To July - Dec 2001
Friday, June 29
The Port of Bellingham. Haven't reported on that government agency in quite a while. And it is time. I'm working on a story that should be posted here next week. It should be big. I'm just one person and this site is a part time passion. As time permits, I'm checking the facts. But I know enough to post this teaser. Seems the Port is in bed with a tenant of the old KAP building and the transactions aren't pretty.
The trees in Fairhaven - or the absence of. There will be a planning meeting to scope out ideas on how to rebuild that one block of Harris Avenue where all the trees were chopped down. It will probably be on Wednesday, July 18 at the Cruise Terminal. We will confirm. You know, here is a chance for the city to show some ability at facilitating public process. It might seem natural to ask the city council to hold a hearing and vote on the plan. But this citizen trusts the new Director of Public Works more than the city council to follow a process that allows the public to have meaningful input to the rebuild plan.
Dick McKinley very positively impressed this participant of the informal gathering last Tuesday when we all expressed our concerns. I think we might do much better on a plan that will benefit all - merchants, building owners and residents - by relying on Dick's judgement than from anything the planning department and city council might botch up. Plus we will be spared long hours of boring staff presentations about irrelevant trivia at redundant hearings where we are allowed one 3 minute comment. We need the free flowing discussion process of a scoping session that Dick proposed. Just this citizen's opinion.
Have a great weekend. It promises to be beautiful.
Wednesday, June 27
The meeting on how to restore Harris Street in Fairhaven was a good one last evening. Dick McKinley, our new Public Works Director, did a good job of allowing the citizens to air all the issues - past and future - about the clear cutting of all the trees in the central block of Historic Fairhaven. Over 60 people attended and stayed for the 2 hour meeting despite there being about 7 chairs and no sound system. Many merchants and building owners were there. Most attending were people who have loved the Fairhaven area and were well acquainted with all the issues.
You couldn't find a person who said they had been in favor of the tree cutting. It also became clear that there was a totally botched decision process in city hall that led to the cutting of all the trees. Alternatives were not considered. It became clear that the need to widen Harris to better accommodate the new angle parking was the prime reason for the tree cutting - not the very secondary reasons of tree roots causing problems. Indeed, many solutions were presented by the attendees on how the trees could have been saved. Dick McKinley listened and was very careful to neither agree nor disagree with anything said. People had to accept that the trees as they were are just plain gone. The hurt was real. City officials realize they cut out part of the heart of the ambience in Fairhaven. Many of the smaller merchants pointed out that they were kept in the dark about the planned cutting and came to work on that Wednesday to find all the trees in front of their businesses to be stumps.
Half the discussion was about what to do to restore the street. Ideas such as make Harris one way down hill for those two blocks, go back to parallel parking, move some parking off the street to the parking areas around the central Historic District, and many more. However, the meeting was obviously intended to merely get a measure of people's feelings. Nothing more. Dick, to his credit, ended the meeting by asking what should be done next. Virtually all were in favor of a carefully run planning meeting that would allow all ideas to be considered and hopefully integrated into a restoration plan that would benefit merchants and residents.
The public planning meeting will be held in late July. There will be good public notice. This web site will post full information on it, of course. The city has the opportunity to use public process and do it right. But we citizens need to insist that a full decision making process be outlined and that it make sense. I believe that in the plethora of ideas presented last night, there exists a solution that will satisfy everyone. We have to work to formulate it.
I will also be posting more information on how the process went so badly up to now. Some would say don't play the blame game, but I say there must be accountability by public officials. Responsibility and accountability are necessary if we are to have good government. Otherwise we get what we have - government repeatedly does what it wants in violation of ordinances and then apologizes with a shrug. Dick kept trying to take responsibly for the screw up even though he is not. He has been in Bellingham only 5 months and he depended on his maintenance supervisor and others to do things right. They didn't. I did a public disclosure request and spent hours reading all the internal communications. His staff and other departments - Parks, Planning and Legal - all let him down. The buck stops with the mayor who was informed of the planned cutting. The maintenance supervisor in Public Works made the decision that cutting the trees was the thing to do - without any consideration of options and in violation of internal rules. In speaking to him since, he has exhibited an arrogance towards and contempt for those who feel hurt or outraged over the tree cutting. He should be fired.
I'll be creating a new section for posting all the ideas brought out last evening. There is no reason to wait for the late July meeting before starting to put together possible solutions. Please check back over the next few weeks. And feel free to send ideas via email to firstname.lastname@example.org We want to make the rebuilding of Harris Street a positive experience for all. It is the heart of Fairhaven.
Monday, June 25
The Herald editorial on Sunday was about the lack of public process from our city council. It is an excellent editorial. I'm flabbergasted. The Herald finally sees the light of what is happening at city hall. Indeed, since the paranoid cancelling of the public hearing on the waterfront diesel generators in February, the council, under the direction of mayor mark, has violated public process on an almost continuous basis on issue after issue. And where it has not directly ignored public process, it has allowed departments to do so.
A couple rebuttals of letters in today's Herald. One writer says the pit protestors are not in the spirit of American protest and do not merit comparison to founders of our country. Well, I would submit one example for comparison - the Boston Tea Party. Sam Adams and his friends dressed up as Indians, painted their faces with much mirth, and dumped the tea. They were accused of a cheap trick and told that there was public process available to them if they had a problem with the very minor tea tax. Need I say more. Also, the letter writer has quite a number of facts wrong. Example - the protestors did not defecate in the pit - they carefully used containers and had the waste disposed of properly. The supposed excesses are all in the imagination of the writer.
A second letter is from Nicole Oliver, the secretary for the city council. She admonishes the pit protestors for expecting too much too soon. And she has a valid point that all of us active citizens would agree with. However, I strongly disagree with her regarding the merit of trying to work with the system. The protestors - the young people - see clearly that the city does not want to hear from the public. I have tried for years to work with the system - and it does not work. It is not a question of disagreeing with the results. Rather the system - city council, Port of Bellingham, Department of Ecology, pick your agency - will cheat to get what they want. A citizen can participate and be praised as an example of citizen participation IF they are in favor of what the agency or city wants. I worked 5 years with the system on our Happy Valley neighborhood plan. You read about this struggle. We had to sue the city to get them to obey the law - and it cost us over $10,000. We won, but then they cheated some more. They cheat us with our tax dollars. Routine business.
A current example. Right now - this month, next month - our waterfront future is being decided behind closed doors and without public participation. The mayor, the Port of Bellingham, DOE and large corporations are deciding what will happen on the Georgia Pacific waterfront property. Now, the common mantra is that the property is GP's to do with as they want. Perhaps, to a limited degree. However, when our governments - Port, city, state - become involved then it becomes a public process. We will be told when the decisions are made and then a charade of public process will take place with the decision a forgone conclusion. And any who raise their voice in protest will be marginalized.
Still nada in the Herald on Sunday or today regarding the dismissal of the city's case against Clara Cheeves. Guess it is only news when young people are falsely arrested and the news story carries the police and city point of view of why they were arrested. The Herald has a long history of printing sensational stories of arrests and nada of acquittals.
Saturday, June 23
The judge dismissed the City of Bellingham's case against Clara Cheeves on Friday. She was arrested on February 3 during a march against the pollution of the new diesel generators on the waterfront. This was the first of the many arrests that our police chief Randy Carroll has instigated in an attempt to intimidate those who would speak out against the mayor and city council. Randy was on the scene at the time of her arrest.
No story in the Herald today. No mention. Nada.
So - it would be good to tally up the costs of the police action, city attorney, and the court and judge on this one. Our finance director, who can produce the costs of police to supervise the pit protestors, should be able to provide us the cost of this. Worst of all, was the traumatizing by our police of an innocent young person - and the example to the dozens of other young demonstrators that our police will use violence against innocent people if the police chief feels the urge to show he is in control. We have a serious problem with our unqualified police chief.
I heard from State Representative Jeff Morris regarding the article below on June 21. He doesn't get it. He hasn't a clue. He points out he was "not on the clock" that day. So what. The overtime session is still costing us taxpayers $30,000 a day and we want our legislators to get their work done - not take three day holidays in the middle of the week in addition to the weekends. But they squabbled and played and now we will have a third session this summer - and the longest legislative session in state history. Thanks Jeff. How's your golf game doing?
Thursday, June 21
Have you ever caught Ken Schram on KOMO 4 news at 11pm? He used to run a Town Meeting on TV in Seattle. Now he is sort of a roving commentator. Good, sharp commentary. He does not pull punches. Just what I wish we had more of in our news media.
Ken took our State Representative Jeff Morris to task for golfing while the legislature is in extended session - supposedly working hard to finally pass our budget and other needed legislation. Seems our legislature took three days vacation in the middle of the week and Jeff left Olympia. This extended session is costing us taxpayers $30,000 a day - mostly for staffing and support services for the legislature. Jeff may only get $82 a day, but the cost of keeping Olympia functioning for our legislators is very expensive. We want them to work hard, finish and end the session. Instead they take days off in the middle of the week.
You can read it all at the KOMO web site. You can read Jeff's letter that tries to explain the golfing. He says he was working. No, Jeff, working is at your office, meeting with those costly staff we provide you. Working is going over the wording of legislation, meeting with other legislators and finding a way to actually get the work done.
