Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Friday, November 16, 2007

Can I Cast An Absentee Ballot In Moscow?

Nancy Chaney gets on my nerves in any number of ways. But what really burns me is that she's trying to dictate development policy to Whitman County, but Whitman County residents cannot vote her out.

When I went over my ballot the other day, considering whom and what I would be voting for and against, I couldn’t help but notice that one name was missing – Nancy Chaney’s. I turned my ballot over several times searching. Surely this must be a mistake. But no, her name was not to be found anywhere.
How could that be? I had just been reading in my local paper about how Ms. Chaney was working to micromanage economic development policy in Whitman County, which is another way of saying that she is doing her level best to frustrate economic development in Whitman County. Surely as a resident of Whitman County, I should have the opportunity to vote someone out of office whose economic policies I find offensive. But Ms. Chaney does not have to stand for election in Whitman County. So if I can’t vote against her, then why should she have the authority to intervene in the economic affairs of Pullman, Washington, Whitman County and the state of Washington?
Nancy Chaney and her now depleted gang of henchmen have made it their business to micromanage and massage economic development in Moscow and the Palouse at large. As far as I can tell, their goal was to achieve a harmonic convergence of health food stores, head shops, locally owned bookstores and restaurants, handicraft peddlers, and just enough high paying, high tech engineering firms to keep the aforementioned hippie commune afloat. And oh, yeah, it all works best with a steady infusion of public money channeled through higher education. Ideally, all commerce would be conducted at the Farmer’s Market.
What Nancy Chaney and her allied ex-councilmen and women sought was nothing less than to remove the market from the marketplace.
The Nancy Chaney economic model suffered from a number of fatal flaws, the most glaring of which has been the limitation of her power to the Moscow city limits. When a proposed Wal-Mart superstore was judged a poor fit for the cultural facade that the Chaney bloc envisioned for their little utopia, Wal-Mart was told to take it elsewhere – which it did, just outside the city limits in Latah County. Wal-Mart’s new store will be casting its shadow on the Moscow city limits, but it won’t be paying any taxes into the treasury. And it will draw consumers away from other Moscow businesses.
Although frustrated in her efforts to dictate Latah County policy, she has seen fit to interfere in the affairs of a state, county and a city, where no one has the power to vote her out of office. Hawkins, a Boise-based developer, is planning to build a 700,000 square foot shopping mall in Whitman County, just across the state line from Moscow. Again, a big retailer’s building will cast shadows on the Moscow city limits. Since the mall will be closer to Moscow than Pullman, its location plainly indicates the developer’s desire to attract Moscow shoppers while avoiding Moscow’s notoriously anti-business climate.
Closing the deal depends upon the successful transfer of groundwater rights to Hawkins and the company purchased and applied to transfer three such water rights. Two of the three were approved by the Washington State Department of Ecology. The third, and largest transfer, was denied. This was a surface water diversion involving the South Fork of the Palouse River. It was denied because the DOE deemed that Hawkins’ plan failed to adequately mitigate effects on Paradise Creek.
For much of the summer and early fall, Paradise Creek is little more than treated effluent from Moscow’s sewage treatment plant. To call that Paradise, and demand that Hawkins remediate its effects on that ditch before it can build, strikes this observer as ironic. But even as Hawkins appealed that one silly denial, Nancy Chaney appealed the water rights transfers that the Washington Department of Ecology did approve.
“It has nothing to do with economic development and it has everything to do with water,” she said. Somehow, if the water were needed within Moscow city limits to fill hooka pipes, she would find that a thoroughly appropriate use of the groundwater.
I would like to propose a deal with Queen Nancy. She can stick her nose into Whitman County’s business when Whitman County voters are allowed to vote in Moscow elections. As poorly as her anti-business block fared recently, she might take the deal.

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