Wednesday, February 10, 2016

It's Only Stealing AKA City Light Slush Fund Follies

If you've followed the recent articles in the PDN about the investigation of the City's electric utility, well then, you already know that the State Patrol was, well, investigating the City's electric utility. It turns out that employees in that division have been engaging in unethical (and I would argue illegal) activities on the City's dime and time - for years. As in, many, many years.

There were a number of very interesting findings in the final report, such as that City employees have been taking home tools owned by the City for their own personal use. Such as that that City employees, on the clock, mind you, have been taking (and burning!) old power poles that were supposed to go to the landfill. (Anything to help the local air quality, right?)

Furthermore, said City employees also were taking and recycling spent fuses that were supposed to be thrown away. The proceeds from said sales were kept in a bank account - an account that the bank had listed as, I'm not kidding, the "City Light Slush Fund" - and were used to pay for things like "extravagant barbecue events" attended by upper management. You know, the people who are supposed to be watching over those working below them. But I guess in Port Angeles the only checks and balances were the checks written to pay for the catering.

Food just tastes better when it's paid for
with Other People's Money.

Again, this has been going on for a long, long time. (The "City Light Slush Fund" account dated to 1995!) And yet, no one said a thing, no one had any problem with all this pilfering and misuse of the City's time and materials, until Corey Delikat raised the issue in April of last year. Now, good for Corey for doing that, right? But he's worked for the City for 10 years. This has gone on for at least 20 years. No need to hurry, right?

This is the kind of lax, entitled atmosphere that permeates City Hall. This is the kind of do as we say not as we do attitude that manifests itself in things like the behavior of the Fluoride Four. (Critical public commenters are "rude"; Gavel Gertie interrupting them and gaveling them down is just "keeping order.") Slipshod, rule-averse thinking like this results in compromised ethics, public and private lies, mistrust, dysfunction and a whole host of pathological outcomes. How does a small city like Port Angeles end up in such bad shape, with so much debt, with so little to show for it? Because much of the decision-making and priority-setting has been, to be kind, a con. The guiding principle for a long, long time has been so long as a few well-placed people get their pockets lined, then everything is fine.

So really, the entire City has been a sort of Slush Fund. For Karen Rogers. For Glenn Cutler. For whoever came along and was selfish enough and ruthless enough to go there. And the whole semi-criminal enterprise has been very much aided and abetted by the compliant local (non) press.

But you know what? I think it's entirely possible that people have had enough of this. So keep the pressure on, and let's see how many rats flee from City Hall.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words...

...Though, admittedly, the picture itself contains some words.

 
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And meanwhile, soon to appear in dozens of locations around town...These lovely, professionally-made signs, as seen below. Ask for one for your yard or business window today!
 



Sunday, February 7, 2016

Grading the Guardians and Oh, Laudy, Laudy!

Now that the bold and indefatigable Marolee Smith has filed her ethics complaint against Cherie Kidd, the next step will be for the members of the City Council - minus Gavel Gertie - to pick three people to become the "citizens' ethics board" provided for by City code.

Needless to say, with a split Council, this should be an interesting process.


And so, at this time, the pool of potential ethics board candidates consists of:

Jerry Dean

Roy Gotham

Grant Meiner

Frank J. Prince, Jr.

Danetta Rutten

Diana Tschimperle

Kenneth Williams

William Yucha

Edward Zoble

Anyone have any thoughts? Background info on these folks? Predictions?

Meanwhile...In a parallel universe...

Cherie Kidd says - and the PDN repeats it, without any sort of proof or context, not a word - that she has been "lauded for her actions." She says she's received an outpouring of support, and people telling her that they're sorry their fellow citizens have been so "contentious."

Translation: Scores of people have expressed their righteous frustration with the City and the Fluoride Four, which is their right and possibly even their duty as citizens. This means they are "contentious." Afterwards, Cherie's husband and Dick Pilling both probably said something soothing to her. This means she's seen an "outpouring of support" from "people."

Me am popular and respected!

I've always said that the hardest thing for a politician to say is "I'm sorry," or "I was wrong." And yet, it can be the most powerful thing a politician can say. It shows they can listen, and learn. It shows they recognize they are not perfect. It shows they can acknowledge that situations change and evolve. Gavel Gertie's total lack of even a hint of contrition for the part she's played in this only increases the impression that she's arrogant and out of touch. Her complete inability to empathize, sympathize, listen or learn only tightens the noose around her neck a little bit more each day.