Jeff says he has received "...only two negative letters from my constituents..." about his golf playing. Well, he has now received a third. And if you feel the same as the three of us, please write Jeff.
You can email him at: email@example.com
You don't have to live in the 40th district to express your concern. You help pay for the extended legislative session no matter where you live in Washington. A message to Rep. Morris will get around to the others in Olympia. Get the peoples work done. Quit squandering our taxpayer money on an extended session complete with extended mid week vacations. They already have the weekends off.
Wednesday, June 20
I owe the Herald a correction. The last paragraph of the June 17 post, below, compliments the Herald editorial concerning cheating at Western. However, the Herald did run a report on the cheating in the Saturday, June 8 edition. Front page. I stated they did not run any report. I missed it. The Western Front was my source of information. I'll try to be more careful. If you see factual errors here let me know. As the bottom of this page has stated for almost 6 years, we invite corrections.
Continuing on the Herald, compliments on John Stark's coverage of the city meeting Monday evening as printed in Tuesday's edition. The meeting was between city hall staff and pit protestors regarding the process for downtown planning. John's article had several items that shed light on why the city has come under such strong criticism lately regarding their public processes.
Council "representative" John Watts has the Another View column in today's Herald. It is the most negative rant that I've read in some time. The first half of his column charges city detractors with "lies" and all sorts of other things. The examples of lies in the second half show only intolerance with those who disagree with him. He shows a very closed mind. It is really hard to follow his writing and understand what exactly he is saying. The whole thing is an uncontrolled rant. Read it yourself. This is a council person who was appointed to his position and ran unopposed for office. Mr. Watts, imho, may be a very smart guy but he does not understand what representing people means nor what constitutes public process. Too bad we have two more years of him in office. His actions are part of the reason we have such turmoil over public process in our city. The intolerance shown in his column is displayed at council meetings.
Tomorrow is the first day of Summer. Bellingham is as beautiful a place as exists in the world for living. Lets keep it that way and make it even better. Granted, we do have some serious air and water problems. NWCitizen will start posting some visions of what I think could make this a better place to live and work and play. Stay tuned.
Tuesday, June 19
The public meeting went smoothly last evening. A few city officials gave speeches about public process. The approximately 40 attendees waited, a bit bored. Then instead of any feedback from the young citizens, the city staff separated people to go to discussion groups. But it all soon melded into one discussion group - not quite what either side envisioned. The weight for the city was carried by Steve Price of Community Development who responded to virtually all the citizens in a sort of free flowing discussion. Several city council members participated. Meanwhile, other council members, city staff and a handful of citizens engaged in several pockets of conversation. So went the city public meeting. It was probably the best possible process that could have happened - and it could not have been planned. It was people expressing their concerns and others listening.
The city had an incredible number of documents on tables for people to pickup and read. During the discussion, citizens with questions would sometimes be answered with staff asking if the citizen had read some document. Staff didn't seem to realize what the concern was - it was about the difficulty of citizen participation in public processes. Staff kept citing numbers as answers. The attendees kept coming back to the question of how the public can participate in a meaningful manner. In the end, the process was hopefully good for all - and hopefully helped to reduce the tension in this town.
Monday, June 18
You're here so you are curious about the morning comment. Well, here it is. Check today's Herald - the editorial page. It summarizes the hot issues for this fall's local elections. Public processes, worthy local causes, environment. Myron Wlaznak has yet another column that shows his common sense view of the "pit" demonstrators and the city council. Excellent.
The Herald editorial seeks to insult the demonstrators and advise them of better causes - so typical of people who do not understand others. I remember all the elderly advice in the 60s about how Vietnam protestors should do something with their lives instead of just upsetting everyone.
The Herald prints a letter that is critical of Western for the cheating scandal. The Herald never printed any story on this cheating, but did finally print an editorial yesterday exposing it. The Herald held this person's letter and did not print it until after the Herald could express its view. A normal process for them. If the Herald was concerned about this issue they would ask Western President Karen Morse for her rationale on allowing continued cheating at Western. But then, that might embarrass a big advertiser too much.
Why so critical of the Herald? Because they have the means to inform us and choose to cover up issues embarrassing to local governments and public agencies like Western. They get a lot of advertising from all of them. This is the reason for NWCitizen existing. I was involved working with local governments in the past and became appalled at the corruption and fiscal waste. The Herald wasn't interested. We need more knowledgeable people to post web sites. Know of any? This site will link to them.
Finally - if you are still reading. This site will start accepting advertising banners. 120 x 20 pixel button banners to run in the left side column. What we offer the advertiser is hundreds of local readers every day. They may not like what is printed here, but they check here because they know that future issues sometimes appear here before anywhere else. And information the Herald won't print. And perhaps the only public place to read criticism of the Herald. Will readers boycott your business if you advertise here? Not really. And for every boycott you may gain two new customers. Does the Herald mind my mentioning them so often? Naw. They love it. Gets more people reading the Herald to see what I'm torqued about. Ask them. So - advertising where people with money visit pays off. Simple as that. Interested? Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org Give me the chance to coverup news that involves my big advertisers. ;)
Sunday, June 17
The Herald today has a story about how a public garden spot at the corner of Holly and State Streets in downtown Bellingham, just one block up from the "pit", is never used by the public. The tone of the article is that this little spot is not being used and there is therefore little reason or need for another public place - like at the "pit". A feeble attempt at supporting the authorities and discrediting the young people. The writer quotes someone saying they have "...never seen anyone else sit" there. The article has several other snide remarks about how ignored and trashed this site is.
You know, I work closer to that site than the Herald reporter and I love walking through that public place most every day on my way to a client or lunch. And most every day there are one or several people enjoying the place. Friday I said hi to three people sitting there enjoying the sun and flowers. I will grant that the bank that owns the garden and makes the place open to the public could do a better job of picking up trash and caring for the plants. But then, maybe we the public could help the bank - through that Community Development office, the director of which said there was nothing he could do. The bank has provided the space and pays the taxes. Why can't the city crews pick up the litter there? Ahh, but the Herald article was too busy finding fault with the green space to consider anything positive.
The police regularly throw the teenagers off the corners along Railroad Avenue for sitting or hanging out. Now, merchants often do not want them near their stores. But we as a community need to provide places for them to hang out. I'm talking teens here, not police. The need is for public places along Railroad where people can gather. When the teens used to hang out around the bus terminal at Magnolia and Railroad the city redesigned the area, brought in the jack hammers, and built a place that no one can hang out in. That is how this city treats the young people. No wonder they feel motivated to protest and ask for some public places along Railroad.
Glad to see today's Herald editorial critical of Western's tolerance of cheating. What is weird is the Herald never ran the story on the cheating that the editorial refers to. Guess the news department thought it was embarrasing to Western and held off printing it. Western's Provost - and thus Western's President Karen Morse - have an obvious tolerance policy on cheating. It has been going on for some time. Guess it makes for higher grades and thus higher rankings in national surveys. It takes careful reading of the editorial to realize the Provost first ruled the blatantly cheating student could not be failed. It was only when the professor resigned from Western over the issue that the Provost reversed himself and allowed the cheating student to receive the failing grade. The prof got solid support from the department head and many students - which obviously influenced the Provost. Shame on Western.
Thursday, June 14
Regarding the tree butchery in Historic Fairhaven, it seems no one is responsible. The other guy did it. Can't find a single merchant or building owner who was in favor of the massive cutting of all the trees in the one block of Harris Avenue. Yet there is a record of at least two meetings where the tree cutting was discussed with city officials. I have been reliably told, off the record, that several building owners and a few of the merchants favored the cutting so as to accommodate the new angle parking on Harris. And none will admit to purposely keeping the planned cutting quiet so as to avoid protests. This is contrary to what I was told a few weeks ago. Seems they are running for cover.
This writer has been blasted for his negative attitude towards this "improvement" in Fairhaven. They were "just trees". Apparently a love of trees is a negative attitude if the trees are in the way of increased parking spaces.
Ahhh, but there is a new development in the wind. The construction of the wider street was supposed to start three weeks ago - and still nothing has happened. Seems some merchants are demanding that the street not be widened and that parallel parking be put back on that street - ending the angle parking started last summer. All is happening behind the scenes. Hard to get specific information. This writer is viewed by some as an intruder poking his nose into affairs that are not his business. Hmmm - this web site is a place for news the Herald ignores or covers up. And what happens to our loved Fairhaven district is of concern to all residents of the Northwest.
No news on the six remaining fugitives being sought by the Bellingham Police dragnet. Then again, the police still will not reveal who they have warrants for. And the Herald continues to work with the police by not printing anything about the hunt for the notorious "pit" protestors who caused such angst for our city council members. This is the seventh day of the police search. Wonder how much additional taxpayer money this is costing in police and detective overtime. All for people with misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges. Just what are we teaching our young people? We are teaching them that over reacting is OK if you think you are right and you have power. I guess the six know they are being sought and are hiding out because the police haven't been able to find them. Wonder how this will end?
