Nancy Oden

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Machias Valley News Observer, June 12, 2009

NEWS with VIEWS

by Nancy Oden

So What Are We Getting for Our Money?

As promised, here are the Washington County Commissioners’ plans for our $5 million kickback—over 30 years—from the Stetson Mountain windmill project. Since the windmills are in the Unorganized Territories, that’s where the money is to be spent, unless that rule gets changed.

Even though the Commissioners held a Public Hearing, the one person who spoke (yours truly) and made suggestions (iterated in last week’s MVNO) was told that decisions had already been made.

Furthermore, they said her job-creating proposals weren’t allowed because, according to chair Chris Gardner, “Job creation is NOT economic development.”

Repeat: “Job creation is NOT economic development.”

Well, Jumping Jehosaphat! Ain’t we ignorant! We thought job creation was the whole point of “economic development!” No? Well, then, what is the point of “economic development?”

Actually, it looks like a scheme to give away taxpayers’ money to “economic development” outfits like SCEC, which then take the bulk of it for themselves and give the rest to favored private businesses. Then they denigrate the government for spending the people’s money on people in need. Hmmm, something’s wrong with that model.

A lawyer (what did he cost us?), our county manager (at $60,000 a year) and Sunrise County Economic Council (at $60,000 taxpayers’ money last year) drew up a document outlining what this windfall kickback money will be spent on. Since this document was drawn up before the Public Hearing, the Public Hearing was clearly just for show.

Here are the major elements of their plan, although these numbers may increase by a third as the plan is extended to 30 years:

So roughly $4.5 to $5 million or more, spread out over 30 years. Think of the REAL projects doing REAL work that needs to be done, and then look again at this boondoggle for a few.

Further, it states that SCEC’s contract for “economic development” be renewed with taxpayers’ money. Where are their monthly reports? They don’t even attend most Commissioners’ meetings.

Two documents regarding the kickback money are now up on the county website, AFTER the Public Hearing. But the most important document, the one from the lawyer titled, “Washington County TIF Management Guidance Memo,” which includes the money figures above, is not yet on the website as of June 13.

People, you can pop into the county commissioners’ office any week day and ask our county clerk to see any documents you wish. These are public documents, and she has always been most helpful.

To keep public meetings really, really, really short and non-informational, Commissioners have begun having private, pre-meeting meetings with certain individuals and departments. Most are not excusable Executive Sessions, but attempts to get business done in private outside of public and media view. They are also illegal.

Until more of you attend meetings, ask questions, offer solutions, and expect factual statements instead of polemical tirades from the chair, the County Commissioners, as well as other politicians and bureaucrats, will do as they wish.

It’s up to you, Members of the Public. Take part in your governance, run for office, research problems and come to meetings with solutions you think best for you and your family.

Celebrate the Fourth of July and then act as our Revolutionary War heroes would have you do — demand open government, honest answers to citizens’ questions, and citizen voice in decision-making. Anything less is not democracy.

Meanwhile, tell the blueberry growers you don’t like being poisoned by their pesticides, that you’d like to have healthy children, that you don’t want further harm done to your immune system so that cancer, diabetes, thyroid problems, and all sorts of previously rare illnesses come upon us. Either speak out or quietly accept being poisoned. Your choice.

Okay, next week I’ll stop ranting about political meetings for a bit and come up with something on the lighter side — maybe about chocolate or kittens or flowers……….or my neighbor’s dogs.

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