Sunday, August 2, 2015

Who Do You Trust With Your Money? Who Do You Trust With Your Trees? (UPDATED!) And Who Do You Trust With Your Prosecution?

The previous posting was titled, "Low Standards Come from Higher Places." Now the County Commissioners, at the behest of the Charter Review Commission, want to explore the possibility of taking back some more local control in setting low standards...

It’s time for Clallam County to take a good, hard look at how its forests are being managed, county commissioners say. The three-member board plans to grant a request from the Charter Review Commission to form a trust lands advisory committee to study the forces that influence timber harvests and the possibility of reconveyance from state management back to the county.

“We’re going to be putting our foot on the accelerator in getting the committee established in the proper way and get them underway so that they can do their work,” said board Chairman Jim McEntire, who also serves on the state Board of Natural Resources.

Timber that DNR was authorized to sell but didn’t sell is known as arrearage. According to DNR numbers, the Olympic region had 247 million board feet of arrearage from 2004 to 2014. That’s enough wood to keep any one of the shuttered West End mills running for years, Forks City Attorney and Planner Rod Fleck has said.

Commissioner Bill Peach, a retired Rayonier forest manager, said the recent closure of the Allen Logging Co. mill south of Forks, coupled with the closure of the Interfor mills in Beaver and Forks and the Green Creek Wood Products mill in Port Angeles, represents the loss of about 300 jobs.

Peach said he hopes the subcommittee will answer the question of why the arrearage is occurring.

DNR officials have said staff shortages, legal challenges and the protection of the threatened marbled murrelet have contributed to a statewide arrearage since the last sustainable harvest calculations were made in 2004.

McEntire sits on an arrearage subcommittee of the influential state Board of Natural Resources. He said the DNR will be making “very significant, even momentous” decisions on arrearage and the marbled murrelet in the coming year.

Commissioner Mike Chapman, the dean of the board with nearly 15 years’ experience, said the county has spent millions of dollars on salmon recovery, water issues, land-use planning, social services, tourism and infrastructure but “virtually nothing in support for the timber industry. So the county’s been derelict in our duty, in my opinion, over the last 15 years in looking at the issue of timber harvest.”

“We’ve got a tremendous asset base here in this county and others...(with) a potential to provide a renewable, constant stream of revenue that offsets the need for property taxes, sales taxes, a plethora of other revenue sources,” McEntire said. “So let’s go get it.”

So let's first ponder the fiscal sanity and stability, in general, of the existing board of County Commissioners. Have they been good and thoughtful and forward-thinking stewards of the tax dollars in their care? Do you trust their fiscal judgment? Their honesty?

Second, let's look at those County Commissioners individually, shall we? First (at the trough) and foremost (with the money grabs) is Dim King Jim, who never met a dollar he didn't want to take home, no matter who it belonged to. This kind of move allows him to, at the very least, play up to his very debased base, which helps in future elections. If he were actually able to bring home this kind of bacon, and follow through with the tax cuts he speaks of here, well that's right wing pandering Heaven, isn't it? And if he were able to help push this kind of thing through at a State level, well gosh, that would give him all sorts of new friends that could help in future elections, too - especially for higher offices.

Then we've got Commissioner Bill Peach, retired from Rayonier's logging division...Hmmm...Think he's got an unbiased view on this issue? Hmmm...Think he still has any connections at his old company? Hmmm...Think he should recuse himself from this sort of discussion? Ha!

And finally, we've got good ol' boy and senior Commissioner Mike Chapman, who points out that the Commissioners, including himself, have been "derelict in their duty" on this issue. While that may be true, it's not exactly the kind of statement that inspires confidence. If you 've been checked out for 15 years, Mike, I don't have much faith in your ability to look, think and/or plan ahead on this, or any issue. You're filling a chair, and padding your resume and bank account, and that's about it. You're not even an ambitious scoundrel like Dim King Jim. No, you're content to fill a chair, and occasionally admit to your own shortcomings, then go back to sleep.

So again...Do you trust these guys with your money? Do you trust them to make informed, unbiased decisions? Do you trust them to be environmental stewards? Is this trio of nitwits capable of any one of these things, yet alone linking them all together to make an informed, fiscally and environmentally sound decision on anything?

