In a strange, erratic decision, Washington State Governor Inslee vetoed part of a school siting bill this week. Bill supporters were surprised, but very few accused Governor Inslee of being a logical or reasonable guy. Bill number ESHB 1017 was considered a bipartisan compromise which passed 81-15 in the house and 37-11 in the Senate. Many years in the making and originally driven by the problems discovered by the Bethel School District when lawsuits were filed against them by Futurewise-friendly “environmental” groups. After five years of attempting to reform the law, a bipartisan “fix” bill was passed.
The cult of the Growth Management Act
The Growth Management Act(GMA) was adopted by the legislature in 1990, and it was largely modeled on the “Smart Growth” Central Planning Scheme from Florida. Florida repealed their statewide “Smart Growth” Law in 2011, and got out of the Central Planning business. However, Washington’s GMA scheme continues to stumble backwards. Most legislators who approved the Growth Management Act in 1990, never envisioned this central planning scheme would cause such harm to the state, but like most central planning efforts, the unintended consequences eventually become consequential. Washington State’s school districts were discovering the pain of GMA the hard way when the combination of growing student population and smaller class size requirements started to accelerate the need for more schools.
The Bethel School District was involved in a particularly egregious case where the school, in coordination with Pierce County and all county planning agencies, located and purchased property to build a new high school – right across the street from a fire station, next to existing bus routes, and with easy access to the necessary utilities. Promptly, several extremist environmentalists (using the Futurewise model – a professional litigation operation which mostly files lawsuits against local governments to push their extreme agenda). The school district paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend itself before the Growth Management Hearings Board (GMHB) and lost (case linked here). This also led to another costly lawsuit by five local Pierce County School Districts against the county (lawsuit linked here). The GMHB suggested the school use eminent domain in a local city and destroy people’s homes to build the school instead of using the vacant land the taxpayers had already purchased. The Bethel School District decided to try to change the irrational law instead. This author produced a short video in 2013 about this case a few years ago (linked here).
Soon, other school districts like Issaquah and Richland were running into similar situations. Eventually this led to the Washington State School Directors’ Association (WSSDA) prioritizing their lobbying efforts to focus on changing the GMA to allow for more flexible and less costly school siting options. This author testified as an elected school director for the Rochester School District for many years in favor of this common sense and rational change. Every time, organizations like Sierra Club and Futurewise demanded the cult of GMA rule supreme over all, and they refused to even consider flexibility for schools
Taxpayers always lose with Inslee
The problem with all of these disputes is that taxpayers lose at every turn. The school districts are funded with taxpayer dollars and much of it is wasted on lawsuits, extensive litigation, negotiations, and lobbying. Meanwhile, the cost of building the schools are artificially inflated beyond their true cost, which further squeezes the tax base for no benefit to the community, the schools, and certainly not the children. Clearly, the environmental organizations enjoy and profit from the harm they inflict on these communities. However, we expect saner and more mature politicians to look for solutions. Despite years of failure in the legislature, a few weeks ago a bipartisan bill was passed in both chambers. Inslee chose to veto this bipartisan solution.
All this to justify an outdated, inflexible, Cold-War era central planning scheme which creates ample employment opportunities for lawyers and bureaucrats, but exists primarily to perpetuate itself. Supporting the GMA at all costs has become the modern religion of the environmental Left. The Cult of GMA is strong and Governor Inslee wants to be the high priest. If schools, children, taxpayers, and common sense suffer – those are just “distractions” for him and the special interests who fund his political aspirations.
Nobody has ever accused Inslee of being a genius. Bumbling through the day, coloring with crayons, and botching policy has been common. While it is easy to laugh at his fumbling ways, real people are harmed by his calloused incompetence, and the fact he just doesn’t care about the harm he inflicts. The people of Washington State have suffered enough at the fumbling, careless hands of this guy. It would be easier to laugh at this goof if we didn’t live here. Inslee is damaging far more than just our schools.
OUR CONSTITUTION BEGINS WITH THE PHRASE “WE THE PEOPLE.” IT WAS THE FOUNDER’S INTENT THAT GOVERNMENT BE CREATED BY THE PEOPLE, TO SERVE THE PEOPLE. IT WASN’T THEIR INTENTION FOR THE PEOPLE TO SERVE THE GOVERNMENT. IT WAS ALWAYS INTENDED THAT GOVERNMENT WHICH FAILED TO SERVE THE PEOPLE SHOULD BE “ALTERED OR ABOLISHED.” UNTIL WE RETURN TO THE FOUNDER’S INTENT, WE REMAIN WE THE GOVERNED…