OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY
One last thing before the County Council caves to political expediency and the lawyers take over. Let’s talk about who will be paying for Pete Kremen and Mich Friedman’s park in the watershed.
According to DNR, some $685,000 per year will be foregone by schools, lost to the road fund, and eliminated from other community service budgets. That’s in Whatcom county. Skagit county’s losses, and the costs to be spread out to other state taxpayers, have not been discussed as yet. Somehow, others will have to come up with this money.
CNW’s director opposed the recent settlement that restored some of the funding lost by the schools as a result of decreased timber revenues after another of their initiatives. And we are now being told this is a cost we should ignore because there is no legal way to make the schools whole.
Next, they will spend Conservation Futures Funds to have some new hiking trails. The conservation of our farmlands will be sacrificed to provide recreational opportunities to city residents “just minutes away.”
This tax was supported by the voters to create a fund to acquire development rights on privately owned forest and farmlands to protect farming and forestry from this encroaching urbanization.
The county now wants to use these funds to pay its share of the costs of appraisals and other legal expenses to accomplish land transfers to consolidate forest lands for this park. Rand Jack tells us, “The transaction cost to the County will be about $300,000, all paid from the Conservation Futures Fund…”
Henceforth they propose to use these funds for the park’s ongoing maintenance costs.
They want to take thousands of acres of productive forest lands away from the industry that relies on them. This means a loss to the people in that industry of more than $3,000,000 per year. Money that would be part of the economy right here where we live.
And last but not least, there’s the newly released fiction, the 2009-2010 budget. This fantasy is the story of a little northwest county that escapes the ravages of the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression and actually realizes increased tax revenues.
While it merrily forgoes needed water protection and storm-water infrastructure, blissfully ignores the expense to remedy the errors of the past and fix the mess it created in Lake Whatcom, it builds a playland in the watershed surrounding the city’s reservoir instead, calls it good, and everyone lives happily ever after.
And what does Kremen say about passing this buck? “I’m proud of not raising property taxes, period.”
As Kremen, Friedman and Jack see it, “it’s the greatest deal since the Louisiana Purchase.” It’s almost free! “In this case the costs are amazingly small compared to the benefits.”
It never seems expensive when you’re spending other people’s money.
No, as Seth Fleetwood recently observed, “this probably won’t be much help to the lake.” So much for the original rationale for reconveyance.
And it’s obvious the proposed park plan can’t end forestry on the reconveyed lands. Instead, given county enforcement, you might as well forget the Lake Whatcom Landscape Plan’s restrictions on it.
In the end what will we get? Some more trails, parking lots and bathrooms in the watershed, and all the liabilities that will come with the land.
Pretty expensive trails. Hardly a free lunch.