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Dana Lyons and friends organized a celebration this evening of the purchase of Chuckanut Ridge as a city parkland. Even though it is 10 days before the legal purchase is completed. The party drew a huge crowd to Fairhaven Middle School Commons for a self congratulatory love fest - as was appropriate. Music, speeches, Mallard Ice Cream, big sheet cakes, potluck, and maybe over 300 people all in their most carefully casual northwest clothes.
Except for the banker from Washington Federal. Dana correctly invited him and he looked the banker. He did not try to pretend otherwise and the crowd loved him for it. He was pleased to be there. He spoke well and complimented everyone. As was appropriate. He got a standing ovation. And so it went this evening, again and again.
The public personalities of the 16-year-long effort to stop development on the 100 Acre Wood spent good time naming many others in the community who deserved credit. But none of the southside social elite mentioned the guy who maybe is responsible for making the deal work in the end. The guy who did enormous research on the legal and financial aspects of the property and made sure that information was in the legal record where it would eventually cause the parties to make a deal. Larry Horowitz. If anyone mentioned his name, I sure did not hear it and I was listening for it. So tonight he did not exist. They could have given Larry much credit - even though they are mad at him about how he thinks the deal should have been carried through. They could have been bigger people this evening. But they chose not.
There was the normal amount of revisionist history. Tonight, the fight lasted at least 30 years, not 16 or 20. Tonight people got credit who strongly opposed buying the land. But that is the way of public events. All the city council was applauded but only some of them supported this these past couple years. Who got credit was politically very important this evening. It was small town politics at its best.
We are paying $8.3 million and that is probably $3 million too much. Our mayor is not a negotiator. In fact, others did all the work and he had trouble carrying water. He came to the council this summer and said the council had to pay $8.9 million and could not see the appraisal. Otherwise they would lose the deal. Take it or leave it. The council told him no. Too much. They also insisted they see the appraisal. The mayor went back to the bank and told them the council said no.
The bank dropped $600,000 off the price and said the council could see the appraisal. The mayor brought the news back and the council approved the deal. Hell, the mayor is good buddies with Edelstein, the man who held up this deal for over a year. He is now playing this for all he can during the mayoral election campaign.
We probably did pay too much. The EIS would have shown the property to be not qualified for development, maybe halving the perceived value. But we finally have the property and that is what is most important. Even paying a bit too much is secondary to getting this property.
In the end, the party was fine. It was a rare people's victory over big institutions and government agencies. It reminds one of the opening of Boulevard Park in the summer of 1980. For years prominent and powerful people in Bellingham said we had enough parks and did not need one down on the waterfront. I remember the 1960s efforts toward the park and how it was slammed. But from the day it opened it became Bellingham's most popular park - and I never found a person who was against it. Some figured out ways to take credit. Regardless, the important thing is we got Boulevard Park. And in a few days we will get Chuckanut Ridge.
It was a fun celebration and all were smiles. But it is always appropriate to seek the truth and not believe in the noise of the crowd. Thank you, Larry Horowitz, for all your work to help us get Chuckanut Ridge.