Monday, August 6, 2007

Either Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way!

Lee Iacocca, former Chairman of Chrysler Corporation, became famous for his inspirational, aggressive and goal oriented management style. In fact, that was why he was chosen to turn-around that troubled auto maker, which was in such dire straits. The title of this piece was the punch line in one of his ads, which also seems to have applicability here in Whatcom County.

That is the subject of this piece.

Lois Garlick -my friend- a spry and environmentally engaged senior citizen -an octogenarian at that- was the only person who actually stepped up to oppose the entrenched incumbent -Pete Kremen- as County Executive.
Others did consider it, but for various reasons did not decide to run, which is a shame.

Maybe they thought Pete was too difficult an opponent, maybe they weren't up to a gruelling campaign, maybe they had to continue supporting themselves and their families with more certainty at their jobs, maybe they felt unqualified, maybe they did not have sufficient name recognition, maybe they didn't have enough political backing and financial support, maybe they just didn't want to, maybe other reasons, I don't know, but that's not important now.

The fact is, most people probably don't know Lois, and many who do, don't think she has a chance to unseat Pete, and therefore aren't doing much to even help her get her message out. Maybe she is a dark horse, so what? She's running because Pete needs to be held accountable, and respond to questions about things which he has had the responsibility and authority to do all during his 12 years as County Executive.

Don't you believe Pete needs to be held accountable for a few things he hasn't done, or even tried to do? I do. That's why I've decided to not only vote for Lois Garlick, but to help campaign for her. Because, when you think about it, Pete Kremen doesn't respond to anything but political pressure, and without it he's just on cruise control for another 4 years. That's not OK with me, and I think many others feel the same way.

I recently received a reminder from the Whatcom Democrats -of whom I am a member- to support and vote for the candidates they endorsed. Well, I'm not necessarily going to do that, for more than one reason. One is that Pete Kremen got an endorsement, but kindly Lois Garlick did not!

What is wrong with that picture? Other elective offices even got multiple endorsements -and of course no one can support them all- but not the office of County Executive? Probably some good, bureaucratic reason for that little oversight, but the real point of this is to call attention to the excellent General Platform the Democrats adopted to support their endorsements.

Here it is:

"We support candidates who will ensure that our communities are great places to live, work, learn and play and:

Plan for and Manage Whatcom County's Growth Effectively

• Preserve our agricultural lands
• Retain and enhance neighborhood character
• Manage traffic and provide transportation alternatives

Protect our Environment

• Protect Water Quality in all Watersheds
• Clean up hazardous waste sites
• Restore and protect wildlife habitat

Manage Our Local Governments Responsibly

• Balance and Manage our Tax Dollars with Integrity
• Provide opportunities for citizen input"

That Platform sounds pretty good to me! It also fits pretty closely what Lois Garlick's goals are, as printed on her flyer.

What doesn't fit is that these good things were supposed to be the values that Pete Kremen stands for and will honestly try to implement to the best of his ability. And not Lois Garlick? Give me a break! That's just backwards, but as they say 'politics makes strange bedfellows'.

Then, the thought occurred to me that this admirable Platform could form the basis for a real life comparison between what Pete Kremen HAS done during the last 12 years, and what Lois Garlick promises to do in the next 4 years. How's that for serendipity?

So,following the Demo's Platform, here's a few questions for Pete to answer:

I. Plan for and manage Whatcom County's Growth Effectively

Please explain what you have done to make this happen? Is your plan working?
What happened to the overworked Planning Staff that quit almost en masse?
What about the land supply analysis needed to help the County adequately plan without sprawl? What is the result you would support?
What about the County's commitment to help the City meet its goal of accommodating over 50% of the County's 20-year projected growth?
Why was the County cited by the Growth Management Board for non-compliance?
Have those problems been corrected?

