taken against Karl Benz or Catherine Riley. The Monroe Monitor had the responsibility to verify this information before slandering and defaming both Benz & Riley.


Point #5: “The hotel was eventually put up for auction for $147,000 to satisfy judgments. Because no one bid, the town became the defacto owner”.

The facts: It’s interesting that not one person or entity wanted to bid on this valuable historic structure, especially since the judgment against it ($147,000) was so small.

Is this what happens when a town earns a reputation for stealing private properties? Is this what happens when a town allows itself to remain contaminated with deadly cancer causing pollutants?

The fact is, private investors have learned to stay away from Skykomish, and that’s why this elaborate Potemkin Village needed to be erected and maintained by the Town and 4Culture.org.


Point #6: “We were not thrilled,” Grider said. “We really just wanted the owners to take care of their property.”

The facts: What the Town wanted was for the Hotel’s owner to put a bunch of money into the structure before they stole it, saving them and 4Culture both the trouble and expense of renovating it.

The Hotel’s real owner is in possession of hundreds of legally obtained audio, video and written communications showing a years long effort by Town, County and State officials to acquire the Hotel without the unpleasantness of having to pay for it, using means they knew were bogus, unethical and illegal. Mayor Tony Grider is a liar.


Point #7: “4Culture, a King County arts, heritage and culture organization, has provided some grant money for restoration work on the historic property, Grider said.

Dana Phelan, Historic Preservation Program Lead at 4Culture, wrote in an email that Revive-Historic Skykomish, LLC was granted $400,000 in 2015, which is reimbursable upon completion.

4Culture executive director Jim Kelly wrote in an email that $150,000 came from a King County historic preservation fund, and the additional $250,000 came from 4Culture through a fund that is capitalized from the sale of surplus county property”.

The facts: King County Historic Preservation programs never made grant funds available to the Hotel during Skykomish Hotel, LLC’s reign. When the Hotel requested information, the response came that there might be some minor grant funding (up to $3000) available.

Now that the Hotel has been stolen, Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars in grants all of a sudden became available. Readers should be able to draw their own conclusions.


Point #8: “I [4Culture’s Jim Kelly] would even argue that it’s the most important preservation project in King County, because an entire town is dependent on the business generated by the hotel,” according to Kelly. “The project isn’t just about saving a structure; it’s about saving a town”.

The facts: Why did 4Culture play such an active role in stealing and damaging the Hotel, given that, as Jim Kelly himself stated, “an entire town is dependent on the business generated by the hotel”?

The fact is, the County knows that with the town severely polluted, it’s economy is permanently torched, and without constant injections of taxpayer money, it will simply dry up and blow away like a tumbleweed.

This of course didn’t happen by itself, and the Hotel’s real owner is in possession of hundreds of legally obtained audio, video and written communications showing a years long effort by Town, County and State officials to acquire the Hotel without the unpleasantness of having to pay for it, using means they knew were bogus, unethical and illegal. 4Culture’s Jim Kelly is one big liar, bullshiter and con-artist.


Point #9: “Maehlem’s lease with the town ends in 2020. It stipulates the bottom floor be used for retail space, and the second and third floors for lodging. Maehlem is allowed to purchase the property at any time, according to the lease”.

The facts: If the Hotel is so valuable and the Maehlums so flush with funds, why haven’t this upstanding couple purchased the Hotel with their own money, especially since the Town was practically giving it away?

Why do they continue to rely upon a lease that offers virtually free rent (made available at taxpayer expense) while taxpayer’s perform renovations on their behalf?

Point #10: “This is really the heart of the town; this was kind of the soul of the town,” he [Todd Brunner] said. “There are a lot of other shops around, but this was kind of the core…”

The facts: Where are all these ‘other shops’ that Brunner refers to? The town looks REALLY dead. Oh, that’s right, it’s a Potemkin Village.


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