Sunday, December 28, 2014

Let's Have a Ball!

And now, dear readers (and commenters), it's your turn.
This blog has documented a lot that has happened in Port Angeles and Clallam County over the last year, and even a few things from other places.
I think we'd all probably agree that Port Angeles is a place that is, in many ways, stuck in and living in The Past. Whether it's past, passed or Pabst, I think it's safe to say that Port Angeles has it down cold.

But even a place so stuck in the past must, however slowly, however grudgingly, move forward into The Future. Which is to say that, like it or not, 2015 is right around the corner.
So, now it's your turn. Put on your thinking caps and, informed by what you know about the past (and the passed, and the Pabst) in Port Angeles and Clallam County, tell us what you think 2015 has in store for the Olympic Peninsula.

What will it be like to have the, count 'em, three Republican County Commissioners? Will this produce a change in what we see coming out of the courthouse? Or will there be little noticeable difference?
Who will be leaving us this year? Rumors swirl about Jim Jones retiring - what have you heard? How about Dan McKeen, sock puppet captain of the sinking ship City of Port Angeles? He's lost a lot of face since coming onboard, and the City is still going under. Will Dan go down with the ship, or take an early retirement?

Speaking of the City...How will those pesky legal problems play out this year? Will Toxic Teresa Pierce still make a stink? Will Yvonne Ziomkowski get her day in court?
When the dust finally settles, who will come out on top after the gunfight at the Not OK Corral? Will there be a PADA? Will there be a Chamber of Commerce? Will Port Angeles be "United"? At the end of the day, will anyone even care?

Will the school bond pass? Will Sissi Bruch stick around? Will the City's new beach and sidewalks turn downtown into a thriving business district? Will Karen Rogers rise again? Who, if anyone, will be the new voice of reason on the political scene? Will Nippon shut down the mill? Will Barb Frederick find happiness? Will Nathan West find his long-lost soul?
There are many questions, so many...And only YOU have the answers. So give, people. Let's hear what you have to say about 2015. There are no wrong answers, so don't be shy.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

When There's No Future, There Cannot Be Sin

One of my key personal beliefs/perspectives is this: Any civilization that is serious about surviving must make educating and safeguarding children the focus, the center of their society. If we are not teaching and protecting the next generation, well, there might not be a next generation, you know?
So kudos to the City of Port Angeles for shitcanning their after school program. It represents a burst of rare (and almost certainly unintentional) honesty on the part of City Hall: Hey kids, get lost! There's no future for you here!

Mind you, I never could quite understand why the City needed to have an after school program, since it was a far cry from their core services, and since there were other groups in town (Boys and Girls Club, the YMCA, etc.) that had them as well, and were better suited to doing them. But hey, what is life in Port Angeles and Clallam County about if not creating multiple, duplicative layers of repetitive bureaucratic BS?
And mind you, we all know the City has had trouble with their program, what with the whole Amber Mozingo Missing Money Caper, and other staff-related issues. (Amber's husband also got in on the act in his own way, having been recently arrested for child rape.)

But, all that being so, the fact remains that the City did offer an after school program, and they did take parents money for said program. Which is now gone.
Yes, it's gone, due, so they say, to "unanticipated budgetary constraints." I would take issue with all three of those words. When your whole financial system is as stable as a house of cards, how can you say that problems are "unanticipated"? Put all our eggs in one big Nippon basket, and now Nippon is shutting down? Gosh! Who could have seen that coming???
Only anyone with one eye and a dozen brain cells.
As for "budgetary," that's a word that implies some sort of order, some sort of system, which is not what the City has. The City has a big pool of General Fund dollars sloshing around, pushed here and there to suit momentary (not budgetary) whims and personal agendas. It's a shell game, at best. At worst, it's fraud, a criminal conspiracy.

