Sunday, June 10, 2012

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Citizens

The world of County advisory committees is a twilight zone where County staff and appointed public officials merge for the purpose of planning how the rest of us should live. Officially, these committees serve at the pleasure of the Council. They are, after all, County advisory committees. However, some of these committees have a hard time accepting that they have any overlords at all, much less any duty to serve the people. In terms of being insular and detached from the public, perhaps no Committee is worse than the Marine Resources Committee. They feel they are, or should be, some sort of independent governing body. Bear in mind that there is a difference between serving and governing. I don't know who the MRC feels it serves, but they certainly feel they should govern. They have their own website. They have their own letterhead. They make policy. They get grants. They give out grants. They are a world unto themselves.

But that's not good enough for them. The email below illustrates the problem. We have a County staffer, Jeff Hanson, telling MRC members that they should have the ability to hire their own staff, even if it means cutting the purse strings to the County. As appealing as cutting the purse strings may be for all involved, it completely ignores the fact that MRC members are appointed public officials who have a duty to serve the public. Honestly, what does Jeff Hanson think the purpose of the MRC is? It shows, I think, where Jeff Hanson's loyalties lie, and it ain't with the people.

Somebody ... anybody ... take the MRC, please ... and stop the charade that it is a committee serving the citizens of the San Juans. It isn't. It doesn't. While you're at it, can you find a position for Jeff Hanson and all the other County MRC staffers too? The amount of staff time the MRC eats up with meetings, grants, and pointless insider intrigue is an ocean of wasted taxpayer money.


From: Jeff Hanson [] 
Sent: Tuesday, July 19, 2011 12:56 PM
To:;;; Barbara Rosenkotter;; Steve Revella; John Aschoff
Subject: MRC Staffing

Dear Laura, Steve, John, Kit, David, Jonathan and Barbara,

I am writing to you specifically about Question 3 on our agenda with some comments that are implicit in the introduction to the staffing conversation, but I think would not enhance my training relationship with Janice if I brought them up tomorrow.

Barbara, Susan Key and I (and to a certain extent Scott Williamson, by conversations with each of us), have been having some detailed conversations about LIO and MRC staffing and project funding, and the ability of each organization to obtain funding to meet their mission and goals. Our talks have been frank, and, of course, from a staff perspective. Between us, we have a variety of expertise on the wide variety of issues involved. 

Relevant to our discussions tomorrow, I have found myself comparing and contrasting the comparative value to the MRC of in-house part time staffing (Janice Biletnikoff) and a coordinator with the qualities, skill set and local and regional connections we think are important in a coordinator. For the purposes of comparing and contrasting, I have been thinking of Susan as that person, as I think she represents a good potential Coordinator for this purpose. 

Some of the contrasts are obvious: 
Susan has had experience with the MRC for years, knows its history, goals, mission and many of the details of recent work. Janice does not, yet. 
Susan has excellent local, regional and statewide connections, and has led cooperative processes locally.
She has won grant awards for different organizations and knows key people in state agencies. Janice has not written grants, though she does have some state agency connections through her County planning work. 
Susan has intimate knowledge about the MSA Monitoring Plan, then County Stormwater monitoring plan, and by virtue of her participation on a newly forming statewide monitoring group, an increasing knowledge of the needs and resources for monitoring at that level. This is specific knowledge that can help tie the MSA plan, the Monitoring plan and potential funding sources together. 
Also, Susan would have the time, flexibility and a good deal of drive. She, like others we might hire for this, needs the work and would work to see the position expanded. Janice will be strictly limited to 20 hours.  
Susan is a die hard San Juan Islander, with experience here, and a desire to finish her career, and likely spend the rest of her life, here. Janice is new to this part of the world. 

Susan represents a potential candidate who has a whole set of skills, experience, drive and desire to take on this work and have the MRC hit the ground running, should she, or someone with a similar set of skills, be hired to take on the work. 

