Wind Projects Die but Outdated City/Port Plans Zombie On

by Randall Stephens
In 1992 the federal government decided to subsidize wind turbine energy production. Apparently, unless it is subsidized it is not a very efficient source of energy. Sadly for us, the taxpayers, wind turbines are made in Germany, not the US. $billions in taxpayer subsidies have since gone to prop up and bail out German investors.

Wind Turbine Blade in Transport

Wind Turbine Blade in Transport

Not to worry in Vancouver, though. A lot of those turbines get shipped in through our very own port. In fact, we’ve come to depend on them. So much so that we are willing to divert $90 million of our region’s precious WSDOT funds to upgrade the I-5/Mill Plain exit so that the big German investors will not have to invest in steerable trailers for shipping those turbines to Eastern Oregon and Eastern Washington.  Much has been said about the need for the project, but has anyone seen any type of study that documents the need?  Can we really justify the need to lay waste to a core city street and interstate interchange without documentation showing the need?

A March 27, 2015 article in The Bulletin “North-Central Oregon wind farm dies” details just one example of E.ON Climate & Renewables North America withdrawing its application for the 76,000-acre Brush Canyon Wind Power Facility in central Oregon. How alarming is it to learn, then, that the federal subsidies have ended and allowed to lapse? The Germans are pulling the plug on their plans to build a big wind turbine farm in Eastern Oregon.  However the City says we must do this for a dying taxpayer subsidized industry that has no future?

Perhaps the City and Port are gambling that President Obama will be successful in making the production tax credit (PTC) permanente as proposed in his 2016 Budget?  With the monumental conservative shift in the House and Senate in this past election cycle it’s a heck of a risk with ninety million plus tax payer dollars.

Related articles:
Daily Caller: GONE WITH THE WIND: 1 In 4 Wind Turbine Companies Went BUST In Last Two Years

Institute for Energy Research: Obama Budget to Make Wind Subsidies Permanent

Columbian: Inslee hears of need for Mill Plain interchange project
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RTC Gets an Ear Full but Majority of Board Doesn’t Listen

Commentary and notes by John Ley

Tuesday April 7th I attended the April 2015 RTC Board and made the following statements.

“Members of the Board, I would hope that you are as outraged as I am at what has been revealed regarding the $80 million proposed expenditure for the I-5 /Mill Plain interchange. Apparently one of two $80 million SW WA projects has no legitimate plans to back up the expenditure of this money.  There is no engineering. Nothing to substantiate “how” or “why” the largest project you asked the state to pay for, is a legitimate request fulfilling a legitimate transportation need……………..

RTC Board Hearing

RTC Board Hearing

I have YOUR list of 34 projects. Each allegedly goes thru a non-political screening, evaluating very specific plans and being awarded points for “Safety”, “Mobility”, “Multi-modal”, and “Economic Development”. The purpose is supposedly to REMOVE politics from the process. I now have ZERO faith in YOUR ability to execute the process, and I would hope THIS BOARD has also lost faith.

This project got 14 of a possible 22 points for “Mobility”. REALLY? You don’t have plans to show how this improves “mobility”. This project was awarded 21 of 28 points for Economic Development. Yet you don’t have any documentation on how spending $80 million for THIS project improves Economic Development.

I’m outraged that this Mill Plain/I-5 project was rated #5 of our regions alleged “TOP transportation priorities” and can be approved by this body & forwarded to the state legislature for funding, with NO legitimate documentation……..”

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Letter to Oregon Lawmakers from Washington Lawmakers encouraging them to remove I-5 HOV lane.

 

Additional Notes On The Meeting

Rep. Paul Harris mentioned that Oregon is debating HB 3152, which would REMOVE the only HOV lane in Oregon. He stated that this would help SW WA citizens returning home from Portland in the afternoon, and that several Washington legislators had written letters to Oregon legislators in support of this bill. He added that it would IMPROVE the air quality for north Portland residents, by reducing the number of vehicles standing at idle on I-5.

Councilor David Madore made a motion that the RTC Board would send a letter of support for Oregon’s HB 3152. Jeanne Stewart seconded the motion.

