We have a water controversy going on here in Whatcom County. It should be resolved through the local watershed Planning Unit, which allows concerned parties to thrash it out fairly and in the light of day. However, sensing power (or the possible loss of it), rogue government players have been scrambling for position outside of legally prescribed mechanisms to monopolize water resources.
WE're sure these planners would love to implement all those grand schemes they learned about in poli-sci planning school -- but for one important detail: a free society doesn't work that way. In America, government is empowered by the citizens, and not the reverse!
For example, listen to this. That's right, it's Jack Louws asserting at a State Auditor's Office (SAO) audit exit interview on Jan 30 that Whatcom County Council granted him "legislative authority" through an inter-local agreement, to "make decisions" and act without taking policy direction or being accountable to council. Wha... wha... what?! WE were always taught that such "powers" were not transferable between the branches of government. If they were, what would checks & balances and the separation of powers even mean? It trashes our bicameral home rule Charter.
WE have said this before: we have a runaway executive department. Is the council even aware of it? Are they okay with that? Do these people know what the powers of the government branches actually are?
The executive grudgingly acknowledged that his "legislative" actions must be open, but wants self-selected administrative "staff teams" to meet to plan on their own, as secretly as they'd like, beyond the constraints of the Open Public Meetings Act so only a few can manage water issues beyond public scrutiny. It’s chilling to see how far the five party* "Joint Administrative Board" junta (which claims to be operating under RCW 90.82) has strayed, contemptuously, away from the heart and purpose of the state Watershed Planning Act, which says,
The purpose of this chapter is to develop a more thorough and cooperative method of determining what the current water resource situation is in each water resource inventory area of the state and to provide local citizens with the maximum possible input concerning their goals and objectives for water resource management and development.
It is necessary for the legislature to establish processes and policies that will result in providing state agencies with more specific guidance to manage the water resources of the state consistent with current law and direction provided by local entities and citizens through the process established in accordance with this chapter.
[1997 c 442 § 101.]
The legislature finds that the local development of watershed plans for managing water resources and for protecting existing water rights is vital to both state and local interests. The local development of these plans serves vital local interests by placing it in the hands of people: Who have the greatest knowledge of both the resources and the aspirations of those who live and work in the watershed; and who have the greatest stake in the proper, long-term management of the resources. The development of such plans serves the state's vital interests by ensuring that the state's water resources are used wisely, by protecting existing water rights, by protecting instream flows for fish, and by providing for the economic well-being of the state's citizenry and communities. Therefore, the legislature believes it necessary for units of local government throughout the state to engage in the orderly development of these watershed plans.
[1997 c 442 § 102.]
Anybody listening to what executive Louws and his staff teams say can’t believe they hold any of these principles in any regard whatsoever. They appear to be operating under the principle that it's easier to get forgiveness than permission. That's certainly true if the citizens let them get away with it. Are we going to let them get away with it?!
*The five big dogs on the "joint administrative board" who claim to manage the whole watershed are Merle Jefferson (Lummi tribe), Bob Kelly (Nooksack tribe), Steve Jilk (PUD #1), Kelli Linville (City of Bellingham), and Jack Louws (county executive). Everybody else including council, outta the way.
Update: WE have added another audio clip from the same meeting with the reference to "legislative authority". Executive Louws very deliberately used this phrase twice, so WE believe it was no slip of the tongue. It was more likely very carefully chosen; scripted even. If his words were ill-chosen, then that needs to be corrected ostentatiously. Because the overreach implied by those words is quite a corruption of well established government principles.