Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Gaggle Of Scandals

Scandals here are de rigeur, and it remains to be seen whether the new Council and Manager can do anything to stop them.
  • 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.
And there are other scandals, such as staff who lie to Council ... unmitigated conflicts of interest ... and threats of retaliation to employees who attempt to make things better.

We'll be elaborating on each of these areas in the coming days.


  1. Is Dietman the big pusher for the Guardrail campaign? I have no problem with a guardrail if there is a proven need, but we're getting these things willy nilly even on the wrong side of the road. Wrong side being the side you slide away from if you lose it on ice or snow.

    Also, seemed to me the Roche Harbor Road was years away from needing a new chip seal. But this place is so spendy, why not. Meanwhile the Town of Friday Harbor is pothole poor, unless the right political group wants a 100K gift for their private hobby project.

  2. The guardrail thing was a solution looking for a problem. Feds said, "we have safety money, who wants some".

    Do some areas need them, perhaps. A number of the SJi locations however, are patently absurd.

    We should see Hale promoted any day now, given her extensive list of failures and debacles.

  3. Widened roads, "re-aligned" roads, guard rails, trees removed. Soon we'll look just like the mainland. That should help bring in the tourist dollars.

    Ask Public Works and the Council what happened to our Scenic Roads Manual...

  4. oinnedThe County Engineer is indeed the source of the guardrail campaign. She finds a grant, gets it, and then decides where she can justify using it, usually by referring to accidents/deaths that had nothing to do with the project at hand. I'm puzzled why the federal and state governments give out grants to "study" the need for guardrails yet also dump a couple hundred (or million) dollars in for the project itself, so that there's never a question about whether we need it.

  5. Golly, the new bridge on Channel Road is going to cost $3 million. Right now it's a cute two-lane bridge, but the plan is to open it up, make it twice the length and width and dredge out the lagoon to allow for the nonexistent salmon to play. But $3 million? Wow. I guess the governments are all operating on surpluses.

  6. Spend. spend, spend, but why not build an self sustaining local economy that does not need false job creation building roads/bridges/guardrails/etc. in the name of jobs short lived and really unproductive work.

    At least the WPA did some remarkable things, construction that made sense.

    Now we have incompetent directors firing expensive projects at problems that don't exist.

    If "Trust Islanders" needs a headline it should be: "Why do we focus on problems that don't exist?"

  7. In Moran State Park you have to wait to cross a single lane bridge. Is this a big deal for anyone?

    Let you all rise up and demand demo and a new monster bridge! Please, we can't wait any longer. (Reply to Ms. Dietman, Head Engineer, SJC)

  8. And don't forget folks, in order to vote on who sits on the "CD" board, you must REQUEST A BALLOT.(Yeah, soon we will be known as Florida North.)

    This means of course that if voters are working all the time or just not paying attention, Ron Zee will run the CD forever.

  9. Apparently the Trojan Heron has some misinformation regarding the Mt. Baker Road Project. No electrical lines have come close to being severed. No section of the roadway has been raised two feet. The wetland mitigation work is part of the project.

  10. @12:25

    We stand by our comments, and rather than go into detail here, look for future posts going into detail about each of the claims that we've made.