Monday, April 28, 2014

Implausible Platitudes

Since their BIG MEETING is tomorrow, I’ve been looking over the draft goals and strategies (such as they are) of the PA Untied crew, and I have to say, it seems mighty short on substance. Oh, it’s rich in platitudes and jargon, but pretty thin and implausible in its stated goals and/or strategies for getting there. (All text bolded below comes from the PA Untied draft.)

Let’s start with what appears to be their slogan: “The Common Good + Common Sense.” Years of experience have taught me to always, always beware of anyone leaning on the phrase “common sense.” Don Perry, certified dope, was a big believer is “common sense.” It’s a feel-good, meaningless phrase, one that’s open to many interpretations.

The draft document I saw starts with an explanation of the “design” of their efforts: Broken down into The Quality of Place Statement, Community Economic Development Definition and a Sense of Urgency Statement – they provide an inventory of information from which the strategic plan has been developed.

The strategic plan structure consists of four goal statements, strategies and action plans that are interrelated in respect to metrics and are interconnected and dependent upon each other.

Each goal, strategy or action statement may include a measurement component which is time, quantity or result/impact. Full completion of the plan will include an assignment of action plans to either an organization or individual.

Please note that last bit about “action plans” being assigned to organizations…or individuals.


We are Port Angeles, Washington

We are small town America, built on a foundation of hard work, determination and innovation. The people who came here were rugged, self-reliant and determined. They cut trees to build the Northwest and fished the waters to feed the nation. We are a town of innovation and determination.

We are a nuanced town; where majestic mountains greet the sea. Buildings rich with detail and sturdy in construction hide stories of the past within their walls and beneath our feet. Innovation brims from technology companies set in a setting of natural wonder. Our college is an educational gem of the Northwest. Our varied shops intrigue you. Our pubs and restaurants entice you.

We are an international town. We are surrounded by sovereign nations where native people cherish a rich and varied culture.

We are a unique town…where a background of hard work has created a city that celebrates the awe-inspiring setting that surrounds us.

We are Port Angeles, America USA

Note the repetitive, almost ritualistic use of the word “innovation,” which, in the context of Port Angeles, is laughable. Innovation implies actions that are creative, new; Port Angeles is a stolid little town years behind the times.

Note also how the “rugged, self-reliant” white people who came here last are acknowledged first. The “native people” who were here long before the whites get an afterthought of a mention at the end. This racist viewpoint is part of the problem here, a barrier to healing, growth and open communication between local interest groups.

Finally, can anyone tell me how Peninsula College is an “educational gem of the Northwest”? And does anyone really think that Port Angeles “celebrates the awe-inspiring setting that surrounds us”?


The purpose of economic development in the greater Port Angeles area is to strategically grow our economy by increasing our economic capacity to improve our future and quality of life. It is a process by which public, business and nongovernmental sector partners work collaboratively to retain economic productivity and create viable conditions for prosperity and employment generation.

Please, read this section out loud. Twice. Does it make sense to you? Does it really mean anything? This is boilerplate jargon that obscures much more than it reveals. Meaningless catchphrases arranged randomly does not convey much quality of life or viable conditions. Right?


Port Angeles United (PAU) must act professionally and quickly with its effort to assist in defining our economic development plan of future growth. By growth, we mean increased employment at all wage points, increased property values, higher sales tax collections, increased number and diversity of employers in our greater community.

Group participants in the PAU “process” must seize this opportunity now. Our voice can be heard and will be considered relevant, well-considered and in the finest community-minded tradition as a defined plan takes shape.

As a poster here once said, we should also beware of “Urgency Statements.” They are often intended as “don’t think or check facts – ACT NOW!” statements. Also, without a defined plan, what exactly are people seizing?


Goal #1: Cultivate a Vibrant Community for Business and Entrepreneurs – by the end of 2020, the greater Port Angeles region will have a strong and attractive business community with over 2000 establishments, total employment of 17,410…and improved access to business capital.

Goal #2: Enhance and Promote an Attractive PA – By the end of 2020, the greater Port Angeles region will be recognized as an attractive and rewarding place to visit with 440,000 yearly MV Coho passengers, over a 60% lodging occupancy rate and lodging tax revenues over $560,000. The region will also be a desirable place to live and work with City of Port Angeles retails sales over $367M and over $42M in building investments.

Goal #3: PA is an Exceptional Place – By 2020, the greater Port Angeles region will be recognized and celebrate its “special” community characteristics and features, be the home for over 38,000 people with 23% being people between 25-44 years of age, have high performing educational institutions and easy access to the natural environment.

Strategy 3A – Starting in 2015, Downtown Port Angeles will be the community focal point for unique innovation businesses, a 24X7 neighborhood, an international gateway, and a connection to the marine environment reaching and maintaining a 95% occupancy rate by 2020. (NOTE: Change suggested…”and a city wide commercial business occupancy of 95% by 2020.”)

Strategy 3C – Crate a conduit of communication and collaboration to foster a full spectrum of quality educational institutions with Peninsula College as an attractive alternative for 4 year education.

Goal #4: PA United for Community Prosperity

First, and most painfully obviously, Goals 1 and 4 are essentially the same, as are Goals 2 and 3. Like the repetitive use of “innovation” in the beginning, just saying something over and over again doesn’t make it true.

Second, a city wide 95% occupancy rate seems wildly unrealistic. I’m all for dreaming big, but, come on. That’s a very steep climb from where we are. We also have a lot of very run down commercial properties/spaces, and lots of checked-out or absentee slumlord landlords who don’t want to fix their properties – at all.

Also, we have no real control over the number of passengers passing through on the Coho.

