Friday, January 4, 2013

So Blue They're Not Blue Anymore

Recently, a friend of mine made the curious statement that he misses hating the Soviet Union. He doesn't miss the Soviet Union itself, but he misses being able to use the Soviet Union as a cautionary tale.

An old joke about the Soviet Union tells of the travails of a man who wanted a car. As the story goes, the wait-list for a car was 10 years, and after filing all the paperwork ... after satisfying every bureaucratic whim, the final bureaucrat tells the man that he can expect his car 10 years from that day. The car buyer then asks if the car will be delivered in the morning or afternoon, and the bureaucrat retorts, "It's ten years from now. Why does it matter if it's the morning or afternoon?" To which the buyer replies, "Because I have the plumber scheduled for that morning."

Over the holidays, I spoke to a friend of mine who spent the first half of her life in the Soviet Union, and I told her that joke. She laughed, but she let me know that it was no joke at all. She recalled her father having to wait 3 years to get rugs for their flat in Leningrad.

If our County government made rugs, that's the way it would work here.

We're not threatened by missiles or tanks from the Soviet Union these days, but we seem to be under attack internally by the notion that everything about our lives must be planned ... that all our activities have to be pre-approved and coordinated by some central know-it-all bureaucracy ... and that every speck of personal initiative harms something else and we therefore need to regulate it.

There was a time when we believed that individuals could accomplish great things in their own lives and for the community through the application of their own creativity and initiative. They could grow a business, start a farm, expand a shellfish operation, house themselves, and build a life ... all without "charrettes," without "visioning meetings," without people "helping us understand" that we are "connected to a living system of resiliency."

But I guess that was before the American Planning Association, before the Friends, before the existence of the County's 34 citizen committees, before the Puget Sound Partnership, before the AAOG/LIO, and before the last crop of Councillors passed an incomprehensible 155-page CAO.

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  1. I knew County leaders here have long felt citizens committees are free, they are not of course as there must be a support system of paid personnel doing the trench work.

    34 Citizens Committees is outrageous. A huge display of poor management.

    Such committees must have an assigned task and when the task is completed that is the end of the committee.

    I worked in a small town envied as rich for it's 13 million budget with a population of 13,500. SJC could not make it on 51 Million per year and it does not take much of a look to see why.

  2. Mixed feelings on this. In principle, I strongly support civic participation. If you look at that county list, it includes the library districts and other junior taxing districts that voters have established. And more.

    I'm good with all that.

    But then comes along a groaning board like the Marine Resources Committee that is so entrenched, such a fiefdom unto itself, so unhinged and out of control it makes mockery of civic engagement. It may have been an authentic bottom up citizen driven advisory group to the county but it is now just astro-turf.

    That's the problem. I would like to see a mini-initiative for an ordinance the new council would be required to vote on up or down. It does not take very many signatures to set this in motion.

    A simple ordinance: The 2013 Advisory Committee and Commission Reform Act. There will be problems and limitations, but this could make a difference:

    Term limits
    All agenda/minutes posted w/in 30 days to a county website (not individual committee websites)
    Mission review of all committees by the Council in public session with public comment

    ... and more. Anyone have ideas about something like this? A good idea? Dumb as a box of hammers? What do you think?

  3. Unfortunately, citizen committees occupy themselves with a small "very very small sect of the whole, nothing short of the whole can occupy the whole of what is real and what matters in this county. Decisions are made every day that infringe on those not asked. Citizen committees are dangerous to the rights and freedoms that should be protected for everyone, not just the committee members, or those they serve. the field of interest is so narrow the only thing left to do is lock your gates and turn away,and Pray you can live unoticed it is sadly remarkable how blind ambition wreaks havoc in this most beautiful County

  4. How dare our county council ever consider to infringe on anyone short of consideration of the strictest scrutiny. I believe it to be a treasonous act on every citizen to not limit every regulatory action to that which is limited to protection as is necessary to prevent harm. The CAO's just past simply divide the county into regulators and sheep. Next just continue to watch as CD&P continues to collect every right you thought the CAO didnt already take, this in the existing and upcoming new and better Enforcement Ordinance. Discretionary Power and Authority runs wild, if you read too careful you will find This Place and Your Country Sadly sold you out, and it has been coming for quite some time, all while we worked quietly in this place where we thought we had finally come home.

  5. Civic participation, good. Packing important bodies with "friends" not so good. Having committees meet just to think up things to justify their existence not good. Having County taxes fund multiple support staff for committees not good. (When I volunteered, we elected a President or chair who prepared the agenda and a secretary who took minutes. Part of the job.)