(I'm sure its obvious that I would support Susan for this job if it was open for application. But I would do so based on her merits and the fact that the time is ripe for both her and for the MRC, not because she is a friend.)

You've heard this before from me, and I'll say it as long as I have the chance: I think the MRC should seriously consider taking steps that will lead to your ability to address the hiring of your own staff, whether that means working strongly with the County Council or moving to a new fiscal agent. 

Thank you,



  1. Nick Danger, Third EyeJune 10, 2012 at 10:38 AM

    If the MRC operates as a policy making body independent of the County Council, it is probably better off moving to a new fiscal agent as suggested here. The Friends of the San Juans comes to mind. There, the MRC will find a strong values match. A closer association between the two will also reduce competition for outside funds. Call this "harmonization." Anyone paying a lick of attention has noticed the squabbles and turf wars in the background as both groups greedily lunge at the same potential funders. Eliminate competition. Have the Friends absorb the MRC.

  2. I think you are suggesting just making it official, since it already functions as the Friends Marine Resources Committee, not the San Juan County Marine Resources Committee. The Friends have more money in reserve than the County does anyway.

  3. The people of San Juan County must hold their elected representatives accountable for this nonsense in the upcoming elections, and take back their government.

    "All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights." Washington State Constitution, Article I, Section 1.

  4. The Song of the Washington State Constitution:

    Look at me, I'm in tatters
    I'm a shattered

    And look at me, I'm in tatters, yeah
    I've been battered, what does it matter
    Does it matter, uh-huh
    Does it matter, uh-huh, I'm a shattered

    Uh-huh, this town's full of money grabbers
    Go ahead, bite the Big Apple, don't mind the maggots, huh
    Shadoobie, my brain's been battered
    My friends they come around they
    Flatter, flatter, flatter, flatter, flatter, flatter, flatter
    Pile it up, pile it high on the platter

  5. The only way this nonsense will stop is to de-fund these eco-fascists. The idea of holding our elected officials accountable to the people won't get them to budge. They don't care if they're all tossed out. The damage will already be done.

    One would think de-funding in this day and age of our governments being beyond broke, would be easy. No, cut the fire and police departments, the schools. This insanity can only lead to societal suicide. Maybe that's their goal.

  6. Although others may disagree, I would prefer that the name calling be dialed back a bit (e.g., eco-fascists). I don't want this blog or its comments to be a laboratory for Godwin's Law, and I really don't want to have to start deleting comments from this blog.

    Just make your point without using thought-terminating cliches.

    Thanks from all of us at the Trojan Heron. Enjoy the blog.

  7. And I would like to add that TH allows anonymous comments because of the very real fear that San Juan County citizens have of retaliation. There needs to be a place where people can speak honestly without fear of retribution. Please keep your comments coming in. They are very important for your fellow citizens to read, and TH does not mind blunt, sharp commentary. A properly functioning democracy requires a healthy dose of naked truth and frank speech, no matter who may object to it (even the TH).

  8. Jeff Hanson doesn't work at MRC anymore.
    He was replaced this year.


  9. I see that the marine resources commission reported two big accomplishments last year: the "rain garden" outside Herb's Tavern and stripping the trees and other vegetation from the area behind the band shell over on Orcas.

  10. The area behind the bandshell on Orcas is strange. Surrounded by a chain link fence, and all kinds of official looking signs, wetlands construction or reconstruction or something. It does not look like a family friendly place to go have a picnic and play with toy boats. Sort of looks like something on the other side of Check Point Charley. Kind of sad in a way. Is the austere appearance and total like of aesthetics really necessary? Just doesn't look like something that isanders would do. Right now its an eyesore.

  11. That's a "constructed wetland" that our own civil servants got a grant to build. (They just didn't ask Orcas residents about it.) Designed by the very same consultants who did part of the "best" available science for critical areas and the big-bucks study for the shoreline update, if I remember right. Not looking forward to walking by it in August!


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