GH County Commission: Collective, Collaborative & Coffee

Public coffe
Public domain coffee*

The budget, collective bargaining, teamwork and collaborative goals were the focus of Monday’s Grays Harbor County Commission meetings. Sort of.

Two main items on the afternoon agenda received split votes. An agricultural exemption passed. A resolution relating to transparency in collective bargaining didn’t.

An ordinance amendment adding an exemption for certain agricultural buildings from permit requirements passed 2 to 1. Commissioners Wes Cormier and Vickie Raines voted in favor. Commissioner Frank Gordon opposed.

A resolution adopting a policy “to endeavor to have open public negotiations for collective bargaining” failed. Commissioner Cormier moved to approve. The motion didn’t receive a second. Commissioner Gordon moved to deny. Commissioner Raines seconded.

The motion to deny the open public negotiations resolution passed, 2 to 1. That’s kind of a double negative. Still with me? Basically, a majority of the Board voted to keep collective bargaining talks in the dark. Commissioner Cormier was the sole No vote, which in this case means a vote for sunshine.

Raines explained that she was gone last week and had some questions regarding the proposed resolution that hadn’t been answered. She said she wanted more time to look over the document before voting on it. Whether or not this opens the door for a revisit remains to be seen.

Okay, class. Why, oh why, would anyone oppose open negotiations related to collective bargaining? Doesn’t the public have a right to know what kind of bang it’s getting for its buck?

Meanwhile, the budget remains the 800-lb. gorilla in the room. In the morning, Shelli Hopsecger presented an overview for a Strategic Planning Process related to commissioner goal setting and planning. “The County operates without a comprehensive set of established goals and priorities” wrote Hopsecger in the document’s Executive Summary.

The concern is that the budget drives policy and decisions are reactive rather than the other way around. Wrote Hopsecger, “Chronic budget shortfalls have resulted in downsizing, competition between departments and negative moral amongst County staff.”

Hopsecger, who helped guide the Port Commissioners through a similar process, emphasized the need to establish commons goals and common ground. These include:

  • Identifying the organization’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Analyzing Count resources, limitations and trends
  • Setting up group priorities

Stressing the need for team work and full participation, Hopsecger said, “The process has to be a top priority.” So does “recognizing where the trends are financially and looking at the big picture as a group.” She emphasized “working toward collaborative goals for the good of the county,” both short-term and long-term.

A series of workshops, possibly three, was proposed. The suggested time frame is one workshop a month starting in May.

Commissioner Raines said, “This is something that we need… we’ve got some issues.” She noted that the cycle of chronic budget shortfalls started years before the current Board of Commissioners took office. “We can continue down the same cycle, or we can make a conscious decision to have change” she commented. Raines said she’s not pointing fingers, but the county can’t live like this (with increasing gaps between revenue and expenditures) any more.

“We’re so broken that we’re broke” Raines continued, zeroing in on a lack of planning and processes over the past decade.  She added:

“We need to fix the broken part of us. Our budget drives our policy, and it should be the other way around. We should all be prepared to make some serious changes.”

The County is facing a budget shortfall of about $2.5 million.

* In case you’re wondering about the coffee. If you’ve read this far, you’ve probably already figured out that the graphic doesn’t really have anything to do with this post. Just thought I’d throw it in for free. To keep you awake. Is this place great, or what?