Sunday, March 29, 2015

15% Off the Top - Another Name for Decapitation

Earlier today, I listened to a really fascinating, revealing and depressing piece on NPR. It was a profile of a woman who used to work at the Federal Reserve, and it told of her trials and tribulations when the Fed was actively "regulating" Goldman Sachs a few years back.
 
Long story short...This woman was highly educated, highly professional, and highly ethical. So, needless to say, she had, as the Jerky Boys once said, problems with her fucking boss. In other words, even though she had been hired specifically to help oversee internal ethics and policies, she was chastised, punished, and ultimately fired for doing exactly that. Turns out the Fed didn't really want to regulate anyone; they just wanted to, yes, go along to get along. Though they were the ones with the authority and the duty to protect people from predatory financial institutions, the heads of the Fed didn't want to make waves, and this woman was a wave-making machine.
 
Now, these regulators weren't necessarily on the take, or even corrupt, in the purest sense of the word. No, they were just cowardly, and quickly adjusted to the institutional ethics of, essentially, doing nothing.
 
Sound familiar?
 
It got me to thinking...Let's imagine that a given institution, be it private, public or regulatory, that 5% of the people working there are actively corrupt. These are people willing to lie, cheat and steal to benefit themselves. Then let's imagine that 10% of the people there are, for whatever reason (nepotism, cronyism, poor hiring practices) are simply inept, unable to actually do their jobs. Now, let's spread this bad 15% evenly throughout the organization.
That leaves 85% as still fairly functional and honest, right? There's poison in the system, yes, but it should still function, right?
 
Well, maybe. Imagine that 15% of your diet was poison. You wouldn't last long, would you? How far would your car get on fuel that was 15% soda? Would you be satisfied if the person handling your finances said up front that they were going to steal 15% of whatever you gave them to invest?
 
Does anyone really dispute the idea that probably 15% of Port Angeles City staff members are corrupt and/or incompetent? That's staff, not City Council members. (They undoubtedly have a much higher percentage of incompetence, if not corruption.) As has been pointed out here in a recent comment (reprinted below), it could be logically argued that much of the anger and angst directed at those holding elected office is, in fact, misdirected. Put another way: It's the staff, stupid.
 
Staff hires. Staff proposes. Staff sets budgets. Staff "manages" the flow of information. Staff stonewalls. And, let's face it, bad staff prosper when there is lax oversight - and it's at that point that the electeds come into play, in theory. But the power and influence held by City Managers and County Administrators and Human Resources Directors is huge. So when those people are part of the hypothetical rotten 15%, what are we to do? When the issue is raised to elected officials who respond by shrugging their shoulders, or invoking a line separating them from direct management of staff, what are we to do?
 
Here's what one of you had to say recently:
 
Follow the money? Yes. But, most of the time, it isn't the city council members making the money. They are only part timers, putting in a few hours a month, rubber stamping what staff puts in front of them.

That isn't to say a few council people haven't found "creative" ways to use the position for their personal gain.

Think about it, though. We are directed to focus on the people who really have so little to do with the policies and decisions that have such dramatic impact on our lives. Actions and policies that cause us to sell our houses, move to new communities, find new jobs, move our children to new schools, and more.

We are directed to focus on the part timers who we pay only a few hundred bucks a month, instead of focusing on the full timers who write the staff reports, who find and "recommend" the consultants, and who define the way issues are to be considered.
 
So again, the question comes up: How can members of the public address the problems caused by rotten staff members? How do we police those we can't fire or recall directly? And how long can any community afford to keeping paying a 15% (or higher) surcharge for the "service" of dysfunction?
 


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Gee, Even My Dog Can Sit Still...Why Can't You?

I'm cutting and pasting together pieces of three comments that were posted today, because they get close enough to what I would have to say about Lee Whetham's announcement that he's running for Port Commissioner (and about the Port Angeles City Council). This is one of the really weird, dysfunctional - and dishonest - trends in Port Angeles and Clallam County: People who run for one office, then almost immediately announce they're running for yet another, different office. Anyway, here's the patched together version of what some of you have had to say about this announcement...
 
How do you make more money than a plumber?
Be a Port Angeles Port Commissioner!

Here's Whetham's record, in brief:

Claims to be a progressive, yet signed up to run against the person who was the most progressive member of the City Council, Max Mania. This left three more conservative candidates/incumbents without challengers. Since being elected, Whetham has displayed no pronounced progressive tendencies, nor has he seriously pushed back at staff and/or their ongoing slew of bad ideas.

