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OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY

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One last thing before the County Council caves to political expediency and the lawyers take over. Let’s talk about who will be paying for Pete Kremen and Mich Friedman’s park in the watershed.

According to DNR, some $685,000 per year will be foregone by schools, lost to the road fund, and eliminated from other community service budgets. That’s in Whatcom county. Skagit county’s losses, and the costs to be spread out to other state taxpayers, have not been discussed as yet. Somehow, others will have to come up with this money.

CNW’s director opposed the recent settlement that restored some of the funding lost by the schools as a result of decreased timber revenues after another of their initiatives. And we are now being told this is a cost we should ignore because there is no legal way to make the schools whole.

Next, they will spend Conservation Futures Funds to have some new hiking trails. The conservation of our farmlands will be sacrificed to provide recreational opportunities to city residents “just minutes away.”

This tax was supported by the voters to create a fund to acquire development rights on privately owned forest and farmlands to protect farming and forestry from this encroaching urbanization.

The county now wants to use these funds to pay its share of the costs of appraisals and other legal expenses to accomplish land transfers to consolidate forest lands for this park. Rand Jack tells us, “The transaction cost to the County will be about $300,000, all paid from the Conservation Futures Fund…”

Henceforth they propose to use these funds for the park’s ongoing maintenance costs.

They want to take thousands of acres of productive forest lands away from the industry that relies on them. This means a loss to the people in that industry of more than $3,000,000 per year. Money that would be part of the economy right here where we live.

And last but not least, there’s the newly released fiction, the 2009-2010 budget. This fantasy is the story of a little northwest county that escapes the ravages of the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression and actually realizes increased tax revenues.

While it merrily forgoes needed water protection and storm-water infrastructure, blissfully ignores the expense to remedy the errors of the past and fix the mess it created in Lake Whatcom, it builds a playland in the watershed surrounding the city’s reservoir instead, calls it good, and everyone lives happily ever after.

And what does Kremen say about passing this buck? “I’m proud of not raising property taxes, period.”

As Kremen, Friedman and Jack see it, “it’s the greatest deal since the Louisiana Purchase.” It’s almost free! “In this case the costs are amazingly small compared to the benefits.”

It never seems expensive when you’re spending other people’s money.

No, as Seth Fleetwood recently observed, “this probably won’t be much help to the lake.” So much for the original rationale for reconveyance.

And it’s obvious the proposed park plan can’t end forestry on the reconveyed lands. Instead, given county enforcement, you might as well forget the Lake Whatcom Landscape Plan’s restrictions on it.

In the end what will we get? Some more trails, parking lots and bathrooms in the watershed, and all the liabilities that will come with the land.

Pretty expensive trails. Hardly a free lunch.

About g.h.kirsch

Contributor • Member since Jan 16, 2008

Comments by Readers

Tom Pratum

Oct 20, 2008

Gosh, do we really have to look at a picture of Mitch Friedman every time we load this page now? And to think that I was awarded their “volunteer of the year” award one year for my help with their State Trust Lands campaign (now defunct). At least I haven’t been dumb enough to donate any money to them for the past few years.

What Greg says is true - this whole thing is phony. In addition, the county is feeding CNW contract cash, and in return CNW has given the county administration all of its talking points to push this proposal forward; there are even links to the CNW website from the Whatcom County website. CNW has used its mailing list to generate letters to the council from people who know nothing about this issue and may well not even know where Lake Whatcom is located.

The issue with the Conservation Futures fund is really the icing on the cake. Pete Kremen is proposing to remove the funding source we have been told will fund transaction fees and M&O;in the park BEFORE this vote even occurs. Does that guy have chutzpah or what? I hope at least the council will deny him the opportunity to raid this fund that is needed so much for land acquisition throughout the county.

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Tip Johnson

Oct 21, 2008

Rant, rant, rave, rave!

Is the demise of the Lake Whatcom Landscape Plan still a quid pro quo for the reconveyance?  I have to say that I am not sure, because news reports have been very skimpy on this point.  It is important because the landscape plan affects all forest lands in the watershed.  Trading even a flawed watershed-wide forest lands plan for any single chunk of property is like giving away Manhattan for a handful of beads.  When will the publics’ health become a priority for elected officials?  Shouldn’t we first try to improve a more comprehensive plan before abandoning it in favor a single ripe plum?