Tuesday, June 12
The Herald story this morning about last night's council meeting does not fulfill the headline that says the council faced a mild disturbance. Carefully read the article and see how the council changed the normal rule on speakers in order to not listen to anyone they did not like. Council president Leslie Langdon did allow young Hagan to speak but then did not want her to read Allie Cummings statement even and the council walked out. There was no disturbance from the audience - they followed the rules. The council acted again in a manner that violated public process and upset most of the citizens in attendance.
In fairness to reporter John Stark, he does not write the headline - some editor does after John turns in his story. A Herald editor once told me that he did not always read a full story before writing the headline. Headlines are supposed to get you to buy the paper, not reflect on the story. Headlines "above the fold" on page one are usually the worst for accuracy and best for sensationalism.
On a minor note, reader, both KGMI and the Herald said there were at least 6 police in the chambers. Well, there were 15. I got a report from a person in the council chamber who counted them. This bit of common reporting is your evidence of news media cooperating with city hall to restrict what you the public know about what is happening. Yes, I've worked for newspapers and this is not an uncommon thing with some news media. A police spokes person probably asked them to not say how many cops where actually there and asked that they just say more than 6. The problem is this happens with important news also - all the time. The Herald has cooperated with governments for many years in this manner.
Still not a word in the Herald about the police dragnet for the 6 remaining protestors they are looking to arrest. The Herald continues to cover up and keep mum on this. The police still refuse to say who they are looking for. Today is the 5th day of the search. KGMI is also covering up this story. Normally a police search with arrest warrants for 6 presumed criminals lose in a community would be news.
Watch for the Every Other Weekly to come out this Thursday. The Skinny will probably have some insights to all this mess. You simply cannot read the Herald and think you have an accurate report of events. Sometimes they report accurately and sometimes not.
In the end, we have to give credit to the young protestors - and those playing a game with the police. The ones being sought probably know the police are looking for them and are probably hiding. Their actions have stimulated the adults in charge to act like spoiled kids themselves. Leslie rearranging who she would let speak last night was childish. She also prevented people from speaking who have never disrupted and who have always obeyed the "rules". She kept them from speaking because the council did not want to hear more criticism of their violations of public process. By censoring who would speak, they themselves provided the best evidence of their willingness to violate public process. Shame on the council.
Monday, June 11
The action continues. The council has been going very slowly - apparently hoping the young citizens will leave. The council was just starting the hearing on the moratorium of electric power generators in Bellingham - a moratorium shot full of holes to allow GP to build their generators. The young people continue to sit and wait for the hearing. We will have more information later, but not tonight.
Police refuse to say who they are looking for. They have warrants for 6 more people, having arrested two so far. With well over 100 possible people who protested at last week's council meeting on Monday, June 4, this leaves many people wondering if the police are looking for them. It is a bit Alice in Wonderland like in Bellingham.
Police have made Bellingham City Hall into a fortress this evening for the regularly scheduled weekly council meeting. People were frisked and inspected at the front door of city hall, and other police were video taping everyone who came in. Plain clothes police were stationed throughout the audience. As of now, 15 uniformed police are inside the council chambers as the council continues its session tonight. Tonight the plain clothes police preferred to all wear black North Face poly fleece jackets - making them very easy to pick out.
By anyone's definition, Bellingham police are in a siege mentality. Police have photos of 7 people they are searching for with warrants for four days now. They caught one of the "wanted" protesters in the council chamber - Joanne Ernst, a mother and neighborhood activist who has worked to establish a community center on the South Side. She was arrested and taken off to jail - on charges of possible misdemeanor of disorderly conduct for sitting down on the floor of the council chamber last week.
Council president Leslie Langdon shuffled the signup sheet for who would be allowed to speak during the 15 minute public comment time. She skipped the first signers and went to the speakers she favored. When Adam Ward, one of the first signers objected, he was told that she wanted to hear others speak and not him. When one speaker gave up the microphone to Allie Cummings, the council walked out of the council chambers. Allie then spoke to the audience about the lack of public process. She described the secret police file - 2 inches thick - that the police had on her - photos and other documents. Allie has no criminal record, so this is perhaps illegal surveillance of a citizen.
The council chamber was packed with people with more in the aisles and outside the chambers. With the continued overreaction by Bellingham city officials, this civil unrest becomes more acute. The city council is confused, scared and angry.
Sunday, June 10
Today Evan Miller, Bham Herald editor, has a whining editorial about how he agonizes over news and must cover all the news. This while his newspaper today cooperates with the police and mayor in suppressing the full story of the hunt for misdemeanor violators this weekend. The police are hunting down people all over town, pulling innocent citizens out of restaurants and questioning them on the sidewalks. The police issued warrants, prepared by Kari Bergland with the help of judge Michael Bobbink. Who is on the list? The police will not say. There are apparently 8 people they are looking for.
Those caught are handcuffed, taken to jail, photographed, fingerprinted, searched, and fully processed as criminals. Bail is set at $450 for the misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct. No reductions are allowed. No personal recognizance allowed. The jail computer did not know how to accept a $450 bail charge for this misdemeanor - a new county record for such a minor charge. Normally this infraction gets the supposed offender a citation to appear in court on a specific date. These warrants do not even allow posting bond - only cash is accepted. All courtesy of Michael Bobbink, appointed to the bench by Mayor Mark. He owes Mark big time. And Mark is collecting. Mark has allowed Michael to sit without having to be elected. We will finally have our chance this fall.
The first arrested was Allie Cummings, an activist nurse and mother, who has been very critical of city government for allowing toxic poisoning of our city. When she learned the police were searching for her, she called asking how she could turn herself in Friday evening. They were no help. So she went to the police station - with friends - and allowed herself to be arrested. The female cops were nervous and their hands were shaking. They knew this action was an over reaction. Nothing in the Herald on Saturday. They are cooperating with the police by keeping this quiet. Sunday's article was small, non specific and buried.
Ahhh, but humor is found everywhere. Meanwhile Friday evening, Mayor Mark Asmundson and Police Chief Randy Carroll were partying and drinking at a social affair being hosted by County Executive Pete Kremen. A cell phone call came to Randy and he was heard to exclaim "She made bail? What the f!" He then went over and told the mayor who also got upset.
Two years ago today the mushroom cloud at left towered above Bellingham. Click on it to see a large version. The fumes and explosion had killed three young people minutes before.
Today, their parents still try to learn why the explosion happened. Most people blame Olympic Pipeline for negligence and carelessness.
However, the gouge in the pipe that the back pressure tore open into a 2 foot opening for the gasoline to gush out of for half an hour - the gouge may have been caused by City of Bellingham contractors who installed a water pipe too close to the gas pipe. This has been covered up by the city and local newspaper, the Bellingham Herald.
There are rumors out there that could be substantiated or categorically denied by the city. Was the son of a high level city administrator the person who was operating the backhoe that gouged the pipe? Reliable reports say this was the case.
The question of the city installing the water pipe too close to the gas pipe is not in doubt. Ironically, the pipe was for moving water to a new special chlorinating system built just for Georgia Pacific water. Seems the untreated water was allowing algae go gum up some of the machinery at the mill. Thus, the supposed untreated water started being treated but mayor Mark continued telling us citizens the water was untreated. We taxpayers paid for the facility - not GP. We were never even told the facility existed and we would not know now except for the explosion.
So - the city quietly constructed a facility to treat GP's water and while constructing this facility the city gouged the gas pipe which later caused the disaster that killed our young people.
Reader, if you have trouble believing some of the above then start making your own inquiries. Don't be so naive as to think your mayor and city government would not lie or break the law. Young people have good noses for deceitful adults. The young pit protestors are onto the oppression and deceit in city hall. You may disagree with how they are protesting but unless you involve yourself in questioning city officials then you have little right to criticize the young people. In a democracy there is no excuse for blaming problems on others while you do nothing.
Personally I continue to be disappointed and amazed at how few of my friends who are over 40 or 50 like myself will dare to speak out publicly with questions and concerns. I continue to get encouragement to post to this web site from people who won't even go to a public meeting. Our city needs more active citizens now. We need qualified candidates for the city council positions this fall.
The mushroom cloud above is what we get when qualified citizens will not participate in their local government but rather leave it to the greedy and corrupt. You cannot take your secure job in pretty Bellingham, enjoy our beautiful area and ignore self government without it biting you eventually. If the mayor allows the police to hunt down young people like dogs then you have a responsibility to act. Who will be next?
Friday, June 8
Now they are gone from Boulevard Park. Three large beautiful maple trees were cut down quietly on Thursday. City Parks is going to build a concrete steps there for crossing the tracks. The trees were in the way. According the Parks supervisor on the scene, they were not actually trees but rather "suckers" that just grew there by themselves. This, gentle reader, explains a bit of how city departments think. If Parks Department did not plant them then they don't belong there and are not real trees. They are weeds if we humans did not plant them.
Don't have high hopes that the concrete steps will be wheel chair friendly. If you are active in ADA or know someone who is, have them look into this. Quickly.
Nothing in the Herald today on this. They were told about it. Guess it is off their radar. They already covered tree cutting a couple weeks ago. Somewhere else. Old stuff now.
The railway did not need the trees removed. Of course city hall has been known to revise and enhance reasons for their destructive actions after the fact when they come under criticism.
Enjoy the trees you see this weekend. No telling when some favorite tree in a city park or along an historic street will be gone when next you walk by.