Finally, I love how they manage to contradict themselves within one sentence with “Strategy 3C.” They want to “foster a full spectrum of quality educational institutions” while promoting “Peninsula College as an attractive alternative for 4 year education.” Seems to me that if you wanted to really push the education envelope, rather than shuttling people away from four year colleges, it would be better to help grow PC towards becoming a four year college.

And so, does what you’ve read here give you hope for PA Untied, or does it sound like the same-old, same-old with a new name? Given the players involved, do you trust their intents, or are you wary?


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Mark Your Calendars

Here are two things to put on your calendar for next week in Port Angeles.

Item #1: This coming City Council meeting should be an interesting one. The Council is meeting in Executive Session at 4:30PM on Tuesday to "discuss a settlement agreement regarding an employee." Per the minimal language used in the packet for this meeting, City staff anticipates "potential action to follow regarding the consideration of a settlement agreement regarding an employee claim. / Potential approval."

The next sound you hear will be the City admitting
no wrongdoing whatsoever, but...

Sounds to me like staff is confident that the Council will settle with this "employee." And the fact that the language used is more present tense, I would suspect this is regarding Toxic Teresa Pierce. Of course, it could be Yvonne Ziomkowski - or even both. In any case, if the Council is going to take action on this, you'll want to be there when they come out of Executive Session. I'd suggest getting to City Hall no later than 4:45PM, just in case. (I'm sorry that I'll have to miss this one - I'll be out of town on a job interview.)

Also on the agenda Tuesday evening, is a Council work session on the long-range financial plan - such as it is. You'd probably find that interesting, too. They're set to discuss that, naturally, but not the item that precedes it on the agenda, which is a whole slew of grant applications that staff have put together on the consent agenda.

The memo from Nathan West for these grant applications assures the Council that "staff continues to explore a variety of available funding opportunities," which sounds pretty good. Who doesn't want opportunities?

Here are the grants the City is putting in for:
ALEA Grant $500,000 (50% match)
BIG Grant $1.4 million (25% match)
BFP Grant $1 million (25% match)
LWCF Grant $500,000 (50% match)
WWRP-Local Parks Grant $200,000 (50% match)

The first four have to do with the WTIP project (and a couple of floats for docks), while the last item is the previously discussed grant for Civic Field's lighting. Given that it was previously floated as a $400,000 grant, with a $200,000 match, it's unclear if the staff memo contains a typo, or if the City has cut their numbers in half, due to the School Board's lack of interest in putting up the whole $140,000 the City requested.

But either way, these "grants" provide some pretty striking numbers - in terms of the matches required. As presented, these "funding opportunities" will cost the City over a million dollars in matches. Now, staff will doubtlessly, with some degree of accuracy, pitch this amount as being one they can partially reach through previous or existing spending - but that only gets you so far, really. Now, I don't know about you, but, from where I sit, I get nervous whenever the City Council commits themselves to more spending, and/or taking on more debt, especially for projects that aren't truly necessary - like the WTIP, which accounts for the bulk of the grants and matches presented here.

Port Angeles: Putting the EBT in DEBT.

So Tuesday evening's meeting should be interesting whether you're interested in the soap opera that is our City government (the employee settlement) or the tragedy that is our City government's finances (the employee settlement and the grant applications and the long-term budget presentation).

Item #2 to put on your calendar follows on Wednesday, when Judge Rick Porter will be a guest on KONP specifically to discuss his pay-or-appear program. In terms of the City budget, Rick Porter's tough guy, pay-or-appear stance has caused legal costs for the City to skyrocket in the past several years. It's not at all unrealistic to say that Porter himself has also cost the City over a million dollars in legal fees over the past several years, all for the ultimate result of...What exactly? He hasn't driven the crime rate down, he hasn't solved any problems - but he's sure been a hard-ass, far-right jerk of a judge. Be ready to call in and put Porter on the spot, and challenge him on what actual, tangible results our community has to show for his actions - other than an inflated legal bill for the City, and an increased financial burden for citizens.

Rick Porter looks forward to talking with you
this Wednesday. No, really.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Glenn Cutler...Wedding Planner???

I wasn't going to post anything today, but when I saw the story below this morning, well, I think you'll see why I thought of a certain someone...

Washington state sewage plant invites weddings

WOODINVILLE, Wash. - A sewage treatment plant near Seattle is advertising its availability as a wedding venue.

The Brightwater Wastewater Treatment Center says on Facebook it has a full catering kitchen, audio-video equipment, dance floor and ample parking.

The director of the Brightwater Environmental Education and Community Center, Susan Tallarico, tells KIRO that receptions would take place just steps away from where raw sewage is processed.

Yee-Haw! Our wedding was really the s***!

The King County plant was finished three years ago but has been available for rent for about seven months.

It costs $2,000 to rent the center for eight hours. One couple has already booked the sewage plant for their nuptials.


Coming Soon! Grant Munro...Wedding Planner!

Friday, April 25, 2014

The More Things Change...The More They Stay the Same

Breaking News!

Maybe if a REALLY BIG water utility customer paid their fair share...

Well, sort of. It's not really news to learn that the City of Port Angeles is, once again, considering utility rate increases. Water is wet, the sun rises in the East, and Port Angeles raises its utility rates. Some things in life are just dependable that way.

The City Council still lets themselves be distracted and confused by the argument between "raising rates" and "delaying infrastructure improvements." As if it were an immutable law of nature (like those listed above) that if one doesn't raise utility rates, then infrastructure issues necessarily have to be put off.


Here's an idea, and I'll even use a phrase the Council itself bandied about for a bit: Budgeting for priorities. In other words, Council members, take an active role in shaping the City budget. Get involved. Get creative.

