BY DONNA WESTFALL
In a single word, the major obstacle is CORRUPTION. We have plenty. Are things any better in this town over the last 7 years?
We watched $43.8 million dollars be spent on a new wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) encumbering this population to a total of 30 years of debt. And the doubling of the sewer rate increase didn’t do much because the sewer fund is running in the red. Expect to see another rate increase in 2014.
Now we hear that our city council, unable to figure out how to repair the deficit to the water enterprise fund, thinks 150% rate increase is the way to do it.
More debt because after all, the interim finance director said this is the way to go. Create a healthy reserve so you can go borrow more money. Don’t they realize that they’re repeating the same insanity that got them into this fix in the first place?
Or how about a recent article in the local rag quoting all the good things our city council has done like get grants for Shoreline RV Park. Don’t they realize that they are in direct competition with private RV parts which get no grants?
In the last 20 years; since the fall of the Berlin Wall, fighting corruption has finally become a major topic. It’s not just limited to our small town; it’s worldwide.
The biggest reasons for allowing corruption to continue to exist in our little town is fear, intimidation and complacency. We need more activists.
When numerous people asked for forensic audits on the WWTP, why wasn’t it done?
When numerous people asked our city council(s) to remove HFSA/fluoride from the drinking/bathing water, why wasn’t it done?
Now, at least one councilman, Gastineau, is of the opinion it’s safe and effective. How backwards is that when the rest of the world continues to remove it. Look at Israel, Australia and Ireland. Battles going on daily not only there but all over California. Gastineau lives in a bubble and that bubble is going to burst.
If you want to see economic growth and freedom in this town, you have got to get rid of the deadwood. That’ right. All those government officials and their cronies either have to have a change of heart …what are the odds that’s going to happen?… or they have to go and find some other town to terrorize.
Corruption in its simplest form is the common practice where some members of a city staff use their positions to maximize their power, income, and perks, while the general welfare of the city becomes a secondary consideration.
Now, if our city council were intent on making things better in our town, would they be raising salaries for people like Public Works Director, Eric Wier, or the new Community Development Director, Eric Taylor? Would they continue or would they freeze merit bonuses to staff? Would they continue or would they freeze any further annual increases to Bob Black for playing City Attorney?
No, they wouldn’t be doing that IF they were intent on leveling the playing field in this town.
They would cut salaries like other cities, not just benefits.
The next level of corruption is favoritism, cronyism, and nepotism. Elected officials and city staff appoint friends, associates, and relatives to boards and committees knowing that they are not qualified, and/or they have conflicts of interest. Often, the officials don’t expect anything in return for the favor, but the harm to the city can be dramatic.
I could have been one of the pod people if I had accepted Bob Black’s subtle bribe back in 2008. New and green to city politics, it would have been very easy to say, “Sure, my husband needs a job and I can look the other way on City Clerk’ Dianne Nickersons miscounting of the sewer rate protests.”
But that would be succumbing to corruption.
Acting based on relationships, rather than merit, also takes its toll when city contracts are awarded based not on what’s best for the city, but rather on favoritism.
Recently, Mary McGinnis, County Resident, made a public comment to the city council about the very expensive roof on the WWTP buildings. It was purchased from Siemens. I don’t have proof that any bribes were taking place here, but I do know that Siemens had to pay out $1.6 billion in 2008 when they plead guilty to the biggest corporate bribery case in history.
Corruption acts as a drag on the economy in two ways. It funnels many transactions into inefficient exchanges done between cronies where the economic gain is not maximized, and it demoralizes those who are aware of the inefficiency and unfairness going on around them, so they are less inclined to take risks, and to maximize their efforts. Why should they; when the fix is in!
When I was talking to other contractors about why they did or did not bid on the WWTP, it became obvious that this was the problem. Why should they bid when they thought the fix is in?
But, when I brought up what looked like bid fixing to my fellow council members about the WWTP, I was criticized and ostracized and censured. When it was time for the normal rotation on appointing a Mayor, instead of passing the gauntlet to me, Kelly Schellong thought she should remain in that position for another year. Was that perhaps, to keep my nose out of the books?
I believe it was.
If you want to see economic growth and freedom in this town, you will have to become an activist. Like it or not. It’s not going to happen with the current players in positions of power. You want things to change and get better; then get the lead out and get involved.