Commissioner McEntire speaker at
North Olympic Peninsula Phone Tree
By Dale Wilson
Embattled County Commissioner Jim McEntire requested the opportunity to speak before the North Olympic Peninsula Phone Tree. NOPPT is a group of veterans who meet monthly to learn more about what is happening on the political front in the county.
McEntire prefaced his remarks by saying, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics there are 125 fewer people working in Clallam County since his taking office 3 years ago. Also, according to McEntire, inflation has robbed the dollar of 25% of its buying power since 2003. What cost a dollar then costs $1.25 now.
“What can we do about it?” was the theme of McEntire’s presentation before the group. This was the lead-in to his pitch to the crowd of 30 or more veterans and spouses for support for his proposal to infuse the Economic Development Council, on which McEntire serves, with a half million dollars of tax money from the county’s Opportunity Fund. McEntire seeks to change the manner in which Opportunity Funds are allotted.
“Government has a role to play,” said McEntire. “The EDC along with the North Olympic Timber Action Committee need to push the economy along a little bit faster” said McEntire. McEntire said he sought a seat on the state Board of Natural Resources in order to urge the state to release more timber for harvest in the area.
“In the past the EDC, to my knowledge, has never had goals. We just accomplished that when we set up a strategic plan which includes measurable goals.” said McEntire. As part of their new metrics the EDC seeks to increase median household income by 4% between now and 2018. Currently, depending on which report one reads, the median household income in Clallam County is either $38,000 or $42,000.
“Natural resource (extraction) jobs pay better than other jobs,” he said. This reporter mentioned an EDC report circulated last year which showed timber sales up by 300% while timber related jobs are down 75% and asked if this is the best track to follow–chasing disappearing jobs. Following a convoluted response beginning with “automation” and ending with, “that is why I went after a seat on the state board of Natural Resources,” this reporter could not make sense of his rambling and non-responsive answer.
More in that vein included, “We are on our own up here. We have to pull up our socks to figure how to be more effective. We have to take our own future in our own hands. We have to be our own cavalry,” he said.
When Edna Willadsen asked about past accomplishments of the EDC McEntire responded, “If the past five years (of EDC performance) is all I have to look at the county’s contribution to the EDC would already be gone. But I’m not looking back.”
“Why not look back?” “Why don’t we have any accountability?” We just go nowhere, when are going to quit pussyfooting?” asked Terry Kelley from the audience.
McEntire replied, “If I thought that I was doing what we’ve always done I would pull out the county’s money and watch the EDC go away.”
Presently the funding for the EDC is comprised of 85% tax money and only 15% from business members. This reporter asked McEntire if he had approached any of the Chambers of Commerce, who would presumably be the biggest beneficiaries of a fully functional EDC, for contributions to the EDC. McEntire responded, “No, I personally have not approached any of the chambers of commerce.”
Opinion: If each of the members of the 4 chambers of commerce on the peninsula would pledge just one dollar per day, half the price of a cup of coffee, then the EDC would have all the funding it says it needs. Why do they keep coming back to taxpayers to prop up the business community? The conservative mantra has always been to pull one’s self up by your own bootstraps. Recruitment and development of new and different jobs makes more sense than propping up existing businesses with dwindling jobs. The more timber sales increase the more jobs disappear. Does this make any sense? Would the EDC support manufacturers of buggy whips? Why not focus efforts on starting a wood pellet production facility? Why not retool Peninsula College’s welding program to build wood pellet burning stoves? These we could ship around the sound–by water–and even to Asia where they are suffocating themselves burning coal.