Friday, April 4, 2014

Bicker Bicker Bicker

So I was reading a book yesterday, and it made a reference to the Transition Town movement. That spurred an, "Oh yeah" moment for me, as I recalled that Port Angeles briefly had some activity towards becoming a Transition Town a few years ago - before it all fell apart.

Now, to remind you, a Transition Town is, per Wikipedia: A Transition Town is a grassroots community project that seeks to build resilience in response to peak oil, climate change and economic instability. In other words, it's all about becoming more resourceful locally, and less dependent on imports and fossil fuel. Both these things help build a stronger, more localized and sustainable economy.

Transition Town kids: Planning, planting and building a better future.

The local effort here, as I recall, was spearheaded by a couple, Andrew and Neil, along with Hank Gibson, Sissi Bruch, and possibly Max Mania. There was also one older man involved, whose name escapes me now, but who I remember as being one of the worst presenters I have ever seen.

Anyway, the whole thing got off to a big start - I remember one meeting in a packed room with almost the entire City Council there, and even that slimeball City Manager, Kent Myers. There seemed to be a lot of energy and excitement around the idea. There were even supposedly copies of The Transition Handbook floating around City Hall. Wow! Neat, huh?

Then the Port Angelesness of it all reasserted itself. There was bickering between the people leading the efforts, with particularly bad blood (for whatever reason) between Andrew and Neil and Sissi. The one big group split into two smaller groups. Soon after that, both groups, so far as I know, simply evaporated.

Port Angeles kids: Still pining for a job shipping our natural resources to China.

Now, Andrew and Neil (and Max) have moved away. Hank Gibson has seemingly returned to his curmudgeonly cocoon. And Sissi is on the City Council, voting with the majority way too often.

Why does this always happen here? What is it about Port Angeles that inherently causes bickering and dissension to break out? Members of the Chamber bickered and shat out the PABA. Then there's the PADA. For years the Democratic Party had two groups. I hear there are even two Kiwanis groups. And on and on. What is it about Port Angeles that causes groups left (the Transition Town people) and right (pretty much everyone else) to fight, split and feud?

Is this a manufactured dysfunction, one meant to keep people separated and distracted, and thus easy marks? Or is it our remote location? The fluoride in the water? An Indian curse? Why is this such a good place to come together so you can split apart?

I can't believe you like Transition Team Red! Everyone knows Transition Team Blue is the best, you moron!


  1. I see that Port Townsend's biomass project is being left behind. They're moving forward as a community. But here...

    1. It's Friday, the weekend is upon us, and I'd like to enjoy it. I think it's a good time to go spend a day (and some money) in Port Townsend.

    2. We went over and saw Captain America and had a nice meal. Port Townsend undeniably has a much, much nicer and livelier downtown than Port Angeles. They seem to have realized that people really will be out and about after 6PM if you give them a reason to be. Downtown Port Angeles barely gets out of bed in the morning, and goes to sleep very, very early.

  2. Port Townsend Paper Co. is abandoning its plans to build a biomass co-generation plant at its mill site!
    Unlike Port Angeles, where people vilified (and city officials stacked the deck against) those opposing Nippon's plans to build a bigger industrial incinerator on the waterfront, Port Townsend people didn't stand in the way of groups like Port Townsend Air Watchers who appealed the PT mill's plans.
    The environmental groups' legal appeals played a part in delaying the project long enough for the corporate bean-counters to realize that the PT biomass plant could not be profitable without the influx of the vast amounts of government subsidies enjoyed by Nippon's PA biomass project.
    Kudo's to our neighbors in Port Townsend who know how to hang together for the common good!

    1. Yeah, people in Port Townsend speak up, act up, and get heard, and, in the end, the company involved makes a sensible business decision to drop the project.

      Here in Port Angeles, the people speak up, and get ignored. Here, the one elected leader who hears the people and tries to help them get their voices heard is accused of "economic sabotage" and whatever other lies Brooke Nelson spewed out. Here, the rights of a foreign-owned corporation are more important to people like Pat Downie than the rights and health of their own neighbors. Here all the pollution and noise and everything else is rammed down our throat - and greatly paid for with our own tax dollars.

      So yeah, congratulations to Port Townsend. Good for them. I just wish I had picked that Port instead of this one to live in.

