Sunday, March 30, 2014

Closed Doors Aren't Very Welcoming

And so, we enter a new era of open backroom deals, coupled with increased attempts to limit and control the flow of local information.

Yes, beginning tomorrow, the local "paper of (broken) record," the Peninsula Daily News, will begin to attempt to charge people to access its website. They've made this choice even though it is sure to decrease the number of visitors to said website - and despite they fact that they love to trumpet their (obviously inflated and gamed) numbers, and despite the fact that they base their wildly expensive advertising rates greatly on those same inflated numbers. Will those ad rates come down now, PDN?

In a blatant attempt to distort the reality of his own paper's standing, publisher John Brewer says “But we believe that if you stop for just a moment to contemplate how important the PDN is to the vitality and civility of the Peninsula, you might even feel good about your contribution to sustaining the content you value."

First, John, the Peninsula is almost totally lacking in vitality. Second, John, the PDN is totally lacking in civility. You do employ Paul Gottlieb, remember?

Meanwhile, said vital and civil paper has finally gotten around to pretending to cover what is going on in the local comedy scene, with a laughably shallow article (by...Paul Gottlieb!) about the "efforts" of the people involved with "PA United." The fact that they're doing this at all is because Dale Wilson and the Port O Call has shamed them into it. The fact that they're even acknowledging Wilson in the article means he has finally made it onto the big "PA Threat Board."

But the PDN absolutely, completely and totally tows the party line when it comes to the ongoing attempts of "PA United" to set up a new way for Jim Haguewood and Karen Rogers and crew to scam more tax and economic development money. Haguewood trots out a big ol' platter of BS and Gottlieb, muck wallower that he is, swallows it all up.

See that $133,000 I'm pointing at? That's how much I aim to steal from you this year. Any questions? Just kidding! No questions are allowed.

You see, all the upcoming meetings to decide the future of YOUR community's economic development efforts will be closed to the press. Haguewood says the groups involved are "private organizations," and therefore don't have to allow the press to attend. This BS is at the very end of the article, and Gottlieb just lets it stand.

But the fact is, Jim, most of these groups receive public funds, and therefore should have open meetings. Another problematic fact, Jim, is that all of these groups - except for your made-up CEO group - have always had their meetings open to the public, and the press. I've been to Chamber meetings, PABA meetings, and even a PADA meeting. So you're trying to claim an exemption that's never been claimed before.

A Brain Trust with no brains, and no trust. But Barb found the snacks!

And finally, Jim, you're apparently running willingly into the whirling blades of bad press and public perception. Put another way: WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO HIDE? Why block the press? What are you afraid might be seen or heard? If this is for the good of the community, why are you blocking the community from knowing what you're doing?

Jim Haguewood, Karen Rogers, their bogus CEO Group, and the flagrant money-grab that is "PA United" are all utterly lacking in credibility. By being so openly hostile to the press (in any form) and to being transparent (in any way) they only acknowledge their own evil intent. Oh, and Jim, promising to tell us your version of what happened after the fact...That just doesn't cut it. See comment above about your lack of credibility. Your bizarre, unrealistic "goals" also make the dog and pony show nature of this all plain to see. You're going to greatly increase the percentage of people under 45 living here and the population overall ("in the greater Port Angeles area") by 2020 - in just five and a half years? I'll bet you that you won't be able to find something to do with the old Lincoln Theater in that time period, yet alone the whole city and "greater Port Angeles area."

So here we are, in the 21st century, in the new Information Age, and Port Angeles is rushing at full-speed backwards, right into the kind of open backroom deals it's always been known for, with the new added twist of more blatant attempts being made to keep the public in the dark.

Finally, I must note the "people of importance" who are quoted in the PDN article, and who will doubtlessly go along with all this idiocy. People like Nathan West and Sissi Bruch. Both Nathan and Sissi are well educated people. The fact that they are willing to be fleeced by know-nothings like Andrew May and Jim Haguewood is potent testament to all that is wrong with Port Angeles. Dumb people float dumb ideas, and smart people go along with it. Crooks keep fleecing the public coffers, and those charged with guarding the coffers respond by offering the crooks their PIN number. This is Port Angeles in the 21st century, in the Information Age.

Is that a status quo you're happy with?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

One Thing Leads to Another - OR - Grave Disorder

With the recent fatal mudslide in our region, a tragedy of truly noteworthy dimensions, I've been thinking more about all our potential slides and sloughs here in Clallam County.

We've got dozens of house built on the edge of the bluff. We've got our biggest hospital on the edge of the bluff. And of course, we have our old dump, just a couple of feet from beginning an epic dive right into the Strait.

Per the houses, if I owned one, I'd be moving heaven and earth to get out of it, before the latter part of that phrase kicks in.

Waterfront property available - cheap!

As for the hospital, I am amazed that there has been very little discussion of its precarious state. In the fabled major earthquake that so many people here seem to worry about, I'm betting that the hospital will partially or completely slide into the water. Even a partial collapse would make the hospital unusable - only we'd probably really need a hospital in an event like that.

