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State of the County:
Optimism Despite Tough Ecomony

by Barbara LaBoe
The Daily News, March 13, 2012

Times are still tough in Cowlitz County, and another $2 million must be cut from the county's current budget, but officials said Tuesday brighter days may be beginning.

Commission Chairman George Raiter gave his State of the County address later in the year than usual, in part because of the continued uncertainty of the state budget and the county's own ongoing financial struggles.

"Everything is still in flux," Raiter said, noting the Legislature is holding a special session to settle the state budget.

Raiter said in 2009 that he considered that a watershed year for the county, noting the budget was cut, people laid off and the county building closed one day a week. The county has maintained "the same austere budget," but expenses have increased, and the county now must trim $2 million from its current spending plan, Raiter said.

"I believe the county has cut to the bone, and the next thing we need to do is rearrange the bones," Commissioner Mike Karnofski added after Raiter's address. "We can't keep doing what we have been."

County residents may have longer lines and slower service as some of the cuts are put into place, Raiter said.

Raiter said the next three or four years may mark a turning point for the county. Based on national and local trends, Raiter said he believes a slow but sure recovery is underway. He also said he hopes the county's new forays into exporting may put the area ahead of the national recovery curve.

"These things have been a long time coming," he said. "I don't know how many more times this county can take a hit and pull itself back up by its bootstraps."

Raiter also listed several signs of encouraging economic growth, including:

Raiter also stressed the need for public involvement in government during tough times, saying it often leads to better solutions for citizens and local leaders.

"Public participation is vital," Raiter said. "This is not a time to be sitting on the sidelines."

Barbara LaBoe
State of the County: Optimism Despite Tough Ecomony
The Daily News, March 13, 2012

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