Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Leave The CAOs Alone *Sniff*

Does anyone remember the "Leave Britney Alone Rant"? Apparently, the County has similar feelings about the beleaguered CAOs. How dare anyone criticize the CAOs! After all they've been through!

Yesterday, the Council gave the nod to an official County communications effort to oppose the "misinformation" being spread about the CAOs. The County has hired new staff to fulfill public records requests, allowing Stan Matthews, who used to be the public records officer, to devote his time to properly informing the public about the CAOs.

The County already puts out its own version of government-sponsored "news". The Department of Ecology, too, even has its own blog. These are not just examples of impartial sources of unbiased information to assist citizens with government services, but they also have been used as communications channels for government opinions designed to influence the community towards a cause or position. They've been used to "message". When private individuals exercise the right of free speech using their own time and money (as with the Trojan Heron, for example), that's the First Amendment. When governments use tax-payer money to sway the public, that's propaganda.

All along, many have suspected that the Council has been biased in favor of the CAO draft, but yesterday, it seems they completely came out of the closet when they approved communications efforts to promote something they haven't even officially voted on yet. They haven't even had a first touch on the wetlands CAO, but despite that, they apparently know what messages they want to send to the citizenry about it. Instead of listening, they decided to focus on telling.

Every day, increasing numbers of our fellow islanders are speaking out about the senselessness of the proposed CAOs. Tom Starr has an excellent piece in the Island Guardian. Ron Keeshan makes his usual great points in his rebuttal to a Friends Board member. Citizens of every stripe are trying to connect with the Council: old-time islanders, contractors, farmers, working people, businessmen, environmentalists, young, old, Democrats, and Republicans. The public sees the errors. They recognize the CAO drafts are built on sand and are pointlessly complicated and harmful.

Will the Council show respect or contempt for these views? Yesterday, I think we got our answer.


  1. Always a pleasure to read your analysis. I look forward to seeing more of your commentary on my work. In the interest of full-disclosure, my hours are being cut by 20% and my primary duties involve making more documents available online to make it easier and quicker for people - such as you - to access public information, even as we continue to reduce the budget and cut staff. I take a lot of pride in serving the people of my community. Feel free to comment on that as you will.

  2. Factual information and transparency are always appreciated, and more of that will be welcomed. It would be helpful if, whenever "misinformation" is referenced by the Council, that examples be provided so specifics can be debated, rebutted, or discussed. Without specifics, no one knows what the Council is talking about (or at least I don't), and it appears as if they are simply using the "misinformation" term to generally smear people who disagree with them. So and so isn't wrong, they're "misinformed".

    Also, if the Council wants to have more openness, transparency, and accountability associated with the CAOs those are worthy goals in their own right and do not need to rest upon a foundation of countering "misinformation". From my perspective, the harping about "misinformation" from Council members reveals where they are really coming from, and it would seem they are less interested in transparency than in messaging about the CAOs.

    While I welcome more staff and budget cuts at the County on one level, on a personal note, I am sorry your hours were cut, if that was involuntary.

  3. It would be good to learn more about this, on the one hand a position is cut on the other hand a new position is created. But the position that's cut is given new duties and it sounded a lot like a little media czar, a mini-megaphone for the County's still unspoken positions on this CAO affair intended to counter some paranoid delusion of a massive "campaign" of fear and misinformation. Yeah they are just carpet bombing leaflets on the locals aren't they? Give us a break. Funny thing about this County, first of all, major kudos to the overall quality of the County's website, the GIS services given the limited funds are actually pretty good, and the video streaming of Council sessions is excellent and the County was a real innovator on this. So, give the track-record of transparency, why all this murky cult-like behavior on the inside these days. That's a story worth telling, and something the public needs to hear. Up to the task?

  4. It is odd--the broad spectrum of folks coming out strong against the CAOs, process and content--most with well-supported, heartfelt reasons stated. In response, we got the "fear and misinformation" alarm from the Friends--no specifics--and then heard the meme parroted by several members of the Council. Again, with no specifics. Just one example, please--anyone? The "misinformation" that I'm familiar with comes from the County--my favorite dates back at least a year: "Don't worry, the CAO changes will affect only a few parcels, you can keep doing what you're doing." We don't hear that so much anymore. In the midst of this sad state of affairs, there is a bit of humor. The Council believes that the growing outpouring of concern and anger is somehow a "well-organized campaign" against the CAO. The County has numerous paid staff pushing the CAO message--planners, lawyer, "public relations"; the Friends have at least three paid staff, including a lawyer; the Department of Ecology sometimes devotes 10 people at a time to pushing its message about our CAO, with at least two folks who seem to devote an inordinate amount of time to our affairs; and we don't even know how many paid staff work for the Puget Sound partnership--all struggling against the "organized campaign" of the Forces of Darkness: citizens of the County who have more than enough to fill their days without the CAO, people with full-time jobs and families, who take off from work to attend day-time meetings, or write letters and make calls in the evenings; farmers, professionals, construction workers, retired folks, young and old.

  5. I fear that video-streaming will soon be the victim of "budget cuts." Nothing has done so much to rile up the populace as information flowing about what is transpiring at County meetings--and the evidence is there, on video, for anyone to confirm.

  6. Why are we hiring more people while putting others on 80% time? The County still pays full benefits for those people who work 80%, or even 60%, for that matter.

  7. Some People Value The Environmental Health of The Islands more than property rights and income.

  8. I believe some people value their own opinions about the environmental health of these islands above the well-being of their neighbors. You might as well just say, "Let them eat cake."

    If there were any compelling data about declining environmental health here, then the discussion could be about real situations instead of just opinions. As it stands, the primary motive for further restrictions here is just the endless and amorphous eco-pessimism we hear so often.