And what are we to make of the Charter Review Commission's 10-4 vote to send this issue along to the Commissioners? Is logging really both the past and the future for Clallam County? Or is that group closer to the Charter Rewind Commission, hoping against hope to bring back the "glory days"?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Low Standards Come from Higher Places

You'll all be SO excited to read the following press release, which was sent out yesterday:
The City’s Wastewater Treatment Plant has earned the 2014 “Wastewater Treatment Plant Outstanding Performance” award from the Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE).  Of approximately 300 wastewater treatment plants statewide, ours is one of 127 that achieved full compliance with its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit in 2014.
Heather Bartlett, DOE Water Quality Program Manager, said, “It takes diligent operators and a strong management team, working effectively together, to achieve this high level of compliance.  It is not easy to operate a wastewater treatment plant 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, without violations.  This is the second consecutive year the Port Angeles Wastewater Treatment Plant received this award. Your excellent record is a credit to the dedicated operators who are responsible for operating this award-winning plant.”
The Plant passed all tests for compliance with effluent limits, monitoring and reporting requirements, spill prevention planning, pretreatment, and overall operational demands of the NPDES permit. 
I always pictured Hollywood as being a little more
glamorous than this...
I guess the DOE is hunky dory with the CSO overflows now? With the City's well-known leaky water pipes? With the City's underwhelming response to the drying up rivers and drought? With all those utility customers who can't pay their bills each month? Heck of a job, PA!
Yes, it's thanks to the great, thorough oversight like this that Port Angeles has become the modern, thriving and sustainable model city that it is. Because no matter how low the State sets the bar, the City will find a way to slither under it.
If Port Angeles is doing so well on wastewater issues...
How come these signs get so much use there?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A City of Two Tales

The poor, clueless, schizophrenic PDN...They're really a fascinating study in psychology. On one hand, they are right in there with the rah rah boosters, the "Best Town EVER" crowd, pimping Port Angeles like it is something other than a run of the (closed) mill former timber town. On the other hand, though, sometimes they can't help but rub people's faces in how dysfunctional and nasty things can be there.

Today offers a classic case of these contrasts, which can be pretty much summed up by their headlines. One headline comes from a letter to the editor that is being prominently displayed and - shocking! - made available online and everything. It's meant to show just what a nice place Port Angeles is:

'Thank you, Port Angeles' - a letter to the editor about 'the honest and good citizenship displayed by Port Angeles'

The other headline shows that Port Angeles, like so many other places, isn't always a very nice place at all:

Port Angeles man charged with raping woman confined to wheelchair

Now, I'm not trying to say or imply that that aren't honest and good people in Port Angeles, or that everyone in Port Angeles is a rapist. (Though there is land rapist Dan Morrison to contend with...) No, I was just struck by the PDN's compulsive need to try to present Port Angeles as some sort of down home, folksy Shangri-La, despite loads of evidence to the contrary.

In other words, while it's nice to focus on the good deeds of a few people, that doesn't change the fact that Port Angeles and Clallam County are governed by a completely corrupt and (to be charitable) inefficient power structure, one that hurts far more people than it helps.

So, gee whiz, maybe the "honest and good" citizens at the PDN could tell a little more truth about that dysfunctional and often criminal system? Jeepers, that'd be swell!

The ball's in your court, PDN. Now, try taking a swing at it.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Are You Board of This Subject Yet?

Port Angeles forum set Wednesday on shuttered Lincoln Theater board formation

As they strive to raise the remaining $60,000 to purchase downtown Port Angeles’ shuttered Lincoln Theater, Scott Nagel and Karen Powell are also planning how to run it as a nonprofit arts center.

Nagel and Powell, married business partners who also produce the Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival every October, made an offer of $235,000 last winter to Sun Basin Theatres, the Wenatchee owner of the Lincoln.

The pair have raised $175,000 in pledged donations and are now seeking foundation grants, major sponsors — and people to serve on the board of directors.

This week, Powell will host the first of three forums on Lincoln Theater board development.

“This process not only enfranchises people,” Powell said, “but helps others see how a board can make or break an organization.”

The flow of individual pledges has slowed, Nagel said. He’s turned his energies toward major gifts, from local companies on up to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s rural economic development division.

First: Let's observe that, to no one's great surprise, the "flow" of "individual pledges" has not just slowed, it's come to a halt. These figures have been static for quite a stretch now.

Second: Let's remember that pledges are easy to make, but harder to collect. It's not uncommon for efforts like this to have "default" rates of up to 20% - which means you really need to raise more than 100% of your goal just to make sure you make your goal.

Third: And most crucial...Just because you might be able to scrape together enough funds to buy this white elephant, doesn't mean you have the funds to do anything with it. There still doesn't seem to be any real talk of renovation costs, or who is going to pay them. (Those costs will be much more than the purchase price.) This is like a teenager spending every last penny they can save or borrow to buy a car - leaving them without any funds at all to buy gas, insurance, windshield wiper fluid, etc. In other words, the first step, as difficult as it is, is actually the easy part.

Fourth: Has anyone associated with this done any of the studies that would show if this project is likely to succeed? Is there a business plan? A market analysis? A traffic study? Or...

Fifth: Or...Is the plan to just hope for the best and let Scott and Karen run this? The same Scott and Karen whose one signature event still runs in the red every year? Again, that doesn't exactly inspire confidence, or seem like a roadmap to success.

It sure seems like Port Angeles would benefit from less effort on private pipe dreams like this, and more effort on, say, public (water) pipes that would truly serve a need, and the entire community. So don't forget to vote, folks, and don't hold your breath waiting for the next show at the Lincoln.