Tuesday, November 25, 2014

They Won't Sign Up If You Keep Them Beaten Down

One of the great things I found when I moved to my new home was just how active and involved many people are in the business of running and advising our local governing bodies. It's a very engaged place, and whenever there's an opening on any sort of committee or board, there are multiple applicants, and they go through a real application process, with forms to fill out, interviews, etc.

And other citizens often come to the meetings of these various boards and committees to voice their opinions on the issues at hand. Whether at the city or the county level, these advisory groups here carry a lot of weight and power in their recommendations. It seems to me to be a real, functioning example of democratic rule, the power and influence of regular citizens made real.

But wow! Look at all the vacancies on Clallam County's advisory boards and committees. There are currently seventy-nine vacancies on twenty-three groups. Even the heavy-hitters are woefully malnourished when it comes to real, active citizen participation...

Two vacancies each on the North Olympic Library System, and the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee.

Three vacancies on the Marine Resource Committee, the Heritage Advisory Board, the Building Code Board of Appeals, and even the Planning Commission.

Four vacancies on the Developmental Disabilities Advisory Board.

Six vacancies on the Permit Advisory Board.

Eight big vacancies on the Sheriff's Citizens Advisory Committee.

And a whopping nine vacancies on the Homelessness task Force.

Among many, many other vacancies. And, unless things have changed, the City is in a similarly dismal situation participation-wise.

It's not hard to understand why. Year after year, decade after decade, the people of Port Angeles and Clallam County have been asked for their time, for their input, only to have the perspectives they offer completely disregarded a majority of the time. These advisory groups may exist, but they aren't intended to actually function. They're democratic window dressing, just going through the motions. The efforts the City and/or County put into them are about as meaningful and sincere as a recorded message saying "Your call is important to us."

And now, after all that wasted time and effort on the part of local citizens, gosh, it just seems harder and harder to find people willing to step up for these groups. Local politicians may wring their soft hands a little bit, and ask why, but they don't really care.

After all, they created the façade, and they're happy with it. A disenfranchised, abused and cynical populace is easier to manipulate and run roughshod over than one that's been empowered and respected. I think these vacancies say a lot about the state of affairs in Clallam County. How about you?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Clallam County Dozen AKA How Many Broken Eggs Does It Take To Break Your Heart?

I'm sure I'm not the only one to have seen the recent "report" from Bill Greenwood, Executive Director of the Clallam County Economic Development Council, in which he trotted out a dozen "potential" new businesses that are "considering" coming to Clallam County.

And I'm sure I'm not the only one who noticed the heavily qualified way most of these "potentials" were described. It was definitely a report heavy on the "ifs," "maybes," "could bes" and flat-out "it's not impossible thats."

Youthful go-getter Bill Greenwood delivers his report
 into the welcoming arms of...

Let's start by looking at Greenwood's Big Top Three...

Number One: "A company" that supposedly wants to "put a first-class hotel" close to the Black Ball Ferry landing. Kinda vague, especially given the decline in ferry traffic we've seen in the last decade, but...Let's try to look past that. Then, per the PDN, comes the killer: "But the firm needs a conference center nearby to survive the offseason, Greenwood said."

So, in other words, all the City has to do is pony up the money to build and maintain a sure-to-be-money-losing conference center, and Port Angeles can have a new hotel that will, at best, be at around 60% capacity for four or five months of the year (and lower the rest of the year).

Oh, and according to Nathan West with the City, "no hotel companies have approached city officials with an interest in coming to Port Angeles."

So Number One sounds incredibly iffy at the very best, and, even if it came through, would hardly be a game-changer downtown. The net effect would probably be fewer customers at existing motels/hotels, not any actual new customers coming through.

See also: Port Angeles now has no air carrier.

Number Two: A Lynnwood medical technology firm is considering relocating to either Clallam County or the Tri-Cities area. Again, "considering" is a very qualified phrase, and we know there's at least one other area in the running.

So what's the potential deal breaker? According to Bill Greenwood, "They are worried about what they can find in terms of local employees." Uh oh.

See also: The dismal graduation rates in Port Angeles; the shockingly high rates of opiate abuse in Clallam County.

