Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Cycles & Recycles

Here we are almost to another Earth Day on the way to Cinco de Mayo.
Left behind since the last post are April Fool's Day, IRS Day and the day Congress passed Healthcare Reform.
Before that, the Ides of March and St Patrick's Day and March Madness, amid 6 relaxing weeks in San Francisco and between here and there.

Life has been mostly good from my personal perspective, partly because I was able to largely tune out the steady din of petty -and not so petty - arguments involving politics, of which the local variety is but a relative blip on the screen.
But, our local blip has much in common with the other blips that combine to fill the screen.

The endless debate about priorities, for example.
And the continued attempts to substitute personal agendas for sound public policy.
Or, the rancor, ignorance, disingenuous rhetoric and appearance of back-room deals.
Not to mention the continuous recycling of issues and debates that never seem to be settled.

One reason I started this blog was to document some earlier discussions and perspectives on local issues.
Those 350 or so blogs are still around to read for those interested.
Just search by label, date or key words to get a crude sorting.
Or, simply allow these words to continue their repose in silent cyberspace.

Before long, I will again explore other geography and peaceful pursuits, but before I do, a few comments on the latest political cycle:

Whatcom County

* This year's Council edition is -not surprisingly- a disappointment. First, Ward Nelson's 11-month 'appointment' seemed a deliberate ploy to pack the Council with enough 'yes men' to allow new Chair 'Scheming Sam' Crawford his way in negating prior Council decisions he didn't like, plus throw a few rewards to his puppeteers.
Newbies Knutzen and Kershner are, well, acting like newbies with attitudes, and voting the way 'Scheming Sam' wants them to.
We'll need to elect Nelson's replacement later this year, and hope it is someone with a more progressive bent.
Then, keeping a close eye on 'Scheming Sam's' shenanigans, which have the appearance of being cooked up with cronies outside of Council meetings, will be a full-time job for watchers.


* This year's single gender Council faces unrelenting fiscal realities, which can have some useful opportunities to cut accreted frills and rethink how services can be provided more efficiently and sustainably. Not fun, but necessary every few years.
Some City issues are also being recycled, like the misguided 'Big Box' ban, adoption of the South-side Parks Plan [read 'Chuckanut Ridge'], the ongoing UGA & Annexation debate, TMDL Action Plan for the Lake Whatcom Reservoir, generating real progress in Waterfront Redevelopment, Landlord 'accountability', etc. Just a few items of perpetually unfinished business...

Washington State

Despite desperate economic hard times and draconian budget cuts, the State appears to be better off than most other states, and positioned for a more sustainable recovery.
Re-emergence of the State Income Tax question, long known as the 3rd rail of politics, is a sign that the time for rational discourse is approaching, albeit in a phased fashion.
A few years ago, a Commission chaired by Bill Gates, Senior, concluded that a State Income Tax would provide a fairer, more stable source of revenue, particularly if coupled with limits and reductions on other taxes.
Those conclusions have not changed, although the motivations for such a debate occurring soon have.
This Governor and the current Legislature have proven themselves under intense fire and budget pressures, so perhaps that experience can be built upon for the future.

US Congress

Hope springs eternal for the so-called Republican Party, which has acted so outrageously obstructionist since Obama was convincingly elected President on a platform of 'Big Tent' unity.
Now, they are hoping to benefit in the coming elections by voters discontent with the economy, plus the contentiousness over Healthcare Reform, etc, which they -themselves- actively promoted!
Maybe they will gain seats, but will it be worth it to a country that deserves true leadership instead of continuous acrimony, misinformation campaigns and political games of 'gotcha'?
At least the Obama supporters demonstrated their resolve in achieving tangible progress on health reform that most will come to support once they understand what will be gained!
That could be enough to encourage the so-called 'R's' to change their despicable -and failed- strategy. But don't count on it! It might be easier to just change their name, to something like the Limbaughians, or something containing the letters F-O-X.

Planet Earth

So far, our international relations in the world have noticeably improved under President Obama.
But, time will tell whether balanced diplomacy can succeed under the conditions existing today.
Having help as the world's policeman is essential, and not an option.
But, extricating ourselves from our current wars and conflicts is not an option either.

Barring a series of set-backs, Iraq now seems on its way toward a more stable and reliable government.
But, US and UN assistance will likely be necessary for some years.

Afghanistan is different, and has less prospects for stability'
It might be simpler and more effective for the US to purchase all the opium or poppy production [90% of world supply] and thereby deprive the Taliban or al Qaeda of the major source of their revenues.
This course of action would likely require use of these funds for essential infrastructure and health/education services for the benefit of the populace at large.

Keeping peace and prosperity will always be a big job, but someone's got to do it.
I hope it involves us, both domestically and internationally.