Friday, March 28, 2008

Have The terrorists Won?

Just as I don't watch Fox News, I am also an infrequent reader of Sound Politics, as I find the ultra-conservative mindset of a lot of the posters there to be way too narrow for my level of patience — but that in itself is fodder for a completely different post.

However, while checking it for the first time in a couple of weeks, I came across a link to a story there that was originally posted on SLOG, the blog for The Stranger (which I also don't read). It made me shake my head and wonder if the terrorists haven't already won.

As someone who flies somewhere between 50 and 75 thousand miles a year, I'm no stranger to the daily stupidity that passes for safeguarding our freedom perpetrated upon us by the TSA. We might be safe from our own shoes, as well as from the evil possibilities of the imagined threats posed by fingernail clippers and toothpaste, but you have to wonder if these morons just haven't let their authority get in the way of basic common sense.

It seems that recently, a woman was forced by TSA security to remove two rings in her pierced nipples in order to pass security. The woman was given a pair of pliers in order to remove the rings, which had reportedly been there for many years. Several years ago, actress (?) Nicole Richie, had her breasts inspected by security at a different airport because of her nipple rings.

Given that some people have metal medical implants for hips, shoulders, head wounds, etc., should they be given pliers and a field surgical kit and ordered to remove the pins holding their joints together?

My question is, what part of the U.S. Constitution doesn't the TSA accept or understand? The First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of expression — and such freedom of expression would certainly include nipple rings — or the Fourth Amendment, with its protections from unreasonable searches and seizures?

If there was some "reasonable" concern about this woman and her rings being a bona fide threat to other passengers, it could have been resolved in seconds. Private booth, female guard. "Please lift your shirt... Okay. Thank you ma'am, sorry for the inconvenience. Have a nice flight." End of story.

Is it just me, or does that make too much sense?

In my opinion, the TSA is the biggest make-work boondoggle since the WPA, and hasn't really had any significant impact on making our skies safer. At any rate, find the Stranger story here and another version here.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Facts About SKIA and Annexation

The Port of Bremerton recently announced its intention to consider an annexation petition by the City of Bremerton on its April 22 agenda. That action is surprising, given the existing Inter-local agreements, established County-Wide Planning Policies, and Urban Growth Area (UGA) association templates already in place. These require a joint process for annexation by any jurisdiction.

Therefore, I was surprised at the Kitsap Sun’s editorial stance regarding the City of Port Orchard’s position on the annexation of the Port and the South Kitsap Industrial Area (SKIA) by Bremerton.

Some facts for consideration: The Gorst/SKIA Sewer Feasibility Study found having Port Orchard provide sewer service rather than Bremerton, saved taxpayers nearly $2 million. The City of Port Orchard has demonstrated its commitment to the development of SKIA by already providing capital funding, and constructing infrastructure to achieve that goal. As part of our joint obligation, Port Orchard and the Westsound Utility District (formerly Karcher Creek Sewer District) have completed a $21 million expansion of their Joint Wastewater Treatment Facility. The upgrades were sized specifically to satisfy the increased sewer capacity required to service the entire SKIA UGA.

Meanwhile, Bremerton’s own Comprehensive Plan concludes its industrial land capacity needs have already been met within its existing city limits — for the next 20-year planning horizon. So why do they need — or want — SKIA?

The existing inter-local agreement Memorandum of Understanding for Joint Planning between Kitsap County, Bremerton and Port Orchard, which was signed in 1998, mandates a joint process for Planning, Annexation, Growth Assumptions, Infrastructure, Future Agreements of Responsibility, and Governance. The City of Port Orchard and the Westsound Utility District have operated in good faith within that agreement.

So why is there is a sudden urgency to justify violating those good faith efforts, which are the most cost effective way for the jurisdictions to provide efficient economic development of SKIA? Could the private landowners see a previously unrealized opportunity still lurking in the shadows?

Whether that's true or not, Kitsap County articulated the path for joint cooperation with its 2004 County-Wide Planning Policies, which were ratified by the County, Bremerton, and Port Orchard, to benefit the citizens and all of the jurisdictions. The Kitsap County Comprehensive Plan Policy also identifies the need to resolve urban growth association — including SKIA — by the end of 2008, and to commence Urban Growth Area Management Agreement (UGAMA) negotiations. That effort has not yet concluded, and Kitsap County recently issued a Request for Proposals to conduct the necessary financial analysis.

Port Orchard is the poorest city in Kitsap County, but still committed the financial resources necessary for participation in the economic development of SKIA — which is more than Bremerton or the private landowners, the people actually driving this process — have done. Considering Bremerton’s unexpected annexation efforts, and Port Orchard’s request that the terms of the Inter-local agreement all parties committed to, be honored, isn’t it ironic that Port Orchard is suddenly being depicted as the obstructionist?

My job as Mayor includes working to create economic opportunity for the residents of my City. I'm sorry, but I don’t consider attempting to safeguard Port Orchard’s investment in SKIA by insisting these agreements be honored, to be obstructionist. I consider that my job, and I make NO apologies for doing it.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Lantz Pulls The Plug. Abel Announces Run For Her Seat

As the state legislative session ground to a close, longtime 26th District Representative Pat Lantz (D-Gig Harbor) announced that she will not seek a seventh term.