And "constraints"? Please. The City can't constrain itself from spending money - so long as it's for stupid, bloated projects that provide pocket-lining opportunities. No money for the kids, but tens of millions for the Turd Tank? Oh, okay. No money for the kids, but the shouldn't-they-be-self-sufficient-by-now Juan de Fuca fools get tens of thousands of dollars for a tent? This on top of the previously mentioned $50,000 spent to buy - and store - the infamous Bubble House. Constraint? Don't flatter yourself, mayor DiGuilio. Port Angeles knows zero about constraint, restraint or ain't that a bad idea. Let's talk constraints the next time a City Council member charges for mileage, or a meal eaten out at a restaurant.
So Merry Christmas, kids, and Happy New Year. Have a nice future. Now, go away - you bother me, and I can't bother with you.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

How to Beat the Juan de Fuca Festival to Death with a Pipe (Dream)

First, thanks to the anonymous poster for the tip about the "news" about the Lincoln Theater. I had already gotten a call about it from a friend in PA who couldn't stop laughing while telling me about it. Anyway, I dutifully logged on and checked out the article in the PDN, and...

...I caution you not to get too terribly excited about this notion that the Lincoln Theater has been "SOLD," despite the four rickety letters propped up in the box office window.

Take away the "S" and you've got a shorthand
description of the property itself.

Let's all take a breath, sit down, and look at how many qualifiers there are in this big "breaking news" story.

Scott Nagel wants to buy the theater, and then turn it over to a non-profit. Scott Nagel doesn't have the money to buy it himself, of course. So, despite admitting that he hasn't got the money, and hasn't raised the money, Nagel says he's entered into this (strange and fraudulent sounding) process "to get the process started." In my experience, you're generally expected to have the money to pay for an item you're buying before you buy it.

So, despite the gee whiz tone at the beginning of the article, and the implication that this is all a done deal...It's nothing like that. "We are negotiating with the building owners," said Nagel. "we have an offer on the building, subject to raising the money (from potential future sponsors)." The article then goes on to explain that Nagel "has neither the intention nor the money to buy the Lincoln...Instead, he hopes to secure it through a capital campaign...Raising that capital is the first phase."

I'd say that's putting the cart before the horse, but I'm not sure that Scott Nagel even has a cart.

I scream, you scream, we all scream
for pipe dream!

Anyway, then, once the theater is somehow purchased and then the money raised to purchase it...Nagel hopes to put the operation of the theater under the umbrella of a non-profit organization. Enter Dan Maguire, executive director of the Juan de Fuca Foundation for the Arts. Maguire says the organization would consider such a move, though it would have to be approved by the foundation's board of directors. Said board is - rightly so - concerned about both capital and operating expenses.

Then, after the theater is bought with funds that have yet to be raised...And the City gives their blessing to the whole thing...Then, and only then, apparently, will there be a "community campaign and visioning process" to determine what to do with the place. Which is, again, kind of cart before horse. How do you purchase a theater with money that hasn't been raised yet? Furthermore, how do you raise money for a project that hasn't been defined yet? And how do you get a non-profit to take you under their wings with all that uncertainty?

And especially when, for once, Dan Maguire inserts a note of sense into the conversation. "It's not the capital that's so hard; it's the operating expenses." Put another way, would you want to pay Port Angeles utility rates to heat the Lincoln Theater? Put yet another way, we have a theater and arts center here that is a little smaller than what is (admittedly vaguely) described here, right downtown like the Lincoln is. It has a staff of ten. So, even if we're generous, and say that the Lincoln could somehow be run with half that staff, that's still five staff members. Year round. Plus those aforementioned utility bills and insurance and maintenance and advertising and everything else. Is it really reasonable to think that Port Angeles can support a downtown arts center that would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to operate? Look how difficult it is to get the City to give the PAFAC ten or twenty thousand dollars at a time.

The Number One item at the concession stand?

In any case, unreality asserts itself again as the article winds up, with Deadwood Dan Maguire clearly trying to strike a positive note, but really pointing out the biggest weakness in this whole crazy scheme. To quote: "Anybody who's invested in this town is going to want to do what they can to make it happen."

