Friday, June 27, 2014

It's Only (Public) Money

So you may recall...The City recently went to the County, hat in hand, asking for a multi-million dollar "Loan" to help the City deal with the garbage bluff issue. What you probably don't recall, because it wasn't reported, is that the County Treasurer, Selinda Barkhuis, attended the meeting where this remarkably bad idea was discussed, and objected to the County moving forward with it based on existing legal constraints on such actions.

Well, gosh, Jim Jones sure doesn't like being told what to do, especially by a mere woman, so he still supports the idea. And, gosh, what do you know? Selinda's objections didn't seem to make it into the minutes for that meeting. Jeepers, what an oversight, I'm sure.

Anyway, since then, Selinda, apparently trying to simply do her job and protect the public's money and, oh, you know, obey the law, has sent out an official objection/correction to the minutes of that earlier meeting. In other words, she's not backing down. Good for her - ethically anyway. But given how vengeful Jim Jones is, probably bad for her professionally.

The text below is what Selinda has written in response to this latest round of Clallam County sleaze:

Executive Summary:

Please find attached a report I compiled entitled "The City's Request to Borrow $7.75 Million, the Law of Public Funds, and the Clallam County Administrator's Recommendation."

During the September 30, 2013 work session between the City ofPort Angeles and the Board of Clallam County Commissioners (BOCC), the County Administrator rendered a grossly inaccurate explanation of Washington State Attorney General Opinion AGO 61-62 No. 139 while trying to convince the BOCC to loan $7.75 million to the City of Port Angeles for its landfill problem.

This grossly inaccurate explanation was then reported by the Peninsula Daily News, leaving all those who listened to or read about it (the BOCC, other county elected officials and department heads, the press, other taxing districts, taxpayers, and voters) with the gross misunderstanding that the Clallam County Commissioners can lawfully loan up to $30 million from the County's General Fund, Road Fund, and Capital Projects Fund to other taxing districts.

As the duly elected Clallam County Treasurer, I am "the people's representative with the people's money," and directly accountable to Clallam County's taxpayers for the safekeeping of their taxpayer funds. As such, I believe it is well within my due diligence duty to attempt to correct any gross misunderstanding the County Administrator may have left in the minds of Clallam County taxpayers as to how their taxpayer funds may be lawfully used.

The purpose of this public work session is one such attempt to try and correct that misunderstanding.

I think that Monday's County Commissioner meeting just got a lot more interesting...

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Wastewaterfront Opportunities!

So the Oak Street deal fell through...Who cares?!?
Our waterfront has plenty to offer even without
a convention center!
For starters, if we just rescale our vision of a new
Marine Center, it's still a possibility!
I mean, we already got wading pools for the kids...
...And the City is gonna build us a swell new beach, too!
We already got us some waterfalls all over town...
...Heck, we even got some underwater waterfalls, too!
And there's plenty of swimming and diving opportunities
all around us!
Don't forget all our big local events, either, like the Duck Derby!
So come on, Port Angeles! Take that frown and turn
it upside down! After all, we're one community that
really knows how to hold things together!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Popping the Balloon

Here's another blast from the past that will be exploding in the near future.

Those of you who have been living here for a while, and who have been paying attention, may remember when the Transit Center was going in, and property was being bought and all manner of shell games were being played on that block downtown. Part of all that shuffling resulted in the City buying the now infamous Niichel property - a piece of property that's been worthless to the City, but that they've been making regular payments on for years.

This payment plan ends with a giant, million dollar final balloon payment - a payment that the City was supposed to be putting money away for, so they wouldn't get caught short. Well, the last I heard, the City had about $100,000 socked away for this, with the deadline looming very close indeed.

The POP will be louder than Ross Perot's "giant sucking sound" by far.
Why hasn't the City been more diligent? Why hasn't PADA held up their end of the bargain? Why has the City Council been asleep at the switch for this? Why, because this is Port Angeles.

Anyone think that having a nearly million dollar hole blown in the City budget - on top of everything else and all the other debt they've loaded on - is going to be a happy event?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

PADA (pronounced Pah-DUH)

From today's PDN:

City officials say the 2014 first-quarter report from the Port Angeles Downtown Association, known as PADA, shows the organization isn't doing enough to fulfill its contract.

