An end of year wrap-up includes many elements. Foremost, the self-appointed ability to decide what was, and wasn’t important. Further complicating the equation is the inability to separate the personal from the group. It is for that reason that I don’t write them. I prefer the lofty forward-looking model.
While there were many noteworthy occurrences here in Grays Harbor over the course of the preceding year, they all boiled down to one trend — that we must upset the business as usual form of government and public policy we, as taxpayers, have become alarming comfortable with.
The critical change in public policy alignment that occurred in 2013 can be attributed to two men — County Commissioner Frank Gordon (D-Aberdeen) and County Commissioner Wes Cormier (R-Elma). Both have now lost that new commissioner smell as we enter what will surely be an even more interesting 2014.
Both men have shown an interest in changing the climate, or culture, that has kept the county in a virtual cycle of poverty, unemployment, and decay for so long that I doubt anyone can remember a time when it was different. Again, a comfort with lowered expectations. As an example, I became acquainted with a family in Aberdeen recently, who I attempted to help with the down payment of a house. It was refused as, and I quote, “Owning my house might affect my ability to get food stamps.”
And there you have it. The culture in the county has changed from one where a man raising a family would rather raise his children in the warm caring arms of public welfare, than, frankly, take a job that he feels is beneath him and plan for the future of his family. Public support is now a way of life, a life to be passed on to one’s children. It’s a never ending circle of pride stripping dependency.
Another example of the decay in our community were recent statements by city officials in Aberdeen, statements both in print and radio relating that the derelict drug users have devastated the town. As stated by city officials, these people should be looked at, sitting on benches, as “our grandmothers.” It’s a backhanded and unsuccessful attempt to normalize the behavior. To be fair, I live in Montesano and may not be able to relate. Our grandmothers here are not slamming heroin, robbing their neighbors, or urinating in the streets.
I could go on.
The county commissioners we have in office have shown both a willingness to stand on principle as well as a desire to change the status quo. The current culture designed not to lift people out of poverty, and by extension solve the root cause of the economic problems that continually plague the county and taxpayers – rather a system designed to keep citizens dependent, and voting to continue that dependency.
We have seen recently first hand what occurred when Commissioner Gordon dared, dared, to call attention to the sham county prosecutor appointment list. Attacked by his own political party no less. Commissioner Cormier was attacked for daring to question the cost and practice of handing out needles to drug users. The commissioners are standing in unison to express outrage over the waste in our county Assessor office. Why, the nerve!
Commissioners Gordon and Cormier, one a Democrat, the other a Republican, hold in their hands nothing less than the future of this county. Both men are under siege from an established form of back room politics, a system of unaccountability, and the most insidious threat to the population – inertia. While it would be comfortable and politically safe to stick with the well established look-the-other-way, back-slapping system, I don’t believe either man has it in him to do so.
To the shock of many here in the county, Commissioner Cormier has stuck to his campaign promise of doing everything he can not to raise taxes on the citizens. Commissioner Gordon has equally shocked some in his party by daring to put the interests of the county ahead of his party central committee. The sky indeed must be falling.
I’m not going to say that I see Gary Cooper and start whistling the tune from “High Noon” every time I see these two walking the streets, they both are going to do things that drive me nuts here and there. I do believe that we as a community are blessed at this current point in time with two commissioners that, despite their party differences, have shown a willingness to work together on policy issues and for the citizens of this county. The core value of integrity visibly present with the both of them via their actions.
As we Harborites boldly enter the year 2014, the county will be beset with problems at the local and county level. There never will be enough money, personnel, or resources to solve our problems. We can take heart that we have in place a county commission that we can be proud of. The beginning of the reversal of the strangling culture that has gripped the throat of the people of this county for decades has begun. It will be a testament to both men to what level they may achieve this end.
Tom Frederiksen grew up in Montesano and lives here today with an active blog at montesanotoday.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.