I. a. Preserve our agricultural lands

Why isn't there an adopted Purchase of Development Rights [PDR] program?
How many AG acres have been preserved without it? How many are needed?
What is the County's target PDR funding level and its source?
Why are there enough vested 5-acres lots to take ALL the growth for 20 years?
Why is the County still advocating and allowing conversion of Forestry lands to development?
When will the County make a determination of what would constitute sufficient AG lands to make AG a sustainable business in Whatcom County?

I. b. Retain and enhance neighborhood character

Why have Neighborhoods in the UGA been allowed to develop without full density, and City levels of service for Parks and connecting arterials?
Why has the County resisted the City's policy of requiring annexation before extending water and sewer utilities?
Why aren't the use of City standards and zoning required in the UGA? Wouldn't this help simplify the permitting process and make infill more certain?
Does anyone in the County Planning Dept have an urban planning background?
Why hasn't the County supported the new Local Infrastructure Financing Tool [LIFT] legislation passed especially to help redevelop Bellingham's Waterfront?
Does the County expect to contribute any Economic Development Incentive [EDI] funds to the Waterdfront Redevelopment? At what level? When will this happen?
Do you understand that Waterfront Redevelopment will not only clean up a badly contaminated area, but also aid Economic Development of our entire County, provide citizens with greater access to the Bay, and substantially assist the City in meeting it's goal of accommodating infill of 3000 to 6000 people?
Do you understand that LIFT assistance would only occur as progress is actually made toward these goals?
Do you understand -and can you explain- why existing Bellingham neighborhoods will be increasingly impacted, and housing affordability will suffer, if insufficient additional UGA land supply is made available by the County?
Do you appreciate how much work must be done to bring the City's development codes up to standard? Have you discussed this problem with the Mayor and/or City Planning Director?

I. c. Manage traffic and provide transportation alternatives

Why doesn't the County require traffic impact fees?
Why does County continue building expensive, unnecessary roads to support sprawl? What are the criteria for building or improving County roads?
Why is the important Public Works Director position still vacant? Is there also a problem in attracting and retaining Public Works professionals?
Does the County coordinate arterial planning and prioritizing with the City?
Are the siting of park and ride locations part of County transportation planning?

2. Protect our Environment

Please explain what you have done about this? What happened to the touted Lake Whatcom phosphorus reduction program? Who's assigned to this program? At what level of effort?
What happened to the Planning and Public Works Staff assigned to the Lake Whatcom Management Program for this purpose? Will Bruce Roll and Sue Blake and other experienced staff members be replaced? Can their experience be replaced?

2. a. Protect Water Quality in all Watersheds

What happened to the WRIA 1 countywide water planning effort that spent $4.3 in public funds million before it was halted?
When will this effort be re-started?
Why did the County oppose the City's efforts to acquire and preserve the Lake Whatcom Reservoir watershed?
Why hasn't the County established and funded a stormwater management system of its own to help preserve Lake Whatcom?
Why does the County continue allowing development in the Lake Whatcom watershed outside the UGA, without sufficient access to water and sewer?
While you live in the Lake Whatcom watershed, and also own developable lots there, what conflict of interest may exist between the goal of protecting the lake and your personal affairs?
Why hasn't the County enforced its own regulations, including seasonal restrictions on clearing & grading?

2. b. Clean up hazardous waste sites

What's happening about the former Nooksack landfill?
Why didn't the County support LIFT to assist the City and Port in their efforts to clean up the G-P, other contaminated industrial sites and former landsfills on the Waterfront, to facilitate its redevelopment?
Doesn't the County's Comprehensive Plan's Economic Development Chapter emphasize supporting exactly this type of redevelopment?
Please explain why this policy was NOT followed on LIFT?

2. c. Restore and protect wildlife habitat

Please explain what have you and the County have done about this?
Was protecting salmon habitat supposed to be a big part of the WRIA 1 effort? Since WRIA 1 has been stalled, has this goal been achieved?

