Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Burning Down the House

Watch out, you might get what you're after. That's a line from the Talking Heads song Burning Down the House. That's how today's hearing on the CAOs went: a bunch of talking heads burning down the house.

In many ways, today's hearing was typical of the standard public participation events occurring throughout the CAOs. We heard from the tribes (the Tulalip). We heard from the Friends multiple times. During public access time we also heard from staff, such as Barbara Rosenkotter who is a County employee serving as the Salmon Lead Entity Coordinator. In customary zoomorphic and theomorphic style, she claimed that she spoke for the salmon who are not able to speak for themselves. I wonder how many salmon know that? We heard from the Common Sense Alliance (CSA), and we heard from CSA supporters too. And oh yeah, I suppose somewhere in there was a non-affiliated person or two, but I honesty couldn't tell you.

We heard the usual environmental hysteria talk. The San Juans are unprotected. The CAOs are the weakest in the state. We have to be more careful with an island. We have to ... we have to ... we have to ... blah blah blah.

Surprisingly, there were some curious parallels between the testimony of the Friends and CSA. Both organizations feel that the CAOs are deeply flawed. The Friends, for example, say the proposed CAOs are the weakest in the state. They say the CAOs amount to no protection at all. Then in the next breath, with no concern for their self-contradiction, the Friends urge the Council to pass the CAOs. That puts the Friends in the peculiar position of openly supporting the passage of laws which they allege do nothing in terms of environmental protection.

CSA also thinks the CAOs do nothing, except place lots of restrictions on homeowners, trap them with incomprehensible formulas and rules, and potentially restrict nearly every aspect of property use.

However, the Friends apparently like the part about abusing homeowners, so they urged the Council not to kick the can down the road to the next Council. Buoyed by such bold encouragement and despite the Council's repudiation during the recent election, the Council members have convinced themselves they are on a mission from God to pass the CAOs. We heard Lovel Pratt today refute the notion that the elections were a referendum on her performance relative to the CAOs. She claimed that she lost the election because she was outspent and because we voters were confused. We heard other self-puffery and deflection from other Council members too. They flattered themselves with their knowledge and hard work on the CAOs.  The bottom line is that this Council is going to pass the CAOs come hell or high water. No more kicking the can down the road.

Kicking the can down the road? The Council fully admits that these CAOs will be appealed to the Growth Management Hearings Board (GMHB). Instead of kicking the can down the road to the next Council, they're kicking the can upstairs to the GMHB.

In written testimony to the Council today, here is how CSA summed up the Council's position relative to the CAOs:
We have supported this Council’s intent not to “kick the can down the road.” However, if Council adopts a seriously defective CAO just to “get 'er done” and satisfy those who keep saying it is taking too long, YOU WILL BE “KICKING THE CAN DOWN THE ROAD” and leaving a toxic mess for our community, by elevating form over substance and failing to properly protect our critical areas, our economy, or our community. Much hard work has been done, and significant progress has been made, but this is not the time for analytical shortcuts or legislative horse-trading. The fundamental defects we have identified are not new – they are not 11th hour delaying tactics. We urge you to keep working to either cure these defects or consider the alternative approach, “A Reasonable Way Forward for the County and the CAO Process” submitted by CSA on September 10, 2012.
But in typical fashion, the County isn't listening.

P.S. Don't miss Nick Power's article in the Island Guardian because we should be ashamed of ourselves.


  1. Kudos, TH. You have outdone yourself and specifically identified why can kicking is such a kick in the can.

    As HUGE fan of everything Talking Heads, you got me humming "Burning Down The House" it occurred to me that all lyrics are apropos. Accordingly, for your enjoyment and contemplation, they follow.

    Watch out, you might get what you're after
    Cool babies, strange but not a stranger
    I'm an ordinary guy
    Burning down the house
    Hold tight, wait 'till the party's over
    Hold tight, we're in for nasty weather
    There has got to be a way
    Burning down the house
    Here's your ticket, pack your bags, time for jumpin' overboard
    Transportation is here
    Close enough but not too far, maybe you know where you are
    Fightin' fire with fire
    All wet, hey you might need a raincoat
    Shakedown, dreams walking in broad daylight
    Three hundred sixty five degrees
    Burning down the house
    It was once upon a place, sometimes I listen to myself
    Gonna come in first place
    People on their way to work said, "Baby what did you except?"
    Gonna burst into flame, go ahead

    Burning down the house
    My house is out of the ordinary
    That's right, don't want to hurt nobody
    Some things sure can sweep me off my feet
    Burning down the house
    No visible means of support and you have not seen nothin' yet
    Everything's stuck together
    I don't know what you expect staring into the TV set
    Fighting fire with fire

    Burning down the house

    Burning down the house

    Burning down the house

  2. Weren't the '80s fantastic for pop music? STOP MAKING SENSE. Just about the best live album and live rock concert movie ever made. Saw that show at the Greek Theater in Berkeley. I even remember Burning Down the House. Packed standing room on their feet roaring to this.

