'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free ...The Shakers believed in simplicity and a culture of work, and our County would do well to recall their virtues.
With rare exception, it seems whenever this County is confronted with an option, it chooses the complex over the simple; the grand vision over the here and now; the expensive over the frugal; upshifts over downshifts.
We build empires of coordinating committees, inter-governmental panels, advocacy non-profits, and junior taxation districts. Having chosen to live in a rural community, we then set about making it less rural, wanting improved transportation, bigger roads, signage, more convenient ferry service, complete streets, bike lanes, and a mapped and formally-designated island-wide trail system. And of course, all this stuff needs plans, plans, plans. All this stuff needs grants, grants, grants, including all the administration, reports, and inflated self-puffery that goes along with it. Once we have all that bling, we need to show it off and promote it with brochures and campaigns. Ironically, a lot of this new complexity and development is passed off as conservation, and while all this planning and conserving is going on, the government starts to reach so far into people's lives that virtually nothing escapes its purview. Many who think about starting a business or farm feel they have to do so either illegally or else subject themselves to the indignity and crushing expense of a thousand reviews by limitless bureaucratic know-it-alls ... or maybe not even try at all, just give up before they even give it a go. And the avalanche of government oversight never stops. The visioning never stops. The projections never stop. The plans to link us to bigger and better know-it-alls in a giant know-it-all network never stops.
It has to stop.
Nick Jones has written a Thanksgiving article that was published in the Island Guardian. It is reproduced here in its entirety.
This year, as we have for the past eight or nine years, we provided smoked salmon to the Family Resource Center to help fill Thanksgiving baskets for island families. This is a wonderful service built on collaboration between our island churches, the Resource Center and many individuals. In the time we have participated, the number of baskets requested has climber from 17 (if my memories are correct) to more than 50. It is a sobering thought that so many of our friends, neighbors, and fellow islanders are struggling. Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the blessings we enjoy, to share with those who are struggling, and maybe above all, to celebrate the productivity and vigor of our land, to contemplate the fruits of our labors.
Lately I have been working on preparing paperwork to expand our shellfish operation. Our attorney tells me to expect to spend at least $30,000 in so doing. We will pay for multiple studies, vast amounts of legal time and extortionate permit fees to fund the same process on the county side. The permit will take at least 4 months to process. We will do all this to prove the sustainability of shellfish growing, which is perhaps the most environmentally positive form of food production on the planet. The process will not improve the outcome at all. It will merely eat up scare time and resources, and keep a small army of consultants and bureaucrats busy. If the permit is approved, we will be able to employ at least four additional people, year round, at family wage jobs.
I have no water to haul for developers or coal port operators. All I know is what we experience: We farm livestock and shellfish and work with local and tribal fishers to bring local seafood products to market. Over the past 10 years we have built our business up from nothing to employ 14 people. We currently supply product as far afield as Hong Kong and the East Coast. Given current and impending regulatory hurdles, it would be flat-out impossible to build what we have built with the resources we had available then. As we work to expand further pitched battles with regulators has become our weekly, if not daily, reality.
I marvel at a system that actively fights people who are trying to build productive businesses. I marvel at a government that creates barriers for those who want to grow food. And I marvel at our elected officials who accept and apologize for their insane regulatory structure, who willfully consign so many island families to stunted and stressful lives.
And so this Thanksgiving I am deeply grateful for the bounty we enjoy and steward. I am deeply grateful for the robust ecosystem, which supports it. I am deeply grateful to live in such a caring community, and I am deeply grateful to be able to share some of our good fortune with struggling families. I am deeply grateful to have the opportunity to provide jobs to our crew and pure food to our customers. I pray that our policy makers will have the vision and fortitude to reclaim a county, state and nation that helps people create lasting, meaningful and productive lives. And I pray that, by consequence of their actions, beginning next year, each successive year will see more jobs created, more businesses started and fewer families in need in San Juan County.