Sunday, April 21, 2013
State Of The County
With election results due this week, we think it’s time to review the state of the County.
Over the past couple of weeks, the implementation of the new CAOs has been delayed a full year because no one can figure out what they mean. Even Shireene Hale, who wrote the language in the Ordinances and championed them, admitted in front of the Council that she doesn’t know what certain parts of the CAOs are saying. Despite this, certain of our fellow citizens continue to speak in favor of the new CAOs, as if they understand them better than anyone else. They don’t, and neither do the candidates who have alleged that they are simpler and better than the old/current ones.
The CAOs are still under appeal to the Growth Management Hearings Board (GMHB) by the Friends of the San Juans (who urged their approval), the Common Sense Alliance (who did not urge their approval) as well as others. The lawsuit regarding the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) violations also continues, with a decision expected in the upcoming week about a Motion for Summary Judgement heard in Court on Friday. An appeal of the CRC propositions is still alive too, but will not affect the election this week.
We have a new national monument, the meaning of which (like the CAOs) remains hard to decipher. It was billed as a grassroots effort to protect BLM lands here, but to many, the entire affair looked more like an effort to promote eco-tourism by some of the more prominent and connected eco-glorymongers in the islands.
On election matters, the candidates have raised approximately $110k altogether, with about $73k amassed by the partisan candidates (Pratt - $23k, Byers - $30k, and Stephens - $20k). Trust Islanders, a newly formed non-partisan PAC, has raised about $24k to assist the non-affiliated candidates (whether they want it or not). The non-partisan candidates, collectively, have raised only about $37k.
This election has seen quite a few misstatements by certain candidates in addition to the aforementioned claim that the new CAOs are simple. Jamie Stephens, for example, claimed during the League of Women Voters forums that the County did not add debt during 2012. While the County did refinance some of its debt in 2012, it also added $1.7 million in new general debt too. County budgets are at near all-time highs as well, despite shedding staff over the last few years. Structural cost imbalances also persist since staff payroll costs (which form the bulk of general fund expenditures) continue to grow faster (3% per annum) than the levy lift limit (1% per annum).
Despite the imbalances and the need to add debt, somehow Bob Jean has been able to find about $160,000 in 2013 for highly questionable purposes related to dubious Community Conversations and more advanced aerial photography for our County GIS system.
Committees are still out of control, although the Winter Council has made attempts to get their hands around them.
The Planning Department continues to hire staff, and the unspoken relentless planning vision for our County appears to be to create and staff an Urban Planning Department despite being a rural county.
The Stormwater Program remains confused, purposeless, and expensive.
The Network/Machine continues to thrive and speak out, as is evdent from letters to the editor. It continues to exert itself out of public view too. Ron Zee, head of the Stewardship Network, the Madrona Institute, and the Conservation District, has brought Kyle Loring of the Friends into the Conservation District as an advisor. Word has it that he is about to hire Linda Lyshall into the Conservation District too.
The State of the County? Still rotten ... with plenty of work to do regardless who wins the election.