Give 'em enough rope? Cherie's grabbing for it hand over fist.

Meanwhile...In a neighboring galaxy...

SeaPort Airlines has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, at almost the exact same time that the Port will be starting the search to replace (former) Port Commissioner Jim Hallett.

Here's a friendly tip: Find someone to replace Hallett who has a pilot's license and owns a plane. That'd be a win-win.



Friday, February 5, 2016

Cherie Kidd Ethics Complaint: “I am fully confident everything is going to be fine.”

Gavel Gertie rides again! It's old news here, but BREAKING NEWS at the PDN: An ethics complaint has been filed against Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd for her shameful, disgraceful, rude, unprofessional, antagonistic and humiliating performance at the last Port Angeles City Council meeting.

As ethics complaints go, this one is a pip - detailed, well-written and it names names and cites citations. Well done, Marolee!

And yet, despite all this...Despite the documentation of her arrogant and out of control behavior (captured on video from multiple sources, as well as the City's own audio recording)...Despite the embarrassment of breaking so egregiously with decorum and civility...Despite the well-substantiated complaints lodged against her...And despite the fact that she decided to essentially put her own head in a noose in front of a packed house and the press...Gavel Gertie apparently remains more upbeat than beat up.

Sayeth disgraced Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd, when asked about all of the above: "I am fully confident everything is going to be fine."

Given Cherie's general befuddlement and lack of understanding of the many issues she has to deal with, this simplistic riff on "What, Me Worry?" could essentially serve as both Cherie's motto and modus operandi. Out of control staff? Out of control spending? Out of control debt? Out of control populace? No worries: "I am fully confident everything is going to be fine."


Clearly, a great many people in Port Angeles would respectfully disagree with you, Cherie.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

It's Official: Cherie "Gavel Gertie" Kidd Has Lost Her Tiny Little Mind

The following is a first-hand report from last night's Port Angeles City Council meeting. Thank you to the original poster, and to the second poster who also documented this...this...Well, this.

Tonight was a red letter day at the Port Angeles city council. You'll be able to see the way the council, lead by Cherie Kidd, overtly tried every thing they could do to shut out the public.

First, signs were put up telling the public THEIR signs would not be allowed in the council chambers. No prior notice. No discussion. No public consultation.

Then, Cherie did everything she could to interrupt and disrupt what speakers tried to say. "Your time is up," she told the first speaker after a minute. The speaker replied: "I'm timing my comments, and I still have 2 minutes." She did this with every speaker, obviously intentionally harassing them.

Then Cherie cut off public comment after a half an hour, although there was a long list of people signed up to speak. People who took time out of their lives to come and speak to their elected representatives at the advertised time. No prior notice. No discussion. No public consultation about the changes. Only weeks after the council expanded the public comment time, because "we really want to hear from you." Only if you say things they want to hear!

But, even though Cherie cut off the public, most all stayed because she said " There is an opportunity later in the meeting."

Cherie cut off the first speaker at the second round of "Public Comment," and adjourned the meeting unilaterally, without a vote.

The place went wild.

Cherie and Gase left, The public wouldn't leave room or the podium. Collins left his seat, but stayed to hear the speakers.

Lee took over, and invited anyone who wanted to speak, to continue.

Everyone who wanted to speak, did. Sissi Bruch, Mike Merideth, Lee Wetham and most of Staff stayed to listen to the public. To their credit.

One person spoke, saying what happening tonight was "intolerable" and served to prove the four have to be removed from office. Absolutely.

It will be interesting to see how the PDN spins what happened tonight.

Cherie could not have done more to justify all efforts to have her (and her cronies) removed from office. No one, regardless of their political persuasion, can defend what she/they did tonight.


*********

In other news sure to shock no one...Scott Nagel has not met his fundraising goal for the Lincoln Theater...And has lowered his fundraising goal for the Lincoln Theater...AND now says it's not worth the price they agreed to pay for it anyway, so no, really, it's all good...No, really...AND he now is trying to raise $1,000 a day by the end of the month...To purchase the Lincoln Theater...For a lower price...He hopes...

