Friday, November 30, 2007

Growth: Following A Predetermined Path to A Foregone Conclusion

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."
- George Orwell

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Demagoguery beats data in making public policy."
- US House of Representatives Majority Leader

Warning: If you are adverse to reading something longer than a few sound bytes, you will not be able to complete this blog at one sitting.

I thought that disclaimer might help those who don't have the time or attention span to take on this writing all at one time.
And, I know there are folks out there who fit that description!
Why, just today, a reporter linked to yesterday's blog with the warning that it was 'long', as is 'usual' with my submittals.

A week or so ago, I got a similar response from a member of the County Planning Commission, who had e-mailed to ask me what I meant by 'reducing uncertainty' in growth planning.
In response I sent him a link to blog on that subject, to which he complained it was 'too long' and he didn't have time to read it!

Obviously, there is a perceived difference is how 'long' an article must be to cover any given subject.

Running the risk of being called 'sexist' or worse, I once heard that a speech -or a writing- should be like a woman's skirt; long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to arouse interest.

Let me state again for the record, the object of this blog is more about the former than the latter.
It is about providing some background, facts and reasoning on issues that have already attracted attention.
It is written for those who wish to know more, not less.
It is written to demonstrate the basis upon which my conclusions and opinions are based.
That's it.
I'm not trying to become famous, controversial, witty, entertaining or difficult; I am merely trying to communicate what I know and have come to believe as a result of serious study, reflection and resulting decision-making, that might be of interest to others.
Of course, this blog also serves as a place I can record and store information for future reference, kinda like an electronic filing system.
If folks don't want to rummage through my files, that's OK with me.
Hope this is clearer now, because I don't plan to mention it again.

If you still want to read more, maybe just reading between the dashed divisions at one sitting will help.
I'll try to make them a little closer together.

Meantime, the drumbeats continue, leading up to the Whatcom County Council's decision expected following its Dec 4 meeting.

'Sprawl or Infill' are the false choices being offered, despite the City's EIS that concluded some of each was necessary if the City is to accommodate the 51.4% of the growth projected by 2022.

Let's see, the City's 51.4% equates to 31,601 new people

So, if the City agreed to accept new population proportional to its existing share of 37%, it would only need to accommodate about 22,748 new people, which would be doable by infill alone.
That is certainly an option, and it would be much easier to accomplish.
So why not just do that, you might ask?

Well, I think the City may be forced to do that, depending upon what the County decides, just to remain honest about what is likely possible to achieve.
But, initially, the thought was to take a larger proportion -if possible- to further the goal of densifying existing urban areas, of which Bellingham is clearly the largest.
That goal was always ambitious, but it was undertaken in a good faith effort.

But, that goal was undertaken before the City decided to require annexation before extending water & sewer utilities.
The County didn't like that, because it reduced County revenue from sprawl in the UGA.

That goal was also set before some of the people who now represent the County on the Planning Commission and Council were on board and paying attention.

That goal was also set at a time when a bunch of former County Planners were still working for the County.
Of course, most of them are now gone and unavailable for consultation with the current decision-makers.

But now is the time the growth decision will be made, so recent history has little role to play.
Instead, opinions based on data-free analysis are seen as more appropriate.
I think that approach is a one-way ticket to disaster.
Under the circumstances, its hard to determine whether ignorance or arrogance is predominant in the rhetoric being heard.

At a minimum, a lack of consistency, good faith, common sense, and decent leadership is clearly lacking.
And, I don't really care whether the recommendations given to the County by the City are followed or not!
Except, I do resent the monumental waste of time in trying to arrive at a growth management plan that makes sense.

I have absolutely no financial interest either way, except if unnecessary sprawl is allowed by County action, I will have to pay for it along with every other citizen of Whatcom County!
Those impacts will likely take time to be felt, so they won't be clearly linked to current actions -meaning current decision-makers won't be held accountable.
And, those costs will undoubtedly include significant legal costs -the absolute epitomy of avoidable waste.
That bothers me a lot!
It bothers me that the County decision-makers don't seem to realize the true importance of the decisions they are about to make.
They don't realize it because they seem to lack the curiosity, time, expert advice and long term vision necessary to make a wise decision.

But, then all those things do take time, don't they?
Maybe even a long time.
That means some folks won't want to read about it, because it can't be covered in short sound bytes!

"If the nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be." - Thomas Jefferson

"You can't teach what you don't know, and you can't lead where you won't go"
- Jesse Jackson

"Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome." – Samuel Johnson

"Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts." -Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Robert Louis Stevenson once said that politics is perhaps the only profession for which no preparation is considered necessary. It was true then -- it's true now.