Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Relations Normalized!

After far too long, a political breach has been bridged. Yes, after so many hurtful words, and a period of unnecessary distance, finally relations have been normalized!

Oh. You thought I was talking about what? The U.S. and Cuba?

Well, no. Actually, I was referring to the Port Angeles City Council and the New and Renewed and Really Good Now Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce United. Yes, after that hurtful, painful, and hurtful period in which it was implied by some that the Chamber hadn't "been all that they could be" in terms of delivering the goods, now we can let the stealing - er, healing - begin. Again.

Russ gives his critics the finger...I mean a brochure.

The issues at hand were: Who will be in charge of "marketing" Port Angeles, and who will be tasked with running the Visitor's Center? Both, needless to say, involve money changing hands. Russ Veenema and his crew of acknowledged underachievers have now had their official, "Heck of a job, Russie" moment, and all is well. The comrades at the Take Their Money and Run Regional Chamber of Commerce can now resume their unproven, unprovable and likely highly inefficient "marketing" of Port Angeles to the world. This will, as you know, allow the booming economy and flood of visitors to Port Angeles that they helped create to both continue unabated.

Yeah, right.

Now available at the Port Angeles Visitor's Center!
In delightful downtown Port Angeles brown!

Which of your City Council members, you might ask, would be SO STUPID as to trust Russ Veenema? With his well-documented history of avoiding tough questions, offering zero proof for his claimed successes, and generally being one of the most incompetent-yet-arrogant people around, which members of the City Council would believe ANYTHING he has to say?

Why, the mayor, Dan DiGuilio, for one - or should I say for two? He supported the Chamber of Horrors for both tasks, as did dittohead Dan Gase and how-low-can-he-go Brad Collins.

On the other hand, who had the sense to say "Hell, no!" to giving the long-time losers at the Chamber of Incompetence any more money? Sissi Bruch, and, of all people, Pat Downie. They both voted NO both times. (Meanwhile, showcasing their lack of getting-itness, Cherie Kidd and Lee Whetham both voted yes for one, and no for one. Which makes little sense, but, then again, look who we're talking about.)

Sigh...What is there to say about this sorry bunch?

How about you? Do you have faith in Russ and/or the United Chamber of Clodhoppers? Was it enough for you that the City went through the motions of pretending that they might split from the tried-and-through Port Angeles Regional Bedchamber of Commerce? Or were you holding out hope for, you know, actual change or accountability?

In any case, let's end on an up note: Heck of a job, Downie!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Just Locke Out the Bad News AKA Black Tar and Golden Arches (SECOND UPDATE)

WOW. That's quite an article in the PDN about the increasing use of heroin on the North Olympic Peninsula. "Not going away." That's an understatement.

Do any of you remember the movie Westworld? It was about a theme park designed to look and feel like the old west, complete with robot gunfighters for visitors to have duels with. In other words, it was a tourist destination with violence and death built into it as part of the attraction.

Port Angeles is starting to seem a little bit like that, frankly - a would-be tourist destination with death and destruction built into it. Let's call it Worstworld.

Here you have a sparsely populated county, which has the highest per capita opiate-related death rate in the state, higher than even densely-populated-and-grunge-loving King County, and yet the Jefferson and Clallam County's shared public health officer, Dr. Tom Locke, "doesn't speculate on the Clallam-versus-Jefferson disparity in heroin use. He is instead seeking to save the lives of overdose victims."

You're the public health officer, and you won't speculate? Isn't it possible that the insights gained from such speculation might "save the lives" of some of these people, sir? Or are you simply concerned about being the bearer of (even more) bad news, and fearful of losing your job on the Clallam County end of things? Amazing. I call this a dereliction of duty, Dr. Locke.

Meanwhile, one of your own nurses, Julia Keegan, reports that one out of five inmates displays symptoms of heroin withdrawal. At least that's what she's willing to state for the record, talking to the PDN. I know that when I last spoke with Julia before leaving, she told me it was one out of four. Either way, that's a pretty staggering number. But hey, why speculate about it, right? After all, it's only lives, families and entire communities utterly destroyed.

And how does this destruction manifest itself in the community? Well, another article in the PDN today gives a pretty good, and expensive, example of that. See the article headlined "Copper thief cuts power to 2,000 after damaging Clallam Public Utility District substation west of Port Angeles." In case you didn't know, Dr. Locke, it's very doubtful that this copper was stolen by someone who is just crazy about collecting copper. No, I'd speculate that it was stolen by someone who is...Hmmm...Addicted to drugs, perhaps?

