Through the cloud of email comes a summary of what county commission candidate Sandra Romero (endorsed by me) sent to the Olympian and what the Olympian actually wrote for this article.
It was a normal side box summary of the candidate’s positions, which took some input from the candidates themselves. Apparently the nuances of Romero’s positions were muddled.
My answers to The Olympian questionnaire before they edited them.
1. Land use, hitting a balance between growth and economic development.
Growth is inevitable…. surely so here in Thurston County. We must do a much better job of guiding development. Indiscriminate ‘economic development’… indiscriminate ‘growth’… make almost all of us ‘poorer’. The community, as a whole, is unquestionably ‘the loser’ when it comes to indiscriminate ‘rapid growth’. Given Thurston County’s location, at the ever-growing southern edge of Metro Puget Sound… just any kind of growth doesn’t need to be courted here… growth is going to locate itself here, regardless of whether we court it or not. To the extent we court growth, it should be quality growth.
The challenge is for us is to retain our unique character and not become “everywhere else USA”
We need to become a community that so loves and honors what’s left of our local natural treasurers that we give ourselves a local government that will assertively, consistently, act to preserve that which cannot be replaced. Thurston County must come to grips with the vulnerability and perishability of its remaining natural environment. We can’t possibly preserve an adequate portion of natural Thurston County by simply maintaining a few County Parks and purchasing a few development rights out in the rural areas. I am a charter member of the Nisqually Land Trust and on the Advisory Council of the Capitol Land Trust and know there is not enough money to purchase all that is necessary to protect our drinking water, air quality, restore Puget Sound and protect our rivers and streams. I think we can do a better job in implementing conservation market strategies, like transfer of development rights, to preserve rural lands. We must come to realize that the only viable pathway to avoiding ‘sprawl’ and the permanent loss of irreplaceable natural settings in Thurston County… is a stand-up Thurston County government that will champion that objective, stick to that principle, and not waver in the face of short-term pressure for more tax revenues and the unrelenting pressure tactics of the “build everything everywhere right now” usually from out of county special interests. When it comes to tax burdens that result from ‘new construction’, we must require ‘new construction’ to pay for its proportionate share of increased public costs.
ROMERO: Thurston County must come to grips with the vulnerability and perishability of its remaining natural environment.
I am a charter member of the Nisqually Land Trust and on the Advisory Council of the Capitol Land Trust and know there is not enough money to purchase all that is necessary to protect our drinking water, air quality, restore Puget Sound and protect our rivers and streams.
I think we can do a better job in implementing conservation market strategies, like transfer of development rights, to preserve rural lands. We must require new construction to pay for its proportionate share of increased public costs.
Romero version on county budget shortfall:
Thurston County government has some extremely serious financial problems, which are not being dealt with adequately. A really major problem is a $4.5 million budget shortfall. Not ALL of Thurston County government is in extremely serious financial shape, but certain parts of it… very vital parts… are in extremely serious financial shape. 2008 is the last ‘quiet year’ before these financial troubles become no longer postponeable.
Services that are financed by the County’s ‘general taxes’…. (the general County property tax, and the ‘general’ portions of the County sales tax)… are most certainly headed towards great financial difficulty in the years just ahead. In 2008, Thurston County government will consume several million dollars in ONE-TIME, non-replaceable reserve cash… merely in order to make it through 2008 without dramatic cutbacks. It’s possible (but not advisable) that Thurston County government could do something like that again in 2009… but doing so would be very damaging, in the long-run… because the very limited one-time cash reserves of the County are just about exhausted. Meanwhile, we hear the constant drumbeats of the needs for actually increasing&nbs p;expenditures of general taxes… primarily for the County’s Law and Justice services, which consume more than 3/4ths of total general taxes now. 2009 and 2010 will be pivotal, crucial years for Thurston County government services financed by general taxes. This community needs resolve and action now from the County Commissioners.
Amidst the difficulties, there are also opportunities. We’ve got to discover and implement every possible restructuring move that can help sustain the County government through the very tough years immediately ahead. Implementing some of the strategies of the December CTED (Dept of Community, Trade and Economic Development) report, aligning department budgets with results, enhancing budget/policy analysis capabilities, integrating budget priority settings, more frequent budget updates to the County Commissioners and a strategic plan can all help in the long run. Should cuts need to be made, they should be done with knowledge and extreme care to assure top priorities are maintained.