Make WHAT happen, Dan? This is a tissue thin fabric of "ifs" and "maybes" - at best. And who is invested in Port Angeles, Dan? Who is going to want to invest in Port Angeles? After years of shameful neglect, the Lincoln finally went under because the owner didn't want to invest any money in it. The Downtown Association is imploding because they couldn't do anything right. Businesses move out of downtown and out of Port Angeles proper because the City is so chronically inept on every level. The same City, as cited mentioned above, has a long, long history of not supporting their own existing arts center. The population is shrinking. Ferry runs are dwindling. Hell, even McDonald's is thinking twice about sinking any more money into the sinking ship that is Port Angeles.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying this...If you would really, really like to see the Juan de Fuca Festival die, if you'd really, really like to see that particular event cease and desist, then voice your support for this whole crazy pipe dream. Because if this comes to pass in any form remotely like what Scott and Dan are talking about, then the Lincoln Theater will become a HUGE and ultimately fatal financial burden for the Juan de Fuca folks, and will be a money pit deep enough to swallow the festival and Deadwood Dan whole.

Dude, your theater sounds AWESOME!
Totally f***ing AWESOME! Do you accept
Canadian currency?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Relations Normalized!

After far too long, a political breach has been bridged. Yes, after so many hurtful words, and a period of unnecessary distance, finally relations have been normalized!

Oh. You thought I was talking about what? The U.S. and Cuba?

Well, no. Actually, I was referring to the Port Angeles City Council and the New and Renewed and Really Good Now Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce United. Yes, after that hurtful, painful, and hurtful period in which it was implied by some that the Chamber hadn't "been all that they could be" in terms of delivering the goods, now we can let the stealing - er, healing - begin. Again.

Russ gives his critics the finger...I mean a brochure.

The issues at hand were: Who will be in charge of "marketing" Port Angeles, and who will be tasked with running the Visitor's Center? Both, needless to say, involve money changing hands. Russ Veenema and his crew of acknowledged underachievers have now had their official, "Heck of a job, Russie" moment, and all is well. The comrades at the Take Their Money and Run Regional Chamber of Commerce can now resume their unproven, unprovable and likely highly inefficient "marketing" of Port Angeles to the world. This will, as you know, allow the booming economy and flood of visitors to Port Angeles that they helped create to both continue unabated.

Yeah, right.

Now available at the Port Angeles Visitor's Center!
In delightful downtown Port Angeles brown!

Which of your City Council members, you might ask, would be SO STUPID as to trust Russ Veenema? With his well-documented history of avoiding tough questions, offering zero proof for his claimed successes, and generally being one of the most incompetent-yet-arrogant people around, which members of the City Council would believe ANYTHING he has to say?

Why, the mayor, Dan DiGuilio, for one - or should I say for two? He supported the Chamber of Horrors for both tasks, as did dittohead Dan Gase and how-low-can-he-go Brad Collins.

On the other hand, who had the sense to say "Hell, no!" to giving the long-time losers at the Chamber of Incompetence any more money? Sissi Bruch, and, of all people, Pat Downie. They both voted NO both times. (Meanwhile, showcasing their lack of getting-itness, Cherie Kidd and Lee Whetham both voted yes for one, and no for one. Which makes little sense, but, then again, look who we're talking about.)

Sigh...What is there to say about this sorry bunch?

How about you? Do you have faith in Russ and/or the United Chamber of Clodhoppers? Was it enough for you that the City went through the motions of pretending that they might split from the tried-and-through Port Angeles Regional Bedchamber of Commerce? Or were you holding out hope for, you know, actual change or accountability?

In any case, let's end on an up note: Heck of a job, Downie!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Just Locke Out the Bad News AKA Black Tar and Golden Arches (SECOND UPDATE)

WOW. That's quite an article in the PDN about the increasing use of heroin on the North Olympic Peninsula. "Not going away." That's an understatement.

Do any of you remember the movie Westworld? It was about a theme park designed to look and feel like the old west, complete with robot gunfighters for visitors to have duels with. In other words, it was a tourist destination with violence and death built into it as part of the attraction.

Port Angeles is starting to seem a little bit like that, frankly - a would-be tourist destination with death and destruction built into it. Let's call it Worstworld.

Here you have a sparsely populated county, which has the highest per capita opiate-related death rate in the state, higher than even densely-populated-and-grunge-loving King County, and yet the Jefferson and Clallam County's shared public health officer, Dr. Tom Locke, "doesn't speculate on the Clallam-versus-Jefferson disparity in heroin use. He is instead seeking to save the lives of overdose victims."