Now, as we know, the City is in its classic boneheaded way trying to "deal with" the problem. But their approach is hampered by several things.

One is, of course, that the bluff in question could literally go any second. As I type this, garbage could finally be spilling into the Strait. So timing is indeed, if not everything, very important.

But time is money, and the City has spread theirs so far and wide already, and the failure of the State to pass a supplemental budget means that $5 million dollars the City was (foolishly) counting on is gone. Tell me honestly: Does that lack of a supplemental budget make my utility bill look fat? I suspect it will.

Another challenge with the City's chosen approach to "dealing with" the old dump could be described as generational. The City is planning to spend huge amounts of money to try and divert some of the tidal energy hitting the base of the bluff. But given the direction of the tides, and the contours of the shoreline, that displaced energy is most likely to head east, which aims it right at the bluff below the cemetery. Which means, if all goes "well" with the City's diversion plan, it's possible that within a generation, past generations will be threatening to go for a swim in the Strait. Surfing dead? We may find out.

Cowabunga! Looking good, grandpa!

How did we get to be in such a...stupid, stupid state? Who puts a dump on a bluff? Per the last post topic, who permits houses to be built on bluffs? And for god's sake, who builds a hospital on a bluff?

We know the bluffs can recede at a rate of up to 20 feet a year in the worst case scenario. We know it rains here, and that we thus have landslide "issues" locally. We know so much, and yet seem to do so little.

Are you concerned about any of this? Are you satisfied with City's approach in "dealing with" the old dump? Are you, like me, mystified at the seeming lack of concern about our nearest hospital literally being on the brink? Is Port Angeles going to be the next big national landslide story?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Only in Clallam County

From the PDN today:

Sheila Roark Miller, the nation's only publicly elected county community development director, will seek a second four-year term to the Clallam County post.

The Department of Community Development, or DCD, is responsible for comprehensive planning and processing development and building permits.

In addition to the DCD directorship, Roark Miller automatically serves as the Clallam County fire marshal and building official.

Roark Miller, who resides in the Port Angeles area, said her family's 100-year heritage in Clallam County provides a “unique understanding of our citizen's viewpoints and unique cultural and ecological diversity, both from the west to the east end of the county.”


So here are my problems with all this.

One: Why is it that whenever you hear a phrase like "only in Clallam County" it's always describing something bad, stupid and backwards? We're the ONLY county that fills this position by election. Do you really think that's because Clallam County knows something all the other counties in the country don't? Or, do you suppose, this arrangement was put in place because, say, the local realtors thought it would be easier to game the system this way? Hmmm...

Two: Having this be a three-in-one position creates an artificial financial pressure to keep things the way they are. Can't you just hear a County Commissioner saying something like, "Well, if we change this, then we'll have to budget for two additional positions! I won't support that!"

Three: I'd say Miller's 100-year heritage in Clallam County is actually a negative, since it absolutely leads her to fall in line with the good ol' boys here, and helps to keep us out of touch with the real, modern world.

Four: From everything I have seen and heard, Sheila Roark Miller is very much a political partisan and very much a bully. And I hear her husband is rotten through and through as well. Whether or not this is due to her "100-year heritage" here, personal disposition, or both, the fact is she has been an unholy terror since taking this position. She has been spiteful, vengeful, and abusive.

So do you think this is a good deal for Clallam County? Do we benefit from, once again, being out of step with the entire rest of the country? Has this set up added to or detracted from our local economy and quality of life? What do you think?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

CONvention Center

Here's something you haven't and won't see in the PDN, that happened at the City Council this week. It's a seemingly small event, but one that signals another potential bank-breaking boondoggle in Port Angeles.

The Mayor, Dan DiGuilio, during the Council reports, explained that he had just visited the city of Ocean Shores to see how they run their Convention Center. He further stated that he will soon be visiting three more cities north of Seattle to see how they manage their Convention Centers.

Hey! It's fun to spend your money!

That's a lot of time and travel by the Mayor, don't you think? I'm sure he wouldn't spend his time doing all this without knowing...something. Sounds to me like the City still has the Convention Center bug.

Hey, Dan, here's something I can tell you, and you don't have to leave home to learn it. Ready? The fact is, Dan, something like 95% of Convention Centers RUN IN THE RED. In other words, they are NOT moneymakers. They are, however, very expensive to build, promote, and maintain.

It makes no sense for a remote, rundown and broke City like Port Angeles to want to build a Convention Center - especially giving our glaring lack of quality of life, as noted by NOAA and others. (Translation for City Council members: WHY would anyone want to come here?)

The trouble is, because it makes no sense, it may seem to make perfect sense to the yahoos on the City Council. (Pat Downie talks about it incessantly.) And doubtlessly some key staff members are helping fan the flames as well.

