January 16, 2020 | Cle Elum | Central Washington Sentinel | by Bruce Coe ~~
At the Central Washington Sentinel, we stress vision as a guiding principle!
It goes like this – you don’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been, and you can’t get where you’re going unless you know what the ‘where’ is. The ‘where’ is the vision, the dream.~~
Martin Luther King had a dream and he gave it to all of us, not just his followers and adherents, in a beautiful and concise speech. While there really isn’t a lot of MLK’s around on a local political level, the principle is the same.
Politicians, if you have a dream, lay it out for us. And don’t be shy about it. If you can’t give us your dream in a 50-word elevator speech you haven’t thought much about it.
Think about it, the question is going to come up.
Vision can mean a lot of things to different people. But it is clear that without vision it is difficult to live life with any intention or purpose. Most of us carry a vision of what we would like our lives to be and what we would like our surroundings to be in the future. It’s an important part of planning, it’s an important part of our existence as human beings, and should be an important part of a political process that, much too often, is lacking in any kind of coherent vision for the future.
I’m not sure why we let our politicians skate on, as Bill Clinton put it, “the vision thing”. Too often, candidates offer generic explanations for issues that are brought to them. And it is clear that in the day-to-day management of both municipalities and counties, questions and problems that surround our political leaders can be a little bit overwhelming. But I would like to say this, a clear vision is determined by a clear set of principles, and adhering to those principles makes those other issues a lot easier to deal with. A statement of vision also makes it clearer to your constituents what you believe in and what you will fight for. And that’s the problem, during elections candidates are not too happy about stating principles that they will be held to.
An example: As you may have read in the past, the issue with a development like 47° North (Bull Frog Flats) is not necessarily whether the project fits into a plan that has, incidentally, been around since 2001. It’s clear that by some measure, the idea of developing a “delux” RV / Resort community within the confines of the Cle Elum UGA fits nicely within the vision established by a development agreement the city executed with Suncadia. Whether or not that is still a valid vision will be determined in the next year or so as 47° North forges through the application and permit approval process. The question is this. Did we know how city leadership would stand on planned unit developments? I don’t recall that these questions were ever asked in any of the public forums, though in the televised interviews with The Centra Washington Sentinel we did ask each candidate for their vision of the future. Their replies varied in acuity.
But I think there is a larger issue here. The vision for a rural county and its communities is largely driven by Olympia, and Olympia has a different vision for our future than we do. At its onset, the Growth Management Act was intended to be a bottom-up process that required cooperation and coordination between the various entities involved with managing growth. That whole concept disappeared pretty rapidly when people started actually trying to define what their vision for their communities might be.
In the starkest terms, when people’s visions for their community did not align with the state’s vision for their community they were overruled either in court or by The Growth Management Hearings Boards, a hearings board (appointed by the governor, BTW) that was supposed to settle questions before they went to court.
But, back to “the vision thing”. We need to know the core beliefs that our political leaders hold, and please, I know this is going to disturb a lot of you, but questions on abortion and gun control and Donald Trump have no bearing on local vision. Are they important issues? Yes. But those issues lead to single-issue voting and frankly are better fought on other fronts. A county commissioner or city councilperson has almost nothing they can do about national issues.
There are two important races coming up this year, two County Commissioners will either be elected or re-elected. That’s two out of three, a plurality! Ask your candidates what their vision is and demand that they give you detailed answers. Here’s a good start:
- What’s your vision for Kittitas County’s economy and what they see as driving factors in the future?
- Describe what you would like to see Kittitas County become in 10 years.
- Tell us your vision for governmental transparency and accountability as the county becomes larger.
- What would you like to accomplish in the first year of your term?
We all want good government. But we have to elect good people to give us good government. Getting them to declare their vision to the people who they will represent is a good start. And holding them to the vision is impossible if they don’t declare their vision upfront. It’s a new year, and it’s a big election year. Let’s have some new ideas!