You're the public health officer, and you won't speculate? Isn't it possible that the insights gained from such speculation might "save the lives" of some of these people, sir? Or are you simply concerned about being the bearer of (even more) bad news, and fearful of losing your job on the Clallam County end of things? Amazing. I call this a dereliction of duty, Dr. Locke.

Meanwhile, one of your own nurses, Julia Keegan, reports that one out of five inmates displays symptoms of heroin withdrawal. At least that's what she's willing to state for the record, talking to the PDN. I know that when I last spoke with Julia before leaving, she told me it was one out of four. Either way, that's a pretty staggering number. But hey, why speculate about it, right? After all, it's only lives, families and entire communities utterly destroyed.

And how does this destruction manifest itself in the community? Well, another article in the PDN today gives a pretty good, and expensive, example of that. See the article headlined "Copper thief cuts power to 2,000 after damaging Clallam Public Utility District substation west of Port Angeles." In case you didn't know, Dr. Locke, it's very doubtful that this copper was stolen by someone who is just crazy about collecting copper. No, I'd speculate that it was stolen by someone who is...Hmmm...Addicted to drugs, perhaps?

And just this one little escapade could result in damages costing over $120,000, according to the report from the Sheriff's Office. All to net someone enough to buy probably $120 worth of smack or meth. That's some lethal math for a community any way you look at it. Oh, except, oops, I forgot, you don't want to look at it, do you Dr. Locke? Looking could be seen as a form of speculating, and we know how you feel about that, don't we?

But you know who does seem to be looking at this? The McDonald's Corporation, of all things. Per yet another article in the PDN today, "The international fast-food chain unexpectedly has delayed...plans to replace Port Angeles' golden arches with a new $2.5 million eatery." Per owner Brian Beaulaurier (who lives in Jefferson County, by the way), the existing restaurant is "old and tired."

Now, I don't claim to know what drove this decision by McDonald's to "delay" this long-simmering project. But if you Google the phrase "mcdonald's heroin," you'll find a veritable cascade of news stories about McDonald's workers selling heroin via the drive-thru window, parents overdosing at McDonald's, people selling heroin and shooting up in McDonald's parking lots, etc. In other words, a torrent of bad press linking McDonald's and heroin already exists. Maybe, just maybe, that came into play when higher-ups discussed the idea of investing millions in heroin-plagued Port Angeles?

So, could the Sunday news combo meal get any worse for Port Angeles? Yes, yes it could. Per the PA Police Department, they don't have enough officers to properly patrol the city.

High rates of drug abuse, and corresponding high rates of crime. A checked out public health "leader." Reluctance in invest further in properties in Port Angeles. A thinly spread law enforcement presence.

Yep, welcome to Worstworld. Would you like some (old and tired) fries with that smack?

And as if the above weren't bad news enough...Yes, thieves have stolen all the Christmas toys that the Salvation Army had in storage for needy children. I wonder if Dr. Locke would care to speculate on how much heroin you could get for a truckload of toys? Naw, probably not...


And it's true! Tom Locke is quitting - kind of. He's quitting his job as Clallam County's public health officer - but will stay on in that role in Jefferson County. (Poor Jefferson County!)

Meanwhile, he'll still live in Clallam County, and is taking a new job with the Jamestown Family Health Clinic in Sequim. (Poor Jamestown Clinic!)

So...Hmmm...So, you're not retiring. You're not moving. And you're not even partially retiring by quitting your job at Clallam County, because you'll be taking a new job at Jamestown. So...Hmmm...Gee, Tom, it sort of looks like you're jettisoning the underperforming portion of your portfolio, you know? Or like you're walking away from the big ol' public health liability that your own laziness helped create and foster.

But, you know what, Dr. Flakenstein? You're probably going to regret not moving away from the monster you helped create. Because, at the very least, you're still going to be living in the county where you're much more likely to have your house or car broken into by, you know, someone hooked on drugs. Now I realize that's just some of that nasty speculation on my part, but...

You might also find it a bit uncomfortable to be seen out and about in the county you just screwed over. I'm guessing that your woeful job performance, and the way you're just sleazing out of your duties here, won't sit well with a lot of people.

