Opinion

Government for government's sake

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Thank God we have multiple forms of government, with local, county, state and federal levels. It gives each a chance to spend money on getting the others to do what they want. Or, in the case of North Bend, it's a way of spending taxpayer dollars to appeal the county's decision to rezone the Yerkes and Zemp properties on Rattlesnake Ridge.

There are numerous angles to this dilemma, but looking at each should bring the majority of people - except maybe those living in Forster Woods - to ask the question, "Why?"

Last week the North Bend City Council, in a 4-1 vote, authorized the expenditure of up to $30,000 to appeal King County's rezoning decision on the lands, with Jim Gildersleeve being the lone dissenter. The decision to expend the funds to appeal another government body's decision raises a lot of questions.

Chief among them are: Why is it that the city felt compelled to appeal the decision through legal channels? Why did the county let things get so far down the road without some form of public input on the decision from local residents? Why wasn't a dialogue opened between the county and the city to address some of the issues ahead of time? Why would the county vote in favor of something the city government so vehemently opposes? Specifically, why would our representative, David Irons, vote for something that local government is against?

Hey, it's politics and it's likely there was some political arm twisting and maneuvering that took place to get the necessary yes votes. Give and take, that's politics, albeit extremely simplified.

In addition to the concerns about the obvious lack of communication between the city and the county is the question of spending taxpayer dollars to appeal a decision on property outside of the city limits. Yes, there are potential impacts to the city if the property is developed. I have said in a prior editorial that I did not think the zoning change should happen, for many of the reasons stated by the city. But to spend taxpayer dollars to fight a development outside the city limits is setting a dangerous precedent.

Why isn't the city authorizing the expenditure of similar amounts of money to fight the Cadman gravel pit? It will potentially have impacts to the city. And though it is outside the city limits, many adjacent property owners are concerned about the project.

To an outsider, it also appears that the city is supporting a vocal group of Forster Woods homeowners that is opposed to the zoning change. I think it was appropriate to create an official resolution that condemned the county's decision. But to support, in essence, the homeowners of Forster Woods with $30,000 in appeal funds seems to go a bit far.

Maybe providing a set amount for legal counsel, far less than $30,000, would have been more palatable. To me, it seems like a lot of taxpayer money is being spent to appeal a decision that will most likely stand. I would much rather see $30,000 spent to write letters to elected officials about the Department of Ecology's water situation and the continuing moratorium in North Bend; or for an independent traffic analysis done at Exit 34 for the proposed gravel mine; or use the money to influence the county's decision on the Mount Si Bridge project.

I bet that my opinion will stir some discussion, and like I have said many times, the purpose of an editorial is to provoke thought and involvement. In that vein, I hope we get some response on what the citizens of North Bend think.

Jim McKiernan

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