One of the great things I found when I moved to my new home was just how active and involved many people are in the business of running and advising our local governing bodies. It's a very engaged place, and whenever there's an opening on any sort of committee or board, there are multiple applicants, and they go through a real application process, with forms to fill out, interviews, etc.
And other citizens often come to the meetings of these various boards and committees to voice their opinions on the issues at hand. Whether at the city or the county level, these advisory groups here carry a lot of weight and power in their recommendations. It seems to me to be a real, functioning example of democratic rule, the power and influence of regular citizens made real.
But wow! Look at all the vacancies on Clallam County's advisory boards and committees. There are currently seventy-nine vacancies on twenty-three groups. Even the heavy-hitters are woefully malnourished when it comes to real, active citizen participation...
Two vacancies each on the North Olympic Library System, and the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee.
Three vacancies on the Marine Resource Committee, the Heritage Advisory Board, the Building Code Board of Appeals, and even the Planning Commission.
Four vacancies on the Developmental Disabilities Advisory Board.
Six vacancies on the Permit Advisory Board.
Eight big vacancies on the Sheriff's Citizens Advisory Committee.
And a whopping nine vacancies on the Homelessness task Force.
Among many, many other vacancies. And, unless things have changed, the City is in a similarly dismal situation participation-wise.
It's not hard to understand why. Year after year, decade after decade, the people of Port Angeles and Clallam County have been asked for their time, for their input, only to have the perspectives they offer completely disregarded a majority of the time. These advisory groups may exist, but they aren't intended to actually function. They're democratic window dressing, just going through the motions. The efforts the City and/or County put into them are about as meaningful and sincere as a recorded message saying "Your call is important to us."
And now, after all that wasted time and effort on the part of local citizens, gosh, it just seems harder and harder to find people willing to step up for these groups. Local politicians may wring their soft hands a little bit, and ask why, but they don't really care.
After all, they created the façade, and they're happy with it. A disenfranchised, abused and cynical populace is easier to manipulate and run roughshod over than one that's been empowered and respected. I think these vacancies say a lot about the state of affairs in Clallam County. How about you?