Jeanne Stewart made some great “common sense” comments at the end. But the majority of the RTC Board chose to ignore her, the other two councilors, and Paul Harris.

There was considerable discussion, as an Oregon DOT rep. said the HOV lane was working “as planned” in that it moves more people (the buses move faster). But if you eliminated the HOV lane, it would move more cars, but fewer people. Jack Burkman led the “don’t do this” discussion. Councilor Jeanne E. Stewart responded, expressing the frustration drivers feel while stuck in the 2 non-moving lanes. She asked for the common sense solution to be done, which was to remove the HOV lane so that traffic flow would improve.

David Madore requested a roll call vote, so that each member of the RTC Board’s vote would be recorded. All three County Councilors voted “yes”.

Camas representative Melissa Smith voted “No”. Battle Ground representative Bill Ganley abstained, not having time to discuss the issue with Mayors or elected representatives of the other small cities he represents.

The “no’s” led by Jack Burkman & Larry Smith carried the day. The SW Washington RTC does NOT support the removal of the only HOV lane in Oregon to help improve traffic flow for the afternoon commute.

Another sad fact came to light was that the taxpayers are spending $12,400 to send RTC executive Matt Ransom to Harvard for 3 weeks in June.  To learn what, we can only speculate.

There was a discussion over the annual “dues” pay towards RTC’s operations. Clark County has the largest share — $36,300. CTran pays $25,000, Vancouver $21,300, Camas $3,500, Washougal $2,400, Battle Ground $3,100, Ridgefield and other small cities less than $1,000. The Port of Vancouver pays $4,000 and the Port of Camas/Washougal pays $2,000. These rates have apparently been the same, since the RTC was founded in 1992. They will do a “review” and present options for a different allocation of the $104,500 annual dues. The county feels it is paying much more than its “fair share” of the dues.
Additionally, about 84% of the RTC’s operating budget comes from federal funds and about 10% from Washington State.

At the end of the meeting, Councilor David Madore asked if anyone on the RTC Board had any specific information about the Mill Plain/I-5 project. Nobody responded. He asked for a show of hands if anyone had any information on the specific details regarding this proposal. No hands were raised. At the very end, Matt Ransom said there were links on the RTC web site for various projects, but it was offered half-heartedly in my opinion.

Two small side notes. Melissa Smith spent a year acting as “Vice Chairman” of the RTC, supposedly preparing to become Chairman. Yet she is constantly seeking help and input from Jack Burkman on how to run the meeting, etc. Additionally, a citizen entered the meeting during my “citizen communication” and noticed one board member playing solitaire on their computer . . . . . (and we’re paying these people’s salaries).

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March Madness; April Angst

Dean

Robert Dean Professional Land Surveyor

– A spoof on the current use program –
by Professor Robert Dean

Frank: We are in for a real treat tonight, Steve. This matchup has all the hallmarks of a classic battle of the Titans. On one side of the court is Coach Van Nortwick with his red-hot shooting Washington State Assessors; yes, run, gun, and dunk till the cows come home. And, on the other is Coach Dean and the Current Use Farmers. Coach Dean is definitely old school: solid defense, liberal construction , relying on the expressed intent of the Rules Committee to preserve open space and farmland; seemingly uninterested in even scoring points on his opponent.

march-madness-ccSteve: Absolutely, Frank! No surprises here tonight – a battle royal for sure!

Frank: Explain for the viewers, Steve, how these two diametrically opposed game plans play out. Why is it that on a given night either strategy might prevail over the other.

Steve: Certainly, Frank! When the game of current use was invented back in 1967 the idea was to preserve as much open space and commercially viable farmland in the state as possible – naturally, that favored adopting the old defensive strategies that were popular and so successful in the 70s and 80s of last century. Things changed in the 90s when the Assessors realized they could bring in huge unplanned revenue windfalls for their counties by denying agricultural use tax breaks to farmers. The Assessors introduced a whole new offensive style of play predicated on punishing tax evaders, like the hapless Current Use Farmers, and driving them into oblivion with narrow construction , relentless back taxes, high scoring penalties , and vicious interest rates .

