What happens in the courthouse...

Unless explicitly noted otherwise, this blog represents my own opinions, not those of any organization (like the Kittitas County Democratic Party) that I might be involved with.

Feel free to join the conversation: welcome aboard!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Why you should vote for me and not that other guy

Ballots will start arriving in mailboxes around the county on Wednesday, October 15. Ballots can be returned at any time, and must be placed in drop boxes or postmarked by Tuesday, November 4.

I have been writing this blog since May of 2010, and I have covered just about everything one might want to know about where I stand on various matters. But that's a lot to read, so here is a quick guide to my thoughts on some key issues. If you're interested in something I don't cover here, just ask and I'll update this post. In the list below, look for footnotes that lead to background information.
  • Openness in county government: In the past years the county has received an unprecedented number of public document requests -- this indicates a serious level of mistrust of county government. In 2012, the county began requiring county employees to sign confidentiality statements, which was also unprecedented.0 Inexplicably, county commissioner meetings are not televised (or streamed, or available on the Internet in any way), unlike the city council and school board meetings of both Ellensburg and Cle Elum.0.1

  • Commissioner responsibilities: by law, commissioners are responsible for health and safety, capital projects, fiscal practices and policy, and economic development. Our commissioners have not been paying enough attention to economic development.

  • Jobs: we need to treat the need to grow more jobs as an emergency. Of our five largest sources of payroll, 64% are taxpayer funded.1 CWU is the largest employer (in terms of salary totals) in the county, and faces still more budget cuts next year.2

  • Business: the current county commissioners don't have any significant experience with business, let alone new businesses. I have extensive experience in business, especially with startup businesses.3 But the most important thing about businesses and county government is something everyone knows: businesses need a stable regulatory environment.4 Our commissioners have not been providing this.5 There is intense competition nationwide for new businesses, who often can choose to locate anywhere they like -- we need to step up our game.

  • Water: as I wrote back in 2010, the water situation did not need to become a problem, but it did. It may be fixed now, but that depends on who you ask. There are two key water issues these days:
    • the lease of water from Roslyn for Lower County rural home building, and 
    • the purchase of water for a county-run water bank that mostly benefits the Lower County. 
    The leasing of water to fill in the gap before the water bank water becomes available may be challenged in court. Because finally correcting the water situation is necessary to maintain compliance with state rules, it may be necessary to defend the county's approach, and I would support that defense if the Prosecuting Attorney's Office recommended it.6
    Following a motion by my opponent, the county unnecessarily paid about $51,000 per acre foot for one set of water rights, and bought others for as little as $13,000. It was very irresponsible to pay $51K for water rights; the fact that a well-known developer was selling the rights is fishy, at best.7

  • Illegal drugs: heroin is the drug we should be worrying about. There have been several heroin overdose deaths in the county in recent years. One overdose was two blocks from my house in Ellensburg.

  • Marijuana: marijuana is legal in Washington and Colorado, and it will soon be legal in a number of other states, including Oregon. As I wrote earlier, the marijuana industry could be good for Kittitas County, but only if it is handled correctly. Unfortunately, the county, led by Obie, has not handled it correctly.8

0In a newspaper article at the time, the commissioners excused this new requirement, saying some departments were already required to sign such statements. The existing departments were ones that normally deal with confidential information: the Prosecuting Attorney's Office and the Health Department. No good reason was given for expanding the requirement/
0.1I have written several times, most recently at this link, about the problem of inaccessible county commissioner meetings, which are a key cause of the current upset over marijuana businesses.
1I am slightly oversimplifying here: CWU's budget mostly comes from tuition. However, over the past 4 years, CWU's taxpayer-provided state funding has been cut by more than 50%.
2One in nine jobs in Kittitas County is at CWU. The average salary of the nearly 2200 jobs is about $40,000.
3I have been involved in three start-ups, two of them successful, an excellent record. My first company, Central Washington Biodiesel, is still operating, but I sold my interest in it in 2011. My second company, the Cascadia Carbon Institute, is active internationally. A third company, Bioalgene, failed to attract investors, but has a zombie web page.
4Fuel is a highly regulated industry, so my first business gave me considerable experience in dealing with regulations and regulatory agencies at the local, state, and federal levels.
5The marijuana industry is the latest example of the county providing unsettled a regulatory environment.
6The Prosecuting Attorney's Office acts as the legal advisor to the county commissioners.
7It turns one of the trickiest things about being in business is figuring out how to value things. One simple approach is to take the cost of leasing something (in this case, $500 per acre foot per year, from Roslyn) and multiply it by a time factor. Mortgages are often for 30 years, so that's a reasonable time factor. Multiplying $500 by 30 gives $15,000, not very different from the lower-priced water that was purchased by the county. The county could have -- Obie could have -- chosen to pay about this amount, and walked away from the $51,000 water. That's not what happened.
8For my earlier posts on this topic, see here, here, here, here, and here.

    Ballots can be returned at any time by US Mail or via a drop box (there are drop boxes at the Kittitas County Courthouse in Ellensburg, the Upper County Courthouse in Cle Elum, the Student Union Rec Center at CWU, and other locations.

No comments:

Post a Comment