We cannot just post such a scene of destruction by itself. Here is a scene looking the other way over Boulevard Park towards the San Juan Islands. This Maple tree was not deemed in the way of a new trail - at least for now. Wonder if it planted itself? Without a permit from the police chief - er, parks department.
The rumor has it that today the city starts construction on Harris street, tearing up the 9 stumps AND the historic red brick center strip. In October 1986, city council representative Tip Johnson saved that brick strip by getting out in the street with Public Works supervisors and working out a different location for a sewer pipe. Wish we had an aggressive council representative today. I was sent a news clipping from the Oct 13, 86 Bham Herald by a neighbor.
Remember, if you are interested in your beautiful city then consider running for city council. Filing is last week of July.
Wednesday, June 6
Wow. Talk about upping the ante. The mayor and police chief just can't resist showing their power. Law and order. Yesterday the mayor announced the city will prosecute the demonstrators. The machine will now attempt to crush the young protestors. Our town will become a focus of Seattle news media. Me thinks the mayor and chief suffer from hubris. There is corruption in city hall and this legal onslaught will just bring closer inspection of the goings on in some city departments and the mayor's office. They want a fight? Well, they are probably going to get it.
You know, it appears that the police chief may or may not be barely qualified to be hired as just a starting police officer, much less be police chief. The mayor's junkets to Russia and places far away and often should be investigated. The Community Development department's one week process for selling the Mason building site just smells of prior arrangements. The young people may be violating the laws with their protests but the city may also be violating the laws in a much more destructive manner.
You know, the young people may make you mad, but they have done no damage. Think about it. Spreading colored yarn about the council chamber. Interrupting council proceedings with demands. The council - the mature adults - could so easily have helped the young people to participate instead of giving them the cold shoulder. A hearing is so easy. The council will hold hearings on all sorts of things for developers and powerful organizations. Why not the young people? Isn't democracy about representatives being responsive to the concerns of the people? So why the fear of "giving in" to the young people? Our representatives are supposed to "give in" to us people. That is the whole idea of democracy. Duh.
The kids left the pit a couple weeks ago with the plain request that the council hold hearings. The council was almost anal in its refusal to even consider the idea. The chance for civil process was lost.
Now we enter real confrontation. Cooler heads did not prevail. Those residents of Bellingham who say "good, prosecute the damn illegal protestors" will pay dearly in taxes for these decisions. We adults are not showing the young people how to exercise good judgement. We are showing them raw power is what works. And our kids will learn more from what we do than from our words about process. Our mayor and police chief are acting irresponsibly. Pure folly.
We need new council members this fall. Representatives who are not afraid of being representatives.
Tuesday, June 5
John Stark's report in this morning's Herald is an accurate account of last night's protest at the Bellingham City Council meeting. He also was struck by the irony of the young people saying they want to be taken seriously while they strung colored yarn all over the council chamber.
However, we "older" adults need to check our anger and criticism because we do some pretty stupid things ourselves when we feel our government representatives have sold out to the powers that be. Most older adults I know - the vast majority who I talk to - simply do nothing. And that is the most stupid and ironic action possible. They do nothing because they think any speaking out would simply be useless because the system will ignore them. Or because they might have a problem with their career. Or because it would take them away from leisure pursuits like watching the Mariners' game or something. So, dear reader, who is more stupid?
Every day I read a letter in the Herald where some person has advice for the young protestors. Well, follow your own advice and allow others to make their own value judgements. The young people may not have mastered the practice of political protest but they know the local city council is a group of 7 people who have no back bones or common sense. They are trying to get the council to bring some genuine public process to public questions. The Mason building sale had no public process. And for that, they certainly get my respect.
During the protest last evening the council provided yet another example of a charade of public process. It held the one and only public hearing on Western's master plan. I have worked hard for 5 years within the system to stop Western's takeover of my neighborhood, Happy Valley. I did not speak last night at the fake public hearing because the result is rigged and the council has acted illegally several times over the past 5 years to ram the Western plan through. Why should I encourage young people to "participate" in the system? I'm as active a participant as you will find. It is useless with this council. It has nothing to do with their disagreeing with me but everything to do with simple rigging of the process to exclude meaningful input by citizens. We spent $10,000 of our neighborhood money in a legal action and the state of Washington ruled the council was acting illegally. Western and the city spend several times that amount of your taxpayer money to try and defend their illegal collusion. We taxpayers cannot afford to pay for both sides of legal actions against our own government. So they prevail in the end and we citizens lose. I tip my hat to the young people.
So, you "older" adults, are we going to simply abandon the young people to the machine? You can do something. Call your council representatives. Tell them it is easy to hold a public hearing. Tell them to stop the sale of the Mason building site until the options have been considered in public. Tell them you think it funny that the city is preparing to sell the site at a lose to a private developer. Tell them to quit being stubborn fools and respond to the young citizens. Ahhh, but there I go, advising others what to do. Sorry.
Monday, June 4, 2001
Another outstanding guest column in today's Bham Herald. Today, Michael Frome shows another example of our city council allowing a residential neighborhood to be wrecked. He does an excellent job of categorically dissecting the process whereby the council is allowing the Park Ridge area near Lake Whatcom to be overbuilt and a beautiful stream to be trashed. Most people will never see this area - it is a secluded residential section. But it deserves our support just as every residential neighborhod does.
Tonight, our city council will hold its one public hearing on Western Washington University's master plan. It will be a charade. The process has proceeded till now in lock step fashion with quiet, illegal steps. There is no reason for people to participate in the public process in Bellingham because it is just make believe. The council will allow Western to do as it wants. Few if any people will bother to testify except those few that Western has coached and asked to testify. And scratch them and you'll find they are dependent on the city or Western for part of their income. Am I presuming? Naw. I 've participated in this process for 5 years now. It is a lock. Smart people are paid high salaries to work full time to make sure the public does not affect the plan.
I read the letters to the Herald criticizing the young people for not participating in the process for downtown open space. What is ignored is the city council in March - in one week - totally reversed 3 years of planning and hearings. They decided to ignore the process and sell the property to a firm controlled by the developer of Barkley Village - who has every reason to want downtown to not prosper. A parking facility downtown would help it compete with Barkley Village. Now we will have another commercial building which will add to parking problems. Our city council just went along with this complete reversal, led by their collective noses by Steve Price of Community Development, a city department.
Dear reader, do you know that over 70 Happy Valley residents contributed over $10,000 this past year to successfully bring a legal challenge to the cozy Memorandum of Agreement between Western and the city? It was declared illegal by the state. This action by residents helped to stop Western from wrecking 15 city blocks of their neighborhood - at least for a few years. But that did not faze the city council. They just held a charade of a public hearing and voted in a new memorandum - one that is probably still illegal and does the same damage. Happy Valley accepted the modest victory of a few years respite.
We need new city council representatives. Ones with common sense and backbones. We especially need to replace Louise Bjornson and Barbara Ryan. They may talk the neighborhood values talk but they vote for wrecking neighborhoods.
Thursday, May 31
Do you know someone thinking of running for public office? City council, county council or port commission? Encourage them to do so. Liberal or conservative are less important than having common sense and a backbone. It is time for massive change in all three bodies. We need better than we have now. The city council is led by their collective noses by mayor mark. The port commission is firmly in the pocket of large corporations and polluters. The county council is just loony tunes. My political instincts suggest there will be good support for fresh candidates. We might not get much better than we have now but we are ready to try new people. And we might just get some outstanding representatives of the people. Remember two years ago when 3 of 4 city council positions went unchallenged? That contributed to the travesty on our city council that we have now.
NWCitizen will post and keep its own rating system for candidates to these three representative bodies. So - if you are toying with the idea of running or if you know someone who is, please encourage them. If a potential candidate wants to have a coffee with me and discuss their chances, then email me. We need a few good representatives.
Wednesday, May 30
The best reading today is the guest column in the Herald by Myron Wlaznak. Find a Herald at lunch or buy one today. On the editorial page - page A9 - is the "Another View" column. Myron dissects the city council actions on city planning. He hits the nail square. He says better than any of us have just what the problem is with our council. I tried in the May 23 comments below, but Myron lays it out plain for all to see.
I've been trying to find the channel 10 city council replays but they have been pulled off the station. Guess the mayor does not want us to see our council in action. The last council meeting on Monday, May 18, was the meeting that Myron is most writing about. On May 23, I urged readers to find and watch this. Since that date I have not been able to catch it on Channel 10 nor is there any listing of when they are run. In the past I could always find the listing of times and then tune in. Now, you don't suppose..... I guess so.
What can we folks do about it? We can hope that a few good citizens come forward to file for city council election in July. We need to replace 2 or 3 of these current council members. Myron, thanks for the excellent column today.
Monday, May 28
Well, bright and early tomorrow morning the city Public Works will start tearing up the sidewalks and the street on Harris Ave in Fairhaven between 12th and 11th. I hear at least one council "representative" is trying today via phone calls to delay the start of construction tomorrow. Tis a little late for such heroics by our "representative". Where was she these past two months? Ahhh - I forgot - we have an election coming up this November. And our representative must gradually be gaining an awareness of how little she has represented the South Side these past 3 years.