    2. except their mill still smells like it's brewing cabbage.....choking stench.

  3. As you correctly point out, there are a LOT of splits in Port Angeles, many, many rifts and feuds. Comparing us to and our biomass situation to our neighbors in Port Townsend is very illuminating. Obviously, despite whatever disagreements there are, there are the huge, gaping rifts there between, say, the environmental community and the political community and the business community like there are here.

    Personally, I think at least some of the rifts here are manufactured. It's politics (and marketing) 101 that when people are divided they are more fearful, and when they're more fearful, they're easier to manipulate.

    Is it possible, as has been discussed elsewhere here, that Nippon pulls most of the strings in Port Angeles? I think it is. That would certainly explain how our biomass project, despite loud and ongoing protests, whizzed right along, while the one in in Port Townsend ultimately got stalled. The biomass here started construction without permits, but "couldn't" be stopped. The biomass in Port Townsend got approved all along, but was finally stopped by the activism of the people there.

    Lesson learned (again): The leadership in Port Angeles doesn't listen to the people they represent. At best, they go through the motions before arriving at and voting for the foregone conclusion.

    1. Fighting keeps us fractured. Fractured equals unfocused. Unfocused equals unsuccessful.

      They live, we bicker.

    2. Anonymous 11:10 AM

      You've just created the perfect motto for Tom Harper's blog. Like CK said, liberals libeling liberals for lunatics. Tom Harper is a clueless loony.

  4. Port Angeles has two BIG problems at the root of all the economic disfunction around here. # 1) We are 75 miles too far away from Interstate 5, with no Rail Road system to transport goods economically, and # 2) We can't get over the idea that the Timber Industry will never again be the major job producer it once was on the Olympic Peninsula. According to OFM and Census Data, in 1970 Clallam County had a popluation of 35,033 people, and only 4392 (12.5%) of them were 65+ years old. More than 43% of all jobs were 3 F (Forest, Fish and Farming) related. This kind of job NEEDED young people to do the work. In 2013, with 72,350 total population, 18,878 (26.1%) of which are 65+, the Forest, Fish and Farming job category accounts for less than 2.6% of all jobs. Politically, everyone still bows to anything the forest industry asks for, expecting they can bring back all those high paying jobs. It is just NOT going to happen! We need a barge dock located at the old Pen Ply site to provide a more economical way to get goods to and from our community. Maybe WE could get some of the Boeing composite work here, if we could ship it cheaply to Everett. Maybe we could barge our garbage to Tacoma, much less expensively than we truck it now. Just a couple of thoughts...

    1. SO I guess the potential good news in your post, in a way, is that in the next decade or two, we can expect to see that old school, mill town loving 26.1% of the population die. This, in theory, might then open up some electoral possibilities that aren't there now.

      Of course, due to the high level idiocy of the current crop of leaders here, in a decade or two, there might only be 10,000 left in Port Angeles - despite the super-duper plans of the PA Untied people.

    2. Yes, they'll die eventually, but then we'll have to deal with their kids, and grandkids...

  5. I lived in a town twice the size of Port Angeles, that went through "the change" decades ago. The City council was way worse that what we have experienced here, where the mayor literally would tell the public to "sit down, and shut up", or just get up and walk out of the council chambers when opponents would speak.

    We formed a group, did cake sales, held meetings, and developed a core group. As with most any group, it was a small group that did most of the work. We had a number of members who were lawyers of various kinds, who helped the group write and promote alternate ordinances, challenge council actions and such.

    After a couple of years of constant activity, which helped the general public understand what the problems really were, council elections came around. We ran a slate of 3 candidates, for a council of 5 members. Since the group had created a high visibility profile through the cake sales, news/media events, etc, AND those in the community that were politically active knew what was going on, we won all three seats.

    Having the council majority, we fired the city manager, the entire Planning Commission, and City attorney. The head of Community Development saw the writings on the wall, and resigned. We installed people with our visions, and the town completely changed.

    I return periodically, and am impressed how the community has evolved.