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Corp or Corpse?


Just a couple of simple questions today, as both the City and the County will be considering funding the EDC (Economic Development Corp.) this coming week:

Is the EDC really worth $150,000 (or more) of your tax dollars?

Is the EDC really effective?

And, if you've answered yes to either of the above questions, then why isn't the local business community recognizing this by stepping up to fund it themselves? Or, put another way, if the EDC is so good at developing businesses...Why does it always need to go begging local governmental bodies to develop its own budget?

Now, now, don't cry little EDC...No one is
ever going to ask you to pay anything back.
Or produce anything.
Or prove you're effective.
Or do much of anything, really.
Other than to show up and collect your money.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Hallett Hauls It

Yes, Jim Hallett is hauling ass out of the Port Commissioner's office. In a Mike Chapman-like fit of publically displayed conscience, he says he is leaving because fellow Commissioners Connie and Colleen have "violated the public meetings act" and "destroyed any trust" he once may have had. (Maybe he's also upset because the morons at the PDN misspelled his name in the headline of the article.)

In any case, you soon won't have Jim Hallett to kick around anymore! Or James Hallet!

Clallam County Knife Holder?

So, is this a case of truth-telling? Have Connie and Colleen been sneaking a conversation here and there? Or could it be that Jim Hallett's ego-puffed personality didn't mix well with having to rule with, you know, girls? Or could those rumors about Mr. Hallett's failing health have something to do with this?

Or, in classic Port Angeles fashion, is he simply bailing out because he's found a better scam elsewhere, and/or he's paving the way for the next conman to take his place at the Port?

So many questions yet to be answered. I do declare! I just can't keep up with all the backstabbing and scheming and quitting that goes on in Clallam County.



Starve the Beast, Part II

So now the PDN is covering the movement to withhold utilities payments as a form of protest. Which is good!

However, the tenor of the coverage, at least the quotes from City staff members, is that this is no big deal. Which isn't so good.

Ah, but...If it's such a non-issue, then why is the PDN covering it? Maybe because, hmmm, it might have folks in City Hall a little more rattled that they're letting on? Cash flow, staff hassles, bad publicity - whatever you want to call it, it does exert some sort of pressure on the Fluoride Four.

In reading the article in the PDN, the thing that really jumped out at me came right at the end:

Byron Olsen said depending on how widespread the non-payment protest becomes, the cost of lost revenue could be spread out across all ratepayers regardless of their view of fluoridation.

When Peninsula Plywood went bankrupt in 2011, the hundreds of thousands of dollars its owners owed the City inutility costs were covered by City ratepayers forced to bear the brunt of the unpaid bills.

Now, RATHER OBVIOUSLY, the City is trying to scare people into A) Paying their bills, or B) Worrying that they'll have to pay someone else's bills - so as to put pressure back on the anti-fluoride folks.

But, you know what? All I really see is a desperate City Council that is so stupid as to use one of their own colossal and costly blunders as a cautionary tale. It was the City Council (minus Max Mania, who raised concerns early and often) that allowed Pen Ply to run up such a huge delinquent bill. It was the City Council (minus Max Mania, who voted against it) who chose to devote staff time and City resources to getting more grant money for Pen Ply without having them pay their bills as part of the deal. It was the City Council that created that situation. It was the City Council who decided to spread Pen Ply's debt out over the citizens of Port Angeles.

Just like it is the City Council who have created the furor over fluoride. It was the City Council who sent out the survey. It was the City Council that ignored the results. It was the City Council who brushed off compromises and alternative approaches. It was the City Council who ignored staff's recommendation to resolve the issue.

In other words, by bringing up Pen Ply, all the Council has done is reminded the people that, oh yeah, they have one more reason not to trust and to be pissed off. As strategy, it's pretty moronic.

But then again, let's look who we're talking about.



Sunday, January 24, 2016

Starve the Beast

A column I read in Thursday's New York Times echoed a thought I'd been having about Port Angeles - and that I'll get to in a minute.

Here's an excerpt from the column ("America the Unfair?") by Nicholas Kristof:

Martine Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin I. Page of Northwestern University found that in policy-making, views of ordinary citizens essentially don't matter. They examined 1,779 policy issues and found that attitudes of wealthy people and of business groups mattered a great deal to the final outcome - but that the preferences of average citizens were almost irrelevant.