Maybe you could find some money for infrastructure if you said no more money for the ridiculous CSO Turd Tank, and instead pursued a less-costly/more effective approach. Maybe you could find some more money if you halted your spendthrift plans to gussy up the waterfront since it's, you know, a time of tight budgets and failing infrastructure. How about if Nippon paid a fair market share for the water you supply? That would raise a HUGE amount of money. And speaking of huge amounts of money...Maybe, just maybe, some of your utility departments, rather than raising rates so regularly, could eat into their millions upon millions of dollars in reserves. Ya think?

Hey, here's another idea, one you don't even have to pay an out of area consultant to give you. It's shockingly simple, and incredibly basic, but you've never really considered it. If you realize that the City's infrastructure needs maintenance, you could, you know, build funds for that into the City budget. Not just for one project, not just for one year. But, you know, as an ongoing, regular thing that needs to be done. That way you won't find yourself at these manufactured "crisis" points nearly so often.

But you'll have to raise them high to drown out the wailing
of the City Council.

Stop wringing your hands and moaning, Council. Get your hands dirty in the budgeting process and solve some problems rather than perpetuating them. You're supposed to be the adults in the room - act like it.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

It Isn't Easy Being Green (with Friends Like These)

In typical Clallam County fashion, the Clallam County Democratic Party adopted their 2014 platform a little over a week ago. (You can't rush quality..?) Here are a few excerpts from said platform (typos included):

Economy and Jobs:
We encourage efforts to recruit and attract environmentally responsible employers...Tax dollars shall be responsibly invested in our common future...We understand and support the need for a vibrant business community, and encourage socially and environmentally responsible business...

We accept responsibility as stewards for our natural world and recognizethe need to develop, the implement policies and to encourage lifestyles consistent with long-term sustainability and viability; We support applying ! the best available science to all decisions affecting our environment, so our air, water and natural habitats are protected; Restrictions on practices by individuals or corporations should be in accordance with protecting and conserving our environment or repairing degraded areas...

Clallam County:
b. We affirm that our commitment to environmental health and the need to mitigate the effects of climate change extends to the entire North Olympic Peninsula...

f. We oppose the construction of any new facilities that burn timber waste unless there is clear scientific evidence that such projects will not come at the expense of air quality and health risks;

No, really, it's been a pleasure to funnel American tax dollars to your
company to help you burn up our forest resources!

So, given all this nice, passionate language about the environment, and environmentally responsible employers and all, I trust that the Clallam County Democrats will no longer be supporting Steve Tharinger, who has been a vocal supporter of Nippon and their biomass facility, and sponsored legislation that gave them tax breaks for burning up these same environmental resources the local Democrats are suddenly so interested in. If you know Tharinger (and I do), and if you take the time to read the minutes from Democratic Party meetings (and I do), you'll see a strong, steady pattern in his political career of kowtowing to Nippon. His "concern" for the health of the environment has never been anywhere near as strong as his concern for the financial health of Nippon.

Lee Whetham (left-leaning voters were duped) and Paul Martin (right-wing nut).
I trust the Democrats will also no longer permit Paul Martin to come to their meetings. Aside from having a long history as a Republican, Martin is also a fellow traveler with Nippon. When he was managing his friend Mike Chapman's last campaign for County Commissioner, and biomass was a hot issue, Mike had a brief period of wobbling, given the vocal public upset over the biomass plant expansion. Paul Martin helped steer Chapman back "on message" and away from expressing any concerns with biomass.

So yes indeed, Clallam County Democrats, I look forward to seeing how your 2014 platform plays out, given the history of your own party leaders. Will actual environmental concerns come to the fore, or will hypocrisy continue to be the dominant theme?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Keep It Civic?

So...Did you vote yay or nay back in 2012 on the Civic Field bond issue? However you personally voted, the bond measure lost pretty decisively, and now the City (never a body to plan ahead) is scrambling to do...something.

This week, that something is the City hitting up the School Board for $140,000 - with the City putting up $60,000 - to help the City try and get a state grant that would match that $200,000 with another, all to go towards replacing the lighting at Civic Field. This coming at the same time that the School Board is considering a contract for $155,000 for their new superintendent. Timing is everything, isn't it?

Speaking of which...This is all coming up now, right now, because the City has a deadline of May 1st to submit the grant application. As in, one week after the school board considers this issue. That leaves absolutely no time for negotiations, a Plan B, etc. Typical City approach - wait until opportunity and/or disaster is looming, then do...something.

For background...Civic Field, a City-owned, regionally-used facility, has been left to slowly but steadily fall apart for decades. There's no hot water for the showers, the ground has no drainage and holds water like a sponge, and, per this issue, some of the ancient lights there have simply fallen down. Sort of like the City has in its duty to maintain their own facilities.

Civic Field: Look, but don't touch...

Back when the last bond was floated, the City Council was torn with how to proceed. Some, pointing out that it is a regional facility, argued for putting together a county-wide bond measure to try and broaden the base of support for repairs. Other Council members were so sure that the Civic Field bond was going to pass that they pushed to tie it to a bond for the new waterfront, thinking that would be a surefire winning combo.

Then they started to hear back from citizens that there was little support or enthusiasm for spending so much money on the waterfront. So the Council blinked, put the Civic Field measure out as a solo act, and it died. As noted above, they had no Plan B in place. They have been drifting ever since.

Typical, typical City. Let a facility (Civic Field) or a situation (garbage bluff) or even a state mandate (deal with the CSO issue) appear on their radar, then just sit and sit and sit for as long as possible, doing as little as possible in the interim. When the situation then eventually becomes an emergency, do...something. Or at least go through the motions of doing something.

