May 4, 1998

Opinion

Citizens deserve answers from county

  Last February, Friends of the Law (FOTL) and the Coalition for Public Trust (CPT) issued to King County an extensive report alleging several instances of mistakes, wrongdoing, and outright cheating in their traffic concurrency tests for the Northridge and Blakely Ridge projects. Included with the report was extensive documentation and supportive evidence taken from county records and obtained through the Freedom of Information Act after initial stonewalling by the county.
  
   One month later the county responded with a five-page rebuttal--unsigned--attached to a two-page cover letter signed by King County Executive Ron Sims. The unsigned rebuttal argued that nothing wrong had been done, and that there were no mistakes made by the traffic planners in their analysis that showed that Novelty Hill Road was capable of handling the traffic from these two developments with minimal improvements. The rebuttal neglected to address the specific allegations made by FOTL's report, and failed to back up the county's arguments with a single piece of supportive evidence from the record of the Northridge or Blakely Ridge hearings or any internal county documents not made public.
  
   Within weeks of the county's rebuttal, FOTL issued a second report expanding on its initial allegations, correcting minor errors, and adding new charges not made in the previous report. Since the release of that second report, King County attorneys have advised county bureaucrats not to meet with, or discuss any matters related to traffic concurrency with, 'any' citizen who approaches them with questions related to the 1995 traffic concurrency certificates issued to Northridge and Blakely Ridge. They are citing the pending litigation against the Northridge approval as forbidding county cooperation with citizens looking for answers to traffic concurrency questions. The problem with the county's new stonewalling technique is that traffic concurrency is not part of any litigation. Traffic concurrency is not, and cannot be part of any current, or future litigation as well, because of government invented time restraints on when a suit can be filed. Their deceptions during the hearings were successful in keeping us from investigating their analysis until well after the deadlines had passed. This is probably why development opponents rarely beat these professional deceivers and land-use legal experts and hold them accountable for their corrupt actions on behalf of developers.
  
   A couple of obvious questions have to be asked. If the county did everything correctly related to the traffic concurrency issues for Northridge and Blakely Ridge as they alleged in their rebuttal--and defended by Executive Ron Sims in his cover letter--then why has the county gone into 'circle the wagons' mode in refusing to even discuss the concurrency issues with the citizens they are supposed to be working for? If the county planners did nothing wrong in their traffic concurrency tests in 1995 as they claim, then why does the county fear, and apparently feel at risk to a new lawsuit from FOTL or CPT related to their traffic concurrency test results and analysis?
  
   If King County has a government of, by, and for the people of the county, why is the county responding to the discovery of staff mistakes, wrongdoing, or fraud by throwing a protective shield over the entire county bureaucracy to cover-up maters that the public--their 'employers'--have a constitutional right to be made aware of and get to the bottom of?
  
   I think the answer to these questions is obvious. The people who make up this county government do not understand that they are accountable to "we, the people." Instead, they think that the King County government is like an independent corporation that has the right to do whatever it feels necessary to keep secrets from the general public that could damage its public relations efforts--an ongoing PR campaign to convince the public that they are working honestly, without bias and within the laws of the county and state. The people in this government do not seem to comprehend the principle that the citizen is the CEO of 'their' corporation, and that there is no excuse for withholding information from them. None! Laws they have passed to grant them these bogus protections are unconstitutional.
  
   If there have been mistakes, wrongdoing, or outright fraud committed by the traffic planners--or any county employee for that matter--it is the right of any citizen to ask questions about it, and to get the answers from their elected officials, their staffs and the rest of the bureaucracy--period! This government works for us and does not have the right to hide its internal corruption or incompetence from us. Apparently, though, in King County, 'our' politicians and bureaucrats have forgotten that. King County apparently doesn't even recognize what they are doing anymore in destroying the public trust--or they don't care.
  
   There is too much money flowing into the campaign coffers from developers and other special interests and from outside candidates' districts. It has blinded our elected leaders as to who they really work for. They have lost their ability to focus their attention on the demands, interests and concerns of their employers--us. And there is nothing on the horizon that is going to make this corrupted system any more representative of "we, the people."
   Michael Costello, Redmond