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  • Arne Mortensen

Another Lost Opportunity, but a Teachable Moment

Updated: Apr 20

The regular Tuesday Commissioners’ hearing that took place last week on 6April2021 is a teaching moment of why we are in such trouble in this nation. What you will see is yet another step toward solidifying government power over the people, to solve a yet-to-be-defined problem. You also will see various tricks to justify the action by the staff, these tricks having nothing to do with the substance of the issue. And, at the end, you will be left wondering about the motivations of the other two commissioners, one who does not understand principle and the world, and the other who is steeped in political maneuvers for self-aggrandizement at the expense of the people.


The video of the meeting is available at this link: Castus VOD Widget, a KLTV Longview television station. The regular hearing starts at 0900, but the health department hearing, the focus of this blog entry, starts at the 45-minute mark.


The Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) depends on the staff to keep updated the County Code, which is the accumulation of decades of regulation and, expectedly, should be revised on an on-going basis. The question of making the regulations consistent with the Revised Code of Washington, the Washington State Administrative Codes, and the County Code always looms. County Code could be deficient in many ways.


In this case, the issue is about the On-site Sewer systems, septic systems, specifically about reconnecting to an extant septic system (Cowlitz County Code (CCC) section 15.42.030 and section 15.42.040). The staff, in response to some citizen complaints, proposed changes which they stated would help the citizen.


Reviewing CCC is a big deal, as it should be, because the impact is widely felt. At this point, I contend that the BoCC should start to undo rather than solidify the code that infringes on individual rights to one’s property. The BoCC should have studied the issue in detail and biased action toward removing constraints, aimed at removing inconsistencies.


Staff introduced the recommendations and cited that they “worked” with the County Health Officer (CHO) and the On-Site Advisory Committee. I asked specifically if staff had discussed the matter with the CHO, and the answer was no. I asked who comprised the advisory committee, they said it was system installers and maintenance companies.

==> Point One: The reference to the CHO was intended to lend credibility to the proposed changes, but it was false advertising.

==>Point Two: The advice of the advisory committee is tainted by self-interest. It is no surprise that the installers recommend a mandatory maintenance contract.


Staff insisted that this was to simplify and make it easier and less expensive for the individuals, but do their recommendations do so, and does it further a good policy? Here is the language that is included in several sections as a requirement in the changes:


“An O&M notice recorded with the Auditor’s Office, and a current contract on file with the Department, if applicable”


==>Point One: NEVER give a government agency the opportunity to enhance its control over you by using undefined terms such as “if applicable.” Are you willing to sign a contract with “if applicable” with no definition of what that means?

==>Point Two: NEVER give government another way to take money from you such as in the requirement to record documents; there is effort to provide this documentation that comes out of the individual's time and resources.

==>Point Three: Government picking winners and losers is poison. This policy benefits one set of people (the sewage companies) at the expense of the entire population.


It is typical government technique to simplify things by making them more complicated and more dependent on some agency’s judgement. My request to remove the language cited above was rejected, so I asked staff what problem they are trying to solve. No data and no numbers were forthcoming. They did not have any idea about how many systems were problematic.

==>Point One: Government is allergic to data, because typically the cure is worse than the disease. If the disease cannot be identified, and the effect of the cure is not tracked, then accountability can be avoided.

==>Point Two: Government acts to feed itself via fees and taxes. They cite problems which are not real problems. Have any of you found in the county systematic issues with septic systems?


Underlying this issue is the typical government posture that government must save the people from their own actions because people are either inept (stupid) or evil. This paternalistic view always leads to tyranny, which is what we are experiencing now in overdoses.

==>Point One: Politicians love this because it gives them power and the ability to exact more money from the public.

==>Point Two: Politicians cannot be trusted. One ran on individual rights; how is his vote for this measure furthering individual rights?


One commissioner, the typical politician, tried to derail the hearing by making an accusation that I am attacking the staff by asking my questions. How can asking staff to justify their recommendations be bad? Unfortunately, the BoCC often is asked to rubber stamp staff requests. What use is the BoCC in that case? How is this commissioner’s rant relevant to the issue?


Here is a minor apropos digression:

If actions/votes are the metric, one commissioner is not there to protect the people from government overreach. He does not care about the public; instead, he cares about the staff and the welfare industrial complex, friends of his … and a personal legacy that he wants to leave behind. I also note that the same commissioner feels free to vote on issues affecting CAP and teachers, even though he is on the CAP board of directors and has close monetary ties to the public schools via his retirement.


Recently he (and the other commissioner, whose wife is a schoolteacher) voted to give CARES money to the schools, which had already overspent their CARES money. The appearance of conflict is obvious, and that should be enough to have caused both to recuse themselves from that vote. By the way, that money spent ( ~$600k) then could not be spent on helping our local businesses.



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