Frank: Yes, Steve, and even though the initial idea of preserving farmland and open space was hugely popular with two thirds of the fans , the new rule changes that allowed the Assessors to score points in a hurry were also encouraged by the league’s governing board in order to raise revenues.

Steve: And that’s what makes this game great, Frank! There are two ways to win:
1) You can accumulate open space and productive farmland for future generations; or,
2) You can score big points and reap huge windfall revenues right now.
Frank: And there you have it! Let’s go to Veronica, now, at courtside as she introduces the military honor guard and flag bearers for the playing of our national anthem.

The foregoing spoof might be more potent if Clark County’s assessor, Peter Van Nortwick, were as statist as many of his counterparts in other Washington counties. Fortunately, he is not so short-sighted. Nevertheless, his position is elected and our next Assessor may not take such a long view of his or her duties and responsibilities.

The dichotomy in the law between the twin goals of farmland preservation and revenue enhancement creates a tension that could break in either direction. Currently, county assessors, under guidance and instructions from the Department of Revenue, have almost limitless discretion to approve or deny current use status, apply valuation standards, and assess penalties – appeals are available to the taxpayer but the results are far from certain. If you win your appeal you pay the normal taxes – if you lose you go under financially to the tune tens or hundreds of $thousand with 7 years back taxes, plus 12% interest on that, plus 20% penalties on the total.

When you do appeal to the Board of Equalization you will be counselled by Clark County’s website[i] that the Assessor is presumed to be right and that you should not plead poverty. The proper comportment is to stand, slightly stooped, gazing downward, while holding your cap low and in front of you.

With Republicans having more influence in the Legislature than in many years previous now is the time to begin pushing back against the statists who want our money right now. I would propose a few very small additions and amendments to RCW 84.34 to swing the force of the Open Space and Current Use Act back to the goal of resource preservation and away from revenue enhancement. Of course, assessors who measure their success by the revenues they collect will oppose such revisions.

I would make the following changes:

  • RCW 84.34.020 Definitions – restore the pre-1993 gross income thresholds of $100 per year.
  • RCW 84.34.020 Definitions – (2)(a)(i) …”Commercial purposes” means the use of farm and agricultural land, by an owner or lessee, on a continuous and regular basis, prior to and subsequent to application for classification or reclassification, that demonstrates that the owner or lessee is engaged in and intends to obtain through lawful means a profit from cash income, barter, or trade, by producing an agricultural product.
  • RCW 84.34.924 – Liberal construction – The provisions of this chapter shall be construed liberally so as to give effect to the intents and purposes stated in RCW 84.34.010.

[i] http://www.clark.wa.gov/board-of-equalization/documents/dosdonts.pdf

Don’t… Plead poverty. Although they might sympathize, the board members can’t take into account your ability to pay

http://www.co.clark.wa.us/board-of-equalization/faq.html#seventeen

The hearing is an informal review designed to enable property owners to represent themselves without an attorney. Keep in mind that the Assessor is, by law, presumed to be correct. The burden of proof is on you to show that the assessed value is not correct by presenting clear and convincing evidence to support your estimate of market value.

[1] 82 Wn.2d 295, YAKIMA FIRST BAPTIST HOMES, INC., Respondent, v. DALE A. GRAY et al., Appellants

[No. 42453. En Banc.      Supreme Court      May 24, 1973.]

[8] Statutes – Construction – Result. Statutes are to be construed to avoid absurd consequences.

http://courts.mrsc.org/mc/courts/zsupreme/082wn2d/082wn2d0295.htm

 

[1] RCW 84.34.010

Legislative declaration.

The legislature hereby declares that it is in the best interest of the state to maintain, preserve, conserve and otherwise continue in existence adequate open space lands for the production of food, fiber and forest crops, and to assure the use and enjoyment of natural resources and scenic beauty for the economic and social well-being of the state and its citizens. The legislature further declares that assessment practices must be so designed as to permit the continued availability of open space lands for these purposes, and it is the intent of this chapter so to provide. The legislature further declares its intent that farm and agricultural lands shall be valued on the basis of their value for use as authorized by section 11 of Article VII of the Constitution of the state of Washington.

