Thursday, October 18, 2007

Campaign Rhetoric Versus Institutional Memory: A Litany of Concerns - Part 2

I'm sorry to conclude that the Weakly's October 17 Gristle was yet another quasi-nasty little piece of pulp fiction that diminishes and demeans every one involved in its production; the candidate it was intended to benefit, the writer, the editor (assuming there is a difference), the owner/publisher, and -most particularly- the two fine people who were so casually implicated by deceptive hearsay, thinly veiled insinuation, and innuendo by association with other people, places and times.

I refuse to reward this type of conduct with any more words than that.

Except, I can't help but wonder, if the Gristle's candidate condones such tactics to get himself elected, what tactics might we expect if he were actually elected?
"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go."
- Oscar Wilde

'Politics....Strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles.'
--Ambrose Bierce--

'The Irish are a fair people -- they never speak well of one another.'
--Samuel Johnson--
Since this blog continues yesterday's blog, I am repeating the introduction:

Sometimes there are discrepancies between what candidates claim -or choose to ignore- and what a more comprehensive recollection of history reveals.

If you want to prove a point, or get elected, you choose carefully what you want to talk about.

And, you know what subjects are to be avoided!

That is the subject of today's blog.

Yesterday's blog listed some reasons why I have chosen to support Dan Pike as our next Mayor.

This one lists some specific reasons that make it difficult for me to support Dan McShane as Mayor.

All of these relate directly to positions he has taken -or not taken- on some important issues, while serving on the County Council.
Here is a synopsis of these concerns as related to:

2. Lake Whatcom Reservoir - Good & Not So Good News:

• Unquestionably, some good things have happened on Dan McShane's watch, like the downzone to remove over 2500 units of future residential development in this watershed.

Unfortunately, this was done in such a way that it caused an unprecedented panic and growth explosion!
That is the polar opposite of what is good for the Reservoir - a building boom without adequate mitigation.

But, the Sudden Valley Community Association did also voluntarily adopt a density reduction of 1400 units, which, contrary to campaign rhetoric, was actually motivated by reasons other than strictly watershed concerns.
But, giving credit where it is due, that reduction is significant and will help protect the Lake.

Despite both these density reduction efforts, over 3200 additional homes can still be built -per existing zoning- in the watershed, which could bring another 16,000 people living around our Reservoir.
That prospect is troubling.

• But, aside from density reductions, better development regulations were also implemented by the County during McShane's watch.

Unfortunately again, the County Council refused to learn from the City's recent experience and failed to adopt seasonal construction clearing and grading limits, although this was strongly recommended.

Instead, McShane and the County adopted an unenforceable system advocated by the BIA, which resulted in large quantities of runoff into the Lake during the intense 18-month building frenzy mentioned above!

Only after much avoidable damage had already occurred, was the County Council convinced to change over to seasonal construction limits -simply based on the calendar- that mirrored the regulations the City had adopted in 2000.

• In a pattern that often seemed to consistently discount City efforts, Dan McShane criticized the the City's 2001 water rate surcharge as 'too regressive', even though its purpose was to preserve sensitive watershed.

A few other County officials simply called the City's Watershed Acquisition 'non-collaborative'.
And, predictably, the Water District had even stronger criticisms.

I found it troubling that these reactions occurred despite the fact Watershed Preservation was one of the three priority goals that the Lake Whatcom Management Program had officially adopted!

It seems like just 'talking' is a lot easier than 'walking that talk', doesn't it?

Subsequently, and to its credit, the County did acquire watershed property using its county-wide Conservation Futures funds, and also participated in significant joint watershed property purchases with the City.

• McShane and the County did participate Dept of Natural Resources [DNR] Lake Whatcom Landscape Plan -a 3-plus year effort- which did eventually result in better Forest Practices being adopted, which was good.

But now, McShane wants to transfer some of these same forest lands back to the the County by reconveyance to create a County Park.
This occurred despite the City's concerns with planning for more intense recreational uses in this watershed.

If the County Park does happen, replacement revenues must be found to compensate the various trusts -including schools- that traditionally rely upon funding from DNR timber harvests on these forest lands.

Also, additional monies must be raised to develop, operate and maintain this proposed Park.

Because the County has such a history of penny-pinching, even on matters as important as Sheriff's deputies and Planning Staff, I have concerns about its ability to adequately fund a large amenity like the proposed Park.
Don't you?

So, I have to question whether McShane and the County really understand what it is that needs doing, to better protect this watershed!

Others are also concerned and confused over the uncertain course being pursued regarding DNR forestlands around Lake Whatcom.

Some serious explanations are due the public on this issue.
And, it should be presented much better than under the guise of an election season 'Surprise', designed to help get the announcing heroes elected!

• It remains very hard to see how the County has been effective in requiring Water District 10 to tighten its oversight of environmental matters around Lake Whatcom.

What is the problem in notifying the City, especially when the Water District tries to aid and abet questionable development proposals -outside its jurisdiction- on Squalicum Mountain and elsewhere?

What's up with that?

Can't the County do a better job of monitoring its own development, and notifying the City whenever something unusual occurs?

• The spectacle of the new, County proposed Boating regulations was ugly too.
But, more than enough has been said about that already.

• One last matter.
McShane wants to establish a new City 'Department' focused on Lake Whatcom.

I think that focus has already been covered -at least for the moment- with a shared County/City Management Team.
Let's see how that works out before setting up any more bureaucracy.
Besides, such an action by the City might be considered 'non-collaborative' by some in the County, as has happened before.

After all, whether the required work gets done in a separate Department or drawn from several existing Departments, the critical staff involved would all ultimately report to the Mayor.

I've worked for enough companies and organizations to know that while organizational structure is important, it is not nearly as important as effective leadership, competent people and sufficient funding toward a clear goal.
If those other things are in place, the organization structure will become obvious.

As the County's main water purveyor, the City unquestionably has a large responsibility in protecting its water supply.
But, it will certainly need the active cooperation of both the County and the Water District to provide the protections that are adequate.
I sincerely hope Dan McShane develops a better habit for consulting Lake Whatcom's institutional history, and the wisdom to follow its hard lessons before enploying more campaign rhetoric that promises more than can be delivered.

But I have my doubts about that transformation happening, whether he is elected mayor or not.

Nothing in his history suggests that McShane is likely to change some aspects of his personality that tend to inhibit the inclusion of others, and of ideas different from his own.

Instead, Dan McShane comes across as essentially a well-informed loner, who is pretty good at the small geo-technical business he runs.

But, being well informed about the science of geology is not necessarily a plus in performing well in a very visible office like Mayor.

That office operates in a fishbowl, and requires of its occupant the interpersonal skills necessary to deal with a constant stream of people and problems.

Typically, that particular job demands more practical people skills than any other in a City.

Mayor is a job in which inclusiveness is not an option.

It is also a job in which anger management skills are a requirement.

That has also been a concern I've had about Dan McShane, because it has been a problem for him in the past.

We have learned from prior elected officials that being overly secretive, getting mad at people, holding grudges, and developing a bunker mentality of 'us and them' just don't work.

Most people expect much more of their elected officials than excuses for failure in resolving problems and business as usual that perpetrates mediocrity.

As the famous quotes states 'those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it'.

I hope we do learn from history and use those lessons wisely.

Let's make sure who we elect as Mayor has a much better chance at succeeding than at failing.

It would be irresponsible to do otherwise.
The Truth Be Known!: At a political dinner the famous newspaper columnist, Ann Landers, was introduced to a rather pompous Senator.
"So, you're Ann Landers," he drawled. "Say something funny."
Without hesitation Ann replied, "Well, you're a politician...tell me a lie."