No need to stop the construction now. The trees are gone. If Public Works wants to rip out the 100 year old bricks from the center of Harris Ave, - and a few of the major merchants support that - then out they go. Forget preserving the actual historic parts of historic Fairhaven. No one will notice. And then, the trees are gone. As Joni Mitchell sang long ago "pave paradise, put up a parking lot". There are many ways to build new sidewalks around trees but Public Works likes to do things clean. And the whole point to cutting the trees is to widen the street to better accommodate parking, not because of any tree root problems. Indeed, the Public Works maintenance manager is less than truthful in his statements as repoted in today's Herald. 90% of the sidewalk down there is over 20 years old and some almost 30 years old. He replaced a small bit of it 3 years ago, not the whole thing. Trees are not very high on the list of important things at Public Works. And he is not the one to make such tragic decisions for our city.
We staged our little information protest on Sunday, trying to raise awareness. The concern is how the Public Works can take out those trees without city council approval. Wish our council representative would look into this question and actually do something about it. Any council member could. Why is Public Works above the law and why doesn't our city council control them? Is the council useless and not part of our government? It does have the authority to call city officials to account for their actions. It should try that sometime.
Saturday, May 26
We are staging a protest tomorrow in Fairhaven. We will stand quietly on the nine tree stumps on Harris Street where till a week ago there were beautiful trees. The trees have been cut down to make more room for parking the cars of shoppers. Remember Joni Mitchell's song - 'pave paradise, put up a parking lot'? We would like anyone who feels upset with the illegal cutting of these trees by the city of Bellingham to join us. Just dress up as you see fit and come on down. Find an empty stump, or relieve someone who has been standing for a half hour. I will hang a sign from me expressing my feelings. You can do so if you feel like it.
Please pass the word to others you know who might join us.
Sunday - tomorrow - from 1pm to 5pm in Fairhaven.
Just show up between 1pm and 5pm and find a tree stump to stand on. Be a silent witness to the missing tree for half an hour. Whether we have all stumps with witnesses or just a couple, we can express our concern and protest this illegal cutting of beautiful street trees.
This cutting was done with the support of several Fairhaven merchants. It was kept secret. The city cut them at 5am, Wednesday, May 16 so as to avoid any protests. They say it was because of spreading tree roots but that is false. It was to allow expanding the parking spaces. Come join our silent and peaceful protest. Spread the word to others who might join us.
In three days the city will remove the stumps. Tomorrow is the moment to express our disappointment with the chopping down of our street trees.
Friday, May 25
Well, so much for having happy thoughts earlier in the morning. The city public works department is spray painting over the "graffiti" of very patriotic sayings in the pit. The department was "ordered" by higher authority to erase all. The stuff was really not offensive at all. In fact it was all very acceptable to anyone's grandmother. Guess mayor mark is just a small person inside. Strangly the city left the demonstrator planted flowers alone. Maybe mark wants them to wilt and die for lack of watering in full view of the public. Well, have a nice weekend, mark.
Bellingham and Whatcom County are now entering their finest weekend of the year - the Ski to Sea festivities. The weather is predicted to be perfect all weekend with no rain and no excessive heat. All of us living here should be proud of the civic spirit that motivates the hundreds of local folks who help officially and unofficially to put on the race and other events. Enjoy the long weekend.
Thursday, May 24
The peaceful demonstration ended on a very civil level early Wednesday afternoon. The Herald article this morning by John Stark gives a good idea of how it ended. The police and demonstrators trusted each other and by 3pm the pit was cleaned up, fresh slogans were painted and everyone was gone. Unless our 'head in the sand' elected city officials decide to spend even more of our taxpayer money painting out the slogans, you can go down there and read them. The sayings are so mainstream that if you expect some 60's extreme rhetoric you will be mystified. The young citizens are telling us to participate in our democratic process. Wow, I can just see Mayor Mark telling his new Public Works Director to get rid of such revolutionary garble. So, you might want to get down there quick to read the parting messages.
A word on public process. The facts are simple. Till March, the process was on how the city owned property could be used for a parkade or some public building. It was all preliminary planning between civic leaders, downtown business owners, engineers, city department heads, a few elected officials and such. Suddenly in March, out of nowhere, Steve Price of the Community Development Department announced the property should be sold to the private sector. Boom - the day he announced this, the legal notices went out for potential buyers to make bids - even before the council approved this. The time period was - I forget exactly - something like two weeks. Obviously Steve had already talked to developers who wanted the property.
Folks, this was a complete reversal of what had been in the planning stages. I noticed the young citizens started asking questions about that reversal almost immediately in April. But they were ignored. Until they took direct action.
In 1993 I accused, during the public comment time at the city council, Steve Price and his department of deceit of the public over his Arts Center project. The Herald printed his defensive remarks without ever printing my accusation. Steve said the Arts Center had undergone more extensive public process than any project in Bellingham history. Well, we all know now that he and mayor Tim Douglas were caught in the big lie and the voters resoundingly rejected the Arts Center. And Mark Asmundson lost his city council seat in the next election because of his support of the Arts Center. Perhaps the same process is needed again?
By the way, the demonstrators were planning to leave the pit after the weekend - until police chief Randy Carroll cracked down late Saturday night. Then they naturally dug in their heels. Good American spirit in those young folks.
And finally, we need to look at who we elect and re-elect to our city council this November. Four seats of the seven are up for election. Every incumbent should be called to explain their actions and lack of actions on this incident. NW Citizen will begin election coverage starting next week. We probably need to replace 2 or 3 of the council members with new representatives with common sense and a little backbone.
Wednesday, May 23
The Herald reports this morning that the seven citizen demonstrators are still keeping a vigil in the pit. I know that last evening there was talk between those in the pit and their supporters about possibly ending it all before this weekend. The good news is the police continue to be cool and there is little tension at the site. Now you can observe parents taking their children - typically ages 10 to 15 or so - downtown to view the demonstrators.
The protest or demonstration or street theatre - whatever you want to name it - has been a success. People are now discussing the merits of more public spaces downtown and the process we should follow planning for this space. Most adults I've listened to or have read their statements in the Herald say the young citizen activists are going about it all wrong and have chosen a dead end goal. So, lets look at this question this morning,
A letter to the Herald says the protestors should work on more important civic projects. Ahh, we adults know so well what others should do with their time. I remember in the spring of 1968 when several Vietnam veterans protested the military recruitment of students on Western's campus. The school administration held a kangaroo court and tried to kick them out of school. It backfired because of the violations of law in the process by Western. Maybe the letter writer remembers that. Many adults criticized the veterans and students for wasting their time protesting a government decision they would never influence.
Today's Herald shows some examples of pretty stupid adult behavior. An anti-gay pastor from Kansas will protest the Ferndale high graduation. Many adults in Bellingham will support this stupidity. Our state legislature is unable to change our voting system to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on fair voting processes. Great example the mature adults give to the young adults. Our system of property rights and free enterprise works so well that now over 50% of Bellingham residents have to rent and do not own their own homes. Great system we are passing on to our young adults.
City planning and community development officials state the public process was used to arrive at plans for downtown. Well, Monday evening the city gave us an example of that careful planning. After the young citizens peacefully left the council chamber, the council got down to its important work. One issue was deciding on the huge commercial development at Sunset and Orleans streets. Now the neighborhood plan - carefully approved by the city council after a public process - states in plain English that Orleans street will be kept free of access entrances and that any development will not be high intensity. No exceptions. Ahhh, reader, you are getting ahead of me. Of course money talks. Out with the plan if a big developer is involved, but when young citizens bring forward a suggestion then we tell them they are too late. Maybe we older folks need a reality check on ourselves.
I urge you, reader, to find the time to watch the city council session on channel 10 this week. The times are posted on channel 10. Settle down with some refreshment and watch the several hour charade. Watch the camera stay focused on the council while the young citizen activists speak - a snub courtesy of the mayor. Watch the council debate whether a 47,000 square foot retail store is 'high intensity" development. Pure Alice in Wonderland. They actually take themselves seriously. Watch the council allow the developer make several long presentations at what is a "work session", not a public hearing. Then watch as they are not sure if a resident of the neighborhood should be allowed to speak. He did speak, and he spoke common sense. Listen to him. He is over 30 - he is very well employed - he reads them chapter and verse of their own laws - he is a very good speaker. Tuesday's Herald briefly covered his comments on page A3. Our city planning director recommended this project to the council. The young adults have another example of why they should invent new ways of democratic action. The system does not work.
Finally, I would love to investigate the sudden change of plans by the city in March. In only a couple weeks, the city suddenly switched plans completely and decided to sell the "pit" property. Suddenly it had a legal notice out even before the council had formally approved the process and suddenly, Lo, there was the perfect buyer. Folks, this is corruption. The fix was on. Our community development office has a track record of behind the curtain deals. The attempted switch 8 years ago of the "arts center" from Maritime Park to the Levins building is a good example. But, I haven't the time to look into this. If some adult wants a worthwhile project then here is one. But I know most adults would rather criticize and offer advice than actually do something themselves.
Lets give credit to our young citizens. I referred to them as kids in earlier posts. They are adults. They have shown maturity, good judgement and responsibility. They are peaceful and harm no one. We older adults could learn a thing or two from them.
