Riley Plans to Lead
by Matthew Weaver, Herald staff writer
BBEDC director seeks to build mutual understanding
Redden's dam spilling ruling 'arbitrary'
MOSES LAKE -- Big Bend Economic Development Council executive director Bill Riley was busy in Washington, D.C. recently.
Over the course of a five-day trip, Riley spoke out against a recent judicial ruling and made plans to lead officials with the Beijing Taxation Research Society on a tour of the Columbia Basin in late September.
Riley's brother serves on the board of directors of the National Taxpayers Union, and alerted him to the Chinese delegation, in the United States studying government functions and taxation policies.
"What's happening in China is this rapid growth is causing a need for them to develop infrastructure," Riley explained. "They're trying to evaluate our system, and look at how our taxes are collected and imposed."
Riley invited the delegation to the Basin.
"China accounts for about 25, 30 percent of our trade deficit," Riley said. He added that the U.S. had a deficit of $188.4 billion in the last three months of 2004, and that number jumped to $195.1 billion in the first three months of 2005. A trade deficit is a general measure of the amount of goods services productions that a country is marketing to the world versus what the world is marketing to the country.
"We're losing our ability to pay for the things we want, and I'm talking about good schools, parks, good roads, etc.," Riley said. "At some point, consumers of foreign products are not just consumers. They're workers too, and when the factories disappear, and the workers lose their job, their ability to consume disappears also. That's the crisis we're facing on the horizon. So I don't think we can afford to ignore the Chinese, and that's why I invited this delegation here."
Riley wants to develop a working relationship with China in order to resolve those trade issues, and develop a mutual understanding.
In the past decade, China has experienced an explosion of growth, Riley said. He has spoken with a Washington State University economics professor, who agrees with him that it is necessary to begin building personal relationships with Chinese officials and people in order to remedy the trade issues. The BBEDC is exploring options on how to do that with the WSU economics department, and will meet with them again in the future.
"Of all the things I've seen in my entire life, this issue of China, capitalism and marketing in the United States is going to have the biggest impact on the American way of life than anything I've ever seen," Riley said.
The 10-day "whirlwind" tour will be a repeat of the Uzbekistan delegation tour Riley led through the county in 2004. It will include site crop harvesting, storage and processing, the Quincy intermodal container facility and the banking system.
"I'd like them to come away from the tour liking us as a people," Riley asserted, adding that he was astonished by the extended courtesies to the Uzbeks from businessmen and citizens during their tour. He still gets mail from those Uzbeks who participated in the 2004 Basin tour, he said. "I think that's something unique about Americans, so I want them to know about the Columbia Basin, who we are, not only as a nation, but as people, and I want them to say, 'We like Americans. How can we work together with them?'"
Riley also wants to focus on governmental entities and organizations like the North Columbia Community Action Council, he said, "and show them that there are people who fall through the cracks. Here in America, we don't put them in prison, we don't let old people freeze to death in the winter. We (have) a compassionate nature, and I want to show them that there are agencies here that help people who have fallen get back up on their feet."
Riley said the hope is also to show off some of the Basin's agricultural processed foods and that the area is a free trade zone. He wants to show them that the Port of Quincy can handle their containers quicker and more economically than places like the Port of Seattle or San Diego, thereby potentially creating jobs in the area.
"I would hope that there might be some reciprocity," Riley said, adding that the Uzbeks have asked him to tour their country. He may yet go, he said, and asserted that with a nation as big as China, there needs to be more effort developing cultural ties with the people, rather than confront them militarily as opponents.
"I think there's an opportunity for the United States here, and for the Columbia Basin, to expose each of us to each other. I think we will find that we have more in common than we do differences."
Also in Washington, D.C., Riley spoke with staffers and Congressman Doc Hasting's aide against a recent ruling by U.S. District Judge James Redden, who ordered the spilling of extra water over four hydroelectric dams in the Columbia Basin to help young salmon migrating into the sea.
"Here's a federal judge who says that NOAA, the Bureau of Reclamation, Bonneville Power, all of the government employees who have studied this matter are in error, that he's correct," Riley said. "Just arbitrarily, he's ordered this spilling of water for the salmon, and in the summer, it's the least effective of all times, yet he's willing to impose a $60 to $70 million burden on (10% on) taxpayers and (90% on Bonneville Power Administration) rate users here."
Riley said he is seeing initial reports that fish-friendly turbines put in by the Grant County Public Utility District have proven to allow numbers in the high 90 percentile of salmon to pass without injury. He said he is disappointed that the judge, instead of noting the improvements made by the PUD and encouraging such undertakings, has ordered the spilling "in one fell swoop." (bluefish notes: the Grant County PUD dams are not effected by this recent ruling which has ordered the spill over four federally owned and operated dams, their power is sold through the government agency called the Bonneville Power Administration).
Riley said Hastings will be urging President George W. Bush to appeal Redden's decision.
"They're very aware of the fact that this is a major issue out here," he said. "Congressman Hastings is pursuing that opportunity with President Bush."
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