Surface Notes 


the smell test

A few examples of the failure to reflect transparency in the existing SJC Plan will hopefully reveal why it is important to dig into the Sub-Surface.

When the Plan was constructed in 1992 in accordance with the Washington State Growth Management Act, the BOCC (Board of County Commissioners, today called County Council) told the island committees, that they had appointed to craft the plan, that they could "talk about anything except density". You won't find that stated in the CP or in any official documents. This single restriction should cause anyone who understands even the rudiments of planning to know the smell test has failed.

Page one of the Introduction to the CP says that the county Vision Statement is the controlling document for the CP, and that the CP has been built to fulfill the Vision Statement, which is printed on page two of the Introduction. No further discussion of what the Vision Statement "means" or how the CP "fulfills" the Vision Statement exists anywhere in the CP. However, a careful look at (the no longer available on the SJC web site) page 21 of Appendix 1 of the CP reveals Table 20, "Potential Buildout Population" which, when examined carefully, understates the actual potential buildout population by over 2/3, which is to say, the actual buildout population is over 3 times larger than the number shown in the table. Again, no rational person (of the very few who would even drill into an Appendix to a CP) could say that a population of over 150,000 people in a county, whose base population for 100 years of census data never exceeded 4000, would jive with the Vision Statement. This information is nowhere spelled out in the Introduction to the CP nor is any rationalization for its consistency with the Vision Statement offered. The Smell Test score: 2 to 0.

In 2000 SJC Planners (no longer working here) commissioned a study of similar "resort" communities: Aspen, Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard. The study's unexpected findings revealed that SJC was on the precise same course as these wealthy exclusive communities; we were only 20 years behind. That study is neither mentioned nor available on the SJC web site. It's absence is another form of "Surface" problems: important information is withheld. Score: 3 to 0.

In 2004, a local environmental organization produced a Cost of Community Services study and sent it to SJC to be part of the official record. The study shows conclusively that for every dollar of property tax revenue produced by the addition of a new home (residence) in the county, it costs the  county $1.30 to provide services (schools, roads, infrastructure, services, etc.). Like the resort community study described above, this document is neither mentioned nor made available on the County's web site. Score 4 to 0.

There are many more examples. The point should be clear. The Surface, or "text", version of a story is often woefully incomplete. It is the equivalent of a death notice in the paper, leaving out that the driver was drunk. Leaving out that the driver was drunk because his wife left him for another guy. Leaving out that she had been cheating on him for years. Leaving out that his mother had cheated on his father and his father had committed suicide. There is always so much more to a story than what is on the surface.

If a smell test fails, you have to decide whether to dig or just let it go.