Tuesday, May 22
About noon on Monday a decided and positive change of attitude occurred with the Bellingham police guarding the pit and the demonstrators in it. It affected the mood of all at the site. The police were no longer inside the pit but only guarding the entrance/exit to the pit. This allowed the 7 kids still in the pit to relax a bit, unshackle themselves and stand and stretch. Their vigil continued but without a uniformed police officer standing 5 feet away. Also, the police allowed the barricades to be moved up next to the fence, allowing the hundreds of onlookers and supporters to see into the pit and view the remaining demonstrators.
I am pleased to be able to finally compliment the Bellingham police. It defuses the whole situation. It reduces the current and potential costs to us city taxpayers and allows a peaceful and harmless demonstration to continue. I was told a mediator from Seattle was in the pit talking to the seven demonstrators - more use of common sense by someone at city hall.
But small thinking by city leaders continues in other ways. Our mayor Mark showed he is still capable of such small dirty tricks that I'm almost embarrased to report it. At the city council meeting Monday evening, about 6 people spoke in support of the demonstration during the normal 15 minute 'Public Comment' period. Every council meeting is video taped for replay on channel 10 several times during the week. Mayor Mark quietly ordered the video operator, a city employee, to not show the speakers, but to keep the camera focused on the city council members. Watch it for yourself. I carefully verified that the order came from Mark - it did. He was sitting at his normal place just 10 feet away from the camera. Many in the audience yelled "camera" to point out that the video was not showing the speakers. Mark never looked up from shuffling some papers in front of himself. He never spoke so the young people in the room never knew the mayor was sitting there. What small mindedness - not allowing the speakers the respect of being taped. Except for this missed incident, the Herald report in today's paper reflects what happened last evening.
We have little leadership at city hall. Last evening was an opportunity for a leader to emerge. Of the seven council members, only council chair Leslie Langdon spoke - and she only spoke to put down the audience, saying they had no cause to protest because the city has conducted an extensive multi year process. Mayor Mark could have said some good words, but didn't. He is not a leader - he is a back room hustler. Any council member could have requested time to speak and shown some leadership by addressing the audience - none did. All were content to push their heads into the sand and hope it would go away.
The audience wanted one thing - a commitment by the council to hold a public hearing on the issue. This would have been an easy thing to schedule. Every council member was mute.
Leadership was shown by about 6 young people - who spoke to the crowd, calmed them down and led them out of city hall into the patio out front where discussions took place and petitions were signed. And great comments were chalked onto the brick patio. Lest you, gentle reader, think poorly of the young people for getting noisily upset when the council walked out on them, I must tell you that I have seen adults - developers and "workers" get more noisy at council sessions. And of course, I then watched the mayor and/or council members address the concerns of these adults, calm them down, promise hearings, etc. So, don't think poorly of these kids - they showed more maturity than the adults at last night's meeting.
Finally, a modest suggestion to our elected city officials - schedule a good public hearing on the issue in return for the remaining demonstrators to leave the pit. Maybe they will - maybe they won't agree, but the offer could be made. And we need someone to use common sense regarding all the false arrests made over the weekend. Do you know that early Monday morning they arrested a kid who was trying to toss a thermos of coffee to one of the demonstrators? This was before the change of attitude by the police at mid day. That kid is probably still in jail. Ridiculous.
I'd like to post photos and some more info. But I'm a working stiff and have to go to work. This web site is strictly a citizen activist, spare time project. The weekend is over and with it the spare time. I'll continue to post what I learn during the week. I'll also post more links to other sites. Friends of Whatcom, after weeks of nada, is posting again. A calendar of demonstrator planned meetings is at www.revolutionz.org, a Bellingham run site. If you are over 25 years old then keep your cool at this site - the kids use different words these days.
Monday, May 21
Today's Bham Herald reports the police excuse for the arrests - and the police are less than truthful. According to the story, the police say people coming out of bars in the early morning added a disruptive element to the scene and also that too many demonstrators were going into the pit. Both statements don't stand up to examination - something the Herald failed to do. Also glaringly missing from the Herald stories is any questioning of police chief Randy Carroll or mayor Mark Asmundson. Mark is back in town from his yet another vacation to Asia. I was there when the arrests began.
At just about midnight Saturday night, just as the Herald presses began running, Randy, who had been standing across the street for a long time, ordered the arrests to begin. His police had been preventing any more demonstrators from going into the pit for hours. The bars did not let out for another two hours, so that was not a factor. I saw not a single drinker in the area when the arrests began. All was still as peaceful as in the afternoon - in fact more so as the 38 people in the pit were fewer than in the afternoon. Too bad the Herald reporters only make brief visits to the site and rely on the police for numbers instead of doing any real reporting by observing for themselves. The story in the Herald does not stand under examination. The demonstrators were organized and peaceful. They were fewer in number. There were no bar patrons in the area. Randy just couldn't stand allowing a legal and peaceful demonstration to succeed.
It appeared obvious to this observer that chief Randy Carroll waited for all news media to be safely gone and then ordered the arrests. He has used this same tactic in two earlier demonstrations to arrest peaceful demonstrators. This was city property, unused, and hardly something worth spending thousands of city money over for arrests and prosecution. Randy Carroll can't stand not controlling citizens. Gentle reader, when a city or state allows this type of rogue police action to continue it is called a police state. Hello.
Citizens of Bellingham, this escapade by our police chief will cost us plenty. And it has provided hundreds of our young people with an example of police excess, reducing their respect for the police and our city government. Police chief Randy Carroll should be fired. He has shown repeatedly that he is emotionally unsuited for the position of chief and continues to show very poor judgement. Even his own police officers now speak out against him in private.
Friends of Whatcom has some great photos and excellent commentary on the weekend.
Sunday, May 20
To our left is a young demonstrator ending her two days in the pit and allowing herself to be cited for a police charge of 'trespassing 2'. She was not arrested, but allowed to go on her way. She deserves all our respect for her two days of determination. Two others also came out late today, leaving 7 demonstrators in the pit. Expect it to end soon. They have decidedly made their point. Seattle TV news channels KOMO 4 and KIRO 7 carried the story tonight at 11pm.
So, does this demonstrator on our left look like some fearsome anarchist from central Oregon? No. She is a fine young person who feels strongly that our downtown have facilities for public events and not be just all stores. You may disagree with her exact opinion but she has the right to demonstrate. She has the right to demonstrate on city owned property - which the pit is. She was peaceful. She harmed no one. And she should not be charged with any crime.
Click the photo to see a larger version plus a photo of one of the organizers speaking.
Many people plan to speak to the city council tomorrow, Monday, evening. At 6:30pm is the special talk time sponsored by a couple council members. At 7:00pm is the full council meeting with the public comment time of only 15 minutes. Some will speak during both times.
There were still almost a hundred people in support of the demonstrators late this evening. They peacefully milled around on the sidewalk. Country singer Dana Lyons spoke to the crowd and played a song. A couple organizers also spoke to the crowd with loud speakers. It was a well organized street theatre and had a message. Too bad police chief Randy Carroll showed such poor judgement in deciding to arrest 30 of them late last night. They, including the young person at top left, committed no crime.
A pleasant Sunday afternoon in downtown Bellingham. Sounds of rock n roll on a radio, the Mariners-Yankees game, kids hanging out in the warm sunshine. And police everywhere. Watching. Photographing from near and across the street. And 10 young people determined to demonstrate as long as they can inside the "pit". The police are now preventing food from being delivered to them. They threatened to clear the sidewalks and make more arrests of bystanders if any more food was thrown in. So now we have a bit of torture going on. The police want the kids to get sick so they will give up. Police Chief Randy Carroll is behind these orders, not the police on the scene.
Of those arrested last night, 13 had given their names by 3pm to the police and been released. In conversations with individual officers by those arrested a picture is emerging. Most of the police officers do not support the police chief's decision to arrest the peaceful demonstrators last night. They feel the demonstrators were peaceful and within their rights with their street theatre demonstration. No one was being hurt. The public was not being inconvenienced or hindered. No property damage was being done. (It is an ugly empty pit in our downtown. The kids swept up the needles and broken glass that the city had allowed to accumulate for several years.) Anyway, the individual police are now quietly telling people that they do not support the chief.
Here is a photo taken from Holly Street showing the 6 kids locked together on mattresses, the one guy at the top of the tripod, the guy in the hammock slung over the pit and the two people hanging from the wall. You can see one cop in the doorway on the top of the parkade. Another is directly below me in the pit out of the photo. You can see the garden they installed on Saturday afternoon. The signs painted on the basement walls. The large banner the two hanging from the wall are holding. Great street theatre. Click the photo for a large version.
The point of the demonstration is to remind the rest of us of the need for public spaces in our downtown. Kids have nowhere to go. We kick them off one street corner after another. We chisel down their skateboard park. We pass new laws forbidding any teenage like behavior by teenagers. They set up a demonstration in the pit to suggest we as a city not simply sell out this prime site to large commercial corporations. Now, I happen to disagree with them on the use of this site. But their demonstration was legitimate and it reminded me that our young people are without places to go. They used to arrest kids for drawing colored chalk pictures on the sidewalks. Now we invite them to do it in contests because it is so neat. This demonstration was so benign that you could not ask for a more peaceful situation. And our city reacts by literally dragging 30 of them off to jail in the middle of the night. We should be ashamed of ourselves.