In a press release issued by Lantz, she stated, "I believe it is time to turn my full attention to my family — my husband, my three children, and five wonderful grandchildren."

Within hours, former Port Orchard Mayor Kim Abel announced that she would seek the seat Lantz is vacating. Lantz endorsed Abel, and said as a part of Abel’s press release, “Kim Abel understands the needs of our district, cares deeply about our families and communities and I am delighted to offer her my support.”

There had been some speculation when Abel declined to run for a second term as Mayor, that she would file for the county commission seat being vacated by Jan Angel. Instead, she will now face off against Angel, who announced her intention to challenge Lantz some months ago.

Lantz said she actually made the decision not to seek another term back in September, but didn’t want to announce her decision and be viewed as a lame duck during the legislative session.

That wasn’t really news to Angel, who said, “I had heard when I threw my hat in the ring that she (Lantz) was not running for another term.” Angel added, “The last eight years have given me a real good foundation. I understand the needs and issues of the 26th District.”

Without going into a lot of detail, I'll just say that as the guy who inherited what Kim Abel left behind in Port Orchard, I believe that Jan Angel is the most qualified of the two candidates — which is why I've endorsed her.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Thoughts On SEED

Are the Port Of Bremerton Commissioners running for political cover, finally realizing that the Sustainable Energy & Economic Development (SEED) project has lost favor with the majority of our overtaxed citizens, and that a serious revolt is brewing?

The Port's Executive Director, Ken Attebery recently "fired" SEED's consultant, former county commissioner Tim Botkin. Fired is actually the wrong word. What happened, was the Port terminated Botkin's contract to manage the project — a contract that reportedly paid him in the neighborhood of $12,000 a month. That contract was due to expire at the end of March.

So, what did we get for our money? As near as I can figure, we got a partially working Web site, some outdated printed materials, and some pie-in-the-sky promise of high-paying jobs in an emerging industry in some fuzzy, undefined, future time frame. But after two and half years and several million taxpayer dollars, Botkin failed to deliver on any of his promises. Not one single company has signed on the dotted line to locate at SEED.

For that kind of money, taxpayers had a right to expect a high level of performance from Botkin. He couldn't even put together a coherent grant application. Instead of spending a couple of thousand dollars on a professional grant writer, in one instance, he kept the money in his own pocket and did it himself. He scored 345 points out of a possible 1,000 — nearly at the very bottom of the list.

I have to believe it was Botkin's arrogance — once again — that was his undoing, just as it was when he was defeated as commissioner after only one term. As an incumbent, that election was his to lose, and in spite of a solid Democratic majority in this county, a Republican political neophyte didn't just beat him — she spanked him. On the day after that election, I asked a key Democratic Party insider why he thought that had happened. His unhesitating answer: "Tim's f***ing arrogance did him in."

What is probably the straw that broke the camel's back in this instance was an email Botkin sent to political supporters urging them to bring as much pressure to bear on the Port and other elected officials to keep the project fully funded (read: keep him fully employed). Feeding at the government trough a large part of his working life, Botkin obviously doesn't "get" that so blatantly politicizing something that is strictly a case of knowing that business demands results, is exactly why Botkin failed to bring SEED to fruition.

To illustrate that point, he attempted to misdirect criticism away from the poor job he did, by issuing self-serving statements, like, "...SEED was growing so fast and the Port doesn't have the system to support that." In another, he said, "My retrospective is I asked the Port for more than they can do." The bottom line is Botkin didn't produce results. End of story. If he'd have been working in the private sector, he more than likely would have been canned long before now.

Another illustration of Botkin politicizing SEED, was when he went to Olympia to testify against NASCAR and strong-arm legislators against supporting the legislation to make it possible. As the consultant for SEED, he had absolutely no business doing that. In fact, had NASCAR come here, it was ready to partner with SEED — reportedly to the tune of a couple million dollars for openers.

What Botkin received in political payback was Sen. Phil Rockefeller diverting over a million tax dollars earmarked for a project in Bremerton, to SEED. What is most interesting here is that SEED isn't even in Rockefeller's district — but Rockefeller opposed NASCAR. This happened after after it came to light NASCAR and Bremerton were discussing the possibility of it annexing the proposed site — taking the decision-making out of the county's hands and away from vitriolic opponent Commissioner Chris Endresen — Botkin's political partner before his defeat.

Again, it was Botkin politicizing SEED instead of understanding it is a business proposition.

So where does SEED go from here? Port Chair Kincer deserves to be commended for insisting on independent third-party reviews of SEED's business plan and funding mechanisms. She has also suggested the project partner with a research institution, and explore working with private industrial developers. This is Business 101 — which is what Botkin should have been doing from the very beginning.

A LOT of money has been invested in SEED — the taxpayers have in essence been the unwilling venture capitalists for this project. I also believe it is a sound concept that should go forward. However, if anything is abundantly clear, it is that Tim Botkin should have never been the person in charge. While he a passionate environmentalist, his blatant, "I know what's best for you," arrogance, has also made him a lightening rod for controversy. And like his political opposition to NASCAR, because of his inexperience in the business world, he has mismanaged what could be a golden opportunity, almost into oblivion — all at the taxpayer's expense.