The abandonment of the Landscape Plan becomes even more portentous in view of the the facts that the County is already fudging on important resource land policies and budgetary considerations to ram the proposal through.  Once the slippery slope of budgetary and policy compliance is breeched, where will it all end?

David Syre, of the Trillium Corporation, owns substantial lands in the Lake Whatcom Watershed, including lands ranging to the top of Galbraith Mountain.  From the top, you can see prestigious views of Baker and the Cascades. Turn around and the San Juan Archipelago stretches from Bellingham Bay into Canada.  To boot, Lake Padden and the Chuckanuts appear resplendent in their local, proximal and undeveloped glory. All in all, a thing of beauty to behold, a gem.  To Syre, an uncut gem.

Aren’t we blessed to live amidst such beauty?  If only we could find the political will to protect it for us all, or at least to insure pure, clean water for the future!

Syre, for years, has had plans for a large development on the top of Galbraith Mountain.  The plan I saw was euphemistically framed as a spiritual retreat - spiritual, except in terms of public benefit.  Regulatory changes that might enable the conversion of these forest lands to other uses translate into many millions, possibly billions of value to Trillium.  Of course, once it is started for one, it has started for all.

On the eve of Syre’s indictment for fraud in the case of the collapse of Metropolitan Mortgage and Securities in Spokane, he split for Patagonia.  His all-expenses-paid sidekick?  Mitch Friedman!  Their aim?  To tour Syre’s most profitable sawmills!

What would entice a former tree-spiker to travel the western hemisphere looking at sawmills?  Was Mitch’s vision of forest protection somehow blinded by the brilliance of Syre’s “forest management” revenue stream?

Hey! Your guess is as good as mine, but somehow it’s little wonder to me that the erstwhile head of our ostensible, indefatigable non-profit protector-of-the-trees is working so hard to undermine a hard-won plan that restricts forest practices in the watershed to those that make sense in terms of the publics’ interest - water quality.

Syre’s Trillium-related motivations are no wonder at all.

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Tip Johnson

Oct 21, 2008

And Tom,

Your last article was very good. Post a new one, instead of a comment, and watch Mitch shrink to a small thumbnail before sliding down the queue into internet oblivion!

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Tom Pratum

Oct 21, 2008

Tip-
It won’t necessarily end the landscape plan - what the DNR and the County have said is that they will talk about that after the MOA is signed. This was in an early version of the MOA, but the County asked to have it taken out due to its controversial nature. The DNR has clearly stated that one of the reasons they would do this is so they can cut more timber on the land outside of this area being reconveyed; removing the landscape plan is one way to do that.

The landscape plan certainly has some weaknesses - still, I think it is a lot better than what happens on other land in the watershed. What I think you will see happening if this goes through is that the DNR will put the “pedal to the metal” as far as setting up timber sales on the rest of the acreage. We already see that with the 122 acre Olsen Bridge timber sale that has been submitted near Olsen Creek. I think you will also see that Whatcom County - as long as it is administered by Pete Kremen - will turn a blind eye to this.

Unfortunately, the Interjurisdictional Committee that is supposed to oversee the landscape plan (and containing Pete’s own employee Steve Fox) is very weak - they never say anything about these timber sales other than “good job!” As I have said before, it could be a lot better with Peter Goldmark as lands commissioner.

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Mitch Friedman

Oct 22, 2008

And all this time I thought the real conspiracy was that Greg wanted to keep the steepest parts of our watershed wide open to clearcutting so he could earn the love and respect of his hero, Sarah Palin.

Dudes, it’s big, beautiful, watershed-protecting park. Lighten up!

Tip: I don’t think Syre has any sawmills in Argentina. At least he didn’t when I was there. I think you’ve seen my report. Oh, and the landscape plan will remain intact. (You’re welcome.)

Tom: How do you reconcile your continued opposition to the Blanchard compromise (where you feel we didn’t protect enough) with your concern that we’re protecting too much in our watershed? BTW, CNW still has a state lands program, in case you want to volunteer or donate. Think Loomis, Blanchard, Lake Whatcom plan and reconveyance, statewide old growth retention policy, recent lynx management guidelines, much more. Again, you’re welcome.

