Last week, in Clearing the Air - Part 1, I introduced Klamath County’s clean air quality dilemma. I call it a dilemma, because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has drawn an arbitrary line in the sand and apparently, that line cannot be modified, reformed, corrected, or crossed. Klamath County must maintain the PM2.5 standard for not exceeding 35 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic meter of air volume during every 24 hour (daily) period.
It is not good enough to try, compliance is a requirement.
Mind you, I don’t object to any notion regarding high standards for air quality. What I do object to is the unrelenting enforcement of the regulation without any concern for extenuating circumstances, local conditions, or our community’s current economic situation.
First, Klamath County residents have done a wonderful job in keeping Klamath a beautiful place to live. If you have been here for any length of time, you know that our air is cleaner now than in the past. However, the problem with this knowledge, from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s (ODEQ) perspective, is that it is anecdotal not scientific. This means we’ll need to hire some scientists to tell us what we don’t know.
Now, don’t get me wrong scientific data is good, but policies based on this data can’t account for conditions outside the mandated numbers, rules, regulations, or circumstances. Additionally, because the policy focuses on only one target, it doesn’t see anything else. The City of Klamath Falls is facing this same dilemma with the so-called TMDL requirements from the same two organizations. Any single issue focus will be harmful to the extent that other issues never see the light of day.
For example, here is a graph from the annual data collected at the Peterson School Monitoring Station. I created this graph to defend Klamath County’s efforts in adhering to the EPA’s stringent requirements.
Take a second to wander through the things that have changed in your lifetime. For myself, it includes vinyl records of all shapes, sizes and rotation speeds (78, 45, 33.3). It includes reel-to-reel tape, 4-Track, 8-Track, cassette and mini-cassette. There was a time when muscle cars were as plentiful and gorgeous as ever.
In the office, the IBM Selectric Typewriter with it’s super-cool rotational ball was the envy of everyone. The Selectric also had a unique sound, unlike the tap-tap-tap associated with the typical older model typewriters. Then, CRT screens, computers, RAM, spinning disk drives and keyboards. Not to mention all of the software that provides the instructions to these various binary micro-electronic devices.
Everything appears to be under a constant and continual process of change, or evolution.
Yet, things aren’t always evolving for the better... For example, look at the value of the US Dollar and its demise over the years:
Here are a couple of charts pulled from the Secretary of State Audit Report on Oregon’s Counties: 2012 Financial Condition Review. The objective of this report was to analyze the financial condition of county governments within the State of Oregon. I picked two counties that show similar trends, Lane and Klamath. The graphs show unfunded actuarially accrued liabilities for (UAAL) for the respective county governments.
With respect to general political principles, I think bond measures and levies should always be avoided. These are the most common means by which local politicians or special interest districts try to increase the amount of money they get to spend, spend, and spend some more. The voters are put on the hook to pay for some seemingly good cause, but it comes at an enormous cost. The taxpayer bears the burden in two ways, first he pays the property tax bill and second the community loses untold opportunities for private economic decisions.
All government funding originates from the private sector’s wallet. When you hear a claim from President Obama or Senator Merkley regarding an economic stimulus package – remember, it all originates from your private productivity. Everyone’s individual productivity gets skimmed and then diverted into some specific arena. This exact same principle is at work here, at the local level.
Because property taxes are the basis of county and local municipal government, any special interest group, using this system, can divert economic benefit into their preferred arena. For example, in Klamath County, it only takes around 12,000 voters to force taxes upon the rest of the population. This creates an environment where the greater population loses personal economic freedom for the supposed collective benefit of the community. The question becomes one of personal liberty or collective good – the choice is yours.
Since the public is surrendering their wealth and the control of their wealth, the real question is what did the community gain?
Using school districts as an example, in Oregon, the Estimated Expenditure for Fiscal Year 2010-2011 was$12,386 per student based upon Average Daily Attendance (ADA), and $10,959 per student if we use school enrollment (ENR) figures.
With more than 3,300 students in the City School District and another 6,300 in the County School District, that’s a lot of money!
Did we get what we paid for? Take a moment to peruse the tables below...
