Yet Another Point Roberts Org Chart: The Point Roberts Community Advisory Committee (PRCAC)

The PRCAC's official purpose:

Whatcom County Code 2.98.020 "Purpose. The committee is created to provide advice and recommendation to the executive and to the council regarding needs and issues specific to the Point Roberts community. (Ord. 2010-008)."

Whatcom County Executive Jack Louws to PRCAC Chair Jeff Christopher, as reported by Jeff Christopher:

"You’ll hear more from Point Roberts than from any other place in the county."


"PRCAC's job is to deal with all the crazy wingnuts in Point Roberts so we pussies professionals at the county don't have to."

The diagram above shows the flow of money and authority between the county, the taxing districts, the taxpayers, local community groups, and the PRCAC. Note that the left side of the chart depicts "elected" representation while the right side is "selected" representation. It's "selected" because:

Since relatively few people belong to any of these groups, the right side of the diagram shows that a relatively small group of people are mandated to influence county policies in Point Roberts. The left side represents all taxpayers, but only those who are US voters can determine who represents them, and this side is only about the administration of services.

Under the proposed "voting" scheme intended to make the PRCAC more broadly representative, Point Roberts residents (US and Canadian) would recommend candidates to the PRCAC, who would then pass on the recommendations to the County Executive. The County Executive still decides who the members at large are, as he does today, and they can only be US citizens.

Where did the PRCAC come from?

The PRCAC was started after the “Hey, I Just Want Curbside Pickup” battle of 2009. Back then, the local hauler’s recycling truck broke down so he decided to stop curbside recycling. His action was a violation of the Whatcom County Code that required such service so the County sued him. Shortly thereafter, out of nowhere, an ordinance was brought forth to change the law to no longer require curbside recycling pickup in Point Roberts.

A number of people within the community got together to discuss what was going on and to figure out a way to stop the ordinance from being passed. Several things quickly became clear to us. County Council was preparing to approve the change to the code and drop their suit against the hauler. We believed once that was done, the hauler would cease curbside garbage pickup also, because the garbage truck was older than the broken-down recycling truck. And so started a year-long fight between three residents, Shannon being one, versus the hauler and the county.

The problem came to a head in the spring and early summer of 2009 when the hauler refused to comply with an order to provide us with required information. Among other things, we had requested financial information based on UTC filings that showed that he was paying himself for multiple positions in the company and thereby giving himself what appeared to be an inordinately high salary. His industry-provided lawyer withdrew from the case and declined to represent him further, he quit curbside garbage pickup, and then the state revoked his hauler’s certificate. Later that year, the UTC awarded the certificate to Dave Gellatly.

Two people who were upset about the process went to then-County Executive Pete Kremen and asked him to create an executive committee that would limit the future influence of individual residents ... and they called that committee the PRCAC.

In a nutshell, the PRCAC was started because two men did not like what three women did.

Point Roberts is unique...

There are 58 county advisory committees listed on the county's Boards and Commissions web pages. Of these, the PRCAC is the only one that is set up to stand between the members of a community and the county council and executive. All of the others focus on specific issues rather than the broad needs of a particular community. Here's the complete list. It's also worth noting that, among these 58 committees, about 94 vacant positions are listed this week, suggesting that not everyone takes these committees seriously:

The problem with the PRCAC

The problem with the PRCAC is that the county is using it as a human shield so they don’t have to deal directly with the Point Roberts community as a whole. The county implies that the committee is important and is an entity with real power. In reality, the intent and fundamental structure of the committee doom the community and whoever serves on the board because the board has the responsibility to deal with the community without any real power.

The PRCAC is also a filter for the county to usurp citizens’ rights to petition the council and the executive. How so? First, at least in the past, if the committee did not agree with a citizen's position, they wouldn’t bring it to the county. Second, if the committee votes 3 to 2 on something, does the county even hear from or listen to the two in the minority? Third, if a citizen goes to the county council, the county wants to know if that person has gone through the PRCAC and what the committee's position is.

We believe the people currently on the board are doing their best, but their position as a buffer for cowardly county officials inherently puts them in conflict with their fellow Point Roberts residents. They take on all the responsibility while the county keeps all the authority.

Citizens first?

Here's Whatcom County's idealized organization chart, from their web site. Note that they put "citizens" at the top, recognizing that county public servants work for the citizens:

And here's the reality in Point Roberts:

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