Do you think a Convention Center here makes sense? Do you want the City to spend more money it doesn't have to pursue this pipe dream? We'll hold an online convention right here - tell us what you think.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Water Effrontery

Against the background of a City drowning in pre-existing debt, while also watching much of its infrastructure crumbling, I’m curious what the responses to the following questions will be.
Question One: Do you think it’s a good idea for the City to commit to spending a minimum of $17 million dollars on a new waterfront?
Question Two: If yes, why? If no, would you rather see a similar amount of money spent on necessary infrastructure?
Question Three: Given the reality of climate change and the anticipated rising tides associated with that, do you think it’s wise to spend money trying to create a new, manmade beach in Port Angeles?
Question Four: There are twenty-eight new security cameras along the waterfront. Twenty-eight. Is that enough, too much, or not nearly enough?

Twenty-eight cameras to watch the waterfront...More cameras than people down there?

Question Five: Do you think that the majority of the City Council voted to approve the new $17 million dollar waterfront because they, A) Truly think it will somehow boost tourism, B) Truly think it will be an asset for local residents, or C) It’s sexier and more exciting to have your name associated with a new development than it is to say, “Hey, I voted to replace old sewer pipes”?
Question Six: How’s the view of Nippon from the new waterfront? Would you buy a postcard of that view?
Question Seven: How’s the smell of those sewage outfall pipes from the new waterfront? Does it smell like success?

Monday, March 17, 2014


"Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government."
Hugo Black, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court
It goes without saying that a free press and a free society go hand in hand. You can't have one without the other.
Right now, we're living in a period of illusion - the illusion of all-knowing connectivity. With the birth of the internet, many people have come to believe that there is more free flowing information than ever before in human history. And that is true - to a point.
But there is also a great deal of misinformation flowing freely. All of our various forms of electronic communication do indeed open up new channels for the free exchange of ideas from person to person. On the other hand, these same mediums also offer new, sweeping ways to obscure, distort and otherwise channel people away from accurate information.
So let's discus the situation in Port Angeles and Clallam County. What are our options for obtaining information? Are they unbiased? Are they accurate?
I'll focus here on our printed media, so things like KONP will not really fit into this discussion right now. (Yes, they have a website with little written reports on it, but I suspect that very few people ever go there. Plus, Dick Goodman, who writes most of what goes on their website is ill-tempered, nearly illiterate, and lets his ideology show in everything.)
First up is, of course, the Peninsula Daily News. Would you perhaps agree with me that the PDN is not exactly a standard-bearer for truth and/or accuracy in reporting? I thought so. It is the intent of starting this discussion to try to find insights into their operation that might - might - identify ways to, if nothing else, shame them into actually doing their job well, and serving the community. Now, let's examine some of the key players there.

Your call is important to me. How about if I get back to you...never. Is never good for you?

Publisher John Brewer seems to be employed to take vacations. Seriously, almost every time I've called the PDN wanting to talk to him about something, he's (supposedly) out of town. Hawaii is frequently cited. When you do get him, he's always anxious to pass the buck - or complaint - along to someone else to handle. In public, he seems to like to alternate between being the back-slapping happy fellow, or the gruff, serious "journalism" type. In either role he is laughable, as is his paper and his extremely hands-off stewardship of same. Other than that he lives in a huge house and is generally unavailable, I have no idea what supposedly qualifies this guy to run a newspaper. What can you tell us about John Brewer? Does he care? Has he no shame? Is he familiar with the notion of journalistic ethics?

Executive Editor Rex Wilson seems to be more consistent than John Brewer. Rex always seems to be angry, and always is unpleasant. No matter the subject, no matter the time of day, Rex presents as the Angry Man. Now, perhaps this is due to working at the PDN, which is sure to be a soul-killing experience. But really, it might be nice, if only for a little contrast, if Rex could be a wee bit courteous or professional every so often. Anyway, what can you tell us about Rex Wilson? Why is he so pissed off all the time? Does he realize that people he talks to are actually customers of his rag?
Managing Editor Leah Leach is kind of like a female Rex Wilson. Her motto seems to be "Misery loves company." Again, what gives? What can you tell us about Leah Leach? Is she being forced to work at the PDN against her will?
Now we come to someone who doesn't appear on the PDN's masthead or editorial command and control column, but who has a great deal of (malicious) influence on the content of the paper nonetheless. Of course I am talking about Paul Gottlieb, our own local Gollum. At the paper, Paul is primarily in charge of writing incredibly skewed and one-sided "news" stories towing the local party line, and doing everything he can to keep letters to the editor that do not tow the party line out of the paper. Want to say that Obama is a Socialist Kenyan socialite baby killer? Come on in! Want to express your concern that Nippon has too much influence over local politics? Be prepared for lots of questions about your sources and "citations." I know I'm not alone in my experience of having Paul trying to get me to rewrite my own letter to say what he wants it to say.
Extreme close-up of a cancer cell.

