Irish Thuggery

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Thu, Apr 02, 2015, 8:30 pm  //  Tip Johnson

Ad hominem character attacks are inimical to public dialog. Port Commissioner McAuley owes Northwest Citizen Publisher, John Servais, a retraction and apology.

On April 1, 2015, the Port of Bellingham broke up Bellingham's newly consolidated waterfront and set in motion give-away property rates that guarantee taxpayers are left holding the bag for hundreds of millions in costs.  No, that's not April Fool's.  It's not a joke and it's no laughing matter.  And it is just the start.  I have previously written about Bellingham's Billion Dollar Boondoggle.  The Port of Bellingham may go down as the most costly public administration in Whatcom County's history.

John Servais immediately published a highly critical article.  One commenter responded with, "A scam on a waterfront with shady Irish characters and shell companies hiding the real money flows….When I read in the Herald about someone nailed to the floor of the Granary by their knee cap, I will know Bellingham has made it into the big leagues of corruption and vice."

Well, the thuggery has begun, with Port Commissioner Mike McAuley once again taking the lead.

The very evening of the article, Commissioner McAuley wrote to John Servais, "John.  I treated you and NW Citizen as a legitimate news source until the day you threatened me at Cascade Pizza.  I no longer feel you nor NW Citizen are credible or reliable."

John rightly replied, ""Threatened" is a strong word, Mike.  Please clarify.  As an elected official, you really cannot say I threatened you without explaining."

McAuley replied tersely, "Put our language for five commissioners on the ballot or else," referring to his skewering of a citizen initiative but not elucidating how he felt threatened.

Voters may remember that in the wake of the Charlie Sheldon debacle, citizens mounted an initiative to expand the port commission.  When it appeared to be a very popular idea, McAuley offered to take it to the commission to see if they would put it on the ballot and save constituents a summer of signature gathering.

He got it on the agenda for an advertised meeting, where the commission approved it in front of a packed chamber using the same language citizens had crafted.

Later, without bothering to put it on the agenda so the public would be alerted, the commission reneged on their approval and concocted a hackneyed argument that the initiative should be subdivided. The commission wanted it broken into two questions and the wording changed to include a less appealing redistricting of the port; the citizen initiative had simply wanted two at-large positions added. McAuley led the way.

His argument was that the law prevents an initiative from asking two questions.  He had the port's lapdog attorney and another ginned up legal opinion to bolster his claim.  Interestingly, the Washington Supreme Court had ruled on the matter that very week.  A challenge brought against the liquor initiative on the grounds that it included too many provisions was denied when the court ruled that only unrelated questions cannot be on the same ballot measure, but as many reasonably related questions as necessary to accomplish the aim are allowable.  McAuley eagerly lapped up the atorneys' gruel, advising constituents that two legal opinions couldn't be wrong.  Well, they were and he was, too.

Not one supporter of the original initiative supported the port's butchered replacement.  Not one penny was spent promoting it.  Nevertheless, it darn near passed, indicating satisfaction with the present port system of three commissioners is very low.

I predict it is even lower now, with many of the folks who worked very hard for a decade to see a community waterfront feeling disenfranchised with the port having rigged the process and ignored their input to fashion a fantastic mega-development that even the port's own consultants say Bellingham can't support.

To date, McAuley has refused to say whether he felt physically threatened by a much older and smaller man, or psychologically threatened by the fact that John might publish something critical. I personally find it absurd to think McAuley would feel physically threatened by John.  And why would he feel threatened by John's criticism of his government actions? If you can't take the heat, stay out of the kitchen.

It's actually McAuley who is now doing the threatening, albeit in a passive/aggressive way.  He apparently doesn't understand the difference between a threat and a promise.  John publishes criticism of bad government.  That's what he does, and he just did it again, as promised.  McAuley's governing has been poor by any standard.  He betrayed the public's trust on a matter of direct democracy.  It hardly gets worse than that until they start looting the treasury which, in a sense, is what the commission has now begun.

However, threatening a public servant is a felony and can be taken very seriously.  Accusing John of a felony and combining it with marginalizing assertions that John and Northwest Citizen are not "credible or reliable" is the cheapest form of ad hominem smokescreen to defend against criticism of one's own bad decisions.  Such rumors can find a life of their own and become very damaging - especially in a small town.  John could end up on the no-fly list without even knowing.  Trying to limit public dialog with intimidation is unacceptable and McAuley owes Servais a retraction and apology. 

McAuley says he will be hosting a discussion of his waterfront perspectives this Saturday at 6:00 p.m. at Cascade Pizza.  Maybe you can go tell him what you think of his ideas.  If you can't make it, the port has left comment open on the Harcourt Deal and encourages remarks be sent to info@portofbellingham.com.

Doug Karlberg  //  Thu, Apr 02, 2015, 10:14 pm

Boys, boys, boys

A night of drinking, ends up the night with friends fighting.

Now that is Irish.


John Servais  //  Thu, Apr 02, 2015, 10:40 pm

Doug, well it that were the scenario, then that would be nice.  However there was no drinking with Mike.  He replied to an email yesterday with that accusation.  And has refused since to clarify that I did not make a physical threat against him.  It is not boys boys.  It is sad and serious. 

I did not ask Tip to write about this.  Now that he has, the issue is public.  I hope it does not become a diversion from the main issue.  Tip wrote as a friend and I appreciate that.

I do not threaten.  Never have.  I speak out. Exercise my free speech and freedom of the press. For that Mike chose to accuse me of a crime.  It is sad.  Especially since I was one of the few who encouraged him in 2009 to run for Port and supported him in his campaign.


Tip Johnson  //  Thu, Apr 02, 2015, 11:00 pm

Doug, are you suggesting I was…hick…drinking when I wrote that?  Hey, my mum’s maiden name’s Murphy.  What can I say?


Barbara Perry  //  Fri, Apr 03, 2015, 1:26 am

I just wish more news outlets were as honest with their words and you Tip and John.  Barbara Perry


George Dyson  //  Fri, Apr 03, 2015, 7:56 am

I consider myself long-term friends with Tip and only professionally acquainted with Mike, but I would cool down and cut Mike some slack. He’s in a corner trying to defend an essentially indefensible position, and that’s hard. No matter how you try and gloss it over, the Port has just executed exactly what all of us were warning about for so many years: selling off the clean part of the site to private interests for private gain, while leaving the public taxpayers holding the bag for the toxic remains that will now be even harder and more costly to deal with, since an attempt at upscale development will be in the way. What’s surprising is that we expected the cream of the site to be skimmed off for a huge amount of money, and now it’s been skimmed off for next to nothing, in an effectively no-bid process. That’s the real mystery here, that we should all put down our differences and start looking into.


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