Number Three: A bottler - of some kind - who is supposedly interested in opening a facility in Forks. It's kind of confusing as to what they actually bottle, since Greenwood mentions both fracking and bottled water, so...But either way, Forks, is a long, long, long way from anywhere, which means super high shipping costs and other associated expenses. And, frankly, if they're talking about 50 jobs, it probably means 35-40, and that's still a smaller number than the number of people who have been laid off from mills closing in the last several months. So, best case scenario (even if this particular long-shot comes in) is a slight ebbing of the highly degraded status quo.

See also: Damn, Forks is in the middle of nowhere - and Clallam County has a real opiate abuse problem.

Man, the water in Forks is just so fracking good!

And these are the Big Three that Greenwood and the EDC are trying to pimp to the community. (See more examples below.) Long-shots and pipe dreams, some built on the same kind of outrageous expenditure of limited government funds that helped get Clallam County into such a mess in the first place.

This doesn't sound very promising to me. This hardly seems like a roadmap to success. This looks like someone who trolled some offices in Olympia, found some business that are potentially on the move, and said, "Hey, maybe it's us!"

I don't think so. But I'd love to hear what others have to say about this EDC report.

Some further highly qualified samples from the report:

A "boat builder company" has "been asked to consider locating on 19 acres of Port of Port Angeles property." (See also this blog's recent post, "Putting the Poor in Port." Maybe if we only charge $200 a month for those 19 acres...)

Another "boat builder" has been "asked to consider 10-25 acres of Port property. Perhaps needless to say, Port officials have not heard back from either company.

A "confectionery producer" who would only employ 20 people would, in theory, for some reason, spend $20 million dollars on a facility. In the middle of nowhere. With a drug-addled workforce. Sure.

A "furniture manufacturer" is "evaluating the state of Washington" for a manufacturing facility. And if you think it's expensive getting confectionery ingredients in, and finished products out, just imagine the cost of doing that with large pieces of furniture.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Who Woke Up the City Council?

Well, golly jeepers, who done went and woke up the Port Angeles City Council?

I mean, they've only been funding the completely useless Port Angeles Downtown Association FOR YEARS. They've only been putting up with Barb Frederick's utter incompetence FOR YEARS. For those Council members who ever bother to go downtown, they might have noticed that it's been drying up and dying FOR YEARS. Downtown business owners have been complaining about the PADA, you guessed it, FOR YEARS.


I remember something like FIVE YEARS ago, when Council members Max Mania and Brooke Nelson - not exactly simpatico in most respects - both were talking openly about defunding the PADA, yet nothing happened. Business as usual, la la la, nothing to see.

But now that the patient has died, the City Council seems to have suddenly seen the wisdom in changing doctors. File this one under "Too Little, Too Late." The damage that has been done through incompetence and neglect is huge. The amount of money wasted on the PADA is pretty huge, too, almost as huge as Barb's big...dunce cap. Think about it: In just the last five years, the City has pissed away a quarter of a million dollars in salary for Barb. Imagine what else could have been accomplished with that much money?


Meanwhile, look at what Barb had to say about the PADA's response to the increasingly dire warnings coming out of City Hall about the PADA's failings: "We got a late start this year." "We should have gotten an earlier start." Well, yeah, Barb - like maybe years ago?

But Barb's oh-so-slow-to-respond response only mirrors the inaction she's seen from City Hall FOR YEARS. Failure after failure never stopped the funding from coming, so why would she have upped her game? If you ever saw her give one of her infamously vague and confusing "reports" to the City Council, then you already know that her deep, deep incompetence was publically and painfully obvious - except to the City Council. Until now.

Amazing. They say slow and steady wins the race. But just plain slow? You're still in last place.

On a related note...When I went to Google Images, and typed in "Barb Frederick Port Angeles," the image below, printed earlier on this blog, is the FIRST one to come up!

 
Oh, and I just have to say that $5,000 for Christmas lights for downtown Port Angeles is a LOT of lipstick for that particular pig. I'd love to see Barb tell us how the "investment" of that much money will result in enough of an increase in sales downtown to justify the outlay. But somehow, I don't think Barb will be around to give such an explanation, even if one were possible...


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Customer Service...What Customers? What Service?

Well, first of all...When your Chamber of Commerce is hosting a session about dealing with mentally ill people coming into businesses, I'd say that's an indicator that that's something that's happening fairly regularly. (PDN headline: "Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce panel discussion looks at approaching disruptive people in a business.") You probably wouldn't have a panel discussion like this to deal with a problem that's not a common problem, right?


