More on the PRCAC and a correction

In the last edition of the Small Point Bulletin, we described the origins of the Point Roberts Community Advisory Committee (PRCAC) as we understood them. We included the following:

“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.”

We received corrections from the two local founders of the PRCAC, Mark Robbins and Arthur Reber.

Mark explained that in 2009, he and Arthur met with then Public Works Director Frank Abart and then County Executive Pete Kremen about the planned use of the TBD (Tax Benefit District - aka the gas tax) funds for re-paving Tyee Drive.

In his email, Mark stated:

“We further asked that he create a community committee to advise Public Works on what we would like to use our TBD funds for; and we proceeded to throw out a few ideas, all of which Pete and Frank said could not be funded with TBD funds (e.g., replacing the Lighthouse Park floating dock). But Pete thought that creating an advisory committee to advise on the entire range of county issues, including but not limited to use of TBD funds, was a good idea, in order to provide some better mechanism for distilling community concerns and demands into one channel.

“I don't think the existence of PRCAC has stopped individuals and other organizations from lobbying county government outside of the PRCAC channel if they so desire.”

Arthur’s reply:

“Mark's summary is correct. The creation of PRCAC had nothing to do with solid waste. Part of it, that Mark didn't mention, is that ‘Bellingham’ was really tired of individuals from Point Roberts calling, writing, emailing, and showing up at the Executive's office with complaints, issues, suggestions, etc.

"In that meeting, when Mark and I raised the issue of the use of the TBD funds, Pete said he thought it was a great idea but wanted to expand it. He said it would make things go more smoothly if a single voice came from this lonely exclave rather than the cacophony that he was hearing. We agreed and the framework for the PRCAC was developed.”

Huh, that seems a lot worse than we remember from back then.

Garbage was certainly on the minds of Kremen and Abart in 2009. How could it not be? The hauler had stopped curbside recycling pickup in 2008 and garbage pickup in 2009. The county was losing a time consuming case in the Washington UTC and the UTC had issued several stinging rebukes to the County. Those two men (Kremen and Abart) made it clear they did not like what three women were doing.

Given Arthur’s comments, it is obvious just how much Abart and Kremen must have seen Mark’s and Arthur’s proposal as a Godsend - they quickly molded it to their own needs in just one meeting. While Mark may have been unaware of this, Arthur should have been aware of at least some of it. Arthur was very vocal in opposing us and even became a member of the county’s solid waste committee when Shannon stepped aside for him to do so.

The promise of PRCAC was to be an effective lobbying instrument for PR interests. It was proposed to solve the TBD issue, but the county turned it into a solution for their own problems, and the TBD issue is still unresolved. Instead, as Arthur’s email proves, PRCAC has become a means to use local people on the board as a shield for the county. The county doesn’t have to interact with the "cacophony" of residents’ voices and the executive chooses who he will listen to. If the executive doesn’t like hearing from his constituents, he should get out of politics.

Why does this matter? Because while the current pseudo-election of one at~large member is a good step in the right direction, it is not sufficient to resolve the basic structural issue with PRCAC. As the community nominates this member, it should be aware of how the county uses the committee. PRCAC’s mission could be easily rewritten to serve the interests of PR over those of the county. A good start would be membership that is fully controlled by PR rather than by the county. The county executive should have no part in selecting its members, and we believe specific local groups should not be automatically represented. We suggest that would give it the legitimacy it needs.

We apologize to Mark and Arthur for the erroneous implication that their motives or intent were related to the garbage issue going on at the time.

Speaking of PRCAC candidates and corrections....

One of the candidates for the at-large board position is Stephen Falk. In a candidates statement summary he posted on NextDoor, he said, "In mid 2018, I became a commissioner on the Public Hospital District, just in time to help work on finding a new provider to run our Clinic."

Just so the casual reader doesn't infer that the Hospital District found the new provider, it was actually found by a community resident who had to take a family member to an urgent care facility in Bellingham. While there, he mentioned that Point Roberts needed a new provider, and they were interested. No one associated with the Hospital District "found" the new provider - it was handed to them on a silver platter.

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