ROMERO: Thurston County has a $4.5 million budget shortfall; 2008 is the last “quiet year” before these financial troubles become no longer postponable. We’ve got to implement every possible restructuring move to help sustain county government. Aligning department budgets with results, giving more frequent budget updates to county commissioners and having a strategic plan are several steps. Any cuts should be done to maintain top priorities.
Romero’s answer on “Public safety, crime prevention, enforcement, offender treatment.”
Thurston County government devotes every available dollar… and more… to the ongoing struggle to find money to fund the ever-increasing costs and service-levels of public safety, law and justice. For example: the County’s General Fund is tasked with financing two essential categories of public services: (1) law and justice (the sheriff, the jail, the courts), and (2) the County’s several other elected public service offices (the auditor, the assessor, the treasurer, the commissioners). However, over the past 15 years (1993 to 2008)… ALL of the County’s increases to general-tax-financed public services have gone to ONE type of Count y public service: law and justice (public safety). Thurston County’s biggest financial problem is: the inability of growth in general tax revenues to keep pace with the ever-increasing costs of the ever-expanding size of County ‘law and justice services’.
One key to this is more sensible land use policies. Our county’s development patterns have resulted in neighborhoods spread all over the County, putting a massive stress on both law enforcement and street maintenance. By concentrating this development into the urban growth area, we can cut the cost of providing infrastructure dramatically.
ROMERO: In the past 15 years, all of the county’s increases to general-tax-financed public services have gone to law and justice. We can keep pace with this by concentrating development in the urban growth area to cut costs to supply public-safety services in the outlying areas.
Romero on “Roads and transportation.”
The County’s road maintenance operations are primarily financed by the Road District property tax levy, which is paid by residents of unincorporated areas. Road construction, what there is of it, is primarily financed by grants from the state and federal governments. Thurston County’s Road Department does a good job with the limited financial resources that it does have. Our local State legislators do their best to assist in funding for roads projects in Thurston County. The Department needs to redouble its efforts to leverage technology… to ensure that we get the most out of the limited financ ial resources that we have for roads and transportation.
Roads are essential to our county’s livability but we must plan carefully, design our communities to minimize the number of trips needed, and invest our limited budget in key projects that help people get from home to work, to school, to shopping, and to their other community activities.
As County Commissioner, I will promote a stronger role for the county in improving regional transportation, both within the county boundaries and between Thurston County and major destinations outside of the county, particularly to the north and the south. I’ll advocate to the state for improved freeway facilities, for more park and ride facilities, and for improved regional transit and rail opportunities.
ROMERO: I would promote a stronger role for the county in improving regional transportation, both within the county boundaries and between Thurston County and major destinations outside of the county. I would advocate to the state for improved freeway facilities, for more park-and-ride facilities and for improved regional transit and rail opportunities.
Romero on :The new county jail–building, staffing and operating it. “
Among the dozens of issues facing Thurston County, it’s likely that no other issue presents the levels of difficulties, dangers and risks…. as those posed by this issue. Thurston County government does not have the financial resources to ‘operate two Jails’… doesn’t have ’em now, won’t have ’em next year, or the next. Nonetheless, the laws that require the County to incarcerate criminals make no accommodation for the ‘we can’t afford it’ problem. We must jail criminals; we have more criminals than can fit in one Jail, that’s why a second jail is being built. But the County does not have the financial capacity to operate two Jails. It’s the quintessential “rock and a hard place” situation. What Thurston County needs is a Board of County Commissioners who wi ll find the courage to make the difficult choices… choices that haven’t been made yet…. choices that must be made soon.
This problem is really emblematic of the most fundamental problem facing Washington county governments today: the missions and responsibilities of County government, long ago established and persisting to this day… are not supportable by the classic tax revenues of the County government. And Tim Eyeman’s budgeting by initiative has further aggravated the problem. Thurston County needs County Commissioners who are up to the daunting challenges and fights that lie ahead… immediately ahead. It’s going to be very tough, to get done what must be done in Thurston County government, over the next four years. The time for action has come; continued postponement will really injure the fabric of Thurston County government by deterio rating the ability of the County government to deliver needed public services.
Phasing the construction of the Accountability and Restitution Center (ARC) is a good first step. But revenues will still be needed to staff and operate the structure. All possibilities for support revenues must be put on the table for consideration or we may follow some other communities that have not been able to staff and operate their brand new facilities.
ROMERO: Phasing in the construction of the Accountability and Restitution Center is a good first step. But revenues still will be needed to staff and operate the structure. All possibilities for support revenues must be put on the table for consideration, or we may follow some other communities that have not been able to staff and operate their brand-new facilities.