[1] SECTION 11 TAXATION BASED ON ACTUAL USE. Nothing in this Article VII as amended shall prevent the legislature from providing, subject to such conditions as it may enact, that the true and fair value in money (a) of farms, agricultural lands, standing timber and timberlands, and (b) of other open space lands which are used for recreation or for enjoyment of their scenic or natural beauty shall be based on the use to which such property is currently applied, and such values shall be used in computing the assessed valuation of such property in the same manner as the assessed valuation is computed for all property. [AMENDMENT 53, 1967 House Joint Resolution No. 1; see 1969 p 2976. Approved November 5, 1968.]

 

[1] Washington’s Open Space Taxation Act (Chapter 84.34 RCW) – A Review from the Perspective of Farmland Protection

A Report Prepared for the Office of Farmland Preservation, Washington Conservation Commission

WSCC Contract # 2008-OFP-2, Bob Rose, Conservation Consultant, July 25, 2008, page 17.

Most of the abuses of the current use program appear to be by people on small acreage parcels who want to pay fewer taxes. In counties where there is an appreciation for the economics and dynamics of agriculture, the assessor’s office may make more allowances for the land to remain classified as farm and agricultural because of a belief that it is prudent to preserve land for farming and a recognition that the economic consequences of taking land out of Current-Use status can be quite punitive for a landowner.

http://www.spokanecounty.org/data/assessor/OFP%20-%20Open%20Space%20Taxation%20Act.pdf

v Ibid, page 25.

Tax exemptions under the law are to be construed narrowly. Therefore, the Department of Revenue and assessors are required to view exemptions as narrowly as possible.

vi 20%

vii 12%

viii Ibid, page 8.

Voters were asked: “Shall Article VII of the State Constitution be amended by adding a section authorizing the Legislature to provide that farms, agricultural lands, standing timber and timber lands, and other open-space lands used for recreation or enjoyment of their scenic or natural beauty, shall be valued for purposes of taxation on the basis of the use to which such property currently is being applied, rather than on its highest and best use.”

In the General Election, held on November 5, 1968, voters overwhelmingly approved the Current-Use amendment with 68 % in favor (705,978 votes) and 32% against (335,496). The language was added to the State Constitution as Section 11 in Article 7 in 1970.

ix Ibid, page 19.

The assessor will calculate additional tax and applicable interest as if the owner had given two years’ notice AND there is an additional 20% penalty on the total amount.

(7 years back taxes plus simple interest at 1% per month or 12% per year).

RCW 84.34.108(4)(a),(b)

http://www.clark.wa.gov/board-of-equalization/documents/dosdonts.pdf

Don’t… Plead poverty. Although they might sympathize, the board members can’t take into account your ability to pay

http://www.co.clark.wa.us/board-of-equalization/faq.html#seventeen

 The hearing is an informal review designed to enable property owners to represent themselves without an attorney. Keep in mind that the Assessor is, by law, presumed to be correct. The burden of proof is on you to show that the assessed value is not correct by presenting clear and convincing evidence to support your estimate of market value.

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BRT to Spite the Voters and Art for Art’s Sake

by: Vicki Kraft
The C-Tran Board Meeting Thursday, March 19 focused on the new BRT Fourth Plain Project, being called “The Vine”. It was disconcerting to basically see a “rubber stamp approval” process happen with each action item that came up for a vote, with very few hard questions being asked . The lone voice that asked the tough questions and said “No” on the BRT items was Councilor Jeanne Stewart as she stood up for the citizens who voted “No” on the BRT. (Councilor Madore was not present).

Coming to Fourth Plain Blvd. soon!

Coming to Fourth Plain Blvd. soon!

