Although the new Conservative majority of the City Council in Washougal won’t take office until the beginning of 2010, just since the November elections, they have taken several bold actions aimed at benefiting their constituents, in the face of current economic conditions. Presently, they are looking at enacting a 5% cut in their own pay. Considering that the population of Washougal doesn’t go very far into five-figures and that the annual pay of a City Council Member hasn’t made it to five-figures yet, this may seem insignificant to some. While the council members themselves acknowledge this, the significance of their willingness to do this is underscored by the related comments of Jon Russell, a Washougal City Councilman who is also a Candidate for U.S. Congress in Washington’s (now open) 3rd District, when he said, "I think it's important for the council in particular to show leadership when we're asking so much not only of our own employees but the taxpayers. In these times, it's a justified move for us to also do with less."
This attitude reminds me of the story of the Starfish Thrower. If you’re not familiar with that story, it involves a guy on vacation at the beach who gets up one morning to find that some rogue tidal condition has tossed countless starfish, helplessly, onto the beach. Soon, he noticed another guy, frantically, trying to throw the starfish back into the ocean, one by one. When he saw this, he started laughing and called out to the other guy, “You must be crazy! There are too many! You’ll never be able to help all of those!” The Starfish Thrower looked up at the vacationer briefly and then went straight back to his work. As he did, he could be heard to say, “Helped that one. Helped that one. Helped that one. …” For me, that sort of determination exhibits a quality that has been a key component to Advancing American Greatness and I truly admire it.
Unfortunately, when you look around Southwest Washington, these actions of the Washougal City Council seem to be disappointingly rare. Otherwise, it seems that where you find the highest concentration of government jobs is where you find those who are making out the best. According to current statistics, out of the seven counties that make up Washington’s 3rd Congressional District, all but one of those counties are experiencing record unemployment, with some nearing 15%. However, one county’s unemployment level seems to be near normal, around 7%, as I recall. That is Thurston County. I wonder if that could be because that’s where our State Capitol is located. If so, I wonder why our State Legislators aren’t taking similar actions to those of Washougal’s City Council. Certainly the impact of such steps in Olympia would be more significant than in Washougal. Based on what I heard from Southwest Washington’s State Legislators, at a Legislative Outlook Breakfast this past Friday, it seems that their hands are tied on this. You see, up to 70% of the state’s budget is considered “untouchable” and much of that is due to “strings” attached to much of that budget as a result of our state’s acceptance of ARRA “stimulus” money. With that in mind, it seems to me that it might have been a good idea for our State Legislators to vote against accepting some of that “stimulus” money. That’s exactly what Jon Russell has done in the City of Washougal. Perhaps it’s because Democrat State Legislators, who are the current majority party, see such steps, aimed at benefiting their constituents, in the face of current economic conditions, as too simplistic. That, in fact, is what Deb Wallace, the State Representative for the District where I live (who immediately announced her candidacy for U.S. Congress when our current U.S. Congressman, Brian Baird, announced his retirement) had to say at Friday’s breakfast. She said she fears such steps as “oversimplification”, without enough consideration for the complex nature of our governmental bureaucracy. My response to Wallace on this would be: The convoluted bureaucracy exists because Career Politicians like you put it in place, looking to government, as the only source of solutions for the challenges we face. If we would focus on the true source of American Greatness … its people, not its government … solutions to our challenges would be simpler and we might even begin to look at them as opportunities, once again.