08/22/2007: "Local Control"
Remember when local people used to gather at various places around the islands to talk about issues that were important to them? The grocery store, the coffee shops, and almost any place where people gathered you could hear discussions about local issues that concerned islanders. We knew that we could actually change the direction of local government if things were out of whack. Sadly, those days are gone.
Now our elected leaders have given away most of our local control to people that don’t live here and don’t share our concerns. They seem determined to wriggle out of their responsibility for making decisions locally. As a result most decisions about local issues are made by the State. This idea of passing the buck is disconcerting to me.
It began when we gave our authority to plan our future over to the state government by signing on to the GMA. Now an unelected board of bureaucrats must approve all of our local planning decisions. We must beg them for mercy when we fail to comply with their demands in a timely manner. If we fail to please them they have the power to punish us. The people we trusted to represent us sold our cherished local control for a pittance without understanding the implications of the deal.
For those of you who thought “home rule” would bring decision making back to the local level, think again. One of the first things to happen under the Charter was the appointment of a “big city” Administrator to manage county affairs. Of course he needed a staff of people around him to insulate him from the unwashed locals. He even hired an outside “communications specialist” to spin things in defense of those decisions that may seem unpopular to those of us concerned about the truth. There’s more.
Our new Council seems bent on giving away any remaining power that may have been inadvertently left to the people. They gave away the opportunity for local people to elect a new Superior Court Judge. They decided that the State Governor should appoint one instead of the islanders who actually know the candidates personally.
When the people used the power of referendum for the first time to petition the Council’s decision to place an unfair tax on citizens, their first choice of action was to take the power to decide away from the people and give it to an off-island judge. They seem oblivious to the democratic principles that we cherish.
Several years ago there was a victory for local control that seems to be forgotten today. The big bumbling bureaucracy called NOAA attempted to place all of San Juan County in a protective bubble called a “Marine Sanctuary”. In those days our leaders knew how precious local control was and said, “No thanks, we’ll do it ourselves.” So they created the Marine Resources Committee made up of locals to deal with our own surrounding marine environment.
Now it seems that this committee has become an advocate for choosing another big bumbling bureaucracy to manage our surrounding waters instead of us. They recommend giving up local control to yet another state agency in Olympia.
Because our Council is determined to give away local control they will jump at any chance to hand it off. They are now in the process of giving control of San Juan County over to the Department of Natural Resources, to be managed as an “Aquatic Reserve”.
This action will make things much easier for the overworked and underpaid Council. They will no longer have to decide what is best for the County. According to Council Chair Bob Myhr, “less choices make the process easier.” Apparently he believes the State will be a better steward of our County than the people who live here. Fewer choices for the local people equal loss of local control. You can thank these guys for selling us out again.
I guess the Council has decided that it will be better to let bureaucrats in Olympia decide our fate. For example, we won’t have to be concerned about pesky laws that require power companies to generate alternative energy by placing tidal turbines in Cattle Pass. Let the bureaucrats and the power company executives work out a deal. The Council can relax while the people can rest assured that the bureaucrats have our best interests at heart. With local decision making muted they will have less to worry about.
How very sad.