In his free time, Paul has had some very public substance abuse issues (and arrests). He's also run someone over. There are even those who say he's had "improper relations" with young PDN employees he was supposed to be supervising. Yet Paul is set up as the moral arbiter of all things right and proper in letters to the editor. Given his many, many public failings and problems, it is a thing of wonder that Gottlieb is still employed by the PDN. Yes, he's a dependable hitman who can churn out hit pieces, but really...Don't they realize that to the vast majority of readers he has absolutely ZERO credibility? What can you tell us about Paul Gottlieb? How does he keep his job? Does he have John Brewer's dark little soul in a box?
Rather obviously, the PDN as a printed medium suffers from a great deal of restraint - which is to say censorship. Which is to further say, they report very selectively about what actually goes on here. You are lucky if a story contains even 25% of what actually happened. For example, want to know what was really said at these recent "Port Angeles United" meetings? Good luck finding anything about it in the PDN. This restricted flow of information is extremely harmful to a community.

Liberals libeling liberals for lunatics? Huh?

On the other end of the spectrum, we have Tom Harper's blog. While it once may have been a source (however intermittent) of some good and accurate information, it has sadly degenerated into the equivalent of a gossip column. There's apparently no moderation, no attempt to weed out painfully obvious lies, and, despite Tom's professed liberal views, leans towards the right-wing party line more often than not. (For the record: I come at politics from a proud and informed liberal viewpoint on most issues. But I do not moderate comments based on political views; I do moderate comments that are libelous, clearly untrue, bigoted, or just plain crazy and add nothing to the discussion.) I know a lot of people have become disgusted with what Tom Harper's blog has devolved into. This blog is intended to be a more reasonable, more factual, and more measured forum for the community to come to.
There is also the other newcomer on the scene, the Port O Call. It remains to be seen what if any impact it will have on things in Clallam County. Yes, they have some good reporting - you'll find coverage of the "Port Angeles United" meetings there - but it only comes out once a month. I fear that when it comes in the mail, most people just throw it away. And they don't seem to be able to get people to comment or participate much on their website. Still, the fact - and it seems to be a fact - that "someone" was calling their advertisers to lean on them to become ex-advertisers is a good sign. If the hornets are buzzing, you must have poked their nest somehow.
Of course, there are also, technically, newspapers in Sequim and Forks, but being that they are all under the same umbrella as the PDN, it didn't seem necessary to delve into them here. But if you want to make them part of the discussion, have at it.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Millstone Around Our Necks

This post will take more of the form of an editorial than any sort of detailed rundown of recent events here in Corruption Capitol, U.S.A. Instead, I want to explore and expound on the whole mill town mentality that has, in my opinion, played a huge part in making Port Angeles into the ugly, dysfunctional and economically struggling place it is.
Now, we all know that, back in what some still wistfully refer to as “the good old days,” there was more than one mill in Port Angeles. And at that time, it really was possible for a guy (almost always a guy) to drop out of school, get a job at a mill, and do alright financially.
Of course, “the good old days” are long, long gone, but that mentality still lingers on – and on – even in the face of overwhelming evidence that the past is past, and is never coming back. (Don’t take my word for it – ask Grant Munro. He doesn’t want to create mill or finished wood product jobs here. He just wants to export raw logs to China while you “pound sand.”)
As the number of mills dwindled down, and mill jobs became rarer and rarer, they also became more and more iconic to some of the local population, including so-called local leaders who should know better. Nippon has always been cagey with releasing the number of employees they have, but it seems to hover somewhere south of 200 people. This number then causes City Council and Chamber members to sing the praises of Nippon for employing “so many” people. They get treated as though they were absolutely the number one local employer.
But the County employs more people than Nippon. So does the City, and OMC, and Westport, and Safeway, and probably even the Jamestown tribe, among others. Ah, but none of those jobs are mill jobs, so they seem to count less, if at all. And so again, our business and political community can’t sing Nippon’s praises high enough.
“Nippon is a local business!” says Cherie Kidd. “People will absolutely come to our new waterfront to watch the Nippon smokestack!” says Russ Veenema. “Government jobs give you cancer, but particulates are actually good for your health!” says Dick Pilling. “Yes to all of that!” says Steve Tharinger. “I will gladly do the heavy lifting on tax breaks for Nippon!” And on and on and on.
This not only shortchanges many other local businesses and employers for their sizeable contributions to Port Angeles, but also creates all sorts of crazy, illogical situations that end up costing you money.
Situations like, say, the late PenPly. You remember that little blip on the business radar, don’t you? If not, you should, because you are probably still paying off the debt they left behind.

Would you trust this man with YOUR money?

When Josh Renshaw first floated the idea of restarting what became the PenPly mill, it was laughable from word one, an idea that was almost certain to fail. First, Renshaw had never actually run a mill. Two, he found very, very few private investors willing to pony up funds for the idea. Perhaps this was because the equipment in the mill was all incredibly old and out of date.
This lead to yet another ominous sign: The Port, always a fan of crackpot ideas, was enthusiastic about Renshaw’s proposal. So they offered him deferred rent and all sorts of other freebees and inducements. Then came the State grants, loans and freebees. By the time it was up and running, PenPly was flush with (mostly government) money, had artificially low expenses, and the support of almost the entire Clallam County political community, including the anti-government right-wingers.