And just this one little escapade could result in damages costing over $120,000, according to the report from the Sheriff's Office. All to net someone enough to buy probably $120 worth of smack or meth. That's some lethal math for a community any way you look at it. Oh, except, oops, I forgot, you don't want to look at it, do you Dr. Locke? Looking could be seen as a form of speculating, and we know how you feel about that, don't we?

But you know who does seem to be looking at this? The McDonald's Corporation, of all things. Per yet another article in the PDN today, "The international fast-food chain unexpectedly has delayed...plans to replace Port Angeles' golden arches with a new $2.5 million eatery." Per owner Brian Beaulaurier (who lives in Jefferson County, by the way), the existing restaurant is "old and tired."

Now, I don't claim to know what drove this decision by McDonald's to "delay" this long-simmering project. But if you Google the phrase "mcdonald's heroin," you'll find a veritable cascade of news stories about McDonald's workers selling heroin via the drive-thru window, parents overdosing at McDonald's, people selling heroin and shooting up in McDonald's parking lots, etc. In other words, a torrent of bad press linking McDonald's and heroin already exists. Maybe, just maybe, that came into play when higher-ups discussed the idea of investing millions in heroin-plagued Port Angeles?

So, could the Sunday news combo meal get any worse for Port Angeles? Yes, yes it could. Per the PA Police Department, they don't have enough officers to properly patrol the city.

High rates of drug abuse, and corresponding high rates of crime. A checked out public health "leader." Reluctance in invest further in properties in Port Angeles. A thinly spread law enforcement presence.

Yep, welcome to Worstworld. Would you like some (old and tired) fries with that smack?

And as if the above weren't bad news enough...Yes, thieves have stolen all the Christmas toys that the Salvation Army had in storage for needy children. I wonder if Dr. Locke would care to speculate on how much heroin you could get for a truckload of toys? Naw, probably not...


And it's true! Tom Locke is quitting - kind of. He's quitting his job as Clallam County's public health officer - but will stay on in that role in Jefferson County. (Poor Jefferson County!)

Meanwhile, he'll still live in Clallam County, and is taking a new job with the Jamestown Family Health Clinic in Sequim. (Poor Jamestown Clinic!)

So...Hmmm...So, you're not retiring. You're not moving. And you're not even partially retiring by quitting your job at Clallam County, because you'll be taking a new job at Jamestown. So...Hmmm...Gee, Tom, it sort of looks like you're jettisoning the underperforming portion of your portfolio, you know? Or like you're walking away from the big ol' public health liability that your own laziness helped create and foster.

But, you know what, Dr. Flakenstein? You're probably going to regret not moving away from the monster you helped create. Because, at the very least, you're still going to be living in the county where you're much more likely to have your house or car broken into by, you know, someone hooked on drugs. Now I realize that's just some of that nasty speculation on my part, but...

You might also find it a bit uncomfortable to be seen out and about in the county you just screwed over. I'm guessing that your woeful job performance, and the way you're just sleazing out of your duties here, won't sit well with a lot of people.

So, in an effort to help any and all of those pissed off people, here's a picture of "Dr." Tom Locke, so you'll know him on sight. Be sure to tell him what a stellar job he did before bailing out.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Insanity is doing the same thing, the same way, over and over, and expecting different results. Insanity is doing the same thing, the same way, over and over, and expecting different results. (UPDATED) Insanity is doing the same thing, the same way, over and over, and expecting different results.

Do you know why the City calls it the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee? It's because once they have an idea LODGED in their head, it's nearly impossible to get it out.

And thus, we get the recommendations from the LTAC after their meeting last Wednesday, which is more of the same stupidity that has helped push Port Angeles to the brink of destruction, along with one possible change - for the worse.

Who does this group think should be in charge of marketing Port Angeles as a "tourist destination"? Why, the same old, good old, good old boys at the...Chamber of Commerce. Yes, the same COC that's done SUCH a great job at that so far. Heck of a job, Russie.

Or, they also trust that tried and through, uh, I mean true, cutting-edge designer, Laurel Black. Yes, Laurel "my business photo is twenty years old and so are my ideas" Black. Another well-connected, well-established piece of dead wood.

Or, in true City fashion, Vertigo Marketing of Bend, Oregon. Yes, the habit of hiring out of the area consultants does die hard, doesn't it?