Are they all that stupid? Is this a way for staff to create time-sensitive "emergencies" that allow them to ramrod through whatever they want? What explains this phenomenon?

Meanwhile, what are your thoughts on Civic Field? As our school enrollment continues to decline, does it make sense to pour money into facilities like Civic Field? Given that the voters rejected spending money on it, do you think that gives the School Board cover to also turn the City down?

Be sure to stay tuned for the next (exciting?) episode of Do...Something.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Tale of Two Cities

This past weekend, part of the Port Angeles Unearthed Editorial Board took a trip to Astoria, Oregon.

At a glance, Astoria and Port Angeles would seem to be very similar. If you look at a map, they’re both located in the upper northwest corner of their states, and both are west of I-5 and hours away (by car) from the nearest larger city. Both are coastal cities.
Lincoln Street in Port Angeles? Nope - it's Astoria, Oregon. Similar, but very, very different in the end.
While Port Angeles has the ONP as a neighbor, Astoria has the Lewis and Clark Wildlife Refuge. Our city government manages a cemetery, and so does theirs.

We have a $50 million dollar CSO project underway; they have a $29.5 million dollar CSO project that is nearly finished. Our CSO project mainly involves funneling sewage to a five million gallon tank on our shoreline; theirs focused on installing over 10,000 feet of new stormwater pipes (for source separation) and any overflow will go to a treatment facility near their existing Wastewater Reclamation Plant. Oh, and did I mention that their CSO project came in under budget?

Comparing other water resources, our city has a swimming pool; theirs manages the Astoria Aquatic Center, which consists of four pools, with water slides, plus a hot tub, plus a newly expanded gym. It’s a real full-service facility, and there’s also a wading pool for little kids.

Our Saturday Market got kicked off the street and is shoehorned into the Gateway, which causes all sorts of load-in problems for vendors. Astoria’s Sunday Market is located, yes, in a street that gets closed, and is a huge weekly event, more like a mini-fair.

Downtown Port Angeles recently lost its only movie theater when the decrepit Lincoln Theater closed. Astoria has the newish Astoria Gateway Cinema (a multiplex) right downtown. Full price tickets there cost less than they did at the Lincoln, and I’m guessing you don’t have to risk death going down some (totally non-ADA) stairs to get to the bathrooms there.

What’s more, downtown Astoria also boasts the beautiful Liberty Theatre (see pictures below) which hosts plays, films, conferences, etc., and can hold over 600 people. It’s in the last stages of a $7 million dollar restoration, and has been run by a non-profit since the 1990s.
Exterior of the restored Liberty Theatre.
So, as you can see, these initially similar cities seriously start to diverge at some point. And here’s another way they’re different: Astoria, with all that it has to offer, with all that it has done, has a population half the size of Port Angeles’ – about 9500 people. Yes, they’re half our size, but I’m telling you, they seemed to have ten times the energy, economy and quality of life we have here.

In the summer, they run the Astoria Riverfront trolley, which is a beautiful restored trolley car. It costs a dollar to ride it. I believe that Port Angeles had a similar trolley car in storage for years, and that they finally ended up selling it for, yes, one dollar.
A riverfront trolley? I'd buy that for a dollar!
Their downtown and waterfront areas had real, actual people walking around, even though the “tourist season” isn’t here yet. We saw a vegan restaurant. We ate at an Indian restaurant, and even at a Bosnian restaurant. (In all the large cities I’ve ever been in, I’ve never seen a Bosnian restaurant, but there one was in Astoria. And it was good!) We also ate at the Voodoo Room pizzeria, and had some great deviled crab cakes. They had vegetarian and vegan options, too, by the way. They also were part of a little “complex” that had a cool coffee shop and yet another movie theater. It’s for second run films (the Robocop remake was playing) but only costs four dollars to get in.  
Bosnian food in Astoria. Why not?
So how did Astoria get to be what I would describe as a really cool, vital little coastal town? I won’t pretend to know, but there are some easy to spot structural differences. For one thing, they have a Mayor, and just four City Council members. (One of whom is openly gay, by the way. Can you imagine that here? I can’t.) Their Community Development Department not only oversees the Planning Commission (which we also have), but also a Historic Landmarks Commission and a Design Review Committee (neither of which we have). That’s history, esthetics and quality of life, folks.

Astoria’s City government also seems to get the connection between ecology and economy. That’s why they jumped on the CSO issue a lot earlier and faster than we did, and (though not without controversy) got it done and under budget to boot.

Their downtown is really nice, clean, and well maintained. They certainly aren’t the Empty Storefront Capitol of the Pacific Northwest like we are. From what I could see, the business community gets along, and they play well together and work cooperatively on big dollar projects (like the Liberty Theatre restoration). They clearly get the connection between arts and tourism and a diversified economy.
Interior of the restored Liberty Theatre. Nice, huh?
My point in all this is this: There’s no reason a small, remote coastal community can’t be a thriving, alive community. They don’t have to be beholden to industry. They don’t have to settle for being run down and having a low quality of life. Too often, our local “leaders” here, after screwing up yet another hairbrained scheme, essentially say, “Yeah, but we’re so small, and so far away from I-5…”

Well, so is Astoria, and they are kicking it. And they don’t have the benefit of the ferry connection to Victoria, and I doubt that the Lewis and Clark Wildlife Refuge draws as many people through there as the ONP does here. Hell, they don’t even have Twilight-mania right next door. And, as mentioned, they’re half our size. In other words, in many ways, we have more resources than they do. So why do we settle for so little here?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Rot from the Top Down

Ever wonder why so many blatant, obvious and unethical (if not outright illegal) activities go unpunished here? Ever notice how, even if the State does "investigate" something locally - like all the closed door shenanigans at the Port, like Karen Rogers, etc. - nothing ever really happens to those being investigated? Why is that?

