Telling the truth about one of the worst, most corrupt places on Earth, and providing more information than the Peninsula Daily News could ever hope to.
Friday, March 14, 2014
The Millstone Around Our Necks
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.”)
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
$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?
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.
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?