One action item that the “rubber stamp crowd” approved was the following. See if you find anything odd about this action item:

“That the C-TRAN Board of Directors authorizes the Executive Director/CEO to execute a contract with New Flyer of America for ten 60-foot articulated buses at a total cost not to exceed $11,214,607.85, including Washington State Sales Tax and Motor Vehicle Sales and Use Tax and a 5 year contract for the purchase of bus parts and including optons for an additional five vehicles for future non-BRT related purchases.”
The last part of that sentence includes options for five vehicles but does not state what those vehicles are specifically, nor does it include any budget amount for those five vehicles. In addition these are non-BRT related purchases, yet it’s included as part of a BRT Action Item. I certainly have some questions on this, surprising that all those on the board (except Councilor Stewart) voted for this without asking one of these questions.
Then there was the matter of spending $421,291 for functional art which will be part of this BRT project. This amount is being awarded to 3 artists/studios – none of them local. Councilor Stewart said what at least some of us in the audience were thinking – Why don’t we take this money and use it toward a more functional use needed, such as building the infrastructure necessary to address the important BRT capacity needs at the Community Health and VA Campus? The answer was that these Federal funds have to be used for Capital Budget Items and studies have found including art cuts down the amount of graffiti you typically see with these projects. I’m still not convinced this justifies spending almost half a million dollars on functional art.
One positive aspect of the meeting was to hear the genuine concern for our senior citizens during public testimony. With the funds C-Tran has, there should be a way take care of our seniors with very low/no fare options. This would be a practical way we can show seniors we care and make a tangible difference for them.

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WA HR-1857: You Must Surrender to Other People’s Feelings and Fears!

Rep. Jinkins (D)

Rep. Jinkins (D)

True to form Washington State liberals are pushing legislation that would make your constitutionally protected rights subject to the fears and feelings of others.   Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D, 27th LD) is pushing HR-1857 and like most liberal legislation this bill attempts to side step both the Federal and Washington State constitutions.  Should this bill become law, a citizen could have their right to keep and bear arms stripped away based on a statement of fear or feeling that someone just may do something wrong.

Rep. Lynda Wilson strongly opposes HB-1857

Rep. Lynda Wilson strongly opposes HB-1857

In her weekly email update Washington State Representative Lynda Wilson (R,17th LD) said the following of HR-1857: “This bill would create an “extreme risk protection order” that allows a law enforcement officer or family or household member of any person to petition for a court order forcing the subject of the order to surrender firearms or other weapons. Additionally, those named in the order would have to surrender any concealed pistol license if the petitioner feels the subject poses a danger to themselves or others. It would also create a state-wide database of extreme risk protection order entries. Under the bill, there is no clear plan established to get out of the database for those wrongly subjected to one of these orders, or for the return of wrongfully seized weapons or licenses. Worse yet, the order stays in place for a year! This bill is ripe for abuse, and I want you to know that I am adamantly opposed to it!

In a statement to Reality Clark County, William Starks,State Researcher with Open Carry Washington said the following:
“With the passage of I-594, the anti-gun community is going to use every means they can to infringe on law abiding gun owners. Now with HB 1857 they can infringe even further by someone “feeling” that they are threatened by a gun owner. What about RCW 9.41.270? This bill doesn’t even reference .270 or make any changes to .270 Why do we need to amend or make new laws when this one is already in place? It’s time we start enforcing the laws already on the books and quite making new ones.”

We strongly suggest you contact your state representative and tell them to say no to HB-1857 and yes to the rights of the people of Washington State.
Members by District

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Unelected Oregon Bureaucrats Voting On SW Washington RTC

By: Vicki Kraft

rtc-575We need more of our local politicians standing up for SW Washington’s interests. Recently Rep. Lynda Wilson introduced HB 2124 which will remove the ability to vote for the two Oregonians who sit on our local Regional Transportation Council (RTC). The County Councilors are in support of this bill and our local voice as well. These Oregon members will still be on the council and able to provide their input, they just won’t have a voice to determine the outcome for Washington citizens. This makes perfect sense.

Jack Burkman however, standing up for special interests as usual, tries to make the argument that if this bill passes and those two board members can’t vote then we’re not being good partners with Oregon. Maybe not if you’re coming from the perspective, as Jack is, that we need to give Tri-Met (Oregon) eminent domain rights over Vancouver / Clark County property. Jack Burkman voted for this as part of the backdoor contract some of the C-Tran board members created and then passed against the will of Clark County voters in September 2013.

We need local representation standing up for our local voice. HB 2124 is scheduled for a vote in the WA State House Transportation Committee. I’m hopeful we’ll see common sense legislation like this passed…or at least it should be.  People should contact house members on the committee and urge them to move this bill to the house floor for debate and a vote.

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