Personally, I think it's because there's a great deal of rot and corruption in this entire State - going right to the top, infecting much of what happens in Olympia.

The latest example: The PDN is "breaking" the not-so-new news that our Commissioner of Public Lands, Peter Goldmark broke his own campaign vow to not accept money from industries that he regulates. So now he is very much exposed as a liar and a hypocrite. Which, frankly, is no surprise at all to anyone who has been paying attention all along.

When he ran for the office, he attacked his opponent for taking such money, saying it was unethical. Now however, Goldmark, who obviously overvalues his own ethical standards, is assuring the public that it's okay for him to take such money because, gee whiz, he promises he won't be influenced by it.

Translation: "Job One is keeping my job - and I know you environmentalists would never vote for a Republican for this job. So go pound sand."

Aside from being a Washington State story, this very much has local angles. Lots of locally connected names pop up among Goldmark's contributors: Port Angeles Hardwood LLC - $800 on 10/25/2011. Nippon Paper Industries - $800 on 10/25/2011. John D. Crow (of Green Crow) - $1000 on 9/6/2012. Also Merrill & Ring - $1200 on 6/27/2012, and Rayonier - $1800 on 7/24/2012, and again, $1800 on 10/15/2012.

In the broader picture, looking at the dates connected with donations gives you a pretty good idea of exactly when Peter Goldmark completely sold his soul, and his office. Here's a (partial!) list of some donations that are all dated 10/25/2011: Port Angeles Hardwood LLC - $800; Port Blakely Tree Farms LP - $800; Sierra Pacific Industries - Two donations of $800; Stimson Lumber Co. - $800; Teevin Bros. Land & Timber Co. - $800; Interfor Pacific Inc. - $800; Hampton Lumber Sales - $800; Longview Fibre Paper & Packaging Inc. - $800; Mary's River Lumber Co. - $800; McFarland Cascade Pole & Lumber Co. - $800; Nippon - $800; Northwest Hardwoods Inc. - $800; Nygaard Scott - $800.

The next year brought another, even better, big payoff day - 6/27/2012. Here's a (very partial!) list of some of the donations to Goldmark dated on that day: Northwest Hardwoods Inc. - $1000; TMI Forest Products - $1000; North Fork Timber Company - $800; Hampton Lumber Sales - $1000; Longview Fibre Paper & Packaging Inc. - $1000; Mary's River Lumber Co. - $1000; Weyerhaeuser - $1400; Merril & Ring - $1200; Teevin Bros. Land & Timber Co. - $800; Warrenton Fiber Company-Nygaard Logging Inc. - $1200. Plus there were these from various logging "resource" fronts: Olympic Resource Management LLC - $1000; American Forest Resource Council - Three donations: one for $1160.19; one for $910.47; and one for $839.81.

And remember: These are only partial lists of the timber dollars that came in on those dates.

Peter Goldmark acknowledging his Biomasters in 2011. 

In case anyone doesn't get the "I've been bought by timber interests" message from all that, here's the first paragraph from an article in Biomass Magazine from January of 2011:

Peter Goldmark, commissioner of public lands for the Washington Department of Natural Resources, didn’t conceal his pride while discussing his Forest Biomass Initiative at the Pacific West Biomass Conference & Trade Show Jan. 11 at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel.

And finally, let's not forget another local example of corruption that's connected to Peter Goldmark's office - literally. After all, that's where Matthew Randazzo wound up working, as Goldmark's right-hand man. Yes, the same Matthew Randazzo who caused so much chaos and damage to the Clallam County Democratic Party. The same Matthew Randazzo who has a demonstrated history of attacking and undermining women who run for office - even when they're members of his own party. The same Matthew Randazzo who was a facilitator of the scandal and suffering at Steve Markwell's hellish "animal shelter." And the same Matthew Randazzo who has never been to college, has never held a real job, and has no real skills or relevant experience to bring to Peter Goldmark's office - other than that he's politically connected. Yes, that Matthew Randazzo now lurks in Peter Goldmark's office.

Rat meets rat. How many can the Capitol hold
before they start eating each other?

Which, if nothing else, proves that liars and conmen do tend to find each other, and to stick together. And that is perhaps the key reason that Clallam County is still stuck where it is. How can we rise up from below with so much corruption pressing down from above?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Is This Progress?

So, Port Angeles High School is trumpeting that they've received an "award" from the Washington Board of Education. Gosh, that sounds good, right?

Not so fast.

First of all, out of about 1650 schools that were eligible for awards, 413 got one. So that's a pretty big percentage who are "winners" in one way or another. It's hardly some small, select group.

Second, the award was in the category of "High Progress." According to the state's Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction website, this means: High Progress - Schools qualify for recognition if they are in the top 10% of schools making the most progress in the performance of the all students groups over three years. That sounds like undeniably good news, and it is. But it also means that in previous years our local high school students were so far down below their peers that they left plenty of room for improvement.

But what does that improvement mean at the end of the day? Does it mean we're graduating well educated young adults, ready to face the 21st century? Not exactly.

Looking at the OSPI website again, at the most recent numbers available for Port Angeles High School, you get a very different - and less hopeful - picture of the ultimate outcomes there. (See more for yourself at - then hit the dropdown for Port Angeles High School on the right.)  

First, you'll see that they tested 311 local students, of whom 119 were low income. That's a huge percentage of low income students in PAHS. Of those students, 26 were classified as having a disability, while none - zero - were classified as gifted.