Which makes it all the more amusing that the messages presented fell into two camps. Dr. Joshua Jones from Peninsula Behavioral Health obviously tried to tow the Party Line. From the article: During the question-and-answer session, Jones sought to dispel a commonly held suspicion that people are bused to Port Angeles to take advantage of the city's social and health services. "There is no data to suggest people are coming here in hordes..."

And yet...Another panelist, Julie Black, Olympic Medical Center safety manager, may not have offered up "data" on this, but she did offer a totally different view: The hospital has increased its security presence at Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles and facilities in Sequim, she said. An increasing number of "really angry individuals" is showing up at clinics and confronting receptionists, Black said.

For once, the Chamber actually had an informative and revealing presentation. Clearly this is a problem is Port Angeles - a problem compounded by the fact that the City allowed so many social services facilities to locate downtown, in what should be the commercial/economic core of the town. This puts unnecessary pressure on, and unpleasantness in, downtown, impeding the success of the very commercial enterprises that pay taxes to provide, yes, social services.

The "no data" dodge is just that - a dodge. Just because there's no data proving that it's happening doesn't mean that it's not happening. And the lack of housing for the mentally ill in Clallam County is a dodge, too. Other towns don't send people to Port Angeles so they can find housing. They send them there to get them the hell out of their towns. Duh, doc.

Finally, how appropriate is it that the article about this COC event was written by Paul Gottlieb? I mean, if there's one writer at the PDN who knows mental illness inside out, it's Paul.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Putting the Poor in Port

One: All these morons who run the Port like to pretend they're smart, worldly, fiscally conservative pro-Capitalism types.

Two: The results of the State Auditor's report clearly show this not to be the case. From the PDN: "The Port of Port Angeles continues to violate state law and be noncompliant with port policies on lease contracts...Violations included contracts that were under fair market value and lacked adequate security bonds..." (See below for examples.)

Three: Isn't this the same Port that just lost their air carrier? The third air carrier in a row to leave Port Angeles?

Four: Some have suggested that the best, most sure way for the Port to have gotten Kenmore to stay would have been to subsidize them. Is one of the reasons the Port didn't even consider that is because it was too busy giving away property at below market value, and thus didn't have the cash on hand?

Five: Of course, these would-be worldly, pro-Capitalism types might well have bristled at subsidizing a private business to bribe it to stay...

Six: Except that's exactly what they were doing by giving out cheap land, isn't it?


Seven: What does it say about the Port and about Port Angeles in general that even when the powers that be are literally giving it away, the town still can't make a go of it, or attract new businesses to come there?

Examples of your Port at work:

Magna Force was being charged $179 a month for 3.78 acres.

The Civil Air Patrol was allowed to occupy a building - for free.

Shepherd & Thunderbird got a 2,647 square-foot building for $181 rent.

High Tide Seafoods got a 6,000 square-foot warehouse, on a 7,000 square-foot lot, for the low, low price of $1,910 a month - and still they were (are?) delinquent on the rent.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Christmas Comes Early for Dick Pilling

I'm sure that the ever racist/sexist/homophobic Dick Pilling would say he loves, loves, loves Jesus Christ. After all, to be an accepted, red-blooded American Republican leader like Dick, you pretty much have to throw a little love towards the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

What, me worry?

Well, after this last election, I'm sure that Dick has a new favorite Holy Trinity - and come January they'll all be sitting right there in the courthouse. Three Democratic County Commissioner candidates in a row have gone down in flames, leading to this - a county that will be governed by the Republicans, for the Republicans.

Goodbye to Mike Doherty, who was a good guy, and really did care, really did work hard, and really did know the ins and outs of local and state government. Hello to three goons who don't know, don't care, and don't care that they don't know. As ugly and dismal as things have been in Clallam County, I suspect it hasn't hit bottom yet.

Hey, liberals! Hey, environmentalists! Hey, pretty much
everyone except for me! F@#& you!

Now, I key out Dick Pilling not just because he's a right-wing zealot, and not just because he's a right-wing zealot deeply involved with Clallam County politics. No, I key out Dick Pilling because, in his business life, Dick's a realtor. His profession is, in a sense, Ground Zero for change and growth in Clallam County. If things are going good, then you'd expect more property to be selling, and property values to be rising.

