Thursday, January 22, 2009

Greenways: Are We A Unified Community Or A League of Single Interests?

"I was born for a storm and a calm does not suit me' - Andrew Jackson

During Andrew Jackson's time as our 7th President, one of the major issues he faced was the so-called 'nullification crisis', in which South Carolina and other southern states became so unhappy with existing US tariffs that they openly plotted not to pay them, even if it came to seceding from the Union.

Imagine that; one of the original 13 states deciding that it gets to pick which national laws it obeys!
Think that 'states rights' stance might have been a little extreme?
Jackson certainly did, and he acted strongly to make sure SC did not get away with that divisive ploy, although part of the peaceful resolution reached did involve compromise and a progressive reduction in the tariff.

Of course, the kind of selfish thinking that the SC hotheads exhibited did not entirely disappear, and later was to use slavery to fuel forming a Southern Confederacy, which did secede from the Union, resulting in the Civil War.

It seems a certain similarity exists between these events in Jackson's time and the present, here in our little community.
Should a fractious 'South-side League' be allowed 'Nullification Powers' over how the voluntarily voted Greenways funds will be allocated and spent?
I don't think so!
And neither should the City Council allow frustrating the clear intent of the Greenways 3 levy and its related descriptive documents, passed 2+ years ago.
Yet, three of the four Council members who colluded -outside of public meetings- to rig how these monies would be spent are at it again!

This time, these would-be 'nullifiers' are trying to thwart the careful work of the Parks & Recreation Board and the Greenways Advisory Committee to reflect the very guidelines and principles which the Council had duly adopted.
The form this latest gambit has taken is to delay approval of the Strategic Plan that has been finally submitted after over years of very public process.
The reason?
Simple, they want all $6 million in funds designated for south-side property acquisitions, plus the $2 million in undesignated funds to go toward purchase of the so-called Chuckanut Ridge property [now being called 'Fairhaven Highlands']

You know what? That won't wash! And, if it does somehow slip by, there will be hell to pay!

The twin threads of this particular section are ethics and partisan politics, neither a particularly happy subject.
I'll try to be both succinct and accurate in these remarks, although each aim may somewhat counter the other.

Regarding ethics, the three remaining renegade Council members, the would-be 'nullifiers', ought to know better than to willingly and knowingly collude on such a scheme, not divulge their true intent at any one of the several public meetings held at which this matter was discussed, and then compound their 'secret lie' by lying about it again!
And, to say they now feel committed to a secret 'covenant' they thought they had made to certain advocates to spend $8 million in funds that were not yet available or voted upon, is ludicrous at best!

What about the 'covenant' all elected officials make -to all citizens- to uphold the law and fairly represent all interests to the best of their abilities?
That is generally covered in the oath of office that each Council member takes as a matter of public record.
I took my oath seriously, as do most others.

Should there be better guidelines for what constitutes acceptable behavior in a public capacity?
Maybe so, as was discussed 2 years ago, but the Council has not yet acted upon this matter.
Why is so hard to get people to reasonably regulate their own behavior?
Even if a recall or impeachment effort were attempted to punish these 'nullifiers', that is problematic too, especially with people who have repeatedly demonstrated 'creative', 'revisionist' and/or 'convenient' memories!
Lie to me once, that's on me; lie to me twice, that's on you!

Regarding partisan politics, that is an inherent part of our system.
But, there is a time and place for it, just as there is a time and place for the majority to actually govern.
As Andrew Jackson thought, 'we must resist attempts of single interests to seize power from the whole.'
Just as the United States is a Union and not a Confederacy or a League, the laws and policies that are duly adopted must be obeyed and adhered to by all.
There will always be a tension between the will of the majority and the rights of the minority, and that is as it should be in a democracy.
But, the majority must rule!

The Greenways levy that was passed by the voters, went on the ballot by a unanimous vote from the Council.
Of course, that happened only after significant compromises were debated and agreed to.

Nothing in the Greenways ballot measure can be construed to mean that $8 million was to be dedicated solely for the purchase of Chuckanut Ridge property.
If it had, the ballot would certainly have not attracted the unanimous endorsement of the Council, and most likely would have never been passed at all.

This last fact just underscores the falsity of the claims to the contrary being heard from the three remaining Council 'nullifiers'.
They are lying now just as they were lying by public silence 2 years ago- and do not deserve to represent this community on this Greenways issue any longer!
Each of the three should voluntarily recuse themselves from participating in Greenways decisions.
That was also the remedy I suggested to a former Council member, who has now passed away.

By acceding to these 'nullifiers' demands and delaying final adoption of the Greenways Strategic Plan, the Council may be unwittingly causing harm to Greenways, in any or all of the following ways:

• unnecessarily continuing a debate that has already been fairly settled.

• undermining public confidence in Greenways, as well as the competence of the Council.

• impairing the ability of the City to purchase any south side properties, OTHER THAN CHUCKANUT RIDGE, in a timely manner and at a fair value from a willing seller. [there ARE other PRIORITY properties to be acquired]

• wasting staff time.

• extending false hope to die-hard, single interest supporters who want CR purchased at the expense of all other options.

It is well past time for this destructive and disingenuous Greenways gamesmanship to end.
There will be no heroes created by its continuance, and no face-saving or bragging rights possible for anyone who has proven they can't be trusted to do right by this community.
There is no substitute for openness and fairness, so we should accept none.

Why not learn something from two of our new President's early actions?
Those include a no-nonsense Code of Ethics for Lobbyists, and a clear policy of openness and transparency which anticipates every issue be reasonably subject to the Freedom of Information Act!
That would be good for starters.