County Commission candidate Michael Bruce

Michael Bruce

Occupation: Retired educator

Political Party: Democrat

Examples of Civic Involvement: Councilman two terms, Concrete, Wash., currently serving my third consecutive term as the Mayor of Westport, twice elected (2011 and 2012) Chairman of the Grays Harbor Council of Governments, selected to serve on the board of Grays Harbor Transit (2012), More than 40 years of community volunteerism and organizational leadership, co-chaired a group that built a new library for the City of Westport entirely with donations, Past President of the Camp Horizon Foundation ( a summer camp for the mentally and physically challenged).

Four words to describe your personality: Honest, dependable, sympathetic and creative.

What are your thoughts on how the incumbent county commissioners communicate with their constituents and is there any room for improvement?

A clear and present danger exists within county government — the lack of communication and the unwillingness to mediate with staff on budgetary matters. It is my opinion that constituents, elected officials, county department heads and employees are all treated in the same manner — they are dictated to, not communicated with!

I’m bothered, as you should be, by what appears to be a lack of communication, understanding and uncertainty amongst the county commissioners, on many issues, that play out poorly in the daily newspaper. It appears, oftentimes, as though commission decisions are made to garner votes rather than using “good common sense” on what is best for Grays Harbor County taxpayers.

What is the optimal way the county should be doing its budgets and is the county doing its budgets in this fashion?

Well-trained and informed county commissioners should be utilizing the Policy Analysis Process and including department heads in all their decision making discussions. Men and women are selected as department heads because they are smart, dedicated people that understand and provide the “boots-on-the-ground” services required of their respective departments. Quite simply the steps included in the Policy Analysis Process are:

1) Defining and analyzing the problem (Who or what is affected)

2) Constructing policy alternatives (List all policy options to be considered)

3) Developing evaluative criteria (What are the costs and effectiveness of the action?)

4) Assess all alternatives (Collect the evidence to be considered - distinguishing better and worse policy alternatives)

5) Draw and execute conclusions given the circumstances and full evaluation of all criteria.

The public should be informed of the potential impacts expected from budgetary changes, i.e., reducing the Sheriff’s budget would mean slower emergency response times and not being able to fully staff the county jail; reducing capacity. Reductions to social and human services such as mental health care programs reduce the opportunities for those mentally ill to receive the much-needed services to keep themselves and the community safe.

What letter grade would you give the county commissioners today?

A group grade of (C-) requiring immediate improvement.

Taxing the public (B+) Commissioners increase property tax by 1 percent; they issue a road levy shift to increase more taxes on cities. Surprise! The commissioners issue a refund levy to increase even more property taxes.

County Audit (C-) needs improvement. In a county audit the State Auditor suggests the county needs to learn how to budget better, specifically criticizing the low reserves and lack of control in budgeting, as well as a dependence on inter-fund loans.

Courthouse Security (F) needs improvement. The judges convene a committee with recommendations on courthouse security. The county commission takes no action, remaining silent — one deputy and superior court judge are injured on the job.

Administration of Homeless Funds (D-) needs improvement. The county commissioners are sitting on more than $1.5 million in homeless funds without the leadership to implement a plan on how to spend it. Once again remaining silent.

Redistricting (F) needs improvement — but we have to wait 10 years. Despite the input of Auditor Vern Spatz and Commissioner Herb Welch, the commission votes to redistrict Westport into District 2 and places Cosmopolis in District 3.

Lack of Priorities (A) Well done. Department heads and elected officials for years have asked the commissioners to outline departmental priorities, while including them in the decision making process, rather than ask for across the board cuts (like 8 percent). The commissioners excelled, once again, by not setting priorities.

Communication (D) abysmal. Elected officials, department heads, employees and constituents are left wanting for more interaction with their elected county commissioners. The good news is — the incumbents are promising to communicate better if re-elected. Why should we trust a campaign promise this time around. Clear, honest and open communication should be first and foremost in all relationships — even elected ones!