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50 Shades of Green – The Puget Sound Partnership

Posted 3/5/2015
The Puget Sound Partnership, an obscure but notorious Washington state agency, has a new logo.Conceived in 2007 as a gimmick by which Washington could siphon federal tax dollars as part of a nepotistic kickback scheme, PSP was overseen for its first three years by David Dicks—son of Congressman Norm Dicks, who promised millions to his Green friends as an incentive to overlook his obvious lack of qualifications.

And it might have worked had Republicans not taken back the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010, leaving the senior Dicks unable to dispense favors. But that didn’t stop David Dicks from spending the next three years turning the Puget Sound Partnership as almost a perfect caricature of a corrupt, incompetent government agency.
Hence the need to cover the trail now with a new logo.

Rebranding efforts have been a staple of the bureaucracy at Puget Sound Partnership since its inception. The motivation to reinvent themselves, and leave the past behind, is easy to understand.

This agency has been a silly circus and scandal factory since its inception. We have documented just some of these stories in a report produced about the Puget Sound Partnership here.

We also discussed last year the effort of this agency to spend at least $60,000 to rebrand itself and create a new logo. PSP is approximately 50 percent of the way towards throwing those dollars away on this rebranding effort.

There is a certain archaic approach to creating a new logo represented in this forlorn effort to deny the past and pretend a new day has dawned. While it isn’t clear why taxpayers should be on the hook to pay for “rebranding” and new logos in the first place, if we must do this, does it need to cost $60,000?

If they wanted a new icon, they could have gone, for example, to designcrowd, paid a few hundred dollars and been given hundreds of options to choose from. If they chose this option, it would allow the bureaucrats to have fewer meetings and squander less of their time on this process. Which might not have been as much fun, but it certainly would save the taxpayers money.

Better yet, why not just have a statewide standard looking logo and save the taxpayers the money for “rebranding” in the first place?

Maybe $60,000 isn’t waste on the scale of Big-Bertha, but, it would be nice to save our resources when we can easily do so.

After wasting tens of thousands of tax dollars on the new logo, Alicia Lawyer, Puget Sound Partnership’s public relations officer (why do we need “public relations” people at all these government agencies?) explained the design thusly:

“The logo is an abstract representation intended to communicate the vision and focus that our new leadership has brought to the organization. The organic shapes—inspired by the letter “P”—symbolize the relationship between our agency and the larger partnership that includes hundreds of governments, tribes, businesses, nonprofits, science leaders and other interested parties. The two shapes coming together represent our role in the context of this collective recovery effort. We are many things to many people, so the abstract nature of the logo is also open to interpretation and can be seen as a water drop, a leaf, an abstract salmon or orca, and so much more.

The primary colors of the revised logo/look are both orange and a deep blue. You may notice that many Washington state government agencies also have shades of these two colors.

The new look is a small part of an effort that includes a refocus of our functions as we align with strengthening the backbone roles we provide as part of this collective impact effort.”

When I read this type of bureaucratic spiel, I’m reminded of how various Internet startup companies were scrambling to justify their existence during the dotcom stock market meltdown. At that time, the companies that couldn’t justify their existence with a normal business model failed and disappeared—regardless of how cool their brand looked. In our government—failure and incompetence is rewarded with more money and new logos.

Speaking of color shades, let’s talk about the green color of money. In the end, this is the only color the Puget Sound Partnership cares about. It is not difficult to discover inefficiencies, incompetence, and failures in government.

However, even by the low expectations that we have for these agencies and their predictable waste of hard-earned tax dollars, the Puget Sound Partnership has racked up an impressive list of failures, including:

According to a JLARC audit, PSP has failed to achieve any of the stated goals it was created to achieve. Total failure.

Impressively, PSP failed a federal audit by the EPA, an agency not known for its strict accounting or concern for abusing the taxpayers (although its logo includes a cool shade of green). Usually, the EPA keeps the blindfolds on pretty tight when its investigators are looking for corruption. However, PSP was forced to return $120,000 to the EPA after failing even this cursory audit.

PSP was forced to pay $40,000 to an employee improperly fired for being a whistleblower.

PSP awarded a $19,999 contract — $1 under the threshold required to put it out for a competitive bid — to the Seattle law firm of K&L Gates, one of Norm Dicks’ largest campaign contributors.

PSP spent at least $120,000 on IT goods, which far exceeded its original budget for IT investments for the 2007-09 biennium—and used the funds to purchase Apple Macintosh computers incompatible with statewide information systems and applications for financial reporting, payroll or travel, according to a Washington State Auditor’s report.

PSP also spent $6,853 for 120 monogrammed fleece vests, $5,044 for 30 monogrammed jackets, $3,650 for 5,000 tubes of lip balm, $687 for 20 personalized mahogany gift boxes containing sparkling apple cider for state officials and $2,474 in catering for a private reception—which state agencies are prohibited from providing according to state law — as part of a previous branding effort.

PSP awarded a $400,000 consulting contract to lobbyist Steve McBee and another $1 million to a company owned by Tom Luce — both former Norm Dicks’ staffers—proving it pays to have friends in high places.

PSP purchased a $10,000 “membership” in the Cascade Land Conservancy (they went with a fade to black logo) — whose vice president of transactions, by a happy coincidence, was David Dicks’ brother Ryan. Remember, PSP was originally invented to ensure the money stayed in the Dicks family.

PSP received attention for paying employees $20,000 more than other state workers in similar jobs. This has created a rich green shade of envy at other agencies.

Less than 10 percent of PSP’s budget is actually spent on “science”-related efforts. Primarily, PSP is a marketing company using most of its resources to justify its existence and promote an ever-expanding budget. That appears to be part of its “backbone” claim detailed above by their Public Information Officer.

Then there is this awesome video which our tax dollars funded through the Puget Sound Partnership’s marketing efforts:

It gets tedious trying to keep up with the incompetence. Gov. Jay Inslee and the Washington State Legislature appear on track to reward these failures by throwing good money after bad. If there ever was an agency deserving of elimination, the Puget Sound Partnership would be the poster child—even with the cool new fonts and colors in this brand.

It has been said the closest thing to eternal life on this earth is a government program. Of course, the good people at PSP will spend most of their money justifying their existence so that they get their cut of the tax pie this time around.

Legislators from both parties are converging in Olympia. Many of them will posture about saving taxpayer dollars or prioritizing how they spend the money we send them. It would be a nice start if they could demonstrate their seriousness by eliminating this worthless agency once and for all.

Sometimes, even if you love the idea or the government agency, you just have to let it go. Taxpayers shouldn’t remain handcuffed to an agency like this, no matter how many shades of green are used to obscure its failures.

“When you support Puget Sound Partnership, you’re not supporting the environment. You’re supporting a bureaucrat who has been trained to deliver a message about the environment.”
– Ed Kilduff, Hydrogeologist.
August 23, 2013.

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