Government handouts are GOOD if you're running a mill, right?
But they still couldn’t make a go of it. Even with all those benefits and all that help.
It was such a fiasco so quickly, that it wasn’t long before PenPly was in arrears on their City utility bills to the tune of almost $200,000. So, digging themselves in deeper, the City spent staff time (which equals money, remember) to apply for and get another State grant for PenPly, in the amount of $500,000. Only Max Mania spoke up to say this was a bad idea, and the City handed over the money to Josh Renshaw.
All this last infusion of cash did was allow PenPly to limp along a little longer – just long enough to run their utility debt to the City up over $300,000 before it all came crashing down.
No long-term jobs were created. No industry was revived. The buildings themselves, of course, have now been torn down. The only lasting legacy of PenPly is that the utility ratepayers of Port Angeles have had to pick up the tab for the $300,000 bill PenPly left behind. Put another way: By giving PenPly $500,000, all the City did was facilitate them running up their debt another $100,000.
That $300,000 divided by the roughly 19,000 people that live in Port Angeles equals a PenPly debt payment of nearly $16 from every single resident. Did you actually get anything for that money?
Meanwhile, the local hostility to the ONP continues – despite the hundreds of thousands of tourists it brings in every year. Meanwhile, Grant “Pound Sand” Munro continues his exploitative exporting of raw logs – using equipment that had been owned by PenPly, and that should have been sold to help pay off their many debts. And meanwhile, our local political leaders continue to bow and scrape before anything with the word “mill” associated with it. No permit? No problem, right?
Well, there is a problem, actually. The problem is our local “leaders” are either clueless or willfully blind, and completely unprepared to live life in the world as it actually is. They prefer to live in some hazy, idealized past.

Some of our totally future-focused local leaders.
And facilitating that persistent problem is a town that keeps voting these blind dolts into office. At the end of the day, that is the real millstone around our necks – us. They say we get the government we deserve, but how many of you really and truly want this?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Lincoln Park Put-On OR How to Lie, Cheat and Steal in Plain Sight

A little background: Before getting to Lincoln Park itself, let’s remember a few associated events, shall we? Let’s remember when the Port approved essentially giving away 113 acres to Dan Morrison to build his stupid sprint boat track.

Just prior to that, Morrison had been appointed to a Port sub-committee. Then, the idea for the sprint boat deal was suddenly discussed at a meeting of the Port Commissioners – even though it wasn’t on the agenda, which is a violation of the law. The fact that Morrison was on a Port sub-committee created a clear conflict of interest issue. The Port didn’t care about either of those things.

The land in question was essentially ALL of the land left in Port Angeles that was zoned industrial. Sprint boat races aren’t an industrial use. Giving it to Morrison for that use would preclude any actual industry or employer being able to open or expand in Port Angeles. The Port didn’t care about either of those things.

Then recall that during the public comment phase on this ramrodded idea, both the Port Angeles Parks Commission and the (Worst Ever) City Council voted unanimously to oppose this sale. During public comments at one Port meeting, a former Port Angeles Port Commissioner (I forget which one – his name is buried in my notes from that meeting) testified against the idea, and specifically pointed out that THIS WOULD DESTROY THE ABILITY OF THE AIRPORT TO EXTEND ITS RUNWAY, WHICH HE STATED WOULD LIKELY BE NECESSARY VERY SOON. The Port didn’t care about any of these things.

The deal was a done deal. Morrison got the land, and the City got the headaches. (See previous posting about Nathan West and his apparent inability to see Dan Morrison’s huge permit violations and destruction of wetlands. Morrison is a macho, land-raping bozo with a long history of ignoring laws meant to protect the environment.)

And so, we end up in a situation where the Port knows the airport will soon need to expand its runway, but they proceed with a land sale that will make doing that very thing nearly impossible.

Lincoln Park: Which brings us fairly up to date, and to the point where – Gosh! Surprise! – the Port says the FAA says the City will have to cut down those pesky trees at Lincoln Park so that planes can continue to land. The Port Commissioners in their comments on this issue always harp on safety, the need for runway access in case of some sort of natural disaster, and, of course, how they’re willing to help however they can.

But so many questions remain unasked and unanswered.

Like, why did you sell the land that would have allowed you to simply extend the runway?

Is it really realistic for an airline (even a small one) to expect to be a viable business servicing the Port Angeles airport?

In the case of an emergency, like an earthquake or something, couldn’t planes and jets just land right down the road on ACTI’s airstrip? It’s built to accommodate planes as big as 737s. And again, it’s just down the road.

And again, is an airline really, really a viable business in Port Angeles? With a shrinking population and declining numbers of passengers, the answer would seem to be no. So why are we going through so much trouble and expense to save a most likely dying business?

All this foolishness then, as you know, leads to amazingly stupid outcomes like the consultant that the Port hires suggesting a $25 million dollar makeover of Lincoln Park – that the City will pay for.

