Nat Res Agency Consolidation a Dumb Idea

A bill to consolidate 10 Oregon state natural resource agencies was heard in a legislative committee yesterday and got panned by all comers. The 1,117 page bill has more worms than a bait store. The estimable Bear Bait takes aim at the bill following the news blurb below.

Plan would consolidate Oregon’s natural-resources agencies

Testimony during hearing skews toward opposition

by Henry Miller , Salem Statesman Journal, Mar. 1, 2011 [here]

A proposal heard for the first time Tuesday would put 10 of the state’s natural-resources agencies under one roof, statutorily if not literally.

About the only consolidation that was in evidence at the hearing about Senate Bill 521 was that a majority of people who testified opposed it.

“It’s appropriate to have a conversation. … I’m hopeful that this discussion is fruitful,” said its sponsor, Sen. Bruce Starr, R-Hillsboro, in opening the testimony before the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. Members of the House Committee on Energy, Environment and Water sat in.

Under the provisions of the 1,117-page bill, the Oregon departments of Fish and Wildlife, Parks and Recreation, State Lands, Land Conservation and Development, Geology and Mineral Industries, Water Resources and State Forestry would be abolished, along with the positions of the agency directors and the commission members overseeing them.

The sweep also would include the Land Use Board of Appeals, the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board and the Forest Resources Institute.

All those functions would be consolidated into one state mega-agency, the Oregon Department of Natural Resources under the authority of a single director and a nine-member Oregon Natural Resources Commission.

The director and commission members would be appointed by the governor.

The concept was opposed by groups as disparate as Trout Unlimited and the Oregon Farm Bureau. … [more]


More Harm Than Good

by bear bait

The Sen. Star bill to consolidate the natural resources state oversight into one super agency is a bad plan. My lifetime experience is that the only meaningful outcome is creation of one or more higher levels of compensation for the new administrators with all this new landscape to manage, with the former heads of agencies staying on in their same capacity but now reporting to a grand political appointee and his subaltern minions who manage from his/her headquarters.

The whole of the process becomes even more political as the Governor is the driver in the deal. The ability for the people in power, the Governor’s appointees, to hide, cover up, ignore is magnified, and the paper trail becomes more convoluted as administrative rules are created anew to bamboozle the tax-paying public for some supposed economy of scale and money saving, all the while adding additional layers of bureaucracy that will negate any tax savings as those tend to disappear with business and jobs.

And don’t think Super Agencies will create a simpler, easier path to understanding between the fops with no money on the table who wish to regulate every decision made by private citizens for some idealistic and Edenic vision of how the world should be. Lawyers will expose that in a heartbeat. And lawyers will be the winners of such a consolidation. The Attorney General will have to hire more lawyers, and the private side of litigation will prosper as well.

One of the pots of gold in this thing is the ODFW Federal share of the Pittman-Robertson fund and the Breaux-Wallop fund, the first from sales of guns, ammo, and hunting gear, and the latter from the sale of fishing gear and appliances, both excise taxes at the Federal level that are to be distributed by formula to the States. Once that money is in the new Natural Resources Administration budget, where it gets spent and on what will be the old “under which walnut shell is the pea?”

This is one of those Republican big business is better ideas but it comes with the same baggage, and those are the ones of responsibility, economy, transparency, pure political power and influence. This kind of government action is the further concentration of natural resource decision making in the centers of urban power, and the people who actually own and live on rural lands are left out, even more so than now. It is the tyranny of the urban majority flexing its muscles to squash rural Oregon even more.

The Lottery will be involved, as well as income taxes, and I suppose a vast array of fees, and the budget process to fund the agency will have effectively neutered the Legislature in that process because it will take full time legislative oversight to find under which shell the pea is currently hiding. The Super Agency will have plenty of hires to hide peas, as that will be their full time jobs. I can’t imagine that the Legislature making its job impossible is a good governance strategy.

Is there not a state constitutional problem with the State Land Board, which is the Gov, the Sec of State, and the State Treasurer? How does that play out? And water resources? Is that an issue that needs urban dominance? Does the revenue from the Lottery to Parks still have validity under a Super Resources Agency? Too many structural problem and too much money to solve them, and the solution will further diminish rural influence over rural property, livelihoods, lifestyles, custom and culture.

In short, this is a bad bill and should surely be a non-starter. Squashed, as it were. Not again see the light of day.

I am sure that many believe growing government in the name of consolidation is not the answer. I have seen it with two municipal and one rural fire department merged in Indep-Monmouth-SE Polk Rural. All three fire chiefs still had jobs and no pay cut. A new chief was appropriately paid more. We lost rural volunteer stations as the new chief made more demands on volunteer time. Three urban stations were closed and a super station, not equal as far from all they cover, was built. Response times grew. More full time EMT and firefighters had to be hired. Now it takes three or more rigs to respond to a fender bender. There were no savings. And the poorest of citizens ended up the furthest away from responders. Funny how that works out.

We saw it with school consolidations. And we see the results of what happened where consolidation was not approved. Those are those magnificent small school districts with vastly superior results in Eastern Oregon. In the Valley the promise was more sports, more activities, and a greater academic menu. The reality is that the property taxes from the rural areas were greater than what it cost to educate the rural kids, and in the end all they got for their money was a bus ride, fewer days in school, social stress, fewer activities due to distance and the bus rides being cut due to budget constraints. All a big lie, where the rubber met the road.