So, in an effort to help any and all of those pissed off people, here's a picture of "Dr." Tom Locke, so you'll know him on sight. Be sure to tell him what a stellar job he did before bailing out.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Insanity is doing the same thing, the same way, over and over, and expecting different results. Insanity is doing the same thing, the same way, over and over, and expecting different results. (UPDATED) Insanity is doing the same thing, the same way, over and over, and expecting different results.

Do you know why the City calls it the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee? It's because once they have an idea LODGED in their head, it's nearly impossible to get it out.

And thus, we get the recommendations from the LTAC after their meeting last Wednesday, which is more of the same stupidity that has helped push Port Angeles to the brink of destruction, along with one possible change - for the worse.

Who does this group think should be in charge of marketing Port Angeles as a "tourist destination"? Why, the same old, good old, good old boys at the...Chamber of Commerce. Yes, the same COC that's done SUCH a great job at that so far. Heck of a job, Russie.

Or, they also trust that tried and through, uh, I mean true, cutting-edge designer, Laurel Black. Yes, Laurel "my business photo is twenty years old and so are my ideas" Black. Another well-connected, well-established piece of dead wood.

Or, in true City fashion, Vertigo Marketing of Bend, Oregon. Yes, the habit of hiring out of the area consultants does die hard, doesn't it?

Meanwhile, the one recommendation that this brain trust supports that could be called "change" is definitely not for the better. Apparently, they are open to the idea of Edna Petersen "hosting" the Visitor's Center in her shop! Anyone who has ever been subjected to one of  Edna's leech-like come-ons will know what a bad idea this is. This is the woman who puts the "offensive" in the phrase "charm offensive." Can't you just hear it: "Welcome to Port Angeles - perhaps you'd like to buy something from my shop?"

The forward-thinking crew on the LTAC also seem to not be thinking about the fact that such a change would also create yet another empty building (the proposed former Visitor's Center) downtown.

And they are still locked into small, backwards thinking in other ways as well.

They recommend giving $70,000 to the Juan de Fuca Festival to buy a tent. Yes, a tent. One that will get used - at best - a weekend or so out of any given year.

Meanwhile, they would give the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center - a year-round, 24-hour-a-day resource and destination - a paltry $26,300. The PAFAC also does double-duty as green space, a spot to absorb rainwater (to avoid flooding), a viewscape, etc. And did I mention it does this year-round?

Ah, but Cherie and her cohorts don't really get any of that, do they? They understand a tent, and, inexplicably, they know and like Edna...But as for the rest of that whole change and growth and nature and art as marketable commodities thing...Well, it just kind of seems to make them feel, oh, I don't know...AFRAID.

Way to double down on dumb, Lodging Tax folks.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Roll 'Em If You Got 'Em (UPDATED)

File under NO SURPRISE AT ALL: Nippon is in the process of shutting down its paper operations in Port Angeles - and elsewhere.

Down, down, down...The ring of fired, the ring of fired...

Google "Nippon Shoalhaven," and you'll see that it seems Nippon is also shutting down a big paper mill in Australia. It employs about 75 people, and has been running just one production machine. They produce security-grade paper used to make passports.

So I guess the takeaway from this is that not only are fewer people reading newspapers, but fewer Australians are getting passports.

Whatever the case, this has clearly, undeniably been coming for years. Even the late "great" Harold Norlund spent his last years in Port Angeles talking about how the paper market was a shrinking market. Despite that, and despite all the other cultural and economic cues that this was coming, expect local leaders like Pat Downie and Cherie Kidd to be "shocked" by this news.

Pat Downie feels your...

I'd also expect that eternal booster of "industrial-type jobs," Peter Ripley to be among those gobsmacked by this announcement.

But I like to think that the people who read this blog are a little more astute than Peter, Pat and Cherie. I trust that many of you are less than shocked by this announcement, and that some of you are even, dare I say it, pleased?

As for me, I have to say I laughed out loud when I saw mill manager Steve Johnson refer to the PDN as a "source of intelligence." It's probably the first time the paper has been accused of that.

