The title for this blog is a calculated misspelling. Besides sounding like a pretty exciting Hardy Boy Adventure, I misspelled “Stakeholder” on purpose. I misspelled "Stakeholder" to cause everyone to slow down and think about the words that are being used.
A recent newspaper article, (Herald & News - “KBRA legislation in the works” - Sep. 12, 2011) references U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley’s efforts with regard to transforming the intent of the KBRA into actual legislation on behalf of the agreement’s stakeholders. Merkley’s office will attempt to push this $1.5 billion dollar effort along with the help of U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden, Barbara Boxer, and Dianne Feinstein. (This ought to create a fairly-hot potato for these four Democrats as they try to manage our US budget deficit while at the same-time spending $1.5 billion to destroy 169 mega-watts of clean hydroelectric generation.)
With regard to the KBRA agreement, a majority of the ‘stakeholders’ approved the agreement. However, the concept of a ‘stakeholder’ deserves some attention. After all, according to the article the stakeholders, “handed over their draft legislation to Merkley’s office…” This means our legislature is not drafting legislation, but instead special interest groups are drafting legislation.
The origins of ‘stakeholder’ are somewhat vague, but it appears to stem from the traditional American perspective of private property rights. An individual would ‘stake‘ his claim to some acreage or to mining rights, etc. The ‘stake‘ was the physical instrument used to identify the claim. This symbol became a vernacular phrase representing actual ownership, somewhat like a title or deed. Over time this meaning was enlarged to represent a legal interest or participation in private property. Today, it is used without much rigor to include a simple involvement, interest and concern, as well as, all of the above.
Please note that just because you may have some “involvement, interest or concern,” or a legally justifiable property right, that doesn’t mean you are automatically a ‘stakeholder.’ The KBRA stakeholder council did not simply appear. Nor was it formed as the result of citizen response to a common problem. It was created -- with great care -- by someone. The KBRA stakeholder council was formed to represent Tribes, farmers, fisheries, irrigators, counties, states, and dozens of US government organizations.
The Environmental Protection Agency and several other federal agencies often offer grants as incentives to help create these councils and develop plans to achieve sustainable communities. But, whoever instigates the process will carefully select participants based on their philosophical objectives. Typically, elected officials from each of the political jurisdictions in the region and individuals from industry are also invited.
This may seem straightforward, but the formation of the original group is extremely important to the outcome, so it is done with a focus on that importance. People who are expected to support the objectives of the instigators are chosen to dominate the group. Yet, there must be the appearance of broad community representation, even though the public is not invited to any of the closed-door sessions. In fact, by the time the public becomes involved, the stakeholders are well organized and in the consensus building stage with the media tagging along to give voice to the stakeholder message.
If this seems fine... let’s review.
The Tribes are represented. The same holds for the irrigation districts, some agricultural water users, farmers, and ranchers. The power and energy concerns, are represented by ‘stakeholder’ status, along with Pacific Coast Fisheries, and even golfers. Lastly, the state, local, and Federal governments and their medley of regulating agencies are all amply represented.
So far, so good… There will be plenty of fish, plenty of water, hay, cattle, forestland, and power subsidies. (There will be less power because of dam removal; but, there is plenty of money for future irrigator power subsidies to help keep their power cost-payments low.)
Wait! All of this talk about money, future prices, and future payments gets back to our original quandary – What is a stakeholder? Shouldn’t it be the guy with the biggest ‘stake’? Who is supplying the money? Do they have an interest in this scheme? Who is coughing up the $1.5 billion?
So, it turns out that the local ratepayer, along with Oregon, California and US taxpayers are far and away the most important ‘stakeholders’. They are the ones whom this legislation will hit the hardest. They are the ones who will pay for their own future increases in water and power rates, along with paying for the subsidies to all of these other stakeholder-beneficiaries.
It does my heart good to know the economy is doing so well... I think I'll read an exciting Hardy Boy novel while I have some grilled
taxpayer steak and hot-potatoes with dinner tonight.