The OSPI rates school on a scale from 1 (Struggling) to 7 (Exemplary). For the 2011-2012 school year, PAHS rates an overall 4.60 (Good) - right in the middle. Here's how that rating breaks down, though:

Reading: 5.00
Writing: 5.50
Math: 5.75
Science: 4.00
Grad Rate: 2.75

Yes, PAHS students may be charting a middle course, even an improving middle course, academically, but a huge, huge proportion of them don't make it to the finish line of graduation. Looking back a few years, in 2009-2010, that rate was at 4.25, and in 2010-2011 it dropped to 4.00. Now the even steeper drop to 2.75. That's scary, people. This is the 21st century, the Information Age, and people who don't even graduate from high school are at a severe disadvantage by just about every measure.

Does this bode well for Port Angeles in your opinion? Should we be content to see our students doing better in school before they drop out and call it good? I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this - especially if you have kids in one of our local schools.

Hey, Rough Riders - Your future beckons...

Thursday, April 17, 2014

This One is Easy

When it comes to no-brainers, our current City Council seems, well, kind of brainless.

Item #1: The City's Morse Creek hydroelectric facility. This is a tiny little dam that was built in 1924. Yes, 1924. It was originally built just as a dam dam, to provide water to the City, and later was turned into a small hydroelectric power source. A small one. As in, at its peak it provided .3 percent of the City's electrical power. Yes, that's .3 percent.

The 100% solution to .3% of our energy needs! And we can use the water to
plant these magic beans I got!

It was inactive from 1997 to 2004, and has been semi-permanently shut down since 2012. It needs, at a minimum, tens of thousands of dollars in repairs and more in ongoing maintenance if it ever hopes to be functional again. Realistically, the cost to get it operational again could rise into six figures. All with the best possible outcome of producing .3 percent of the City's electricity. (An amount that could more easily be saved if we all turned off a single light for a single day out of the year.)

In other words, it's a money pit. That seems crystal clear to me, anyway. So when the City Council is presented with a clear up or down, yes or no decision to be made - do we keep it shuttered or pay to repair it - they do what seems to be second-nature to them: They avoid making a decision, but hire an out of town consultant (for tens of thousands of dollars more) to "look into their options."

If I were feeling charitable, I'd say they're doing this to maintain the illusion that they're "doing something." But more realistically, the cynical side of me says that staff have helped lead the Council to this outcome in order to funnel more money to a favored consultant. Either way, it's stupid, pure and simple.

But not as purely stupid as the simple "solution" Brad Collins proposed for the City's garbage bluff problem, which is Item #2. Though the City bought the property in question way back in 1947, Collins says the City should "give the landfill back to the County."

Hey Clallam County...We've got a present for you!

Remember when all those people who had invested in PenPly wanted to get some of their money back from the people behind the failed mill, and Grant Munro told them to "pound sand"? Well, that's a warm and fuzzy response compared to the County's response to Collins' idea. Which is not even a little bit surprising, because what Collins proposed was remarkably, deeply, impossibly stupid. So stupid that he should be embarrassed to have said it in public.

Yes, these are the people at the helm of the ship. No wonder so many of us feel a need to keep a constant watch out for icebergs...

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Are We Up To Code?

County laws are created by Ordinance. Ordinances are adopted by the Board of Commissioners after a Public Hearing and are published in an organized form known as the "County Code."

The above is from the County's website, and, being that the County is gearing up their new Charter Review Commission, I thought it might be interesting to see what's in the existing County Code, and see how well it matches up to the reality we all know. Following are some excerpts from the Clallam County Code...I have underlined pieces that seemed to be significant...

31.04.030 Port Angeles Planning Area – 2014 Vision Statement.
We envision the Port Angeles Region as Clallam County’s economic center,...
The Port Angeles Region has undergone significant change in the 20 years that have passed since the first Growth Management comprehensive plan was adopted in 1995. This plan led to a successful partnership of public, tribal and private interest groups which worked cooperatively to build a diversified, sound regional economy, managed growth to preserve resources and community character and maintained the County’s high quality of life.
Businesses which provide regional services have been grouped at convenient locations at major intersections within the urban growth area and conform to visually pleasing landscape and building design standards.
Cruise ships and high speed passenger ferries now regularly stop in Port Angeles with visitors connecting to various points of interest in the County.
where the urban area of Port Angeles is a cultural, educational and growth center,...
The urban area of Port Angeles provides a mixture of employment, residential, commercial, cultural and recreational opportunities. Peninsula College is now a four-year institution offering advanced degrees. Much of the new development and redevelopment which occurred after 1995 took place within the existing urban center of Port Angeles where infrastructure was in place or could be easily extended. Today, there is still ample room for development within that original urban growth area. Port Angeles is the ultimate supplier of services within the urban growth area.

a transportation hub,...
Port Angeles is linked to all other urban growth areas in the County by an efficient transit system. The County-wide transit system operates a high speed electric bus in the “transit priority” lane of Highway 101. Many electric cars now are used for local trips.
The new Port Angeles Parkway provides an alternate east side, cross town route for local access to Port Angeles. The airport has become the center for commuter, visitor and freight shipment with convenient connections to transit, ferry and freight haulers. Within the Port Angeles urban growth area, neighborhood population centers are linked to the Olympic Discovery Trail via multiple feeder trails and paths for efficient nonmotorized transportation options for reaching work or for recreation.
with a population that respects the beauty and function of the natural environment,...
Twenty (20) years of work in education and environmental restoration have resulted in the development of a strong sense of stewardship towards the Port Angeles watershed and its environmental resources by all watershed residents. Critical areas are protected and environmental enhancement projects have restored many acres of wetlands and miles of streams to salmon runs. Water is clean and abundant due to conservation efforts. Careful stewardship has ensured the conservation of our land, air, water and energy resources for future generations.

a good place to live,...
The Port Angeles region is known for its livable neighborhoods which express their own unique character. They are all noted for their quality of life, pedestrian orientation and superior design. Many residential areas have been separated from the hustle and bustle of commercial activities near Highway 101 by allowing public uses such as schools, parks and public golf courses as commercial to residential buffers. Commercial businesses in these neighborhoods provide goods and services to neighborhood residents and some have residences located on upper stories.