Claims in his press release to have "defeated online publisher" Peter Ripley in the election for his seat. Left unsaid is that Peter is a lunatic, serial candidate, and comes pre-defeated.

Claims to be "a proven problem solver and consensus builder," though he provides no details, perhaps owing to the fact that he has, in actuality, solved no problems and built no consensus. See comments above. Lee Whetham has filled a seat, and that's about it.

Whetham hasn't even been on the City Council a year and a half, and is already bailing out for bigger and better things. Of course, he was prodded into running for the City Council, and his handlers are no doubt moving him along up the ladder this time, too. Ever wonder who those handlers are? So do I.
 
Oh yeah, he ran for this, too...

If he wins, he will resign his City Council seat, which will leave it up to the rest of the City Council to appoint his replacement. We all know how well that's gone in the past, don't we?

To mix my metaphors, this is like playing musical chairs on the deck of the Titanic. The same few people cycling around and around while the ship goes down.
 
"Garbage in, garbage out", as we used to say in the early days of the technology revolution. If we didn't put in quality information into the computer, we knew we couldn't expect any meaningful results.

We know the problem in Port Angeles. We've had a series of "go along to get along" people sitting in council seats. Virtually none have dared to seriously question, challenge or resist the efforts of city staff and what it has proposed.

What is it with these people who can't even finish ONE term before trying to run for something else? First Sissi runs for County Commissioner, now this. It'd be nice if they told us when they ran for the first spot that they were REALLY angling to run for something else soon. But then, that would involve honesty.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Is It Still A News Roundup When Everything Seems To Be Going DOWN?

A quick follow-up on several local stories that have been the topics of discussion...

Serenity House is short $350,000 of its annual $2.7 million dollar budget. Bills aren't getting paid, and people are being kicked out of the places they've been housed.

At the "telephone town hall," Steve Tharinger - surprise! - touted biomass, and expressed his support for more jobs on the Peninsula. But, "jobs are tricky," said Tharinger. "There is no real silver bullet."

Meanwhile, his cohorts in the Courthouse approved $150,000 of silver bullets per King Jim's wishes. Formerly contentious Commissioner Mike Chapman is now singing with the choir. At a meeting with the Port, they were also asked to sing along with King Jim's tune.

The only "good news" is that the official unemployment rate in Clallam County fell from 10.2% to 10%. Washington State's unemployment rate remains at 6.3%, while the national rate dropped from 5.7% to 5.5%. Only in Clallam County is a 10% unemployment rate good news.

Meanwhile, surprising absolutely no one, the Lincoln Theater is...STILL...FOR...SALE. Says Scott Nagel, dream weaver:

“Our Lincoln is still there and we are still here. This is Port Angeles. Our town doesn't quit. We still have a theater to save."

Nagel did not return calls Monday or Tuesday. In an email Tuesday night, Nagel said he was ill and "has no voice."



Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Drunken Sailors Alert!

No fifth term for Mike Chapman as a County Commissioner?

No County reserves reserved?

Apparently, now that Mike Chapman has had to look at not one but two funhouse mirror reflections of his own brand of austerity makeup, he's had an "epiphany" that good old fiscal conservatism might not be the greatest good after all.

And suddenly all three Commissioners are singing from the same songbook again. Now, how's that tune go? Oh yes: "Let us spend, let us spend, let us spend!"

Now, I'm all for public officials being willing to admit their thinking has evolved on an issue. Growth and evolution are both part of life. But I'm a little wary of epiphanies. Especially Clallam County epiphanies. Especially when the epiphany opens the cash spigot. And especially when it involves Mike Chapman saying he's going to willingly give up his gravy train gig for..? He can talk about private sector all he wants, but the fact remains that Chapman is unqualified to earn anything close to what he earns as a Commissioner in the private sector. Plus, he's his own boss at the County, a set up that suits volatile personalities well. He's not going to find that sort of freedom in the private sector.

But hey, he's said he's open to spending it all, and then he's going to walk away. If all that's true, what do you think? Is draining the reserves a good idea? Is Chapman really and truly likely to walk away? If so, what job is waiting for him out there? In this proposed round of musical chairs, where do the players wind up sitting? Isn't Jim Jones retiring? Or is Rich Sill getting sick of being Mike's placeholder in the County's HR department? How about the EDC? The COC? Maybe Steve Tharinger is also going to walk away?