Last week, Brain Smith, the Chair of the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) voiced some misconceptions about my role and response regarding the committee’s recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC).
I’m glad Brain took the time to write his concerns and I think they deserve a thoughtful response. I’ll address a couple of the generic misunderstandings because these might get perpetuated if other people are concerned about how this process should work.
First, the PSAC is an advisory group established jointly between the City of Klamath Falls and the County. As an advisory group they provide details, insight and advise to the City and BOCC. The PSAC serves in an advisory position and can play an important part in helping provide decision making input. However, the decision still belongs to the elected decision makers, the BOCC, not the appointed members of the PSAC. This allows the public a direct electoral response through their ballot box. How would any citizen hold an appointed committee member responsible?
It appears that I’ve upset some folks on the Public Safety Advisory Group. A member was quoted in the Herald and News (Safety Group Looks for Clarity - 3/16/2012), saying, “he felt county Commissioner Dennis Linthicum’s lack of support nullified the group’s work.”
It seems that I forgot to read the memo that informed everyone else that “universal consent” was both a necessity and a goal. Somewhat like the recent KBRA agreements, as long as all the participating stakeholders agree to pass the cost along to the taxpayer it must be OK – “universal consent.”
I must have been incorrect when I believed that all ideas – good, bad, indifferent, or even just contrarian – would be welcomed for discussion. I mistakenly thought the committee was an idea factory. In an idea factory, the committee would be responsible for discovering and then vetting every possible suggestion. They would weigh, measure and comprehend each of these ideas. Some ideas would get demolished, while others would only get dented, reworked and polished up. I was under the impression that all discussion would be profitable, and disparate ideas should never be cast aside under the guise of “lack of support.”
Last Tuesday was the day before Lent. In the past it was commonly called “Shrove Tuesday”, in reference to confessions of a penitent heart in front of “Ash Wednesday.” Today, it is universally known as “Fat Tuesday.” Fat Tuesday is the day for the Mardi Gras Carnival where revelers party their respective lives away. Here in Klamath County, I wasn’t aware of any efforts at all-night revelry, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Unfortunately for America, it seems that we would all prefer some midnight merriment to being penitent.
Pleasure is more fun than pain. Just as that extra piece of dessert goes down far easier than those extra pounds come off. Yet, the real battle is in the decision making which foreshadows our actions. Think about it... you must decide to avoid the desserts long before the dessert cart shows up. The party is always more agreeable than the disciplined denial.
Using this logic, on Fat Tuesday, I recognized the quick, easy and agreeable response to the Klamath County Public Safety Ballot measure was to simply ask voters for more funding. Yet, is quick and easy always right? Care for more dessert?
“The financial crisis that began in late 2007, and its widespread aftershocks, led to a dramatic increase in the public debt of most advanced economies, with many of them experiencing their highest levels of debt since World War II. Another contributing factor to the increased debt was the decrease in tax revenues.”
Unfortunately, debt has been growing everywhere. Worldwide debt is backed with debt from other nations, it is based on debt from multinationals, and it is dependent on vast sums of debt–leveraged with yet more debt. How can this continue?
In a previous blog I took issue with the narrative style and perspective of a guest commentary by Greg Sargent. Today I want to highlight the simple, yet dangerous, implications of the fallacious assumptions used by the author, who routinely writes for the WashingtonPost.com.
The first paragraph sets up his whole argument. He states,
Today, I would like to discuss a guest commentary from last Friday’s (12/9/2011) Herald and News that came via the Bloomberg News Service. The byline attributes these fallacious ideas to Greg Sargent, of the WashingtonPost.com.
I’ll quote a paragraph so I can walk through its treacherously destructive subtleties:
“Democrats believe there has been a fundamental shift in how Americans view the economy. They think rising anxiety about inequality is not about just the top 1 percent's runaway success but also the perception that unfettered capitalism has badly undermined the security and future of the middle class. Occupy Wall Street reflects broader concerns that are thoroughly mainstream, and no matter what people tell pollsters, they want sustained government action when they understand that action serves to restore the middle class' security and durability.”