- Planning CAO/SMP Debacle --Virtually this entire blog has been devoted to the CAO/SMP mess. Shireene Hale has been at the center of the ongoing CAO nightmare the entire time. No matter what the GMHB ruling, the Trojan Heron doesn't see much improvement happening to the CAO process unless Hale's involvement is summarily halted. Hale has demonstrated repeatedly that her primary interest, as a planner, is to stop everything. She has displayed outright contempt for public participation too. Colin Maycock is nominally in charge of the SMP, and while he's no Shireene Hale, he has been referred to by Stephanie Buffum as being "on our Team." That does not bode well.
- Public Works and Stormwater -- Speaking of Shireene Hale, her husband, Ed, is in charge of the County Stormwater Program. The County Stormwater Program has been an open sore for years. We could talk about the (non) applicability of the stormwater manual to our rural circumstances, or the murky logic behind the justification for our stormwater utility and fees, but the ire of many citizens is most easily aroused when discussion turns to the Eastsound Stormwater Facility (i.e., the Eastsound mosquito hatchery) or other Public Works stormwater projects ... all typically overbuilt, poorly designed, ugly, grant-funded, and largely useless. Ed Hale appears to have been the mastermind of all of it.
- Public Works Road Projects -- Nearly every new road construction project undertaken by the County in the last few years has been a treatise on mismanagement. For instance, the Lopez Fisherman Bay Road improvement project cost millions of dollars, was way over-budget, required the cutting down of beautiful old trees, necessitated hideous wetland mitigation (Lopez's version of the Eastsound mosquito hatchery), nearly doubled the width of the road ... and at the end of all of the "improving," the speed limit was lowered by ten miles per hour by vote of the County Council that authorized the expensive improvements in the first place. On Orcas right now, the Mt. Baker Road improvement project is a daily banquet of blunders ... almost severing a high voltage power line, having a road height two feet higher than planned as a result of using LiDAR instead of an actual survey, and having to undertake "unforeseen" wetland mitigation. When finished, Mt. Baker Road will look more like an airport runway than a country lane. And Mt. Baker Road is just a warm up for the Spring Point Bridge project on the west end of Orcas. Responsibility for this maddening empire-building seems to rest squarely on the shoulders of Rachel Dietzman, County Engineer. In the eyes of many, Dietzman is arrogant, incompetent, adversarial, and hell-bent on suburbanizing and highway-izing every charming country road in the county. She also has a penchant for cutting residents off from utility access. Dietzman, whose husband is also on the infamous Marine Resources Committee (MRC), is another one that has to go.
- Conservation District Power Play -- The goal of the Machine during the last election was to take over the County Council while Ron Zee consolidated power at the Conservation District, which is a separate district of State government. The elections didn't turn out as the Machine had planned, but Boss Zee has moved forward with transforming the Conservation District into the pubicly-funded Kaaba of the Friendly Machine, with all the grant corruption that goes along with it. Zee's idea is to take grants away from the County and funnel them through the Conservation District instead. Zee is moving forward with transferring responsibilities for the Salmon Lead Entity, the LIO/AAOG, the Marine Resources Committee, and parts of the Agricultural Resources Committee. Already, the Conservation District has moved into new larger digs, hired Linda Lyshall, designated an office for Barbara Rosenkotter, raised the specter of appointing Kyle Loring as an associate (unelected) Board member, and made big plans for itself ... unilaterally ... without informing the County that it's taking money, programs, and people away from them.
We'll be elaborating on each of these areas in the coming days.