The Highway 101 corridor is now a tree lined boulevard with landscaped medians as it passes through the urban area and businesses all along this corridor have upgraded their landscaping and physical appearance. Most high density, low cost housing has been infilled into single-family neighborhoods located just off Highway 101 in urban growth areas where easy access to transit and job opportunities is available. Well designed and landscaped manufactured home parks and multifamily developments provide an attractive low cost living environment. Visitors to our area note the distinct open space boundaries between neighborhoods which make use of the steep sided creek ravines which are left in the natural state.
where we work together,...
The Port Angeles region enjoys a healthy and stable economy, emphasizing diversity in the range of goods produced and services provided. Businesses continue to locate in our County because of the high quality of life, provision of business infrastructure, the emphasis on superior schools, and the ability of a tightly knit community to provide a safe living environment for all.
The business community also recognizes that the predictability brought about by the management of growth and the creation of effective public/tribal/private partnerships has fostered a relationship of trust between residents, business interests and governments. This trust has benefited the overall economic development of the County. Problems identified by residents and the business community are clearly articulated in the Plan and solutions have been proposed with clear sources of funding identified. Residents and business interests trust their local governments to follow through on solutions because the Plans and promises made to manage growth in 1995 have been followed and changes to the original plan occur as a result of demonstrated community need. Relationships with tribal governments have improved as the community embraces its cultural diversity.
Change is accepted and proceeds in an orderly fashion based on the growth management plan.
...It seems to me that our "leaders" spend a lot of time trying not to protect our water, trying not to manage growth, and trying not to acknowledge our failing schools - among other things. It also seems like when they are roused to at least go through the motions of doing something, their efforts are too often misguided or DOA. (See DOA "beautification" trees that were proposed above.)

But what do you think? Does the sunny picture painted in the County Code match your experience of life here? Do you think our City Councils and County Commissions really mean it when they approve language like you see here? Do they really want to work to create the blissful community described? Or is this just boilerplate feel-good language that they can point to and say, "See? We've got a vision!" Does language like this inspire you, or make you more cynical? Does it make you want to get involved with things like the Charter Review, or does it make you want to lock your door and close the blinds?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cue the Dragnet Theme: Dumb Dah Dumb Dumb

It's official: Clallam County sheriff Bill Benedict is running for reelection.

This is the guy who thought it was GREAT news that we had the bulldozer rampage here, because all the press attention around our local dysfunction "really put us on the map!"

Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb.
Sadly, stupidity like that is pretty typical Bill Benedict. He's like an even more egotistical Barney Fife, with a hefty dollop of sexism thrown into the mix. He's a key part of the macho, gun-totting backwoods mentality that infects the Clallam County Courthouse, and it would sure be nice to see him have an opponent - and to get defeated.

So, calling all cars, calling all cars! We need us a new sheriff, folks. And we need a good candidate, not the usual suspects. Please?

Happy to do one-on-one campaign events.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Devil's in the Details - Now Let's Eat!

Tomorrow night (Tuesday) the City Council holds one of their regular meetings. As per regular business, they have the City's expenses - $5 million dollars worth for the last two weeks - on their consent agenda. That means, of course, they don't even discuss it they just approve it, unless someone makes a request to pull it for discussion, which rarely happens. Just another meeting, another $5 million in tax payer dollars...Ho hum.

But there are a couple of little things in those expenses I wanted to point out as follow ups to some recent discussions here, and to illustrate the Devil May Care approach to spending that this Council has.

First up, there was some question here about whether Dan DiGuilio's road trips to see regional convention centers would cost the City anything. Well, yes, it seems the Mayor does bill the City for those totally unnecessary trips - trips that, so far as I know weren't suggested or authorized by the City Council.

But there on page E-14 of the expenses is this item: Advanced Travel - DiGuilio - Cnvntn Ctr Tour - $114.40. In other words, Dan DiGuilio wanted to take a day trip, and have a meal or two on the road, and you get to pay for it.

Ah, but Dan isn't our only mobile Council member. Page E-14 also includes this item: Advanced Travel - Travel Exp/Downie - $118.70. On the same page, there's also this: Port Angeles City Treasurer - Ec Dev Dinner - Downie - $37.50. Yes, that's right. Pat spent nearly forty bucks of your money, on one meal. I guess that's the City Council's idea of "Ec Dev." Thank goodness Pat's a Mormon and doesn't drink, or that total could have been much higher.

I'm told it tastes so much better if you don't have to pay for it yourself.

Meanwhile, as you know, by the end of the month we're supposed to know if the totally fraudulent PA Untied will be absorbing - I mean merging - with the Chamber, the PADA, the PABA, etc. In other words, things are potentially in flux.

On the other hand, what is never in flux in Port Angeles is the free flow of tax dollars to useless causes. Thus, on page E-36 of this week's expenses, we find these items: Port Angeles Chamber of Comm - Consulting Services - $27,486.47, as well as Port Angeles Chamber of Comm - Consulting Services - $20,886.72. Yes, nearly $50,000 to the Chamber for "Consulting Services." Given how little they do, they should be labeled "Insulting Services."

But, at any rate, be it big or small, in Port Angeles they waste them all.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

It's the Water Part Three: Drowning in Debt

Port Angeles is drowning in debt.