    You ask why Port Angeles is so prone to bickering. I'm not so sure it is any more, or less than any community. Look at the votes for President, these days. Pretty much 50/50 a lot of the time. It seems "politics" has evolved into nasty rhetorical name calling, with very little substance. As your caption so accurately points out, you are either a Mao loving leftist, or a Hitleresque right wing teabagger. It isn't about specific plans to address specific problems, anymore.

    No one wants to comprimise, anymore. No middle ground, for the good of the whole.

    Why has it become this way? Because so much of the American public is subjected to the highly contrived and carefully crafted advertising campaigns of both the corporate interests, and of the poilitical parties they control with their money. Every night, for example, the ads from the American Petroleum Producers Association play inbetween stories on the evening news. For years now, every night they tell American viewers how essential oil is for every aspect of our daily lives. No other options are offered. It is either support continued oil development, or it is back to living in caves.

    Mailers go out from conservative groups telling their constituents Obama is a closet Muslim who wasn't born in the US, who wants to take your guns away, allow abortions for young girls, and is going to turn America into a .. who knows what. The campaigns are not about fixing what is actually wrong in America, but designed to play upon peoples fears and insecurities to further polarize the factions. It keeps the dollars flowing.

    So, in a declining old mill town, with a lot of older and retired former mill workers, these themes play to welcoming ears. Even amongst the younger folk, there is now fear about what our future is to be, It is easier to do what you have always done, than risk unknown consequences of "change".

    Personally, I think the time is right. It is just about putting the words together in a way to get people to see we HAVE to act for our own survival. Pick a reason. Really, there are two choices now. Do nothing, and watch it all get worse, or to get active, and create a change we can live with.

    1. I'm pretty much in agreement with what you say, both about local and national politics.

      But I guess where I differ is in thinking there's a real future in the near-future for Port Angeles. This town is SO far behind the times (economically, culturally, demographically, failing infrastructure, etc.) and saddled with SO much debt, even if things start getting better soon, well, it'll be a long time before they even catch up to where much of the state and country are right now. In the meantime, I'll be falling further behind in terms of the debt I'm carrying (my mortgage), my kids will still be getting a Clallam-quality education, and none of us are getting any younger.

      So this summer I'm putting my house up for sale, taking what I can get, and heading to Oregon. I've beaten my head against the wall here long enough. Maybe it will get better here, maybe it won't. But I don't have any more time to risk (or waste) waiting to see. Like the saying goes, I'm getting out while the getting is, if not good, at least is still doable. I wish people here the best, but, from my point of view, the smart money is on just getting out.

    2. Good luck to you. I don't blame you for getting out. Port Angeles isn't a great place to live, but it's a great place to leave.

    3. With this latest side-by-side/issue-by-issue biomass comparison, once again it is made painfully clear that Port Angeles is the port of last call. No hope, no sense, but for you at least, an escape.

      So many good people have come here for the setting, the nearby nature, etc., only to be driven out by the human stupidity and shortsightedness and xenophobia and any number of other unpleasant strands of Roughrider DNA.

    4. Hmmm. So, we just say " You win" to that small group of people that have created all these problems? Okay.

      I'm sure those of them that are reading this blog will be pleased to see there is no interest in trying to change things here.

    5. Anonymous 9:12AM:

      Well, in a very real sense, "they" have "won" for the foreseeable future - if you call "winning" putting an entire community (if not the entire county) into a downward spiral in order to extract maximum financial benefits for a handful of people.

      What the past twenty years of "leaders" here have done with the human and governmental resources here is exactly what those in the resource extraction industries do to the natural environment - they've sucked it dry. Right now, all that's left of a civil, educated "society" in Port Angeles are a few dried out husks.

      So I think what the previous poster was trying to say (correct me if I'm wrong, poster) is essentially that you have two choices when faced with the hazardous waste site that is Port Angeles. One is to fence it off and walk away, and try to warn others about the dangers there. The other choice is to get out there with your bucket and start cleaning up the toxic sludge.

      Cleaning up that sludge will put you at risk, will take a long, long time, and it's unclear if anyone will come help you. (Look what happens to the few reformer types here, like Max Mania - they get driven out of town.) All you can be assured of is that you'll have a long, health-damaging slog through the sludge ahead of you.

      And that is why I think so many people just decide to pack up and leave; that's why the town continues to shrink. Why put yourself through hell and ruin your health when you might be the only one even trying, and when those you're trying to help might just cut your throat byway of thanks.

