• Arne Mortensen

A tough day at the office

PROLOGUE: What is in our future if we don't fix government? Here is one likely answer.


Part One: Introduction- the principles

I looked in the mirror today and I noticed that I am getting quite fluffy. I was appalled at that realization. How could that be?! I never intended to become fluffy. Someone must have spiked my cream puffs. For years I have been practicing restraints, eating only when I was hungry, and eating desserts only when they were owed to me. Okay, I admit I ate occasionally for social reasons. But this really is not my fault; everyone told me that I deserved dessert, and I had to believe them. And, it all started in childhood, so it is out of my control; it was my [Italian] Mom’s fault, “Mangia!”

And, it isn’t fair. My Father was a slender athletic individual with great genes. Although he had a sweet tooth, he managed his eating, and he was active all his life. That reminds me of a funny story: he was at the Prestige Senior Living Monticello Park in Longview and at age 92-93 he would go out and walk [using] his walker. One warm sunny day (a condition he loved) he was walking around the long block that encompasses the event center when he decided to stop, sit on the walker and enjoy the peacefulness. Well, he fell asleep only to be woken up by paramedics kidnapping him and taking him to St. Johns. How this happened was because some good Samaritan called it in. The rest was bureaucracy at the control. The ending, so as not to leave you hanging: he was held for observation and finally let go with a diagnosis of “[no issues].” My Dad was embarrassed by this and did not tell me. I was out of town at the time and learned about this when I received a bill from the hospital. It took a little effort, but finally “they” all realized their mistake and cancelled the bill.

Why do I tell you all this? Because I am trying to remain calm after a difficult day yesterday at BoCC meetings all day. It was government as usual for me. Some nonsensical requests for the BoCC to grant advantage of some sort to some special groups … as if we don’t have enough of such divisive stuff. The stories above are largely true; the second one is true. Both illustrate what is going in government today.

  1. No one is at fault. [“You” caused it.“You” did not help me when you should have.I have a disease that leads me to abuse your property and your good will.]

  2. Despite continued failure to correct a problem we continue doing the same thing. [Surely one more cream puff cannot make a difference, and it surely will work this time. And we are surprised (because we can’t handle the truth that our emotions do not lead to effective solutions)]

  3. And that extra cream puff comes from the government’s copious coffers. [Personal responsibility is downplayed and government money (extracted from the public by force) is used to further the disaster. It is bad enough that the public has to pay taxes but using that money to promote [implicitly] problems [that lead to more demand for money] is criminal, standard operating procedure for government. Their cure is worse than the disease.]


Part Two, what happened on Wednesday, 4 Dec 2019:

There is much to say here, but I will keep it focused and will not report on everything, just what likely is of public interest.

Item 1: Castle Rock requesting the formation of a Rural Transition Area (RTA)

  • Remember the UGA fiasco of about two years ago? See . The local citizens finally were able to overturn the UGA. The RTA is the Son of the UGA, but there is some merit to it.The merit is that by state regulations, a municipal water system is required to have a plan, and to serve new customers in the county requires the approval of the BoCC (County). That should be a no brainer, but the RTA came with about three pages of stuff that makes little sense except to someone who wants to plan for you. Some language included saying that the City would be the ONLY purveyor of water in that area. Why create this and more entanglements? Yes, I am always looking for simplicity and clear solutions ... unintended consequences arise from complicated solutions. There were the usual, “[we are doing this to save the people money.]”And much more such stuff.But there weren’t any numbers; there was no plan presented. Conclusion:that request was not voted on, but it was clear that Dennis Weber supported it, and I did not. I support authorizing the City to serve areas in the county. Our Planning Staff will write something along those lines.

Item 2: Finding a location for homeless encampments

  • This meeting was attended by elected officials and City Managers from Longview and Kelso. They have asked for help finding a place that can be used as a regional encampment area so that they can move the encampments there.IMO we should help them. What an opportunity to show that the elected officials will work together for all the citizens! There never is a perfect location … a committee [comprised of Dennis Weber, the city managers of Longview and Kelso, and one appointee each by the city managers] was formed and a target date for an operational encampment was set for 31 January 2020. Dennis Weber tried to make this into a total solution, making his usual unsubstantiated assertions, never understanding that the entire country is spending billions of dollars trying to solve the problem … a problem that keeps on growing. His request is for more public housing (as if that ever worked), and he claimed that these campers suffered from mental health issues and that we need to help them. He ignores the fact that: A) we already help them. Anyone that wants help gets it. B) that we cannot (and probably should not) force people into programs. Any one with a focus on practical solutions knows this. C) it isn’t his money that he tries to pledge to the Welfare Industrial Complex (WIC). ALL WE CAN DO AT THIS POINT IS COOPERATE WITH THE CITIES TO PROVIDE IMMEDIATE RELIEF FOR A PROBLEM, LARGELY NOT OF THEIR DOING.

Item 3: Money for emergency cold weather shelter

  • Once again, we received a request to cover emergency cold weather expenses, this time by the Kelso Longview Ministry Association (KLMA) for $15,000. Last year we responded to this request from Love Overwhelming, if I recall correctly, by noting that the City of Longview was the entity making the emergency declaration, so (over my negative vote) the BoCC agreed to match any monies that the City of Longview paid to satisfy this request. I think we ended up paying no money. The vote this time was the same as last time: Arne-No; Joe and Dennis-yes. IMO, my colleagues play a political game instead of directly saying that we will not agree to that request (even as it is cleverly expressed in terms of matching funds). Here are some key points:

  • Emergency status for cold weather in winter is a ridiculous concept. Winter is winter.

  • KLMA already funds this program, so they do not need us. It is proper for this to be handled by private donations.

  • KLMA is a religious organization, so now we dance around technicalities about whether we are crossing a line over separation of church and state.The current situation does not warrant that risk. Money is fungible.

  • This is public money, so elected officials should be sensitive to the will of the people. There are two points here:a) If KLMA were an organization affiliated with a religious, non-Christian entity, would the people support this use of their money? b) Love Overwhelming is a key player in the KLMA.

  • The public is free individually to support this issue as it sees fit. It is unreasonable to use public money to fund activities that are not of direct value to the general public (The BoCC is responsible to the entire population, not just special interest groups.) Government should be out of the welfare business.

Item 4: Dennis’ plan to allocate funds from the Headquarters Landfill

  • We just went through a budget process that included the use of the $6 million that the County general fund gets annually from the Headquarters Landfill.And, surprise, Dennis presents a draft plan of how to use that money (twice? Or just go over the budget exercise again for his whim?) Dennis has been promoting the county’s involvement in doing something at the Coldwater center in Mt. St. Helens.The amount of money required to make this work is enormous, and there is no business case to support this effort. So, he managed to sneak this in, in fine print, into his draft plan. I guess he has forgotten the lessons of Hoffstadt Bluffs, a situation over which he presided? His plan included giving the cities 15% of the landfill money (minus the bond payment), an amount this year of about $500,000. There is some historical support for this that stems from trying to figure out how to work with the cities over a faulty agreement with the cities over management of the landfill. Dennis became the liaison to the cities at the time, and he wanted to use this money for inducement to cooperation. As it turns out, much of the issue for the county was resolved last year by fixing the accounting at the landfill; this was done with significant legal justification as well as State Auditor consent, and just plain common sense. Much to my surprise, Kurt Sacha at this Wednesday meeting clearly was taken by surprise to learn of the aforementioned status change. Something in the liaison interaction apparently did not work. What is the reason for giving county money to the cities today? The answer is left to the reader.

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