Other foolishness: Some City Council members make a great show of wanting to know about the health of some of the big trees in Lincoln Park before deciding on what to do. So they send Scott Johns to examine the trees and report back. Now, this is the exact same Scott Johns who was sent to Dan Morrison’s property, and apparently couldn’t see the large-scale (over an acre) destruction of wetlands that the Army Corps of Engineers found. So Scott can’t see big things like an acre of destruction – but they trust he’ll be able to “see” the health of individual trees in Lincoln Park clearly? I think not.

Other foolishness, that’s not surprising: Oh, and by the way City, those offers to help pay for your grand and wonderful makeover of the park? Well suddenly the Port doesn’t remember saying anything like that. You must have misunderstood. You’ll be on your own in paying for whatever happens to Lincoln Park. (But hey, we’re sure it’ll be nice – now could you please hurry up and cut down those trees?)

And on and on and on. Meanwhile, only City Council member Max Mania really speaks up against the plan. Meanwhile, the City just ignores the thousands of citizens who sign petitions in support of leaving the park as is. Meanwhile, the City also ignores the fact that the plans to increase the amount of open ponds in the new Lincoln Park will attract more waterfowl – which will create a new hazard for aircraft.

Meanwhile…Left unanswered are all questions about the actual long-term viability of the airport, trees or no trees.

And so here we are. The City has gotten screwed by the Port – again. This leads the City to want to screw the citizens of Port Angeles – again. And make them pay for it all – again.

What do you have to say? Are you happy about any of this? Do you think this process was as clean and open as it could have been?

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Slogan Makes the Town?

"Soaring Heights, Surprising Depths"

All I ask is that everyone add the words "of corruption" to the end of this new slogan.


Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Cost of Stupid

How much does stupid cost? Would you believe a minimum of $45 million dollars?
Let’s examine just one project – the City’s CSO (Combined Sewer Overflow) project – to see just how stupid spends, shall we?
As background, let’s remember that many, many years ago, the City of Port Angeles was put on notice by the Department of Ecology that it needed to do something to reduce the number and duration of overflows from its combined sewer system. What’s a combined sewer system? It’s a really, really stupid sewer system, one that puts essentially clean and safe water (rainfall) in the exact same pipes as raw sewage (from toilets, etc.). That means that, when it rains, a system that can generally handle all those toilets flushing is suddenly burdened with also dealing with all the rainwater entering the system – those exact same pipes. If it rains enough – red alert! red alert! – the system is overloaded and all the water in it that can’t be treated is dumped straight into the Strait. The result is a Combined Sewer Overflow, or CSO.
So again, the DOE told the City they had to do something to reduce CSO events. What did the City do in response? Nothing. For about a decade. They ignored the DOE’s order, and, under the leadership of Karen Rogers and her crew, did absolutely nothing to comply with the DOE’s order or to acknowledge the deadline for having the problem solved.
Eventually, a half-hearted, half-baked plan to address the issue was hatched. The City would acquire the giant, rusty tank on the ol’ Rayonier property, and in emergencies, all the city’s sewage would be stored there. (Left unanswered was how a five million gallon tank would help solve CSO events that, according to the City’s own data, sometimes run as high as 16 million gallons.)
This was the birth of the Turd Tank.