  6. The world of work has really changed a lot over the past few decades. As they say "You are your project." These committees are open ended, and after awhile seem to simply exist to perpetuate themselves with no particularly clear tasks or roles or outcomes defined.

    This just isn't how to get things done. Maybe the balance of good civic participation and elimination of these little angry knots of power and control freaks would be to simply restructure these committees as task forces.

    The Council, with public input would determine the task(s), create a project charter to perform activities to accomplish the task, invite and recruit community volunteers (perhaps combined with some specific county resources to get a job done) and then go do it.

    When the task is complete, so is the task force. Dissolve it.

    Is that an idea for reform that might help? Its important to create good opportunity for civic involvement and maybe that's the real issue here. How to optimize that opportunity? Right now the committee approach is stifling civic engagement and appears fairly corrupt. And little of real value is being produced.

  7. Excellent talk. I have been repeatedly taken aback, caught off guard, by County Government suddenly moving forward on some out of the blue restriction or program.

    I'm sure you have all had a similar reaction: "Where in the heck did this come from?"

    Over time it became clear that most County initiatives came from these "citizen Committees" and who sat on these committees?

    You got that one right away didn't you...while most of us worked to improve our land and or build a retirement home, FOSJ invented Kevin Ranker, stuffed every nook and cranny with those sworn to obey orders from the mother ship. They just bought and sold new council candidates.

    We got a very large house cleaning to do.

    Myself, I like youth and I like family farm. Give me those people.

  8. Bright and shiny new County initiatives that hit us unawares out of left field tend to be served up out seeming nowhere from some citizen committee ... Coordinated quietly behind the scenes more often than not by long time committee members who are political implants for special interest groups, not authentic citizen volunteer problem solvers.

    This is a problem.

  9. Nick Jones, a farmer, wrote an analysis of our County with other likened jurisdictions a few months ago. It would be good to review it now if the TH would be kind enough to pop it in here again.

    Mr. Jones, analysis was thoughtful and right on target in my view.

    Certainly Citizen Committees are useful and a big cop out for elected officials: "Oh, our blah, blah committee is the place to refer this discussion."

    Especially when the committee is loaded with your "Friends." Right Lovel?

  10. To the comments above regarding watching CD&P to continue to collect every right you thought the COA didn't already take... you are correct.

    The CD&P and the county PA is currently testing the waters to see how far they can go. In fact, some cases are going on right now in our community. Shifting the current enforecement intent UDC 18.100.010 from education and encouraging voluntary compliance to creating criminal charges against its own citizens.

    The CD&P enforcement are testing the following:
    1) using aerial photos as evidence and probable cause for legal searches.
    2) Requesting sheriff departments aid in civil matters regarding land use.
    3) Using its vast "discretionary" powers in inconsistent manner.

    Locking your gate and hoping they will not come for you will not work... CD&P currently is using changes to prior office procedure without officially getting approval from county council see March 28,2011- Report from Pete Rose/Rene Beliveau,Director of CD&P to County Council. If CD&P has their way, all they will need to do is internally generate a polaris picture of your property, recieve information by phone and anonymous sources regarding potential violations, request a search and seizure which will be given by Judge Andrews, supported by Sheriff Rob Nou- all elected officials, your property will then be besieged with multiple sheriff and CD&P staff.

    It has been done and will continue unless we stand up and protest.

  11. Holy Shit! I have always thought all this mapping was an invasion of a citizen's basic right to privacy.

    To those who think paranoia has gone viral, I'd suggest you worry a bit about yourself.

    Almost all developed lots have excess coverage. The big lots because of long driveways and turn around areas, the small lots simply because they are small. Most developed properties have structures built without permit or oversize in some way. Many, many properties have septic and utility code violations. Many have occupancy violations.

    The list goes on and on so building and locking a gate will not save you no matter how innocent you think you are or actually might be. Remember with the new CAO you are guilty until proven, at your expense, that you are innocent.

  12. Check out the new enforcement ordinance that the Planning Commission is reviewing and approving...if this does not scare you, I don't know what will. Check how many times it states "may".. This gives Rene Beliveau, director of CD &P all encompassing power with personal discretion. This is not a formula for consistency.

  13. Will each PC member voting for the new enforcement submit their own property for inspection?

    Certainly would save their neighbors from have to rat them out in the new society they designed.

  14. If folks have stories they want to share, you can always write to us at

  15. A number of the most strident CAO-With-Fangs Planning Commissioners are among the more significant campaign contributors to Pratt and Byers.

    Mere coincidence? We think not!