Our regional government works – for now

March 11th, 2016 by Ken

Visitors and those who move here to the three city area of Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater, have a difficult time understanding why we have three cities.   Wouldn’t it be more convenient and cheaper to have one big city – they ask?   How can things function when you have three separate governments?

The answer is simple and complex at the same time.   We have a regional government.  We have a government which runs all the major programs in the three city area.   It has no name – – but it’s powerful – – and it impacts everything you do.

Over the decades, the three cities (and occasionally Yelm) as well as Thurston County – – have joined in regional agreements, memorandums of understating and mutual assistance pacts to put a regional spin on local government.

While you pay your sewer bill to your local city government – – that city then forwards that money to LOTT – – the Lacey, Olympia, Tumwater and Thurston County Clean Water Alliance.   LOTT owns and operates the sewage plant and other facilities to handle waste water.   It determines each year how much this will cost and bills the cities for that amount.

Medic One has an operation that is even more convoluted.   Medic One has an operations board which is comprised of a representative from each of the contract agencies.   Olympia, Tumwater and Lacey have representatives on the board.   It also has a technical committee comprised of experts in certain fields.   But neither has any say over the costs.   Medic One answers to the Thurston County Commissioners.   You have no control over the costs except at the ballot box.

When you call 911 – – your call goes to a non-profit agency with which the cities and the county contract with.   You have no control of its expenses or the costs.

Intercity Transit is operated by a board of appointed elected officials with some citizen members – – appointed by the elected officials on the board.  You have no control over the the transit system until it asks for more money at the ballot box.

And it goes on and on. Animal control, human services, solid waste – – the list runs to some 21 regional boards and commissions which control almost everything you do and everything you need.

For all of its complexity – – this regional government system seems to be working.    Calls for creating a regional government should be understood in relationship to what we already have – – mutual agreement and cooperation among the various cities and governments.

Taxpayers have no direct control over the costs – – and that’s a problem for me.   But – I don’t want to dismantle a system that seems to work.   At least not now.

Posted in Government, Informational, Local Politics, The Real News

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