Here’s an anecdote, fun for all: In the 2007 court hearing on Skagit v WA, the attorney representing Skagit Co (and the timber industry) argued that CNW’s motivation for orchestrating and preserving the landscape plan had nothing to do with clean water, but was really about maintaining clearcut-free views for our rich donors living around Lake Whatcom. (Perhaps she thought you were still a donor, Tom). Gosh, I’ve got to keep better track of my conspiracies!

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g.h. kirsch

Oct 23, 2008

Mitch,

How nice that you are suddenly ready to brave public exchange on this. Don’t think it’s over.  That fat lady ain’t sung yet. (And I intend no offense to any of your lady friends.)     

Enjoyed your attempt to obscure my very independent political views.  If I write about Palin, and suggest what her popularity indicates, I guess that’s different from when I write similarly about Obama. 

Or following the Friedman logic, I guess I’m an Obama-Palin supporter.  Good thinking Mitch.

Without attempting the Sisiphusian untertaking of your enlightenment, let me say I understand your propensity for the “straw man” argument.  That’s about the extent of your capability.

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Tom Pratum

Oct 23, 2008

If Peter Goldmark is elected in November, then the landscape plan is probably be safe. If Mitch’s friend Doug Sutherland is re-elected, then the county has already agreed to talk about approaching the legislature with the DNR to change it. If the county and the DNR can’t agree on how to approach the legislature, then the DNR will do it on their own, and they will have a very good argument: most of the land that is restricted by the landscape plan will be out of their control, so why not release the rest of it?

The BSG and this reconveyance have one thing in common: neither does what CNW has said they will do. In the case of the BSG, the folks who are actually concerned about Blanchard Mt have had to go to court to try and undo Mitch’s damage. I definitely support them, and would donate neither my time nor money in CNW’s favor. If I were soaking up $80,000 per year from unsuspecting donors like Mitch, and falsely pushing forward initiatives as CNW does, I don’t think I could sleep at night. I guess $80,000 can buy a lot of Ambien.

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Mitch Friedman

Oct 25, 2008

I sleep great, Tom. Thanks for your concern.

Last night, after the Goldmark fundraiser that I organized (my second) to unseat my “friend” Sutherland, I ran into Tip. I asked Tip why he would oppose reconveyance given that during formation of the Landscape Plan, he (like Tom) wrote in favor of no logging at all on state lands in the watershed.

Tip’s reply was that he supports the park, but just not in quid pro quo for dropping the Landscape Plan. Whoever is fueling this fear that Tip and Tom seem to share, that the Landscape Plan is at risk (under Goldmark OR Sutherland) is grossly misinformed.

I have little doubt that DNR would like to get out from under, or that they might approach the Legislature to try. But I have absolute trust that the county (and city) do not share that agenda. And I have very strong confidence that we can block any such attempt. CNW does pretty well in Olympia. (Your welcome again.)

Greg and Tom: I’m not clear on your fundamental reasons for opposing the park. I’ve taken stock of the valid con’s you’ve raised and, like four members of County Council, judged them to be greatly outweighed by the pro’s. But please stop masquarading behind fabricated conspiracy theories (involving Trillium or anyone else) or Chicken Little rants about the End of the Landscape Plan. These tactics alone, even without your offensive personal statements about fat women or drug use, undermine your credibility.

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g.h. kirsch

Oct 26, 2008

Mitch,

As always, there you go with your straw man, and ambiguous, assertions.

Neither Tom or I have asserted that the county, at this point, is planning to abandon the Landscape Plan.  So if you’ve got some evidence that either of us has, let’s see it.

As to your support for rezoning Galbraith Mtn, have you forgotten your e-mail forwarding that plan?

Should we erase Dan McShane’s record voting for his “good friends” rezone?

But finally Mitch, neither Tom or I are trying to maintain “credibility” like you.  We aren’t trying to support ourselves on public esteem or government funding.

Our credibility is based solely on the strength of our argument.  The fact that you’re able to intimidate a majority of the council isn’t much of an accomplishment.

Frankly Mitch, I’m amazed at how many people your able to baffle with your bullshit.  It’s a sad commentary on public awareness.

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