So many choices...All tied to those addictive government dollars. Chapman says he doesn't want his sudden turnaround to be seen as some sort of political ploy. Well, I agree, kind of, in that I think it's less a political ploy and more of a case of nest-feathering. After all, you've got to give to get, so Mike Chapman has suddenly decided he wants to give.

Monday, March 23, 2015

STILL FOR SALE...And Still No Names, Please

Meanwhile, despite the latest dance of distraction and deception by Scott Nagel...

THE LINCOLN THEATER IS STILL FOR SALE.

Yes, you heard it here first.

And second.

And third.

And so forth.

Today, officially, is the deadline for Light Up the Lincoln, Scott Nagel and Karen Powell's effort to raise $235,000 to buy the shuttered Lincoln Theater and turn it into a nonprofit performing arts center.

“We should have a special announcement next week. We're working on a major deal” ­— one about which Nagel didn't elaborate.

Nagel is optimistic, and added that more than 20 people have pledged at the $1,000 level, though he declined to give the donation tally so far.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Calling On You

Tomorrow evening, Monday, March 23rd, Steve Tharinger and Kevin Van De Wege will be having a "telephone town hall," from 6:30 to 7:30PM.
 
To participate, phone 877-229-8493, and enter the pin number 18646.
 
This is supposed to be an opportunity for these two to "field comments from constituents and answer questions about what they have accomplished this legislative session." Hopefully people with questions outside that scope will not be moderated out. ("So, Steve, are you ever going to actually pay Clallam County back those salary dollars you said you would years ago?")
 
I know I'd also want to ask them why they're doing a "telephone town hall" rather than an actual one. Seems like it would be easy enough to do a real-world, in-person town hall, being that they both live in Clallam County.
 

But this format does lend itself to the appearance of connecting to the community, while also facilitating the easy avoidance of any uncomfortable questions, with just the press of a button. "Oh, oops! We lost your call!"
 
That's a lot harder to do when the person is standing right there in front of you...

Friday, March 20, 2015

EDC = Endlessly Discussing Cash

King Jim's Quest for Cash just goes on and on and on...Dutiful minion Bill Greenwood, previously hidden away for so long, is now making the rounds and rattling his tin cup. "Alms for the poor, alms for the poor...EDC."
 
EDC budget item #14: One tin cup.

Given the dismal record of the EDC, and the public and oh-so-obvious machinations of King Jim in retooling the group into his own personal tool, it's a case of being a little too late to expect much enthusiasm. But that doesn't stop Bill Greenwood, who, when begging in front of the City Council,  apparently didn't even listen to what is coming out of his own mouth:
 
Greenwood said entrepreneurs are dismayed that voters in Port Angeles and Sequim rejected bond measures for new schools in February.

They also believe that Kenmore Air’s shutdown of commercial passenger service between Port Angeles and Seattle in November is an impediment to business growth.

“Without those two things, it really is an uphill battle,” Greenwood told council members Tuesday.
 
Oh, really? As if economic growth in Clallam County wasn't an uphill battle before those things happened? Maybe if you'd come out of your office once or twice, Mr. Greenwood, you'd have seen the reality of life in Clallam County. Maybe you might have been moved to, oh, take action to change things before Kenmore flew away. Maybe you could have mustered your feeble troops to advocate for the school bond. You know, being proactive, rather than reactive.
 
Merchants said a conference center and an adjacent hotel along Port Angeles’ waterfront would be a boon for the economy, Greenwood reported.
 
Oh, and maybe you could take a leadership role in explaining to these merchants that something like 98% of the time, conference centers are money losers for a municipality, not money makers. In other words, if one of your "solutions" is something that will cost the City money - great sums of money - then it's not really a solution. Most cities use conference centers as a sort of loss leader, to promote their other assets. What other assets does Port Angeles really have to promote, other than more loss?
 
 From the EDC to the COC - here's a new slogan to consider:
"Port Angeles: A great place to waste your time and your money!"
 
Anyway, I'm sure pretty much everyone is sick to death of hearing about the EDC, and having to deal with all the work going on to further enhance King Jim's kingdom. So let's just break it down to the two views expressed by two members of the City Council. Here's what Brad Collins had to say:
 
“The idea is to transition more away from public entities more to private businesses,” said Councilman Brad Collins, who until Thursday sat on the EDC board of directors.

Public entities that have funded the EDC in the past “are not totally on board” on funding it now, Collins said, adding that the nonprofit needs to take “a more private-sector approach” to its operations and rely more on private-sector funding.

Collins said he wanted to see measurable outcomes for the EDC’s activities. “I’d like to focus attention on that,” he said.
 