Our mayor and city council members apparently stayed clear of the site all day. Louuse Bjornson looked at it from the "safety" of the other side of Holly Street for a few minutes. Barbara Ryan said she didn't know anything about it till today. Hello. The biggest mass arrest in 29 years. Not since the police busted the hippies at the community garden in Fairhaven in 1972 has this happened. That became an empty weed lot for the next 20 years.
Ten kids remain in "the pit", which is the open concrete basement of the burned down SeaFirst Bank at the corner of Holly and Railroad in downtown Bellingham. Over 30 were arrested between midnight and 4am on orders of police chief Randy Carroll. Today they are in jail with no legal representation. Perhaps 200 or more others watched the process from the sidewalk. Witnesses heard no warning by the police for the demonstrators to leave the basement before the arrests began and most were not read their Miranda rights when arrested. Basically, the Bellingham police are criminalizing our teenage children. One high ranking police officer who, of course, spoke off the record said the whole arrest process was "...without any cause and is just Randy's thing. It doesn't make any sense."
Click the photo for a spread of 5 larger photos. 3-5 minute download with a modem.
The mayor is in Asia on another visit to his father in law. No news media was seen this morning. No city council members were seen. None of Bellingham's many attorneys were seen down there. These kids need legal representation. The news organizations need to let citizens know about an out of control police chief. More senior citizens need to go down there and witness the police actions. No crimes are being committed except by the police. Besides being illegal and violating the rights of our teenagers, this stupid action by our police chief will cost us taxpayers plenty. The police chief should be fired.
Tis Saturday midnight, and the Bellingham Police are arresting teenagers in downtown Bellingham for putting on some street theatre. Chief Randy Carol carefully waited till the Herald presses started up before turning his bully cops loose on the kids. While Seattle TV Channel 13 was filming and interviewing earlier in the evening, Carol quietly watched the theatre and kept his police away from the scene. Carol only arrests people for protests after the news media have gone away. Tis midnight and I watched the police dragging kids across the parking lots and booking them one after another.
At the corner of Holly and Railroad is the empty basement of the old SeaFirst Bank building which burned down several years ago. There the kids have been having a very peaceful demonstration since Friday. All day Saturday they put up signs and made music. They want the city government to wake up to the need for more public facilities downtown. It has been a creative demonstration. The police have been confused all day Saturday, at times forbidding kids to go down into the empty basement and then at times just vacating the area. The kids are well behaved and not harming anyone or anything. But Randy Carol must show his testosterone. But he is too much the wimp to do it in front of news cameras. So, I watched him wait for the news crews to go home and then he called in many police cars loaded with cops who proceeded with an assembly line arrest process.
The kids were doing nothing wrong. It was street theatre. Bongo drums, swings, basketball, and the planting of flowers in the dirt. There were a lot of young people down there all enjoying the scene. And as the police started dragging off their friends they lost their respect for the police. All one had to do was wander among them and listen. There were a couple hundred or more kids down there. Go down there and look at the hole in the ground. There was no harm done.
I left with a sick knot in my stomach, came home and typed up this report. How useless to arrest them. How chicken to wait for the photographers to leave before arresting them. Where are our elected city council representatives? This police chief has emotional problems that are not serving our city. It was sad when he saw me - he tried to stare me down. You know they teach them that at the police academy. He turned first. Why I played the game is beyond me. I was just going to move on but decided to not let him win that stupid game.
Thursday, May 17
Latest word is the shops in Fairhaven are still allowed to sell cards with photos of trees. Word from Rome is the Pope is considering removing the main alter from Saint Peters Basilica so as to allow more room for tourists in the great building. Michaelangelo's Pieta will also be removed - and replaced with a new miniature which will take up less floor space.
Below are photos of Harris Ave in Fairhaven. In all seriousness, the merchants should have considered turning this one block into a pedestrian mall. The trees were here long before any of the present merchants came to town. The trees did not belong to the merchants, but to the people of Bellingham. The charm is gone. Also below is a photo of trees still in the next block. Are they next for the chain saw? Clicking on any one of these photos will display all three in much larger format.
Wednesday, May 16
Ka-ching. The Fairhaven Merchants Association backed the City of Bellingham plan to cut down all the trees on Harris in the busiest block between 11th and 12th. Ka-ching. Seems the sidewalks will be narrowed so the street can be widened to better handle the new angle parking that allows more cars and shoppers. Ka-ching. What was that Joanie Mitchell song? Cut the trees and put up a parking lot. Ka-ching. City Public Works crews sawed the trees down at 5 am this morning so as to avoid any possible protests by - by, well, you know, by people who liked the trees. Ka-ching. Some of the trees were almost 2 feet in diameter. Much of the charm of Fairhaven also left this morning. Not just the trees, but also the spirit of the merchants. Ka-ching. This whole plan was done in semi-secrecy. Can you imagine the demonstrations if people had known ahead of time? Fairhaven. Ka-ching. Ka-ching. The charm slowly goes away. In a few years the merchants will be mystified as to why fewer people shop in Fairhaven. They are clueless. Ka-ching. We'll hear bull like the tree roots were spreading or they were the wrong kind of trees. All just bull. They were cut down to improve parking for cars for shoppers. All secret. What next? Ka-ching.
Saturday, May 12
What happened last night at the Georgia Pacific mill on Bellingham's waterfront? At one am this morning the emergency siren went off downtown. Then it appeared that the GP mill was empty of people - even the security guards were gone. Maybe there is a bland explanation. Maybe something else happened. Anyone know? In phone calls today the responsible officials are not saying. Perhaps the Herald will have an explanation in Sunday's paper. I'll post more if we learn anything. If you know, let me know and I'll post it.
Speaking of GP - expect the mercury distribution all over our county by GP to become a scandal over the next year. Our Department of Ecology is hiding the truth from us. Cover up big time. And as an intro to the problem, check out the new Special Link on the left to the story about mercury in fish in Wisconsin. By their standards, no one should eat any fish from Lake Whatcom.
Wednesday, May 9
I've added a link to an online comic strip. Harmless Free Radicals is just cute and clever. It is only available online. The link will reside in the grey alley on the left of the What's New page. A new strip appears every few days - or when Fenmere gets inspired. Enjoy.
Tuesday, May 8
Looks like the Harvard Sit-In is reaching success in its confrontation with the Harvard University Administration. Email from the demonstrators to NW Citizen says an announcement will be made this afternoon and the sit-in will end. We will let you know. You can check the Special Links at the top left of this page.
Why should this demonstration in Boston be of any interest to us in Bellingham? Well, it is my belief that the "Living Wage" issue will become a large political issue everywhere, including Bellingham, over the next year. Political movements start somewhere and then spread - if their time is here. If the timing is wrong then a new movement will soon peter out. I think the Living Wage issue will become a dominant issue in America. I think the time for it is here. The Seattle WTO protest sparked concern everywhere about international collaboration between governments and multi-national corporations at the expense of workers everywhere. Thus the issue for us becomes a fight to prevent the impoverishment of workers in the United States. The WTO struggle will probably spawn more issues that we will see over the next few years. I think the Living Wage issue is the first. And so, watching what happens at Harvard - and writing our support to the demonstrators there - is something that will hopefully benefit us in Bellingham in the near future.
Coming soon to NW Citizen: Full coverage of the fight for Living Wage jobs in Bellingham. You will be surprised who we are targeting.
Sunday, May 6
What makes the Harvard University sit-in a concern? Because of the news blackout by the mainstream news media, including the Bellingham Herald. You probably have only read of this here at NW Citizen and you wonder if it is even happening. It is. Living wage jobs are the next big issue in our country and this is part of the start. Harvard University, the oldest college in the United States and the richest university in the world, pays hundreds - some say over a thousand - of its workers a sub living wages. Harvard is also a liberal bastion. So it is ironic that we now learn they operate like a sweat shop, not paying hundreds of their own employees a basic living wage. Shame on Harvard.
The demonstrators need support. If you run a web site, post a link. Anyone can email support from links at their web sites. See the Special Links at the top left of this page.
Saturday, May 5
A little change of scenery for us in Bellingham. Off local stuff for a moment. Did you know Harvard University in Boston is enduring a dramatic sit in demonstration for almost three weeks now? News blackout on this one. Students are occupying the University President's office. Seems Harvard, the richest University in the world, pays poverty wages to about 1,000 of its workers. $6.50 an hour for adult, full time workers. Harvard - a bastion of liberal lecturing to the rest of us - runs itself like a third world sweat shop. Check it out at their protestor web site. Public opinion does count. You can email support to the demonstrators. You can email criticism to the Harvard University administration. You can email Neil Rudenstine, the president of Harvard, and suggest he pay living wages to all his employees. Let him know we are watching even from the Pacific NorthWest.
Monday, April 30
Remember the word game "Who's on first?" Nobody's on second. Etc. Well, that is what our political "leaders" are playing with us citizens regarding electricity and power plants. There is no planning. No elected official is stepping forward to bring order in this chaos. Pete Kremen, our county leader, says we should turn out extra lights in our homes. Well, Pete, we need leadership on the question of where in our county to locate power plants. Right now, we citizens are needing to react quickly to "public hearings" all over our county on different proposed plants. This is ridiculous. We will get worn out. And that is the only plan playing just now.