Meanwhile, the one recommendation that this brain trust supports that could be called "change" is definitely not for the better. Apparently, they are open to the idea of Edna Petersen "hosting" the Visitor's Center in her shop! Anyone who has ever been subjected to one of  Edna's leech-like come-ons will know what a bad idea this is. This is the woman who puts the "offensive" in the phrase "charm offensive." Can't you just hear it: "Welcome to Port Angeles - perhaps you'd like to buy something from my shop?"

The forward-thinking crew on the LTAC also seem to not be thinking about the fact that such a change would also create yet another empty building (the proposed former Visitor's Center) downtown.

And they are still locked into small, backwards thinking in other ways as well.

They recommend giving $70,000 to the Juan de Fuca Festival to buy a tent. Yes, a tent. One that will get used - at best - a weekend or so out of any given year.

Meanwhile, they would give the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center - a year-round, 24-hour-a-day resource and destination - a paltry $26,300. The PAFAC also does double-duty as green space, a spot to absorb rainwater (to avoid flooding), a viewscape, etc. And did I mention it does this year-round?

Ah, but Cherie and her cohorts don't really get any of that, do they? They understand a tent, and, inexplicably, they know and like Edna...But as for the rest of that whole change and growth and nature and art as marketable commodities thing...Well, it just kind of seems to make them feel, oh, I don't know...AFRAID.

Way to double down on dumb, Lodging Tax folks.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Roll 'Em If You Got 'Em (UPDATED)

File under NO SURPRISE AT ALL: Nippon is in the process of shutting down its paper operations in Port Angeles - and elsewhere.

Down, down, down...The ring of fired, the ring of fired...

Google "Nippon Shoalhaven," and you'll see that it seems Nippon is also shutting down a big paper mill in Australia. It employs about 75 people, and has been running just one production machine. They produce security-grade paper used to make passports.

So I guess the takeaway from this is that not only are fewer people reading newspapers, but fewer Australians are getting passports.

Whatever the case, this has clearly, undeniably been coming for years. Even the late "great" Harold Norlund spent his last years in Port Angeles talking about how the paper market was a shrinking market. Despite that, and despite all the other cultural and economic cues that this was coming, expect local leaders like Pat Downie and Cherie Kidd to be "shocked" by this news.

Pat Downie feels your...

I'd also expect that eternal booster of "industrial-type jobs," Peter Ripley to be among those gobsmacked by this announcement.

But I like to think that the people who read this blog are a little more astute than Peter, Pat and Cherie. I trust that many of you are less than shocked by this announcement, and that some of you are even, dare I say it, pleased?

As for me, I have to say I laughed out loud when I saw mill manager Steve Johnson refer to the PDN as a "source of intelligence." It's probably the first time the paper has been accused of that.

So what will the loggers and Luddites in Port Angeles do now, as the image of PA as a "Mill Town" continues to totally and utterly fall apart? Will this lead to self-examination and positive growth? Or will it simply add to the unemployment rate? Will those in charge recognize this as an opportunity? Or will they simply wring their hands in sorrow? Is there a Plan B for Port Angeles? Was there ever even a Plan A?

Stay tuned!


Yes, stay tuned...Because this move on Nippon's part also will cost the City of Port Angeles hundreds of thousands of dollars in utility taxes, according to a memo from City Manager Dan McKeen. He puts the figure at $360,000. That's quite a sizable chunk out of the already bloated and strained City budget - especially since the City views utility rates and taxes as their only viable growth area for "revenue."

Now that Nippon is going down, watch the City Council revisit whether or not your utility rates need to go up again, to make up the difference. Let's also watch to see what the City does when it gets to renegotiate Nippon's industrial water rate in the not-too-distant future.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Bye, Bye, Barb! (UPDATED)

Well, gosh - goodbye, Barb.

While it's undeniably not only a good thing you're being let go, but also a just thing, it's possible to ask a few final questions...

The first and foremost being, how did you manage to keep your job for SO LONG when it was painfully clear to everyone in town that you were in over your head?

For that matter, how did you even get the job in the first place? Other, more qualified candidates didn't even get a phone call, yet you got shuffled right in. I can't help but think that's because you were just what the PADA Board was looking for: A local, no-brain, no-spine patsy. Another name for patsy might be fall guy, and you're sure taking the fall now, Barb. Timber!

Here are just a couple of excerpts from the PADA Board of Directors email announcement:

"As you know the Downtown Association board of directors has had a challenging year, and your funds are still being withheld by the City."

Translation: We're not the villains here; it's that big bad City. We'd still be getting away with it if not for that meddling City!