So what will the loggers and Luddites in Port Angeles do now, as the image of PA as a "Mill Town" continues to totally and utterly fall apart? Will this lead to self-examination and positive growth? Or will it simply add to the unemployment rate? Will those in charge recognize this as an opportunity? Or will they simply wring their hands in sorrow? Is there a Plan B for Port Angeles? Was there ever even a Plan A?

Stay tuned!


Yes, stay tuned...Because this move on Nippon's part also will cost the City of Port Angeles hundreds of thousands of dollars in utility taxes, according to a memo from City Manager Dan McKeen. He puts the figure at $360,000. That's quite a sizable chunk out of the already bloated and strained City budget - especially since the City views utility rates and taxes as their only viable growth area for "revenue."

Now that Nippon is going down, watch the City Council revisit whether or not your utility rates need to go up again, to make up the difference. Let's also watch to see what the City does when it gets to renegotiate Nippon's industrial water rate in the not-too-distant future.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Bye, Bye, Barb! (UPDATED)

Well, gosh - goodbye, Barb.

While it's undeniably not only a good thing you're being let go, but also a just thing, it's possible to ask a few final questions...

The first and foremost being, how did you manage to keep your job for SO LONG when it was painfully clear to everyone in town that you were in over your head?

For that matter, how did you even get the job in the first place? Other, more qualified candidates didn't even get a phone call, yet you got shuffled right in. I can't help but think that's because you were just what the PADA Board was looking for: A local, no-brain, no-spine patsy. Another name for patsy might be fall guy, and you're sure taking the fall now, Barb. Timber!

Here are just a couple of excerpts from the PADA Board of Directors email announcement:

"As you know the Downtown Association board of directors has had a challenging year, and your funds are still being withheld by the City."

Translation: We're not the villains here; it's that big bad City. We'd still be getting away with it if not for that meddling City!

"She began as the PADA Executive Director January 2, 2008 and has led us well through many challenges."

So many lies in such a short sentence! Is it the truth the use "led" to describe someone who is well known for literally hiding from other people? More than once I saw Barb get asked a question, and her response was to turn to Jan Harbick to signal that she should answer it.

Pairing that lying "led" with "well"...Well that's a lie, too. Was it leadership when Barb let the PADA's own registration with the State of Washington lapse? Was it leadership to totally fail to go after the low-hanging fruit of those B&O funds? Was it leadership to let the Main Street program languish and wither? That's not "well" done, PADA Board members, that's just plain burnt up. You know, like much of your membership has been FOR YEARS. Under YOUR watch.

The PADA Board's email is really great. On one hand it lauds - or dare I say, fetes? - Barb, while tossing her to the wolves. It also essentially absolves the Board of any wrongdoing or complicity in the current state of affairs, and makes the City the big, bad meanie in this. All of which goes to show that the people on the PADA Board of Directors haven't learned a damn thing from their years of manipulation and failure. Not a thing.

In other words, Barb may be gone, but the stench lingers on.


Just so you all know...This post is crazy popular, and approaching 1,000 pageviews since it went up. Who knew Barb was such a big draw?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

American Horror Story

There's no nice way to put it: Death has been in the air in Port Angeles. With all the recent focus and discussion on the need for suicide barriers on bridges - to spend, or not to spend, that is the question - there's no denying that the strong and steady undercurrent of despair in Clallam County has become more visible.

Clallam County is reliably one of the top two counties in the state when it comes to suicide. It's always in the top three for rates of opiate overdoses and substance abuse. Unemployment rates are persistently higher than average. Graduation rates are consistently lower than average. These are but a few of the long-term and painfully obvious realities that map the contours of hopelessness and desperation in Clallam County.

That being the case, what are we to make of the blasé attitude of the local elected officials? The City likes to spend itself into oblivion on stupid projects, while turning a blind eye to the wolf at the door. On the other hand, the County likes to try and brag about how little they spend, how tight their belts are. Meanwhile, the junkies shoot up, the jumpers fall down, and the bodies continue to pile up.

How can this cycle be broken? Can it be broken at this point? Is this an epidemic of despair that can be treated, or an endemic situation that, at best, can be managed? And what is the role of elected officials in all this? Should they focus on the budgets and leave the rest to sort itself out? Or do they have blood on their hands?