Here's what Cherie Kidd had to say:
 
“We need to revitalize the EDC and put it into a position of leadership so it can reach its potential.”
 
So what's it to be? Measurable outcomes funded primarily by the private sector? Or yet another bottomless, pointless money pit sucking down public dollars.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Doing It In Public

It's sure interesting to see the public and apparently very personal pissing contests that keep coming out of the courthouse - and those are just the ones that hit the PDN. (Needless to say, there are plenty that never get that sort of coverage, but still exist nonetheless.)
 
As we all know, there's been a lot of coverage lately of the sniping and slapping between the big dog (King Jim) and the little dog (Mike Chapman) on the County Commission. But now, with Selinda Barkhuis commandeering a Charter Review Committee meeting to go after County Administrator Jim Jones, their ongoing conflict is back in the crosshairs.
 
In case you haven't read the article, here's a sketch of what happened. Several elected officials came to the Charter Review Commission to explain what they do, how their jobs are affected by the charter itself, that sort of thing. When it came time for County Treasurer - and Charter Review Commission member - Barkhuis to speak, she just launched into an account of her ongoing problems with Jim Jones.
 
This, in turn, seems to have caused some of her fellow Commission members to launch into her:
 
Charter commissioners questioned her choice to run for the Charter Review Commission.

“As an elected official, is this the appropriate thing to do?” Commissioner Glenn Wiggins asked.

He asked Barkhuis if her reason for running for the commission was to contribute to the county’s charter, “or do you want to see change within your office?”

“I am here because I don’t know where else to go with my issues,” Barkhuis said.
 
Sounds like it was an interesting meeting. And, while I certainly have no trouble at all believing that Jim Jones is a HUGE problem at the County, especially for a woman holding office, I also have a problem with the notion that Selinda would run for the Charter Review Commission because she doesn't "know where else to go" with her issues.
 
So what do you think? Is the Charter Review Committee the place for these discussions? Is Selinda right or wrong to take this focus on the CRC? Anyone want to defend Jim Jones in all this?
 
Meanwhile, in other terribly unimportant news coming out of the courthouse...
 
Coffee stands in which the baristas are bikini-clad may get special regulation in unincorporated Clallam County.
 
First-year Community Development Director Mary Ellen Winborn asked commissioners Monday to consider “appropriate local regulations and control” of the drive-through coffee stands at which scantily clad baristas serve up customers' favorite espresso drinks.
 
There are no bikini baristas in Clallam County, and sexually oriented and adult-entertainment businesses are not a common land use, Winborn said in a memo to the board.
 
The study was prompted by a citizen who recently inquired about placing a bikini-barista stand in a commercial zone east of Port Angeles, Planning Manager Steve Gray said.

No formal application had been submitted.
 
Winborn offered a solution:
 
Require coffee stands that meet the definition of partial nudity to post a highly visible warning sign that says something like “This Premise is Not Family Oriented” or “Parental Advisory: Explicit Content Ahead.”
 
So, if you're going to be addressing the "issues" of appropriate clothing in businesses in Clallam County...Are you going to tackle the Walmart issue? Google the phrase, "People of Walmart," and you'll see more than any coffee stand could ever hope to show you...
 
 
 
 
 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Regional Rain Storm, Localized Shit Storm

To compare and contrast...
 
Port Angeles, home of the fabled and oh-so-visible waterfront Turd Tank, which at a cost of $50 million dollars is supposed to...Supposed to...Well, let's just see what the PDN has to say about the recent rains:
 
Stay out of Port Angeles Harbor for the next week, Clallam County public health officials advised today after heavy rainfall on Sunday pushed 7 million gallons of diluted sewage into the water.
 
The environmental health section of county Health and Human Services said that contact with fecal-contaminated water can result in gastroenteritis, skin rashes, upper respiratory infections and other illnesses.
 
 
Some of the city's drain lids were vibrating in place as water was trying to blow out the top, while the gushing water lifted other lids completely out of place in lower lying areas such as Marine Drive, city Engineer Mike Puntenney said.
 
The system reacted as anticipated,” he said.
 
 
Meanwhile, in Port Townsend...
 
It rained heavily in Port Townsend, too, but there were no sewage overflows, said John Merchant, public works operations manager.

The city's trunk line was upgraded to better handle the flows, he added.

“Periodically, we might have [an overflow] because of a blockage, but right now, with the rain, we've been doing pretty good.

Our flows almost tripled, but we were able to handle it.”