"She began as the PADA Executive Director January 2, 2008 and has led us well through many challenges."

So many lies in such a short sentence! Is it the truth the use "led" to describe someone who is well known for literally hiding from other people? More than once I saw Barb get asked a question, and her response was to turn to Jan Harbick to signal that she should answer it.

Pairing that lying "led" with "well"...Well that's a lie, too. Was it leadership when Barb let the PADA's own registration with the State of Washington lapse? Was it leadership to totally fail to go after the low-hanging fruit of those B&O funds? Was it leadership to let the Main Street program languish and wither? That's not "well" done, PADA Board members, that's just plain burnt up. You know, like much of your membership has been FOR YEARS. Under YOUR watch.

The PADA Board's email is really great. On one hand it lauds - or dare I say, fetes? - Barb, while tossing her to the wolves. It also essentially absolves the Board of any wrongdoing or complicity in the current state of affairs, and makes the City the big, bad meanie in this. All of which goes to show that the people on the PADA Board of Directors haven't learned a damn thing from their years of manipulation and failure. Not a thing.

In other words, Barb may be gone, but the stench lingers on.


Just so you all know...This post is crazy popular, and approaching 1,000 pageviews since it went up. Who knew Barb was such a big draw?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

American Horror Story

There's no nice way to put it: Death has been in the air in Port Angeles. With all the recent focus and discussion on the need for suicide barriers on bridges - to spend, or not to spend, that is the question - there's no denying that the strong and steady undercurrent of despair in Clallam County has become more visible.

Clallam County is reliably one of the top two counties in the state when it comes to suicide. It's always in the top three for rates of opiate overdoses and substance abuse. Unemployment rates are persistently higher than average. Graduation rates are consistently lower than average. These are but a few of the long-term and painfully obvious realities that map the contours of hopelessness and desperation in Clallam County.

That being the case, what are we to make of the blasé attitude of the local elected officials? The City likes to spend itself into oblivion on stupid projects, while turning a blind eye to the wolf at the door. On the other hand, the County likes to try and brag about how little they spend, how tight their belts are. Meanwhile, the junkies shoot up, the jumpers fall down, and the bodies continue to pile up.

How can this cycle be broken? Can it be broken at this point? Is this an epidemic of despair that can be treated, or an endemic situation that, at best, can be managed? And what is the role of elected officials in all this? Should they focus on the budgets and leave the rest to sort itself out? Or do they have blood on their hands?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

You Get What You Pay For

When I went to look at the PDN's website this morning, I saw this: "Enjoy unlimited access to PDN website this holiday weekend, proudly sponsored by Price Ford Lincoln of Port Angeles."

What a holiday gift to the community! Hey kids, get in here quick! Wow!!!

Unlimited access to the PDN and its archive of
high-quality and 100% accurate news-like articles!
For limited time only, comrades!

But seriously, all this tells us is that the people at Price Ford must have more dollars than sense to sponsor such a lame "giveaway." I'd love to have been at the meeting where this turkey of an idea was pitched to them.

And I see that the PDN is still flogging their own no appeal staff to the community, with their seemingly eternal come-on, "PDN speakers available to address clubs, organizations and other gatherings." Uh, yeah, we know. You've been feting that one for a long, long time.

Paul Gottlieb is really, really available
for your child's birthday party. No, really.

Anyway, this does bring to mind some questions I've had about the PDN, and maybe some of you readers have some insights to share. The first thing I wonder about is how the traffic to the PDN website is doing (exciting free weekend aside) since they imposed the double whammy of having to have a Facebook account to comment, and their attempt to limit the number of pages you can view for free. I would imagine those two things have caused the number of hits to their website to plummet. There sure seem to be a lot fewer comments than there used to be. Before the shift, even fairly innocuous articles might generate a long string of crackpot comments. Now, most articles don't have any at all, and it seems to take a really controversial topic (Hi, Steve Markwell!) to generate much in the way of response.

Does anyone know any of the poor souls who work at the PDN? Has anyone heard how their website traffic is doing? Is it true they have two sets of numbers - one for reality, and one to show to advertisers?

The PDN: We report, you deride!

And how are ad sales, anyway? Not everyone has Price Ford stupid money to piss away. Have the PDN's ad rates changed to reflect their own actual value and standing in the community? Or do they still charge Cadillac rates for their tricycle product? And what do Black Press, the PDN's Canadian overseers, think of their poor Clallam County cousins?

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.