Opinion Piece by Samuel Strait – March 28, 2016 – After a series of rather questionable decisions by both the Board of Supervisors and especially the City Council, one would wont to ask how these decisions came about because they clearly do not represent results that are in the best interests of the people that they claim to represent. After all we go to the polls to elect people that no matter what they feel themselves, what their unelected staff tells them, or how many paid consultants weigh in, to bend to the will and circumstance of their constituents and make decisions accordingly. Seems rather simple, and it should be, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
So often in this day and age we seem to end up with representation that is motivated by personal agenda, or the creation of a legacy, even when they are aware of the nature of their respective communities yet seem to forget that nature when in the throes completing that next massive public works project.
I seem to recall back in 1996, the first year that Martha McClure was running for office, her saying that she was appalled by a $2,000,000.00 debt that was on the books owed by the people of this County and how were we ever going to deal with it. Here we are twenty years later, and still sitting Supervisor McClure, has us up to somewhere in the neighborhood of $90,000,000.00 plus interest, and growing.
Granted Supervisor McClure has not been responsible directly for all of the debt, but she and many other representatives are for their part in the over reach and inability to allow for the creation of a sustainable economy with growth and development which could have had some hope of paying this massive debt. Instead we are left with representatives at the City who pass water rate hikes yet are unaffected by those hikes, while many of the people they claim to represent are greatly affected. For the past twenty years we have had but meager growth, no where near the amount necessary to pay for a $43.8 million dollars sewer plant, a $25 million school facilities bond, a $70+ million harbor reconstruction, $1.3 million in 2014 alone for Dump closure and transfer station, sales tax increase for the fair, and an unknown amount for the new airport terminal to name a few such projects.
When are our elected officials going to step up and realize that the sewer plant was a bad idea and eventually will bankrupt Crescent City, the Harbor reconstruction might be pretty but we don’t have million dollar yachts to fill the slips, the DNSWMA is past due to be eliminated, what has the school district done with $25 million that directly benefits the education of our children, why with a six figured salaried Fair Director can’t the fair pay for itself, and what in the world do we need with a multi-million dollar terminal which will handle less than fifty passengers a day?
It seems that this grandiose thinking by our elected officials, no doubt spurred on by hired executive directors of this or that part of the government, or by hired consultants all assuring that one stupidity after another was within reach, something that never seems to happen.
We do not have a timber industry, lumber industry, or mining any more. The fishing industry will soon follow, making that harbor a rather poor investment. Once the farming in the Smith River Delta is eliminated, we will be left with a few meager months of tourism, certainly not sustainable year round and Pelican Bay Prison. The cottage industries promised by Supervisor McClure are no where to be found. Our road situation is either too expensive to fix or tied up by the activities of the Friends of Del Norte. Our air service might have an unnecessary multi-million dollar terminal, but no extended runway to make it some what useful.
I suspect our current elected officials, if they even can drum up sufficient energy to think about it, are overwhelmed by the dire situation both Crescent City and Del Norte County find themselves. Sooner or later if something is not done, we will find ourselves with a shrinking population, empty store fronts and vacant housing. This is not a time where what is happening now is good enough. The cost of living in Del Norte County will soon make our best and brightest move on to greener pastures. If our current crop of elected officials cannot make it happen, maybe it is time for some changes. Seems like twenty years is long enough to see some results.