From the $50 million dollar Turd Tank to the $17 million dollar waterfront redo to the millions spent on the deeply stupid Smart Meter fiasco, the City of Port Angeles has recklessly chosen to take on projects of highly questionable need and/or quality – and their associated mountains of debt – time and time again. Meanwhile, other projects that need attention, and dollars, like the projected $18 million dollars to address the garbage bluff situation, pile on as well. At the same time, much needed basic infrastructure needs continue to go unmet, unfunded, and in many cases are even undiscussed. Anyone who’s driven on local streets knows how many of them need repaired or replaced, for instance. The City is also woefully behind in replacing their street lights and telephone poles – many of which are literally rotting in place.

This year, 2014, the City’s existing debt load reaches a new plateau – a plateau that extends out for at least a decade. As is, this burden of existing debt is completely crushing, totally unsustainable. Anyone want to bet that the City will exercise restraint and resist adding any new debt to it in the next ten years?

Yeah, right.

There’s that old saying, “Even a broken clock is right twice a day.” Applying that idea to City Hall, you’d think that, even if all this financial irresponsibility wasn’t done with malicious intent, that if it all was 100% due to simple stupidity, they’d occasionally make the right decision, even if by accident. But no. The City is remarkably consistent. They seem to get it wrong, wrong, wrong time after time after time. They just spend, spend, spend, with no end in sight. It’s almost as though there were a concerted effort to drive the City of Port Angeles into financial ruin.

But why would anyone want to do that? Why would anyone want to intentionally drive the City’s finances off a cliff?

Let me follow that up with another question: At the end of the day, what is the one unquestionably valuable resource that the City possesses?

I believe the answer to both questions is the same: Water rights.

The City of Port Angeles has truly remarkable and extremely valuable water rights.

And, unless you’ve been in a coma for the last few years, you know that water is (finally) being seen as the incredibly (financially) valuable resource it is. In an era of climate change, shifting weather patterns, devastating droughts and an ever-increasing population, water has been steadily rising in value as a market commodity. In financial circles, the new saying is that “Water is the new oil.” Companies that deal in water – like Veolia – have been very busy trying to find new sources to serve their rapidly expanding markets.
Thanks for your honesty, sir. Oh, and can
I suggest a place for you to store that bottle?
But how do you get a municipality like, say, Port Angeles, to give up their claims on such a valuable and marketable commodity? You could offer to buy it at market value, but that’s risky, and potentially very, very expensive. Even historically stupid municipalities (like Port Angeles) might realize they’ve got a gold mine on their hands and charge you accordingly – or become your competition. Neither of those are desirable outcomes from the corporate perspective.

But what if…What if you could help manage and manipulate a situation in which the municipality in question was desperate, say, drowning in debt? Just like, gee, Port Angeles is. Further, what if said municipality just happened to have a newer, upgraded water supply system to an existing industrial facility? Just like, say, the new water treatment plant – treating the water to commercial, not industrial, standards – that supplies the Nippon facilities?

What would be even better, from the perspective of a company like Veolia, would be to find an industrial location with an existing water supply, but that would soon be vacant. Like say, the Nippon plant? After all, Nippon reps keep talking about how their paper market is shrinking. And in just a couple more years, if they’ve kept their mill “operational,” they’ll be able to walk away with the millions set aside for them by the National Park Service. If they were to then sell their mill facilities, they now come with their own power plant, and they’re located right next to an existing port – a port that could ship out a lot of water. All a company like Veolia would have to do is convert the mill facilities to bottling facilities, and they’d be sitting very pretty indeed. They’d have new facilities, easy transport, and a ready labor pool that’s desperate and will work cheap, not to mention a City that’s an easy mark and a local political culture rife with corruption.

It seems the only part of this intricate little web that hasn’t come together is the second reservoir that the PUD was supposed to build for the City, but didn’t. You could just see how staff would have able to use a second reservoir as a way to assure the City Council and the public that, even if the new water bottling plant used up all the available water from the Elwha on any given day, the City would still have reserves on hand. When the PUD screwed up, and didn’t provide this candy coating, well, you could see how those involved with such a plan might have been pretty upset – like Glenn Cutler was.
Screening in City Hall, anyone?
Anyway, there you have it. A pretty little scheme right here in little ol’ Port Angeles.

Now, can I absolutely prove all of this? Hell no. But do I absolutely believe that something very close to this is unfolding around us? Hell yes. This is a way to fit all sorts of pieces together, even some that seem at first glance to be random, or unconnected. At the risk of sounding simplistic, this scheme I’ve outlined would pretty much explain everything – the drive for more debt; the behind the scenes scheming to get the NPS to upgrade the water coming in to Nippon to commercial levels; the new water treatment facilities that are designed to treat far more water than the City would ever need now or in the foreseeable future; Cutler’s fury at the PUD.

This would create a situation in which the City selling their water rights would be an “out” from all the debt they’ve taken on. It provides an “out” for Nippon, who clearly won’t need their mill facilities here much longer. And it doesn’t take much to imagine that we’ve got enough greedy, crooked people locally (in City Hall, the County Courthouse, and elsewhere) who would happily take part in such a scheme in order to line their own pockets.

And so, there you have it. I’ve laid out what I think is going on behind the scenes for you to consider and comment on. I’m putting this out there now, because at this point I think I’m much more right than wrong about this. In closing, thanks again for sticking with me through three parts of this. I know it’s a lot to take in altogether, but there was no good way to simplify it without losing crucial details. In any case, I look forward to the discussion that I hope follows this, and to hearing what you all have to say, and what you may have seen or heard yourselves.
The Mayor of Port Angeles - AFTER the fact.