The Turd Tank - Scenic Icon of the Waterfront in Port Angeles!
In January 2009, City Council members Betsy Wharton and Dan DiGuilio, along with City staff members Glenn Cutler, Bill Bloor and Nathan West, and Orville Campbell, chairman of the Harbor-Works board (remember them?) all flew to Florida to negotiate buying the Rayonier Turd Tank. This was the start of the stupid, foolish and unwise spending on this non-solution solution. (It’s called a conference call, people. As in, on the phone. Trust me, people have been doing it for years, and it’s a LOT cheaper than flying to Florida.)
Quoting from a PDN article about this Florida junket, Glenn Cutler struck a reassuring tone:Cutler said on Tuesday that the city still intends to acquire the tank at no cost.”
Which was true – of that trip, anyway. All those people spent all that time and money to go all that way…Only to return empty handed. No deal! All they succeed in doing was alerting Rayonier to the fact that they wanted that tank real, real bad.
Still, the City kept trying.
You may find yourself asking, “But wait…How did staff ram this through? Didn’t the City Council have to sign off on all this?” Yes, yes they did. When this crackpot idea was first conceived, the City initially talked about using Eminent Domain to seize the Rayonier property. It seems clear that Karen Rogers and her Council minion, Larry Williams, thought they could get in on the big money to be made redeveloping the site. Graft is where you find it, after all.
Then the real estate market crashed. Then the State started investigating Karen Rogers, who “decided” not to run for re-election. Larry Williams, term limited out, left the Council and immediately left town. Harbor-Works didn’t work, and they came and went, but only after wasting hundreds of thousands of public dollars.
Still, the Turd Tank would not die. Karen Rogers and Glenn Cutler’s dream became the City’s ongoing nightmare. And a new City Council had to be conned – oops! – I mean convinced to stay the course.
One way the Council was kept in line was by regular warnings of DOE-imposed doom if the City changed course. Never mind that these DOE warnings were paper tigers - most members of the City Council swore they heard the tigers roaring in Olympia.
Some good old-fashioned lies also worked. When Council member Mania started advocating the idea of disconnecting residential downspouts from the CSO system, Cutler and staff “warned” that disconnections would cost thousands of dollars per home. They also told the City Council that rain barrels (for diverting roof runoff) cost over $400 apiece. Never mind that these figures were wildly inflated fantasies – the majority of the Council bought them.
Instead, the majority of the Council voted to spend a million dollars to buy the Turd Tank, and committed to the whole CSO boondoggle to the tune of $45 million dollars. That’s $45 MILLION DOLLARS for ONE public works project in a town of 19,000 people. Think about that.
Needless to say, this approach has caused utility rates, taxes and fees to skyrocket. And this against a backdrop of a severe economic downturn, and in the context of a community where already something like a third of the City’s utility customers are delinquent on their accounts. In other words, a third of the population of Port Angeles couldn’t afford to pay their bills before this project, and now they’re being told they’ll have to pay more. Of what they can’t afford already. For a project that – oh, shit! – doesn’t even work.
Take THAT, Victoria!
Think about all that. $45 million dollars divided by 19,000 people equals a system that doesn’t work. It doesn’t separate rainwater from sewage. It doesn’t keep overflows from happening. A problem that could be easily and actually solved is instead getting an expensive and ineffective treatment. Solving the problem would mean little in financial outlays in the future; treating it means endless and increasing costs for system maintenance for all eternity.
And does anyone really, really believe that this huge Turd Tank boondoggle is going to come in on budget? The City admits to $45 million now. My guesstimate would be that it will come in closer to $50 million – plus those endless costs for maintenance.
Add to this the $19 million and counting the City is on the hook for to deal with the old dump threatening to fall into the Strait. And the $17 million and counting that the City is choosing to spend on a new waterfront – including a beach that will doubtlessly be quickly destroyed by rising tides. Just these three projects alone total up to a financial burden of a minimum of $81 million dollars. And the City is doing all this at the exact same time their overall debt burden (for everything else) is plateauing at an unsustainable level.  Mind you, none of this is actually paying for basic and necessary things like infrastructure or maintenance.
Worried yet?
So here we are, with real and actual debt and doom looming, and many of the people who have been responsible for all this are still right there on the front lines of foolishness. Dan DiGuilio. Cherie Kidd. Nathan West. Bill Bloor. All still going along to get along.
They’re whistling past the graveyard, people. None of this makes sense. None of this is sustainable. But all of it is, sadly, typical. When it comes to wasting money – YOUR MONEY – Port Angeles is indeed a world-class city.
So, how much does stupid cost? Call City Hall. They’ll be able to tell you.

 Hey! I found all your tax money. We flushed it down the toilet!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Clallam County Crazy, Part 2

This post will share a theme with the previous one on Rick Porter: Clallam County and Bullying.

Yes, the County is apparently a pretty good place to work – if you’re a bully.

Starting right near the top, with the head of HR, Rich Sill, bullying is the dominant theme. Before Sill was hand-picked by Mike Chapman and Jim Jones to be head of HR, he worked in Code Enforcement, where he bullied a worker out of his job. The worker sued the County; the County lost. Everybody paid, in terms of lower employee morale and higher insurance costs for the County. Your tax dollars at work!

Further down the food chain, in the Health & Human Services department, the manager of the public health program and nurses, Christina Hurst, is such a notorious bully that some of her employees (who actually feared for their own physical safety working with her) secretly videotaped her out of control behavior. When Hurst found out about this, heads rolled, and one of the women who had recorded her was fired.

But that wasn’t enough for Hurst. Now she’s suing the woman, because a good bully just doesn’t know when to stop, do they?

And I’m sure we all remember Dr. Holiday’s official complaint of being bullied at Clallam County. Well guess what? It’s been verified from a pretty reliable source: The woman who replaced her, Leeann Grasseth, is being bullied in the exact same way, by the same supervisor – Judith Anderson. Taking things up a notch, Anderson has even “forbidden” Grasseth to talk to one of the members of her own anti-drug coalition. It must be kind of hard to run a coalition when you’re not “allowed” to talk with the members. That’s crazy, right?

But such craziness is well-known and condoned by Anderson’s own supervisor, Iva Burks, who also is well aware of Hurst’s well-documented abusive behavior. But Burks is fine with it all, and is actually quite close to Hurst. Talk around the courthouse is that Burks is grooming Hurst to take her job when she retires.

And finally, to bring the circle to a close, Burks’ shortcomings in dealing with her abusive employees is well-known by the head of HR, Rich Sill, who is fine with the status quo as well.

All this in addition to the increasingly public temper tantrums and shout downs from County Commissioner Mike Chapman. All this in addition to the steady program of revenge and terrorizing that has marked Sheila Roark Miller’s first term in office. And on and on and on.

