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Posts published in “Day: February 21, 2009”

How things work, local/state . . .

There's a complex little story in the new post on Adam Wilson's Olympia blog, about the lines of intersection between the state legislature and government, and the surrounding (and surrounded) city of Olympia.

The specific issues are parochial, having to do with control of the pretty Capitol Lake which the statehouse overviews, and with a legislative staffer running for Olympia elective office. But the linkages and bounces are well worth the read.

And the signpost reads

There's a real cautionary note in the story of Peter Gearin, the former manager of the Port of Astoria, now convicted of Clean Water Act violations (by running afoul of a dredging permit), with the prospect of as much as three years in prison. The port, which hired Gearin in 1999 and fired him three years ago, probably will have to pay an extensive fine.

If this sounds like a rather specialized kind of situation - not the sort of offense any old public official might do - take a read of the Daily Astorian's rundown of how the whole situation developed. And especially this about the scene in 1999, which sets up all that followed:

The agency was desperate for new revenue sources after losing commercial air service and its vital log-exporting contracts. It had fallen into an economic slump under former Port Manager Jon Krebs, with one business proposal after another crashing and burning as real estate lay vacant.

Sound like the kind of scenario we may be seeing far and wide over the next few years?

Your own budget calculator

Dang. All the states should be doing this, and not just states, either. Not that it couldn't stand some improvement, but what's there is a good start.

Go to the web page hosting the Washington Budget Calculator. What it is, is an interactive database that lets you propose what you think should be the budget levels for various parts of state government. You can fill in the blanks and (persumably: this isn't clear) send in the results.

The page notes, "Think about what it costs to provide programs and services to Washington state citizens. Our state is growing and we need to provide core services in education and other areas. What choices will you make? What areas of government would you invest in? We do not have the money to pay for programs at current levels. Knowing this, what would you fund? To learn more about what is funded by General Fund-State dollars in each priority area and how much programs cost, click on the links in the table. Use this information to inform your budget decision." Indeed, a key part of the page is a series of links to detailed budget information, so the participant can get some rough idea of the impact of various choices.

Where does the money come from, and where does it go? Not hard to work out, on this page.

The tool could be extended and fine-tuned, and its use as a public input device could be improved. But this is a useful idea that ought to be widely adopted elsewhere.