Monday, April 25, 2011
The Planning Commission held a "public hearing" on the Rural Element tonight. "Public hearing" means that the public is allowed to be "hearing" about decisions that the Planning Commission already made, right?
Well, wrong, in any jurisdiction I've ever worked in. But Whatcom County is a state of mind (as opposed to being part of the state of, say, Washington.)
Not only did the Planning Commission hold a "work session" before the public hearing, but it went a step further to vote on Rural Element policies and maps before the public hearing. When you know what you want to do before you set foot in the room, why even waste energy pretending that the public hearing matters, right?
Only straw votes, mind you. But after the Planning Commission had already devoted six hours of labor to its votes, the odds that its collective mind was not made up were very, very slim. Slim to none. None.
Of those of us who were dumb enough to speak, on the theory that the purpose of a public hearing is for the Planning Commisison to be "hearing" from the public, one speaker referred to the event as "kabuki theatre" (stylized acting, based on popular legends). Several referred to it as a "rubber stamp."
(What do you think that stamp said? Why yes, "approved"! Good guess!)
In a morbid way, it was kind of fun -- like watching a movie that you've seen over and over again, and you know it's going to end badly, but because you already know how it's going to end, what used to seem tragic just seems sort of -- banal.
For those masochists who are still interested, here's a link to comments submitted to the Planning Commission. There's a Council "hearing" tomorrow.
What do you think will happen?
Left out a few things.
Like the Planning Commission Chair's rousing speech at the end, denigrating citizens who -- after two years, and a confusing, poorly-conceived public process -- still cared enough to e-mail the Planning Commission to express their concern for Whatcom County and its rural character. She dismissed these citizens as nothing more than Futurewise "product."
In the past, Michelle has emphasized including citizens in the process; I was sorry to learn that her interest in citizen input did not extend to citizens who disagree with her.
Also didn't mention that the vote was 7-2. The two remnants of the 2009 Planning Commission, John Belisle and John Lesow, voted no.
Posted by Jean Melious at 9:52 PM