After you do, you'll wonder why this exercise would make County Executive Jack Louws or anyone else particularly comfortable with the group's "merger with Whatcom County Council of Governments." Except - it's so gosh darned exciting.
An announcement was posted by the Herald on December 13th, so this must have been in the hopper a while. Having seen that latest survey, WE can't imagine why this group would be given a major role in deciding folks' fates instead of being shown the door.
'Ever heard of them?
The name "Northwest Economic Council" sounds official, doesn't it? It's had that image a long time. But it's a private non-profit which has built a nice, job-secure business subsisting on grants for years. Nobody elects the people who run it. Those we do elect don't appoint them. So, like so many outfits in this town, they make a career of inviting decent business people with cachet to sit on their board and the staff gets paid for advising and promoting, and cranking out reports full of hyperbole and boilerplate.
What matters most right now is their "vision" and the expanded planning role they seem to be getting. Should a private special interest group be that involved in running the public funding steam-shovel? This group talks about shaping the community using financial incentives. What a nice word for... what? Gifts to the like-minded? EDI money, which comes from sales tax, is supposed to be used to finance public facilities. But the fund's use has always been stretched well beyond capital work, contorted over the years. If this board transition proceeds, WE expect to see a lot more grants landing in the laps of private groups with remote justification. Beyond that, too much meddling in "economic development" defies the effectiveness of free-market mechanisms that - never forget - are entirely free of cost.
With funding from another special interest group, this self declared "council" held four quick meetings last fall to prove support for their own joint "strategic goals for the community." By all accounts only about 100 people actually attended - total. On the strength of that they wrote a 20-year vision for Whatcom County. Let's put that in proportion.
The events are described on the NW Econ site as “extensive community engagement”, but participation (100/203,000 – which was our 2010 population) was only about a .0004296 sample. That doesn't even register 0%. That's mighty extensive engagement. Now this group, with a straight face, will be mind-melding with the Whatcom County Council of Governments.
- Tuesday, September 25 – Blaine – Blaine High School – 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm
- Wednesday, September 26 – Bellingham – Squalicum Boathouse – 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm
- Wednesday, October 3 – Maple Falls – East County Regional Resource Center – 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm
- Thursday, October 4 – Lynden – Lynden Library – 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm)
In all due respect, a smattering of on-line comments and letters have dribbled in since those four meetings. But the "input" is a sight to behold. There's plenty of anti-industry sentiment, big appetites for ballooning government services, and of course the ever-popular bent toward "conservation," which really means diminished rural property use to shoo people into dense corridors. Let's get on with that buy local, stack 'n pack urban future. Read the hyperbole - that's exactly what it is.
Before it slips into the annals of history, see the current EDI board make-up, created by ordinance, in code at WCC 2.130. If council allows a change of composition of the board, no more citizens need participate. Just staff, lobbying "experts" and officials, public-private partnering. Imagine the sizzle and dazzle, all that money to dispense, and pitchfests to hold. Representation always was a farce.
Neither organization has any taxing authority technically. WCOG has principally been a regional transportation authority, but with a huge budget. Together, the pair can wreak sweet havoc with their push-poll methods and those special Futurevision glasses. WCOG can ramp up Smart-Trips and Northwest Economic Council can ramp up the SmartGrowth and we'll all be so happy, with our swell new quality of life!
They're starting with an update of the $600 million+ CEDS list. Then they can roll up their sleeves and start throwing oodles of money at pet projects and enterprises in the places they fancy. EDI spending isn't reviewed by the Planning Commission, or a part of the 6-Year Capital Improvement Plan. While technically County Council must approve EDI recommendations, few recommendations have ever been turned away.
Us? We the People will keep on paying the sales tax and B&O tax that fills the fund. It’s more government – without being government. WE don’t mind having or paying for the government WE choose. But for government to make us pay for its own cheering section – this big extra layer of bureaucracy – no better qualified (and who cares if they were?) – making the most basic life decisions for us, at our expense. It’s unaccountable shadow government that costs us more than money.