Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Skagit Assessor Springs Another Leek

Don Munks, our trusty Assessor, has been promising the great unveiling of his department's Strategic Plan, just as soon as it was written by Wes Hagen ... who was recently replaced.  Apparently the Strategic Plan was Mr. Hagen's "Swan Song."  The Commissioners and County Administrator, Tim Holloran, were assured it would be in their hands on Monday, November 21.

Well ... both November 21 and Wes Hagen came and went ... without the unveiling of the long-awaited Strategic Plan.

Skagit Leeks learned today that Mr. Munks is "... hoping to have it proofed by the end of the week ..." and then released.  We're all literally on the edge of our seats with anticipation to get a look at this baby.  I mean, we all know it has to have specifics on staffing and using the new computer system. 

And there will most certainly be specific plans for auditing both the Clean Water Tax System and the 40-year-old Land Use System.  We at Skagit Leeks know both of those systems have problems up the gazoo.

Surely it's mandatory that the PLAN must clearly state how the Assessor's Office is going to satisfy all of the Requirements (6) specified in the two Audit Reports from the Department of Revenue Property Tax Division.  Mandatory because addressing all the requirements are  "... required to adhere to the law."  And we're all about "adhering to the law" here in Skagit County.

Then this PLAN will surely address how the Assessor's Office is going to deal with the additional Recommendations (14) that were also specified in the two audits.

And most critical of all are the specifics on how Mr. Munks' operation is going to ensure that they include all of the new construction in next year's assessment rolls ... which they failed to do this last time around.  And we citizens know what that means, don't we?   Skagit County taxpayers will take it in the shorts when they get their new tax statements on Valentine's Day.  (Happy VD to us!)

Stay tuned for word of the Official Rollout.  We've been promised a copy before the ink is dry. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Eating Gandhi

This Thanksgiving we did something different.  We ordered a "happy" turkey from a sustainable farm named 3 Sisters on near-by Whidbey Island.  I thought the place was run by three nuns who branched out when Catholic Church membership dropped.
The Husband was horrified when I told him we'd be paying $8 a pound (instead of the usual 59 cents a pound), and his razor-sharp mind calculated that the price tag for this year's bird toted up to almost $100.  Before he could get too wound up with his standard rhetoric about our place at the low end of the "99%" I quickly countered with, "How could we possibly go wrong buying a 'happy' turkey raised by nuns"?

Two days later, when the purchased bird was delivered by a friend, we all peered into the special bag she plopped onto the kitchen floor.  Shock rippled through the group.

"He looks like Gandhi," my friend pointed out.  He was skinny, with long slender legs and a small breast.  At that moment, Gandhi was the name bestowed upon this year's Thanksgiving fowl, and I began to seriously wonder about this whole buy local sustainable living issue.  I knew nothing about it, but decided to delve in with an open mind and learn.  Buying Gandhi was my first experience.

The bottom line, in spite of our trepidations and outlandish expenditure, Gandhi (former member of the Heritage breed) was the most delicious, moist turkey any of us have ever tasted.  Even the granddaughters, who rarely eat more than a tablespoon of meat lest they risk gaining an ounce of weight, had two helpings of turkey.  We were all thankful for Gandhi.  Read the rest of the story here.

Latest Leeks on Skagit County Assessor
The new Deputy Assessor (and former Revaluation Auditor for the Washington State Department of Revenue Property Tax Division), R. C. Cavazos, hired by Assessor Don Munks, will reportedly not begin work until December 5.  Is he on vacation, or tidying up loose ends on his last job?

Skagit Leeks found the selection of Mr. Cavazos "irregular" and worth an email (expressing a citizen's concern) to Will Honea, the Chief Civil Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Skagit County.  Mr. Honea's response stated he thought Mr. Munks' selection was "great" and this situation reminded him of an episode in the current popular NBC sitcom "Parks and Recreation" which apparently had a similar story line.

A Letter to the Editor, written by Cathy Scott of Bow, WA, titled "Tax assessments flawed," was published in the November 27 issue of the Skagit Valley Herald.  Ms. Scott's letter referred to a November 20 front page story about the issue (basing home values on foreclosures and short sales) that concerned her, titled "Dropping in Value."

The interesting thing is Cathy Scott is absolutely correct in being concerned about the issue as reported in the paper, since the Assessor's Office does not, in fact, base home values on foreclosures and short sales.  So it seems to Skagit Leeks that we have two potential sources of incorrect information here:  (1) either our County Assessor, Don Munks, does not seem to know how his office operates, or (2) our newspaper, the Skagit Valley Herald, appears to print stories without verifying their accuracy.

Could it possibly be both?

What are we citizens and taxpayers supposed to think about this situation?  Read the whole story here.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Breaking News!

Oddly enough, on the very day of the debut of Skagit Leeks ... we heard from the Horse's Mouth (so to speak) that the newly appointed Skagit County Deputy Assessor (replacing the retiring Wes Hagen) is R. C. Cavazos, who happens to be the same R. C. Cavazos who performed the August, 2011 Audit of the Skagit County Assessor's Office!

R. C. Cavazos was listed as the Revaluation Specialist on the "2011 Review of the Physical Inspection and Revaluation Process in Skagit County" conducted by the Washington State Department of Revenue Property Tax Division, and made public on August 2011.

We'll have to see how this plays out.  But does it sound like another Good Ol' Boy Inside Job to you?

(There's more to Skagit County than fields of tulips in the Spring and sweet berries in the Summer, such as the recent problems and subsequent audits of our County Assessor's Office.)

Today's surprising revelation reminds me of the old "Revolving Door" issues that The Boeing Company used to have with members of the Pentagon who came to work for Boeing after contracts were awarded.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Help Make Our World a Better Place and Have Fun, Too.

We can do it in hundreds of ways, large and small.  It can be as simple as making someone smile or as complex as rooting out bureaucratic corruption and waste.

At Skagit Leeks you will be entertained and enlightened.  You might even laugh out loud.

The people who are crazy enough
to think they can change the world
are the ones who do.

From Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson

Skagit Valley is my amazing home, filled with varied, scenic natural resources, great food, rich fertile fields (with the same climate as Holland) where flowers, berries, fruit, vegetables ... and yes, leeks ... are grown, along with the production of milk, cheese, and organic meat.

We're on the shores of Puget Sound where bays are filled with oysters, clams and Dungeness Crab; the channels are familiar routes for pods of Orca whales, and filled with a variety of fish and shrimp.  Our valley is criss-crossed with rivers and streams - at times swollen with salmon surviving hungry eagles and fishermen and fighting their way to special spawning grounds.

We'll have many topics to examine:  the major and the mundane; relevant and provocative, food tips and recipes, books and movies and more.  Dialogue is welcome; labels and rants are not. 

Please join me here every Monday morning.

Lady of the Slough