    This is exactly where we are, all over again. Think of the situation back then.

    The Bhopal disaster. Iran Contra. Doomsday brinkmanship between USSR/USA. A whole lot more.

    Ah but we had Talking Heads, Annie Lexox and Eurythmics ("Some of them want to abuse you), Michael Jackson's Thriller, Rolling Stones Tatters (Does it matter, uh-huh, Im a shattered)

    Oh hell. What am I babbling on about anyway. Right, the '80s. Sean Connery at his best. Michael Crichton's Rising Sun. Connery's best line ever: "Oh. They won't get away with this."

    You got that? To the Clowncil: You. Won't. Get. Away. With. This.

    You are beginning to annoy us.

  3. Based on body language observed yesterday, the CAO will pass 5-1, or 5-0-1, depending on Rich's windvane.
    Howie, yes, for,revenge against evil property owners.
    Lovell, yes, because she must save the "confused" citizens.
    Jamie, yes, because of Lopez Ludditism..
    Patty, yes, because she has NO CHOICE. the process makes me do,it.
    Fralick, yes, because, oh, what the hell, not his problem anymore.
    Rich, no,or abstain, depending on last dozen emails.

    Well and truly screwed are we...

  4. Where the hell is Batman when you need him?

    All seemed lost. When suddenly a dark figure appeared on the horizon. A masked man. Or something.

    Have no fear. Underdog is here. Watch out for that tree. Ouch.

    Different ways to see the body language.

    The Dorkman was tearing his hair out and rolling eyes heavenward.

    Lovell was generally staring at an imaginary small dot on the wall across the room, speaking in a Xanax monotone fog.

    Jamie was catastrophically freaking out over the prospect of Thor's Hammer from Olympia refusing to fund anything here even though there is no more money in the state budget anyway.

    Maybe Kevin can help. He's being kind of quiet lately. Publicly anyway. But we'll get to that, he ain't going anywhere.

    Fralick was visibly agitated, his jaw clenching over-time, practically lunging at Rich Peterson who seemed to be rather enjoying himself.

    Patty seemed to be amused at the pickle she is in, enjoying the Grand Guignol she's presiding over. By God she'll schedule three straight days of hearings if that is what it will take.

    So here's the deal. They are afraid. Yes they have the votes but they are afraid. The FOSJ position is we hate this, it does nothing, vote for it now.

    That actually makes a great deal of sense from their view point when you unpack it.

    But there is a very serious lawsuit in the background and the County is trying to stonewall it quietly. That will work against them. That is the elephant in the room. That combined with their direction to senior staff to construct a little matrix listing all 14 goals of our Comprehensive Plan and illustrating how the proposed CAO ... chapter and verse ... is consistent with such old fashioned ideas like privacy, limited government and what not.

    Can they pass this bag of bones in December? Oh sure. But maybe not. There are moving parts and balls in the air.

    Any observer can now witness that the CAO, while never even remotely about real environmental protection is no longer even about the CAO.

    It is now about "git 'r done". The clock is running out in the fourth quarter of a very damaged council, of individuals who have to live with this decision for the rest of their lives, and where three of them will have to face the music come January, and come hell or high water.

    Are we well and truly screwed? Maybe. We got the public officials we deserved. Maybe we'll learn our lessons. Hope so.

  5. I appreciate your alternate explanation. I will hang on to a glimmer of hope. In fact, I think I will have a large egg nog with Brandy, and pull up some good tunes from the depths of the closet!

  6. Seems the Council chair will waste no time and allow no time for a mind on the edge to jump ship, as there is now an early Council PUBLIC meeting on the CAO (continued from yesterday) on December 3rd.

    Rich Peterson should announce that since HE will be left with this mess, he makes a motion this CAO item and discussion be tabled until the new Council is seated. He can request a second on the motion for discussion. (Don't hold your breath, but it will clearly show the gang of five has no interest in any substantive discussion of the issue, IF he does not get that second.) Politicians love to talk so such a motion second for discussion even from the opposing side are common as dirt.

    Rich then simply and pragmatically points out who will be burdened with the fallout of this measure if passed. Himself, Patty and that fellow from Lopez.

    So it only makes sense the newly seated Council assume the full burden of this process.

  7. What do we know about the "new" Council member's position on the CAO. Perhaps we should start lobbying these people, along with Rich P to overturn this legislative compost heap at the earliest opportunity.

    The idea of Rich making a motion to table is good. Take note of whom doesn't second the motion. Remember this when you see Lovell file to run again!