      Port Angeles is toxic in just about every way. That's a huge burden to take on.

    6. @ Anon11:12

      It looks like you, and other people posting are assuming that it is going to be one or two.. or even more people sitting on City Council, changing things. That either we play the game that has gotten us to where we are, or there is no other choice. That it IS about any of us standing up alone to be subject to what Max was subjected to. Assuming, or are not willing to do anything yourselves.

      And you're right. If it is going to be about one or two people standing alone, while the rest of us sit back and let them fend for themselves, there is no point in trying to change anything. Simply electing a person or two isn't going to change anything.

      Blaming others does not absolve the rest of us for our non-participation and lack of action. Yeah, Karen Rogers and the others took advantage of our collective laziness Wa wa wa..

      I'm not so sure we can just move somewhere else, not participate, and expect everything to be magically the way we want them to be. "Community" requires participation to work.

      Or, put another way, Port Angeles and Clallam County are great examples of what happens to a community when too few get involved in shaping their community.

      Don't get me wrong. I don't think the "beginning" of change here will be easy. Too many are obviously very accustomed to being lazy, and being content to point fingers and bitch and moan. THAT is the biggest thing that needs to change.

      There is a lot of evidence that the redneck regressives are the minority in this community. So, the minority rules, because we are too lazy to do what is needed?

    7. Hey Anonymous High Noon...You are absolutely right that redneck regressives are the minority HERE. And you are right that the minority often rules HERE. I am emphasizing that word because we get weird results here in Clallam County in elections - Democrat Obama carried the county twice (it was close, but he won), while local Democrats like Linda Barnfather and Dale Holiday lose their elections, and get sabotaged by their own party.

      So yeah, all politics is local. And so long as we have these weird voting patterns here, we're going to be stuck behind the eight ball and then some. And it'll be especially bad in those cases where the election is uncontested (like Jim Hallett, Brad Collins, Pat Downie and Dan Gase). Hell, even charlatan Lee Whetham was uncontested - did ANYONE really think Peter Ripley would win? Really?

      A big part of the problem, in my opinion, is that, on the local level and behind the scenes, politics and political party don't really matter. The crooks find each other and provide cover for each other, period. Everything else is a secondary consideration. The focus is one keeping a majority of crooks in office at all times. With that done, who cares what party they are? We all suffer.

    8. Okay. I get it. No one wants to hear that our future is our responsibility. Folks just want to continue to blame Brad or Sissi or Betsy for not being able to fix all our problems, all by themselves.

      So, we'll just continue to whine about the state of things. I get it.

  6. Your photos/illustrations say it all. Short-sighted so-called leaders here, in thrall to the nearly dead resource extraction industries, continue to literally sell out future down the river and ship it overseas. Meanwhile, our own kids get poisoned air, a beyond stagnant economy, and a quality of life approaching zero. Oh yeah, and a lousy education and high rates of teen pregnancy and drug abuse, too!

    It's as though, since the resource extraction industries are dead here, the people in charge are trying to kill all the people here, too. Fuck the ransom; shoot the hostages. I just hope that those who are getting paid well to enable all this decay sleep badly, knowing in their black little hearts that they will burn in Hell for the evil they have done.

  7. This isn't just a Port Angeles problem; it's a Clallam County problem. Like you pointed out, the Clallam County Democrats had essentially two parties for a long time. And even the Sequim Lavender Festival people split into two groups.

    Only in Clallam County would people go to war over lavender. It would be funny if it weren't so pitiful.

    1. "What did you do in the Lavender Wars, daddy?"

  8. I find that a great deal of the divisions also come from the competing brands of "my god is better than yours". I had the misfortune of realizing this years ago when homeschooling and several activities were only available to my child if I would sign a "statement of faith". Why? Because the big, big, BIG fear was that my un-godly child would ruin their godly one. The concept of embracing all points of view, and cultures was lost on these people, as was rational logic. And, this was to let my kids play on the playground with theirs. Disgusting.

    1. Even though the Pacific Northwest is supposed to be the "least churched" region of the country, Port Angeles does seem to have a lot of churches for a town this size. Too bad so many of the people going to them seem to be hypocrites. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you? No, it's more like those t-shirts from the 70s here: Do unto others, then split.

