Republished from December 2014.

After County Commissioner; Jim McEntire’s less-than-stellar performance as commissioner of the Port of Port Angeles he now appoints himself the county’s czar for economic development, rebuilding the Economic Development Council in his own image and under his control. Now he is requesting taxpayers pony up half a million dollars for his political ascent.

Why this matters

Look at the paucity of jobs created under his “leadership” at the port. Look at the properties divested from the port in sweet-heart deals. Look at the embarrassingly under-market lease-rates for properties leased by the port under his tutelage.

It was during McEntire’s watch when Jeff Robb’s performance as port executive director began to spiral downward–even if it was later when a new batch of port commissioners finally fired–and rehired Robb. The port was free-wheeling under McEntire.

We don’t need no stinking bylaws

Now McEntire almost single-handedly re-writes the bylaws for the Economic Development Council. Within this rewrite is a means by which members are placed on the board. No more automatic participation from the cities in the county. Also, in a recipe for disaster, there is a mechanism by which they can suspend the bylaws–at any tune–for any reason and for as long as desired. While the bylaws are suspended the EDC can pass any measure and spend the entire bank balance–all with no oversight or transparency–as required under normal bylaws.

In anticipation of weakening the bylaws McEntire booted many of the elected officials off the EDC board–excepting himself of course. Now McEntire wants to raid the county’s “Opportunity Fund” for half a million dollars to do the same for economic development as he did at the port–basically nothing.

Retention versus Recruitment

Port 0 Call spent many hours this year attending meetings of the Economic Development Council. Some of the inane comments uttered at these meetings arrest the mind. When discussion finally gets around to job creation–the discussion comes down to where should the EDC focus its efforts–retention or recruitment? Retention means propping up the existing businesses–hoping they will hire more personnel. Recruitment means going after new and different businesses to bring their operation here–creating a diversity of new jobs. Diverse meaning not timber or tourism.

McEntire said: You have to be careful about bringing in new businesses. They will be going after your employees. You may have to pay more and even provide benefits.

Past as prelude

Under McEntire’s tenure as port commissioner it was his responsibility to monitor and provide leadership in all areas of port governance. This is the time-frame when multiple leases were found to be chronically out of date– some by more than three decades. Lease money should be paying port operations instead of taxing property owners.

The current Economic Development Council is top-heavy with timber interests. They have not received the memo that timber-related jobs are gone, never to return. A recent report from the EDC shows log exports up 300 percent while timber related jobs are down seventy-five percent. Most of this due to automation but still reflective of an industry in decline insofar as job creation.

Even as this plays out against the continued depressed state of the local economy McEntire constrains his new executive director, whose experience bends toward recruitment. Instead McEntire wants to concentrate on propping up the local logging businesses. Under the new bylaws the staff could spend six months recruiting a new business with new jobs and McEntire could torpedo these efforts with a nod or a wink

Outdated business model

In other words, McEntire prefers economic development efforts of the 1970’s while our needs are those of the 21″ century. Until McEntire, started

talking about raiding the county’s Opportunity Fund the EDC was on the margin of relevancy. Now they want to infuse $500,000 of taxpayer money into their antiquated business model. It is time for taxpayers to take notice as McEntire continues his power grab. Port 0 Call fears too much taxpayer money will flow into his ever-expanding political pursuits.

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