Wednesday, June 19, 2013

County Council Update: Representing Your Interests?

The Whatcom County Council had a big day yesterday.  Or so I hear, as reports from shell-shocked survivors trickle in. 

The Council voted to give its Seattle law firm $40,000 more for the Council's crusade against the Growth Management Act.  As the County cuts its budget in other areas, there's always enough money to pay Seattle lawyers up to $375 per hour to defend the County's decisions to flout the law. 

Rather than deciding to buckle down and plan to protect its water resources, the County voted to appeal the Growth Management Hearings Board's recent decision, which found that the County has not adequately protected water quality and quantity.  And that will be another few hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Speaking of not defending water quality and quanitity, the Council decided not to adopt an ordinance that would give some indication that the County cared, even a little bit, about Lake Whatcom water quality.  Rather than saying that new development should not increase Lake Whatcom pollution, the Council sent the ordinance back to committee.

Why?  Because it was shocked, SHOCKED to hear that the Department of Ecology is serious about wanting phosphorus pollution to be reduced by 87%.  This is NEWS requiring more SITTING IN COMMITTEE! 

Never mind the fact that the County promised Ecology, two years ago, that it would adopt regulations resulting in zero increase in phosphorus pollution in the Lake from new development. 

And last but not least, the County voted to flagrantly violate state law by refusing to come into compliance with another Growth Management Hearings Board decision.  I'm not even sure what to say about this one, because I've never worked in a jursidiction that had the gall to thumb its nose -- openly -- at a tribunal.

To make a complicated story short, the County has taken a couple of shots at coming up with a valid plan for its "Rural" area.  After its second shot, the Growth Management Hearings Board found that the County still wasn't in compliance with state law in a number of areas.

The County appealed some of these decision in court.  It didn't appeal others.  That means that the time for going to court to say "The Hearings Board is wrong" is over.

The County now has to show the Board what it did to comply with state law.

All the County can say on several issues is:  We decided not to comply.

So how will your tax dollars -- the $375 per hour that you and I are paying the County's lawyers -- be used to defend the County's decision to go outlaw?

First, the County will go before the Hearings Board.  It will have to argue that "We complied with your order by defying your order."  The Hearings Board could well decide that outright defiance is not compliance.

Then the Seattle lawyers can appeal that decision to court.  Will they be able to argue that the Hearings Board is illegitimate, that my clients and I and Futurewise are bad, bad, bad, bad, awful people (disparaging us is a huge part of the County's decision-making process), and that the Board made a wrong decision?


All that they'll be able to argue is that the Hearings Board was wrong to decide that defiance is not the same as compliance.

Is that how you want your tax dollars used? 

If so, please do ignore County politics.  If not, I hope that people start paying attention.


  1. Everyone in elected office hopes that the millions of dollars that will be required for water quality remediation efforts will take place after THEIR watch. What are a few hundred thousand $$$'s? Do elected officials in Washington get health care benefits and pensions the way they do in NYS? Personal interests . . .

    1. That is the problem with water quality, and everything else having to do with infrastructure. It's easy to put it off until tomorrow. No sense fixing the bridge until it falls into the river, I always say.

      Our local elected officials on the County Council -- the majority, that is -- are mostly concerned with protecting the "personal interests" of well-heeled constituents: property owners, developers, their attorneys and lobbyists. Then they call the rest of us "special interests." It's spin that seems to work in these parts.

      I personally don't think that there's anything wrong with paying attention to the interests of property owners, developers, their attorneys and lobbyists, along with everybody else's interests, as long as everybody is clear about what's going on. It's the pretense that they're the only interests that matter, and that the rest of us are mean and bad because we don't stay out of the process, that has me scratching my head.

  2. Wouldn't it be just great if Ecology did what they should and just closed the basin to new withdrawals in compliance with the law.

    But no, they just haven't got what it takes to stand the political heat. Gregoire didn't, and apparently neither does the new boy.

    The mayor should just move on, in keeping with Bellingham's earlier petition that elicited the promise you mention, and seek judicial assistance, a writ of mandamus might make the point.

    Oh, I forgot, Linville's the mayor now. Sorry. Never mind.

  3. Wait, I didn't know you were bad, awful people. I heard you were special interests. Like maybe you drink water? I know it takes it beyond Lake Whatcom, but it seems they are being short-sighted and acting against their own interests. They are going to need lots of water for their coal dump and all their slaughterhouses.

  4. I do think more of us are waking up (think field of poppies; Toto barking frantically I the background), finally, to the inanity that is our county governance since a-certain-faction-that-won't-be-named-but-which-likes-to-talk-about-property-rights-all-the-time-and-Agenda-21-some-of-the-time gained control. Obviously it's time to get to the polls in off-cycle elections and wrest back a sane majority because there's a whole lot more at stake than just a vote on a coal terminal. But in the meantime, I have a question: at what point do we reach the legal threshold for a recall, or have we passed it?