Thursday, February 15, 2007

Planning commission appointments get political

The following article appeared in the February 14, 2007 edition of the Port Townsend and Jefferson County Leader.

Planning Commission appointments get political
Just in time for CAO decision, it’s Democrats’ turn to choose

By Allison Arthur
Leader Staff Writer

Two Republican Jefferson County Planning Commission members might lose their seats because their terms have expired and three Democrats are now making the appointments.

Jim Hagen and Dennis Schultz, both Republicans, were appointed to the advisory board when the BOCC was composed of three Republicans. Schultz and Hagen have reapplied, but Democratic commissioners David Sullivan, Phil Johnson and John Austin opted Monday to extend the application deadline until 5 p.m. Friday, Feb.23.

Although it’s not the first time the political pendulum has swung in terms of advisory board appointments, it comes at a time when the controversial Critical Areas Ordinance is being crafted.

As of Tuesday morning, Schultz and Andrew Redling had applied for a seat representing District 1 (Port Townsend. Hagen, Dennis Burke and Pat Farmer had applied for a seat representing District 2 (Tri-Area). The four-year terms of those seats expire March 17.

Planning commission member Bill Miller, a Democrat, asked commissioners to continue accepting applications, while planning commission member Bud Schindler presented commissioners with a petition signed by five of the nine commission members urging the board to reappoint Hagen and Schultz. Hagen and Schultz abstained from signing the petition.

Despite support for Hagen and Schultz from other planning commission members, the BOCC decided to accept applications but not readvertise the two openings.

“The fix is in,” commented Richard Hild, a real estate broker and political observer who submitted a petition signed by about 64 people who also support Hagen and Schultz.

Commissioner Phil Johnson said after the meeting that he was concerned about Hagen and had received comments about Hagen specifically.

“I’ve been concerned about the way the Critical Areas Ordinance subcommittee was picked, and the imbalance of it and the fact that Jim put himself on as chair of that committee,” Johnson said. Johnson had not heard concerns about Schultz.

District 2 commissioner Sullivan also had previously expressed concern about the way Hagen conducts planning commission meetings.

“I think we need to keep the politics out of the planning commission if possible and have them tryly represent the citizens of Jefferson County,” Sullivan said Tuesday. He said he has seen some meetings conducted by Hagen, and he did not think they were well run.

“Planning commissioners set the tone of the meeting, and I think I would look for a tone that sheds more light and less heat,” Sullivan said.

Even before the BOCC meeting began on Monday, the planning commission appointments were the talk of those waiting, including Hagen and Schultz, who wondered whether they would be reappointed.

“Dennis is the only voice for terrestrial farming,” Hagen said of Schultz.

Schultz estimated he has put in 1,500 volunteer hours on the planning commission since being appointed by Republicans Glen Huntingford, Dan Titterness, and Pat Rodgers.

Schultz also received an award last year from Gov. Christine Gregoire’s office for his work on a new agriculture code for Jefferson County. Schultz said he had a choice between accepting the award and attending a meeting to discuss the county’s CAO. He chose the CAO meeting.

Hagen estimated he has put in more than 1,000 hours since being appointed by the Republicans three years ago.

It was also noted by Hagen that Hagen and Schultz had been the only ones who had expressed an interest in the planning commission seats until Katherine Baril of Washington State University Extension sent out an e-mail the day before the deadline, advising people of the two openings.

Baril said Tuesday that WSU trains volunteers, maintains a list of volunteers, and sends out notices of positions regularly. “We’ve done this before on many positions,” Baril said, adding that it was the second notice she had put out about the vacancies.

But at the meeting on Monday, there were questions about whether she did that at the request of commissioners. She said she did not receive such a request.

“It raised questions in my mind of political games,” said Norm MacLeod, who voiced support for Hagen and Schultz and questioned why the BOCC would continue to accept applications. He suggested the board was “trolling” for candidates by doing so. He also likened it to changing horses in the middle of the stream, referring to the continuing work on the controversial CAO.

Several others spoke of the upcoming land-use issues slated to come before the planning commission this year.

Hild said the county would get either “compliance or defiance” from landowners, and he said landowners support Schultz and Hagen “because they feel they’ve gotten a fair shake.”

There also has been e-mail correspondence to commissioners about the appointments.

Dr. Kenneth M. Brooks, who has been working with the planning commission, also wrote a letter endorsing Schultz and Hagen. He lauded the men for their leadership and innovative approaches.

“Their continued contribution, as members of the planning commission, is considered essential to further completion of a model ordinance that will be protective of our critical areas and seen as legitimate by Jefferson County’s citizens.” Brooks wrote.

Teri Nomura, Jefferson County Democratic Party chairwoman, told The Leader that appointments are up to the BOCC.

“It makes sense that if you have a more liberal commissioner they would want the advice of a more liberal planning commission,” Nomura said. “But with the structure that’s already there, they will actually have a balanced planning commission.


At 11:33 AM, Blogger Paul said...

From my point of view, I think corruption is everywhere, and it is very important to carefully take decisions regarding board appointments because then you can regret on the appointed one.


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