3. Manage Our Local Governments Responsibly

Explain how you have been able to achieve a balance between frugality with public funds and providing the services that citizens need and want?
Why has the County accumulated unanticipated funds well beyond established reserve levels?
What is being done about the perpetual shortage of Sheriff's deputies?
What is being done about the need for a larger and more modern County Jail?
Why has the County resisted expanding Emergency Management Services to accommodate the post 9/11 needs of Cities and citizens?
Why is County staff morale and retention been valued so lowly that it has become an ongoing problem?
Why has the County Council found it necessary to hire its own staff, and attempt to take control of the County's planning function?
What does the County actually mean by 'collaboration' with other jurisdictions? How do you, and the County, decide when and how to 'collaborate'?
Why does so much back-biting and blaming of others continue to happen? Is this practice considered useful as a substitute for actually addressing and fixing problems?
Does your trying to avoid a DUI arrest help foster public trust?
Why did it take 3 ballot measures to get the County to fully support EMS?

3. a. Balance and Manage our Tax Dollars with Integrity

Why has the County accumulated such a large surplus of unspent funds?
Is this reserves excess the reason County property taxes have not increased for 12 years?
If these 'excess' funds are not required or timely used, should some portion of these funds be returned to taxpayers?
Aren't there demonstrated needs for these funds, such as hiring critical staff?
Why does the County consistently prefer more regressive sales taxes over property taxes?
Why hasn't the County adopted a B&O tax, so that businesses have more incentive to locate in urban areas instead of sprawling?
Is the County over-collecting revenues from allowing sprawl in urban growth areas [UGAs] without providing urban levels of service?
Does this practice effectively under-utilize urban growth areas, thereby eventually adding to sprawl?
Is the County Flood Tax fair to smaller property owners?
Is the Flood Tax being shared equitably with cities?
What funding source has been identified for WRIA 1? Is it adequate?

3. b. Provide opportunities for citizen input

When citizen input is given, does the County really listen?
Why not televise County Council Committee Sessions, so citizens can see and hear what goes on, at their own convenience?
Does official input from other jurisdictions, like the City [40% of County population], count as citizen input?
Are County Planning Commission recommendations considered citizen advice?
Are City Planning Commission recommendations considered citizen advice?
Are City Council recommendations considered citizen advice?

The Whatcom Democrats are to be commended for the excellent Platform they developed and adopted. They are not responsible for who decides to run for office, but must make judgements on which candidates they will support. Perhaps, Pete Kremen is the candidate most capable of diligently pursuing and achieving the goals of ther platform. But, I do have serious reservations about him actually doing it, because his history has not supported that expectation. Also, endorsing a candidate is not the same as voting for them, so maybe there is more of a chance for Lois Garlick than anyone thinks?

I believe that all of the goals from the Demo's Platform, are critically important. The really good questions they suggest can also help us find clues as to what has been missing in Whatcom County government during Pete Kremen's 12-year tenure.
The County Executive is the one person we can hold MOST accountable for any deficiencies, as well as any lack of initiative to fix them. Excessive non-action on real issues is considered a major failure of both leadership, and management, that I and many others find it hard to accept, as citizens of Whatcom County!

I believe that Lois Garlick can do a better job than Pete Kremen has done as County Executive. Not only better, but much better! At a minimum, she will not be seeking re-election as her first priority, and that's for sure. And, I know she has the gumption, integrity and courage to hire the talent she will need to help her do this important job right!

Let's send a message to Pete Kremen that we expect much more from our County Executive than he has delivered. And, if Pete is re-elected, we will expect him to seriously address each of the Demo's Platform Issues.

What do we have to lose by voting for Lois Garlick? Well, we might just lose something we ought to lose - continued sub-standard leadership for Whatcom County. What is really hard to understand is that Pete is likely more capable than he has demonstrated, and he has a pretty good Council to work with that would support him in pursuing the Demo's Platform goals! So, why doesn't Pete get on with the program and get something more positive done than maintaining essentially a do-nothing 'status quo' posture that only makes worse his legacy, and the problems our children will face as their legacy?

As Lee Iacocca said, either lead, follow, or get out of the way!

Sorry Pete, I'm voting for Lois Garlick!