In my lifetime I have been through this kind of consolidation many times and in the end, all you get a huge poorly run agency instead of maybe one of a half dozen poorly run. Does Marla Rae really need a bigger job? That is what we would get. The same old worn Democrat hacks fouling their nest again with more money at stake. There are not enough large hearing rooms in Oregon to hold a hearing for an agency like that. And you do wonder if the head of such a deal would wield more power than most elected officials, and what would that mean in the long term?

State government in Oregon is broke. Creating a monster agency which will plough through money like a D-9 cat will be a indecipherable puzzle for legislators to deal with, and that maybe is the Governor’s intent. I don’t know. I do know that bigger is not always better. I do know Carl Ichan is not in charge of government in Oregon quite yet. I do know that I, as a citizen, will NOT be better served by growing government, the power of a new super agency, and my concerns will fall further into the cracks of a dispossessed citizenry.

All you have to do is watch the mindless weather disasters as reported by the Portland television stations, the mindless coverage of an inch of snow, to know that the urban mindset is easily swayed by stupid proclamations and events. No matter the voting power of the urban majority, to let them hold sway across the whole of Oregon is a bad, bad, bad deal. You do have to possess a lick of common sense to survive in the urban world, and that is evident in urban Oregon today and in their representation in the Legislature.

I am sure that Sen. Star has some sort of idea of better management, but evidently he has not had much interface with that enhanced agency kind of governance. I think about the statewide radio system fiasco where neither the Legislature nor the Administration in Salem did anything other than cover up layer upon layer of mistakes and poor judgment; about Jane Cease and the DMV computerization fiasco (my Visa from the Credit Union works, instantly, every time — why does the State of Oregon NEVER get a good deal on technology? Too many cooks at the pot? Too many political appointments of dubious abilities?); the CIM and CAM fiasco from the centralized Oregon Department of Education; etc. etc., and I wonder how large and utter the failures of a new Natural Resources Super Agency would be?

After all, I am a former public land dependent mill and logging employee, and I see how big Federal agencies are hamstrung, hog-tied, and absolutely unable to function, while forests burn, economies die, and critters go extinct. Do you REALLY think that making an Oregon Super Natural Resource Agency would have a BETTER outcome? Seriously? A bad idea. Good intentions, but a bad idea. The unintended consequences of such a move would have huge and debilitating results for the private sector, do more harm than good, and certainly doom Oregon to a permanent state of economic doldrums.

3 Mar 2011, 5:11pm
by bear bait

So today, March 3, the Oregonian reports that from 2500-4000 jobs have been funded in state budgets for agencies, but never a body hired to occupy the openings. The money is merely siphoned off into agency slush funding of pet projects and administrative whim. That is what you get for 24 or more straight years of one party dominance of the elected leadership jobs in Oregon government.

The contemptible administrative class, all having jobs by the pleasure of the sitting Governor, whose office has been bought these last 24 years by mandatory union dues going into political funding of Democrat candidates almost exclusively, favors the scenario of one man working and five watching him work.

That is the common sight on the street, and you do have to wonder what all goes on behind those now electronically locked, keypadded doors of state governance. 4000 ghost employees. I once worked for a reforestation contractor who was running three sides and had a supervisor for each, who kept the time, hired, and fired. I decided to count bodies coming out of vans on each job that I delivered trees to. And guess what? Every supervisor had one or more “ghost” employees. Juan Carlos Gonzales Gonzales was noted on a time card, had an I-9 and a paycheck, but no physical body. A spiritual worker. And we had seven of them. And seven was only an average of how many more paychecks than there were bodies on the job. Now we find out the state has “ghost” employees. I certainly hope the administrators are not collecting paychecks for “ghosts.” I would guess that is not the case. But the budgeted money didn’t go to pay a person, so where, really, did it go???

If that were not enough, it also shows up in the news today that Oregon has a chit for close to $200 MILLION DOLLARS of “Federal stimulus” money NOT spent. And there is fear that the current, newly elected Congress, will not budget that money back to Oregon. It was NOT spent to advance education, provide teacher salaries that would not have been there. So, if this deal does go south, our esteemed Ms. Castillo, the legislative majority’s Education committee chairs, and Ways and Means chairs need to be horse whipped or put in stocks in Pioneer Square so the news cameras can check on them. Pul-leeze! Don’t come whining to me about pissing away $200MillionDollars and denying that money to advance education in Oregon. Don’t even ask to replace the money, ever. This smart ass gamer deal with “in the know” Democrats, hiding, sliding, now you see it-now you don’t, sleight of hand governance is grating on my nerves and sense of fair play…

And the above is just what is in the news today. What will tomorrow hold?? How bad is this deal??? Who are these people we have elected to bollox the whole of Oregon governance???

I guess we just tune in tomorrow, for the next adventure in “democracy” in a one party state.



web site

leave a comment

  • Colloquia

  • Commentary and News

  • Contact

  • Follow me on Twitter

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments

  • Meta