    2. Supposedly Rick Porter's electoral success is at least partly due to his close ties to his church - and he's nothing but a cruel bully. Mike Chapman plays the church card quite a bit, too - and he's not exactly known for his kind and gentle ways, either.

      Churches not only breed division, they breed bullies. Makes you wonder what church Karen Rogers goes to?

  9. Port Townsend, at less than half the population of Port Angeles, is a much more modern, successful and cutting edge kind of community.

    Port Angeles, with more than twice the population, and direct access to Canada and a national park, is still much more of a "rough cut" kind of place. Port Angeles might really be something just as it is, if it were located in a Third World country. But, being that it is located in the U.S., it's really a throwback.

    1. Like you say, there are lots of towns smaller and/or as remote as Port Angeles that have made themselves into something. Size and location can be barriers, yes, but they are not insurmountable obstacles. (And clearly having both the ferry and the national park here make this a good location in many ways...)

      So, why hasn't Port Angeles been able to become something other than another dying former mill town? Well, again, as you point out, there is a great deal of bickering and backstabbing here. It's a local culture built on corruption, and managed with incompetence. Neither lend themselves to longevity. But in the meantime, before the final crash, you can bet there are people profiting greatly from the anger and angst that have been sown here.

      Keep 'em stupid, keep 'em angry, and pick their pockets. Port Angeles in a nutshell.

  10. You'd bicker too if you were a citizen and Karen Rogers got elected and started openly trying to shut people out of their own local government.

    You'd bicker too if you were a business owner and the Chamber of Commerce hired numbskull Russ Veenema too represent you.

    You'd bicker even more as a business owner downtown if you were forced to pay into a system (of "representation" again) that was so incredibly stupid as to hire Barb Frederick to do anything.

    You'd bicker too if your utility bill was higher than others in the region - so much so that it caused many to be unable to pay it at all.

    You'd bicker if your kids were getting the terrible education mine are getting, and the administration just kept on smiling and ignoring their myriad problems.

    Bickering, here? I'm surprised there's energy for anything else but that. Port Angeles is the capitol of dysfunction and disconnect.

  11. It was so disheartening when the Transition Town efforts here fell apart, but it was so typically Port Angeles, wasn't it?

    I was aware of the rift between Neil and Andrew and Sissi, but have no idea what it was about. It's a shame they couldn't put their own petty differences aside for the greater good - that's what real leaders would have done.

    Sissi is now showing that same lack of leadership on the City Council. She has to know that the city is still waist deep in stupid, but why speak up when it's easier to just go along to get along? That worked for Betsy Wharton - for one term, then she got beaten by (UGH!) Brooke Nelson.

    I don't know if Sissi wants to do more than one term or not, but I can tell you that if she doesn't start speaking up, she's not going to get re-elected if she does run. The realtors will run someone against her, and that person will win - probably by cynically pointing out how little this City Council has actually done.

    1. Don't get me wrong: I'm as disappointed as anyone that Sissi has become Betsy Wharton part II, another go along gal. So many unanimous votes are profoundly disturbing and disappointing.

      But, I can understand her desire to avoid becoming a target for as much hatred and negativity as this town's evil cabal can generate. On a functional level, it's a real headache and distraction, and on a personal level, Sissi seems the type of softhearted liberal who would probably feel bad for making those bad people feel...bad.

    2. I know the type you are talking about. These are the types of liberals who would be afraid of being called a racist if they said Idi Amin was a genocidal tyrant. I don't know if Sissi is 100% this type, but I can see how you might worry she leans that way. "Oh, I know a lot of people don't like Karen Rogers, but..."

    3. In all honesty, I hope Sissi does not run for re-election.

  12. This town is so stuck in their own world...the racism is overt. To try and be polite people say "African-American" (instead of the N word probably used in conversations with their buddies). Except, that is so incorrect everywhere else in the world the adjective is "black". I hear any Spanish-speaking people referred to as "Mexican" (when it's Latino for Spanish speaking, or Chicano for an American of Mexican origin, or Hispanic for people from an area conquered by Spain and speaks Spanish). All Asians are called Chinese (no matter what region of the world). This area is about as aware of races other than homegrown cracker, it's embarrassing.