But if things are going bad...Well then, you'll have the opposite. And I suspect that there'll be a lot of the opposite coming up soon. (Which isn't to say things haven't already been rough with just two Deep Red Commissioners...) That makes Dick a sort of experiment. Will he see the correlation? Will he make any connections? Is it more important to score political points than business points?

In other words, will Dick keep smiling as things fall apart around him, wrapped up safely in his ideological cocoon?

And how about you, dear reader? Do the results of this last election make you want to throw some business to a local realtor, and get out of town? The road out is twice as wide now...

Friday, November 7, 2014

Sissi Bruch: "I am very surprised"

Well, so far as I am concerned, it's all over, and Sissi Bruch lost. That of course means that Bill Peach won, which further means that the lucky, lucky citizens of Clallam County will soon find out what it's like living under the rule of three full-time Republican nutbags.

So what did Sissi have to say, other than that she's not quite ready to concede? "I am very surprised that the voters are wanting to go in this direction, I guess a more conservative direction."


And that little quote sums up what turned out to be the fatal flaw in Sissi's campaign: Her own naivety. Clallam County is a poor, rural, reddish county in a big blue state. Two of the three sitting County Commissioners are Republicans. Bill Peach nearly beat Mike Doherty last time out. Sissi sits on the City Council with a whole bunch - a majority, in fact - of Republicans. And yet, somehow, she is "surprised" by the fact that, what, there are a lot of Republican voters around there?

Is Sissi better educated and smarter than Bill Peach? Almost certainly. Is she better acquainted with the real world and the issues we all face? Probably. Is she a hardline, partisan hack willing to plumb the depths and stab backs in order to get ahead? I don't think so.

But is she really, despite all that, so naïve as to think all she had to do was help Clallam County "get to yes"? Yes. And the quote above shows she still doesn't get it.

Ah, but Clallam County is going to get it. Though this political race is over, the race to the bottom has just begun. I would expect a lot more pandering to be coming out of the Courthouse, and a lot less sensible governing.

In any case, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this election, and this race in particular. Will it make a difference? Will it affect City politics? Will Sissi stay? How low will Clallam County go?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Election Night!

It'll all be over soon...For better or worse. Which do you think it will be? What do you think of the election results? Once the voters have spoken, it's your turn to respond.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

None If By Air

Wow, it really does just get worse and worse.


Being that the last post was all about escaping from Port Angeles, the timing of Kenmore's announcement that they're abandoning Port Angeles is almost eerie. The routes of escape are being whittled down. There are fewer ferry runs to Victoria than there used to be, and now the airport is being shuttered, too. I guess that solves the Lincoln Park problem, huh?

How many body blows can a town take before it's over? How many signs do there need to be before everyone admits the obvious, and calls PA in as DOA?

There have been the big blows, like all the local mills closing, like Gottshalk's closing, like the Lincoln Theater closing. All those have been against the backdrop of the not-so-slow but oh-so-steady growth of empty storefronts downtown, all around town. Even businesses that didn't actually close, left Port Angeles, like Maurice's. ACTI is a union-busting, minimum wage black hole of hope. Nippon is going to shed all its jobs when that mill finally closes like all the others. So where will PA's huge cohort of high school dropouts dream of getting work?


On the political scene, Larry Williams, notorious conservative, fled town as soon as his term on the City Council was over. Max Mania, notorious liberal, didn't even wait for his to end before fleeing for greener pastures. No one wants to run for City Council, so all those unopposed bozos slid right into office. Now, that deadhead bureaucrat Dan DiGuilio is mayor - again. Utility rates continue to skyrocket. Karen Rogers is still pulling strings at City Hall, in the business community. Glenn Cutler is gone, but his ridiculously expensive legacy lives on and on.

And finally, on the personal or individual level, there are those U.S. Census numbers. Port Angeles is shrinking, and fast. Hundreds of people have left PA in the last few years. Sure, some have doubtlessly only gone as far as, say, Sequim. But I suspect that most of them have gotten as far away from Port Angeles as they could. Of those people remaining in Port Angeles, depression sure seems to run high. That might explain the staggering rates of opiate and alcohol abuse in Clallam County, which are nearly the highest in Washington State.

So, again, doesn't it seem obvious that this is a DOA case? The patient has clearly died. So if you have any life, any hope, left in you, I urge you to save yourself and get out. There is no honor or joy in going down with the ship. There's no reason to live your life in a dead town. Like I said earlier, life is too short - and too precious - to live in Port Angeles.