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Stop giving away our public assets

I was selling some property down in California for several months when all this Wild Olympics stuff hit the Grays Harbor fan. It was news to me when I returned and started to see all the signs here and there. STOP WILD OLYMPICS – SUPPORT WILD OLYMPICS. They are still here and there around the county.

My first reaction was “here go those whacked out tree hugging liberals again.” I didn’t even think twice about it. After all, that is the sort of stuff they do. The oft cursed spotted owl comes to mind and the ramifications to the logging industry that has defined the poverty and malaise this county wallows in presently.

I have been strongly in the stop Wild Olympics camp for several years now.

But that has changed.

Two events here on the Harbor have brought this issue into a new light and indeed require a pragmatic look at the situation.

The first, of course, is the coming oil trains. With all the foot stomping and town halls, complete with angry residents and a growing chorus of suddenly aware public officials, it really is a waste of time and effort. There are only three people here on the Harbor that can stop this coming environmental disaster — the three port commissioners. That’s it. Just three people with an agenda; the heck with the rest of the county. Come to think about it, you really only need two of them.

The second event is quite local here in Montesano. The Vidette recently printed an in-depth investigation into the 47 acres of Chehalis River waterfront property the city sold to a developer. It was a sale that took our public property from the public trust and gave it away for the paltry sum of $23,000. The sale was arranged with absolutely no notice to the public to allow anyone other than the developer to buy it. I use the word “buy” loosely.

There was hardly any bidding process involved and, besides the developer and a husband to a city employee, no one knew about it before the sale was closed.

It was gone, just gone. Four councilmen and a city employee – along with a mayor who frankly didn’t even care enough to ensure public access was included in the sale. He just didn’t care enough to even read the contract. This might be a good time to remind everyone that the mayor has been telling people for two years that he made sure the public would have access as part of the sale. He didn’t. We are to rely on the good will of the new owner now. I am sure that his private insurance company will have no problem with the public wandering around his property and paying claims for accidents.

It must be nice to have money and that kind of juice with a couple of people at city hall. Favors, you know.

We can recall our mayor and council, even recall those port commissioners, but it doesn’t solve the problem. The real issue here is us. We just don’t care. Where are the Harbor residents hefting pitchforks and torches while storming Montesano City Hall and the port offices?

We, as a people here on the Harbor, are not capable of taking care of our Olympic Forest and public lands. That isn’t opinion. It is clearly evident.

When a couple of people down at the port office and a checked-out local mayor can willy nilly put the lives of all of us in danger as well as our river and streams with no oversight, when a local official allows our waterfront public lands to be given away as favors with no regard to our children and their right to the public land – we really need to step back.

Is the Wild Olympics and the proposals associated with the plan draconian? You bet. Unfortunately, we as residents of this Harbor are incapable of electing officials who are able or willing to see the big picture and think of the future past their own self interest. And that is where it comes back to us. You and me. We get the government we deserve. We put them there and allow them to continue.

It took me quite a bit of time to look at some of the organizations around here differently. The Friends of Grays Harbor (FOGH), these Audubon guys, the Wild Olympics supporters, you know the ones. I’ve been as bad or harder on them than anyone. Crazy job-killing tree huggers.

There is more to it. Just possibly, they aren’t that crazy and have realized long ago that human nature, being what it is, and the lack of civic interest from the general population show that we are just, frankly, not capable of standing up to the good-old-boy network that actually runs this county. Until, and if, we ever are, there is no choice but to lock things up.

If our mayor and city council here in Montesano is able to basically give away our waterfront birthright that belongs to all of us and the children to come to one rich developer and there isn’t a recall or peep from the community, what is to stop it from happening again and again and again? On ever lager scales. Until there is nothing left at all.

Tom Frederiksen grew up in Montesano and lives here today with an active blog at montesanotoday.com. Contact him at montesanotoday@gmail.com.