"In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule," they concluded. "Majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts."

One reason is that our political system is increasingly driven by money...Solutions are complex, imperfect and uncertain, but the biggest problem is not a lack of tools, but a lack of will.

Money.

It's the money, stupid. It makes people (politicians) stupid, does the (lust for) money. Money makes the world go round, and a lot of politicians would like to keep things spinning around so fast that everyone gets dizzy - and distracted.

Politicians use money to play on our hopes (More jobs! More money!) and our fears (Loss of jobs! Less money!). Money means prosperity, and prosperity is an acceptable proxy for morality, honesty, and any number of other harder to quantify traits we all supposedly want to see in our elected leaders.

Look no further than the article in today's PDN, with the EDC doling out "Olympic leaders" awards to the same circle of old white guys (Eric Lewis, Dan Wilder, Jr., Nathan West, Jerry Nichols, etc.) who have created and/or overseen the tremendous growth of absolutely nothing that typifies Port Angeles.

(Nathan) West told the audience that 2015 was a banner year for private-sector investment.

"We had 24 new businesses open their doors in Port Angeles," West said. "We're moving in the right direction."

How many times has Nathan West said that exact same thing in years past? Let me answer for you: Dozens of times, and quite possibly more. And yet, gee, the economy in Port Angeles continues to lag in essentially every way you can measure such things. The population continues to shrink. The only direction you're moving in, Nathan, is in every-smaller circles, spiraling down, down, down. How many of those "24 new businesses" from years past are still open, Nathan? Very few. How many of this last batch will make it? Very few, Nathan.

The Pinocchio of Port Angeles: The more he lies to you,
the bushier his beard gets.

He knows that. You know that. And Nathan knows that you know that. But it's part of his job, spinning fantasy - "More jobs! More money! Hurrah!" It provides cover to his supposed bosses on the City Council, and in turn, it covers his ass, since then they won't want to replace him. It's a perfect closed system, a circular firing squad.

Or, you could look at the other article in the PDN today, about how the EDC is now "the economic engine" of Clallam County. Again, it's the same tired cast of characters (Eric Lewis, Brad Collins, Hugh Haffner, John Calhoun, and ancient Orville Campbell, among others) spinning the same old BS. The only engine the EDC has gotten going is their own - they've hired a couple of staff people. Other than that - nothing. Zero. Zilch. Zip. Nothing. Nothing but BS.

And it all runs on, thrives on, and seeks out more...money.

So what happens if you cut down the flow of money to this sick, destructive beast? Might that not force it to change its behavior? It certainly would get its attention.

With that in mind, here's an idea to consider, for those of you who are utilities customers of the City of Port Angeles. As you know, every month, for years now, there are about a third of Port Angeles utility customers who can't, and therefore don't, pay their utility bills. This has been a persistent cash flow problem for the City, as well as a headache for staff.

Now, imagine what would happen if, say, another third of utilities customers started to only pay two-thirds of their utilities bills each month? I'm not talking about refusing to pay at all, mind you, just cutting down how much you pay for the duration, in order to send a message. And by sending a message, I mean literally sending a message. With each bill, you could send in your check for two-thirds of your bill, along with a note explaining that, "Since I do not have full confidence in the City's ability to govern responsibly, I am not paying my full bill this month."

Then, you just roll over a little extra in your savings for, say, six or eight months, and let the unpaid portion grow a little more each month, slowly starving the beast of funds until this City Council gets right with the community, or gets replaced.

Only sixty-seven cents of every dollar might drive them crazy...

I offer this suggestion because, obviously, facts don't work on this Council. Shaming doesn't work either, since the Fluoride Four clearly have no shame. But when you start tightening up the purse strings...Well, that's hitting them where it hurts, and it might just have a motivational effect on them over the course of a few months.

In any case, per the column referenced above, remember: There's no lack of tools, just a lack of will, when it comes to addressing these problems in our political system. So stay strong, stay vocal, and stay on them. When it comes to cracking many of the problems facing Port Angeles, it currently comes down to simply getting one - just one - of the Fluoride Four to crack, or to leave. Then you could have a majority to get things done, and fight against the death spiral of the status quo.