By Nick Power
My head is spinning thinking of what Tuesday’s local election results mean for the future of the critical areas ordinance, and I fear that we are now at the point of no return, where a misstep by the county will lead to untold economic waste.
First, the County Council races:
Simply the defeat of Howie Rosenfeld and Lovel Pratt were in effect a vote of “no confidence” in Howie’s and Lovel’s support of the proposed CAO. Here are two self-identified incumbent Democrats, supported by the endorsement of the Democratic Party, in a county which voted 2-to-1 for Obama over Romney, and they both lose.
Telling, since both Rosenfeld and Pratt have been two of the proponents of the most extreme portions of the revision of the CAO.
Second, the absolute landslide passage of charter amendment No. 3 was a complete repudiation of how the proposed CAO was engineered and drafted — largely in secret and without meaningful public comment. This is a clear repudiation of the proposed CAO and the circumstances surrounding its creation by the electorate.
I fear that the, “We’re going to pass this thing come hell or high water” mentality, which seems to be the mantra of a majority of the council, will be fulfilled, and the fundamentally flawed CAO will become law at the behest of what is now a gaggle of lame ducks.
But it gets worse, much worse.
Because after “Flock of Lame Ducks” No. 1 passes the CAO, Flock of Lame Ducks No. 2, the newly elected short-term county council, takes over.
Here is where it gets sticky.
Currently, there is a very serious lawsuit against the county alleging various substantive and procedural flaws which would invalidate the current draft CAO. Just because Flock No. 2 is lame, does not mean that they cannot bind the county and settle the suit and enter into a consent judgment with the plaintiff, Citizen’s Alliance for Property Rights.
Why would they do that?
Fundamentally, because CAPR’s allegations are substantially correct and it would be the right thing to do. But moreover, imagine that some ducks from Flock No. 2 want to experience life as a healthy and vigorous duck, so they decide to run in this spring’s special election. Lame-duck-cum-candidate says to himself, “How the heck do I win an election in San Juan County?”
Well, being skeptical of the CAO seemed to work for Bob (Jarman) and Marc (Forlenza). Maybe, just maybe, they were onto something.
So here we are, at the last juncture for the current council to do what is right and to revisit, and repair, the fundamental flaws in the proposed CAO. If this opportunity is not taken, the council has just bought us all some very expensive tickets to Kabuki theater.
Save me the aisle seat.
— Editor’s note: Nick Power of San Juan Island, a resident since 2008, has been an attorney, economic researcher, consultant and developer.