“City staff reviewed the [quarterly] report and determined 2014 first quarter performance to be in default and not in accordance with the PADA's funding agreement with the city of Port Angeles,” City Manager Dan McKeen wrote in a May 23 letter to PADA President Bob Lumens.

“At this time, you have 30 days from the date of this letter to correct and cure these non-performance concerns.”

“It doesn't come close to covering the items incorporated in the contract,” said Nathan West, the city's community and economic development director, referring to the one-page first-quarter report.

Is it just me, or does anyone else think that this description of things could have (and should have) been used YEARS AGO? What took SO LONG to rouse the City from their deep, deep sleep?

Is it just me, or does anyone else think that the fact that the PAID head of the PADA, Barb Frederick, won't comment on this is very telling? As in, confirming that she is totally unqualified to do her job, or to deal with non-happy news?

Is it just me, or does anyone else doubt that PA Untied riding to the rescue is really going to change a damned thing in this dysfunctional dystopia? I mean, can the defenders of the status quo really be game-changers?

Or, put another way...


Sunday, June 1, 2014

Q&A with Sissi Bruch

Below you'll find the questions I sent to County Commissioner candidate Sissi Bruch, along with her (unedited) answers. Thanks to Sissi for participating here this way. Now, read on...

1) Why are you running for County Commissioner?

Glad you asked. We live in one of the most beautiful places on earth, rich in history and natural resources. Though it sometimes feels like paradise, the present and future of our county present many challenges. Our poverty rate is 13.5 % and 33% of the population have incomes below $25,000. Violent crime has doubled since 2000 and similar increases have been seen in the rates of domestic violence, child abuse, and neglect. Furthermore, justice costs continue to increase at alarming rates, we’ve lost more than half of the manufacturing jobs, and we have around 2,800 fewer jobs than we did in 2000. Add that to the impacts of global warming, changing demographics (increase in Latinos and elderly), and a 40% increase in poverty of school age children - that makes for a fairly complex set of issues that will require collaboration, research and transparency to reach workable solutions. I believe I can bring that to this position and that is why I am running for County Commissioner.

2) What uniquely qualifies you to be a good County Commissioner?

I believe that my education and my experience make me a highly qualified candidate. First, my education encompasses a Bachelors in psychology, a Masters in landscape architecture, and a Ph.D. in urban planning. Secondly, my experience includes 10 years in private practice during which I worked with contractors, developers, and engineers to plan, design, and build a variety of projects such as schools, golf courses, housing, and commercial complexes. This was followed by 10 years in academia where I taught the theory and practice that supports all design and development. I covered site engineering, planning and design, ethics, and the application of local ordinances to projects. Now, I’ve spent the last 5 years working for a Native American tribe as their senior planner and the last 2 and a half years as a member of the City Council in Port Angeles. This has given me insights into issues that I believe not only impact Port Angeles, but the entire county.

3) What local/political insights does your experience as a City Council member give you that you think are pertinent to being a County Commissioner?

I believe the issues dealt with by all of our cities are not unique and could/should be addressed in a more regional manner. Take, for instance, our trash. Every city has to deal with its trash. Forks ships its trash to a different place than Port Angeles, and both pay significant amounts to haul it away. Could or should the county work with our neighboring county to come up with a local solution that saves on the shipping cost, reduces our carbon footprint, and maybe even gain some energy in the process? I believe that we need to start to thinking more locally and more sustainably when addressing our issues. 

4) As someone who is socially liberal and concerned about the environment, how do you propose to advance issues in those areas given the views of the other two Commissioners?

I have always found it important to listen and understand the views of the people I work with. Most of the time we ultimately want the same thing, but the methods of getting there are drastically different. I believe that both of the other two Commissioners want a place that is healthy and safe for their grandchildren. If we can start with understanding our similarities, we might be able to move forward. Talking the same language also helps. When I worked with developers, they were interested in making as much profit as possible from a piece of land. Our firm was able to show them that by being more environmentally friendly, they could actually gain more financially. I don’t believe that jobs and the environment need to be at odds.