Yes, Clallam County is a pretty good place to work – if you’re a bully. For everyone else, it’s more like a war zone. No wonder the County can’t hire or retain good people. No wonder the County is regularly getting sued by its own employees.

Your tax dollars at work…What can you tell us about Clallam County? Why is it such a dysfunctional place?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Nathan West Poll

When I saw this picture this morning, of Nathan West and his totally unqualified "City Planning Manager" Sue Roberds, talking with the new crook down at the Port, a recurring question I've had came back to me again...

Nathan is young enough to be considered young, especially by Clallam County standards. Nathan has what could be called an actual education. He has lived not only outside of Clallam County, but outside the country. His wife is Canadian. In other words, Nathan has many of the markers of someone who is somewhat worldly and informed, and who would make better, more informed and intelligent decisions than he does.

So I have to wonder: Is Nathan not as smart as he might appear to be? Or is he simply too cowardly to stand up for what is right? Or is he simply a soulless bureaucrat, eagerly doing whatever it takes to get ahead?

In other words, how do we explain Nathan West?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Clallam County Crazy, Part 1

Well, I'd been planning to do a couple of posts about Clallam County, with the first focusing on Judge Rick Porter, our Righteous Dispenser of Justice. Rather obviously, the recent articles elsewhere about him have already landed, and made some of the points I was going to make. Good for them, and thanks. Anything that shines the spotlight on this hypocritical robed bully is good, though I'm sure that Righteous Rick doesn't see it that way. (Reprisals for Christmas anyone?)

Anyway, I still want to lay out a brief overview of how Righteous Rick harms the community from his heavenly perch on the bench.

Let's start with Hypothetical Hal. He got caught shoplifting a six-pack of beer and some Slim Jims, total retail value around $20. Hal winds up going before a judge - and unfortunately for him, it's Poorhouse Porter. Hal gets a choice: He can either spend three days in jail or pay a fine. Of course, Hal is homeless, and penniless, so he can't pay the fine. So he spends three days in jail.

Because the Safeway where Hal got arrested is in Port Angeles, the City is on the spot for those jail costs. So Hal will cost the City of Port Angeles a couple hundred bucks in jail costs alone.

Let's say that after Hal gets out, Righteous Rick has ordered him to appear in court again, either as a follow-up to this charge, or to address something else that turned up on Hal's record. (Let's face it, marginal people like Hal often have debts, warrants, etc. following them around.) Hal gets told that if he doesn't appear, he'll be liable for a $250 fine.

Hal, for whatever reason, doesn't appear. Poorhouse Porter signs a pay-or-appear warrant for Hal, who gets picked up by the police on a Friday night. So he spends the weekend in jail. Again, this costs the City of Port Angeles hundreds of dollars, which they have to pay.

All because Hal stole around $20 worth of groceries.

Mind you, Rick Porter gets to put those (often totally uncollectable) fines down as "revenue" in his ledger, while the City absolutely has to put those costs down as that - costs. Expenses. A financial negative. Red ink.

Repeat this little circuit hundreds of times a year, and you see why the legal costs for the City are skyrocketing by hundreds of thousands of dollars - all of which YOU have to pay for. Though he seems to be disliked by his fellow judges, at least two of the three County Commissioners are tight with him. (I don't think Doherty is particularly fond of him, but I don't know for sure.)

These skyrocketing expenses have other consequences, too. The City, understandably, wants to keep legal costs down. So they decide (as they have) to prosecute fewer and fewer real criminal cases, which means real, harm-causing criminals (burglars, drug dealers, etc.) get off free and clear. This erodes trust in the system in citizens, fear of the system in criminals, and further erodes the questionable "quality of life" here.

Put all that together with the fact (and it is a fact) that the County is refusing to prosecute a great many serious criminal cases as well, and you can see how things get sketchy and scary very quickly.

And so much of it can be chalked up to the fact that Righteous Rick thinks god has called him to be one of his personal enforcers here on Earth.

Spooky, isn't it?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Thus Far...

So, not even a week in, and already this blog has had just shy of 400 pageviews. I'd say people are hungry for another outlet/source of information, wouldn't you?

I've also had a couple of "private" messages, and had to reject a few would-be postings. This will not turn into a place for meth trolls, Max trolls, or people who work the word "teabagger" into every other sentence. I mean, it's one thing to post long, rambling, incoherent garbage. And it's another thing to be up in the middle of the night posting on blogs. But when you're up in the middle of the night, posting long, rambling, incoherent garbage on blogs...Well, that particular combo sort of undercuts both your credibility and desirability, you know?

On a related note: Sorry BBC, but this is also not the place to invite people to fondle you. Sure, we're fond of you, but fondle is different. You know?

So let's keep it fairly reality-based, fairly informative, and spread the nasty word about the nasty people in a productive way. Sure, they're pond slime - that's why it'll be so fun to take them down. right?

Stay tuned...