Thursday, July 5, 2012

Attempt to Privatize Fort Worden State Park

The Attempt to Privatize Fort Worden State Park

In his July message to the Port Townsend community, tucked into our water bills this week, our mayor, David King, tries to promote the Fort Worden Public Development Authority (FWPDA) - the group that wants to take over the management of Fort Worden State Park here in Port Townsend. Many of us think that is a bad idea and that state parks should be owned and managed by the state.

For one thing the mayor points out that a PDA can issue bonds but he also says "the park can never be mortgaged". Really? Don't you need collateral to issue bonds just as with any other debt? When the bonds can't be paid what do the investors get? Wouldn't we in fact be mortgaging the park?

The mayor also claims that the park cannot be "hijacked by private interests" because it will always be under the authority of the City. (At best he is advocating that the state park be managed by the city.) But the next sentence is even worse where he points out that the PDA would be "insulated" from the political process. Is that just a positive spin on not being transparent? It's precisely because the park should be owned and managed openly by the state (not the city) and not "insulated" from the checks and balances of the political process that we oppose control and management by the FWPDA.

The mayor, well-intentioned though he may be, says that control by the FWPDA does not "privatize" the park - a word that he uses - as well as the wonderfully evocative "hijacked by private interests".  I think he has given us a great slogan:

You like the privatization of liquor? You'll love the privatization of of our state park.

Good for the 1% - not so good for the rest of us. More information at "" Or email us at ""

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Distinguishing between Good and Bad Corporations

Today the New York Times reported that stockholders voted against a $15 million pay package for Citigroup's chief executive, Vikram Pandit. "C.E.O.'s deserve good pay, but there's good pay and there's obscene pay." quipped Brian Wenzinger a principal at Aronson Johnson Ortiz, a money management company that voted against the pay package.

So, does that make Aronson Johnson Ortiz or Citigroup "good" corporations? Hardly. But it does indicate a fissure or an opportunity to influence corporate behavior.

More interestingly today several corporate donors pulled back from supporting the right wing lobby groups, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the National Rifle Association (NRA). They were McDonald's, Wendy's, Intuit, Mars, Kraft Foods, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. Again, does that make these corporations "good"?

Maybe not but maybe we could refine the criteria suggested in my February 12, 2012 post and begin to think of a continuum of "good" to "bad" corporations. Most would, of course, be somewhere in between.

Amended guide or point system for judging "good" corporations - the more points the better the corporation:

1) Make something of value or provide a service of value - up to 5 points

2) Have a workforce that is unionized or in some sort of worker ownership arrangement - up to 5 points

3) Is small, locally owned - up to 2 points

4) Is Transparent and accountable to the public - up to 2 points

5) Does something - a single event or press release in any of the above categories - up to 1 point

So far here is a list:

Southwest Airlines - 7 points (4 points for being unionized and having a worker/ownership plan, 2 points for doing something useful and 1 point for being open and transparent.)

Apple - 4 points (3 points for making something useful and 1 point for being responsive to worker conditions in China)

Starbucks - 3-1/2 points (1 points for making something useful, 2 point for practicing a kind of moral capitalism including buying sustainably grown coffee and 1/2 point for their recent support for same-sex marriage

McDonalds - 3-1/2 points (2 points for making something useful, 1 point for deciding to buy organic potatoes and 1/2 point for ceasing to fund ALEC and the NRA)

Kitsap Bank (Olympic Peninsula) - 2 points (1 point for being small and local and 1 point for being transparent and accountable to the community and customers)

Goldman Sachs - 0 points

Bank of America - 0 points

Obviously this will take a lot of work but at least it might give us a measure to use in evaluating a corporation's actions, policies or contributions to causes or politicians and it might help us in determining how to work with or against certain corporations.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Obama Administration just proposed to lower corporate taxes (bad idea) in exchange for closing some loopholes (good idea). Why don't they just close the loopholes? One feature, however, does strike me as interesting. The Administration proposes to tax manufacturers at even a lower rate than other corporations - 25% as opposed to 28%. It's probably insignificant but it does raise an important question: What do you make? If you make something of value, like bricks or windmills or cars or build homes, roads or schools, then you should be encouraged with a lower tax. If what you make is money, like investment banks and hedge funds, then maybe not. Can we begin to distinguish between "good" corporations and "bad" corporations as I suggested back in November, 2010? Yes we now have the very encouraging movement of the 99 Occupiers but with both Democrats and Republicans vying to be the spokespeople for corporate interests, as we rush headlong into fascism, it looks as if we the people, the 99, us Americans, are losing. Divide and conquer is a useful strategy in war, politics and chess. Can we find and promote good corporations that make something and obey laws against the bad corporations who are basically gamblers who hide their winnings off shore and take advantage of loopholes? They don't have to break the law like old fashioned gangsters because they own the politicians who they instruct to make the way they steal legal. What would a "good" corporation look like? Maybe we can set some guidelines - points for companies that ... 1) Make something of value or provide a service of value. 2) Have a workforce that is unionized or in some sort of worker ownership arrangement. 3) Is small, locally owned. 4) Transparent and accountable to the public.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Watching Mitt Romney in the South Carolina debate say he wouldn't apologize for being successful reminded me of the Willy Sutton's famous answer, "Mister Sutton, why do you rob banks?" "Well that's where the money is."

Willy thought it was an silly question with an obvious answer. He didn't assume any deeper meaning. He didn't think it was wrong to rob banks. Just as Mitt doesn't see anything wrong with forcing businesses into bankruptcy and putting hundreds of workers out of jobs as long as he and his fellow investors made a lot of money.

From a progressive perspective - nay from an American perspective - Willy is the less evil. He at least distinguished between a person's money and the banks money and didn't steal from individuals. In fact Willy probably would have agreed with Mitt about government regulators. Without so many police he could have robbed more banks more safely.