5) What role do you see local resource extraction industries playing in local politics? Are their interests fairly represented, overrepresented, or underrepresented? 

I don’t know how much the local resource extraction industries influence politics, but I suspect that is well represented. I do believe that the forest industry is a major player in our county and accounted for $641,600 in timber revenue in 2013, but this was 10.8% lower than in 2012. Our industry is changing and we need to plan for these decreasing revenues. We do have other extraction or resource harvesting industries/businesses that are emerging that I believe are less represented. The salal/floral industry and the harvesting of mushrooms and seaweed are just some examples of potential new opportunities.

6) What are the three most important issues facing Clallam County today? What about in the next ten years?

I believe that the three most important issues revolve around education, infrastructure and resource use. I know this may sound like a cliché, but I truly believe that our youth are our greatest assets and our current educational system is not preparing them well to meet the challenges of tomorrow. The graduation rate has gone from 78% (2003) to 33% (2011-2012) – although this includes on-line students, this clearly is showing a problem. The average age of the engineers that sent the first man to the moon was 26. It is youths’ unlimited energy and optimism that we need around here. They teach us much and we must engage them if this county is ever to reach its true potential.

As to infrastructure, we need to make sure that basic services are updated and healthy as this is critical to economic development in this county

When it comes to resource use, besides practical and sustainable use of our natural resources, we need not forget that our most important resource is our people. Our economy in this county is changing from manufacturing and extractive to more social services and administrative (businesses and government jobs).

In the next ten years I believe we have to turn our attention to climate change. Debating whether and to what extent it is man-made diverts our attention from quantifiable evidence that it will impact us regardless of how or what we think about the issue. Clallam County is one of the most vulnerable in the state to the impact of global warming and we need to be ready to protect our people and our infrastructure. To see forecasting maps of raising water levels in Puget Sound should activate everyone to action and commitment to planning and preparation.

7) If you are not elected as a County Commissioner, will you run for City Council again? 

I don’t know, but this does not impact my current decision. Regardless, to do this job right, one must spend a lot of time and as I am still working, this leaves very little time for other endeavors. Researching and understanding the issues is the base for making good decisions. I would certainly appreciate a group of folks to help me with this job and to help educate the public on why I voted one way or another. The more everyone knows, the better Port Angeles will function. 

8) What do you envision your campaign looking like? Will you take corporate donations? Will you place a limit on how much you intend to spend?

Interesting question. I read on your blog that some folks have already assumed that my campaign will be "milktoast" even asserting that I will be a pushover compared to my opponents. Others are seemingly more interested in my divorce status or even how I chose to announce my candidacy.

Truthfully, never having run a campaign of this size, I am not exactly sure what it will end up being. I plan to talk with as many voters as I can, and try to understand the issues that are affecting this county from their point of view. As to fundraising, there are responsible corporations that might support me, but during my run for City Council, I only received donations from individual voters. I do not have a limit set on how much I will spend. It will actually depend on how much I can raise and how well my message is getting to out. Ideally, I would prefer to avoid any expenditures, but this seems impossible in this election climate.

9) Is sexism a problem within local governments in Clallam County? 

This is one issue where I have very little information, but I will seek more. I did have a disturbing conversation with one county employee that pointed to this, but I still need to do much research regarding this topic. Any help on this would be greatly appreciated.

10) Anything else you'd like to add?

I had a professor tell me that you get the government you deserve, as was quoted often already on this blog. This stuck with me and it became the impetus for my participation in government. I knew I could not whine about our government without putting myself out there. I’ve learned that most issues are more complicated than they seem on the surface. One will never be able to please everyone, but I know that the decisions that I make today do affect folks in the future and I spend the time to really weigh the issues so that I can sleep well at night.

In addition, we need progressive and innovative people to get involved in government. I never aspired to politics, but I realized that this is what I need to do to help create a plan that supports people, the economy and the environment. I need everyone of you that reads this blog to get involved - volunteer, donate, and take election day off to help get out the vote.