We don't need two, three or more big, polluting power plants in our city and county, all owned by New York financiers and all selling power to the California grid. We get a couple piddling jobs, no fair priced power and a lot of pollution. Yet, that is what is in the future for us at this time. At least as things are going now.
Privately, our political leaders will tell you (read: have told me and others) that the Public Utility District #1 (our only PUD) should own and operate a power plant at Cherry Point. However, they will also tell you that it won't happen because no one has the courage to lead on this. Too much bucking of big money interests. We could enjoy electricity from our own plant at cost. With the new agreement that Puget Sound Energy (PSE) just agreed to with the State Utilities and Transportation Commission, they could deliver our electricity to our homes for a modest transport fee. The Port of Bellingham could provide the financing and project management for building a power plant out there.
Georgia Pacific could right now put their temporary generators at Cherry Point and have PSE transport it to their downtown Bellingham mill. No need to further pollute downtown Bellingham - just when it starts getting cleaned up. There is 160 mega watts of electricity being generated right now on GP's property. This plant was allowed by the city because GP was going to use the extra steam - which they never did. Now GP could arrange to buy electricity from this existing power plant that is already polluting Bellingham without polluting our city with yet another power plant down there - as they are proposing.
Cherry Point for a power plant? Well, it must be located somewhere - and that may be the site that minimizes pollution for us and our neighbors in Canada. But it should not be owned by BP who will just sell to the grid - as they are proposing. We need some leadership, planning and common sense to check this out and see what is right for us. Leadership could come from a Port Commissioner, the mayor, or Pete Kremen. Leadership is one person, with an understanding of what people want and need, taking charge and nudging others into working for a solution. Come on Pete, Mark and Scott - provide us with the needed leadership here. The people will thank you. And our county will have a better future. Only some of the greedy, powerful and rich will complain. Let's take charge of our own future. Lets stop guessing who is building what where and why.
Tuesday, April 24
Click photo for larger view plus caption.
Tonight, 75 people found their way to the public meeting on toxic mercury in Whatcom County. With no publicity and holding the meeting at the most out of the way school in Bellingham, the State Department of Ecology (DOE) managed to have a small meeting. With publicity and holding it at the county courthouse council chamber, there would have been hundreds of people. DOE has solved Police Chief Randy Carroll's paranoia - just have public meetings where no one can find the place - oh, and - no publicity.
As it was, the audience members knew more about mercury problems in Whatcom County than did state or local officials. While the 8 professionals on the stage tried to slither out of direct questions, audience members, nurses, a doctor, scientists, fishermen and knowledgeable residents repeatedly informed Whatcom County Health supervisor Regina Delahunt and DOE officials of where the mercury is and where it came from. The 8 continued to show stoic looks on their faces and confess to not know where the mercury was coming from. (hint: GP blew out uncounted tons a year into the air over Bellingham and Lake Whatcom for over 30 years.)
The 8 pros told us some weird things. Remember, this meeting was to tell us of the mercury dangers in Lake Whatcom and what our government is doing to fix this. Regina told us it was "...important to understand that mercury is in all fish, whether from Lake Whatcom or stores or restaurants and each person must be careful to not eat too much fish." Well, that doesn't help. Is it true? The 8 pros kept using disclaimers in their answers, like "very difficult to determine" and "not known" and my favorite "no way can we do that study".
No Bhm Herald reporter at the meeting. No notice in the Herald Almanac of the meeting. Can it be important if the Herald ignores it? Maybe we should not get concerned about toxic mercury in our source of drinking water. Oh, we were repeatedly told that our drinking water has no mercury. None. They measure small amounts of mercury coming into the treatment plant - sometimes - but none coming to us. They told us that. None. Of course they fudged on their answer about the types of mercury and whether they have the equipment to measure it. Well, we'll just have to see if this whole mercury thing becomes real news at a later date. It is coverup time just now.
Monday, April 23
Toxic mercury in Lake Whatcom. A horror story for all of us. And it is being minimized by local and state authorities. The Department of Ecology (DOE) held a press briefing on April 12 and literally lied to keep critics away. The DOE didn't want any but familiar reporters there. While the briefing was in progress at the DOE offices, the receptionist was following orders by telling callers that she was unaware of when or where a press briefing was scheduled. Since then, the Herald has told us little. Nada in today's Herald about this meeting. Not in their Bellingham or County Almanacs. Maybe they'll run something decent tomorrow - at the last minute.
See the Event announcement at the top left of this page. Attend if you can. Demand honest and full answers. Good luck.
Thursday, April 19, 2001
Interesting reading and watching the news today. Much about the Oklahoma City tragedy of April 19, 1996. Tomorrow we will be reminded of the Columbine shooting of April 20, 1999. But not a word today about the Waco tragedy of April 19, 1993 when over 80 people were killed. We have made hallow ground in Oklahoma City but shunned to the dust bin the bungling at Waco by the FBI. We will not have justice until our government holds itself to the same legal standards as it holds us citizens. Oklahoma City was a tragedy that should be remembered and the Waco tragedy should also have a memorial and the guilty brought to justice.
Tuesday, April 17
The city council chamber was packed to the rafters with citizens last night. A count showed more than should be allowed in the room for fire safety reasons. Police Chief Randy Carroll sat on the side of the room with a blank look on his face all evening. The council members again whined about having to listen to citizens speak to them for so long. You know, if they don't have the time for the job then why did they run for office in the first place? A new question for political candidates: Do you actually, really have time for the job you are campaigning so hard for?
Why is the council so besieged with citizens? Well, I may have stumbled on part of the answer. While entering the meetings scheduled for 2001 into my Palm Pilot it seemed there were rather large gaps of weeks with no meetings. So I checked past years. Lo - the council is meeting less and less each year. Here is the count of regular scheduled city council meetings for the recent 7 years.
1995 - 43 regularly scheduled council meetings.
1996 - 42 meetings
1997 - 41
1998 - 39
1999 - 36
2000 - 35
2001 - 33
Hello. We owe some respect to council members from years past. They did not complain so much about how we citizens took up all their valuable time not leaving them with enough time to work at representing us. We had more council meetings and we didn't have to have two and three public hearings at the same meeting. My fellow citizen, the bureaucrats love this. The council has to depend more on staff for information and has less time to get to know the issues on their own. And less time to listen to citizens. You know how to boil a frog, don't you? Start with cold water and have low heat. The frog never catchs on. Well - our representative form of city government is slowly being boiled away. And we are milling around in a confused state wondering what is happening.
Saturday, April 14
Want to help your neighbor? Our neighbors in the Mt. Baker neighborhood need our help. They are fighting to stop a polluting electrcal power plant from being dropped on them. Power stations do not belong in a residential neighborhood. Our Bellingham Planning Department is a bit loco in pushing this at the City Council. They want the Mt. Baker zoning changed to allow a this power plant. Absolutely nuts. This is right next to the new high school and the new proposed elementary school. This thing will spew pollutants. No one agrues it won't.
You can help your neighbors by attending the City Council meeting this Monday evening, April 16, at 7 pm. A show of citizens does have an effect on the council. This zoning change is just another attempted slam dunk by the planning department. This area has light clean industry now and is surrounded by beautiful country homes, streams and pastoral landscapes. Do you want to live next to a power plant? Well, neither do these folks. For this we need planning? Lets help our neighbors out on the Mt. Baker highway. Lets urge the council to just say "NO" to the planning department. Light industry, yes. Polluting power plants, no.
Wednesday, April 4
What do we do now? Tis almost a week since the GP closing and nary a word of leadership from our local elected officials. No vision - no leadership. Just waiting to see what happens next. Or, perhaps they are in those back rooms cutting deals. That would also fit. Whatever. Here is the view of Bellingham's future from the NW Citizen.
1. Properties on West Holly just jumped in value. Businesses will migrate to this area of town. This will become the new prime real estate. We may see some tall office buildings here after the GP site is cleaned up.
2. The city council should convene this week and pass an emergency moratorium on accepting any new building permit applications in the CBD until the planning department has time to put together some zoning language for the entire Central Business District. This need only last a few weeks.
3. No need to dredge the Whatcom Waterway for the ship terminal. WIST - Whatcom International Shipping Terminal - is history. We should now apply to the Feds to eliminate the federal waterway. We can save GP $20 million or so by not moving the mercury deposits at the bottom of the shipping channel. Just put some good capping material on top. Much better than moving it over by Boulevard Park - like the State Ecology wants to do. Lets ask GP to spend the $20 million we are saving them on retraining the 400 laid off workers.
4. It is time for a new session of Visioning for our now fair city. We did it about 10 years ago - lets do it again with no GP on the waterfront. Totally new vision.
5. We just became a magnet for software companies. Maybe one from over crowded Seattle. Maybe from California. Maybe many. High paying jobs. Well over the $20 an hour that GP bragged of. For hundreds of people. People with saleable skills.
6. We just acquired 20 millions gallons of water per day. We are rich. Lets use it wisely and for the benefit of the community. Here is where the back room deals are being put together now - deciding who gets the water. We'll be told later.
7. The Letter Streets properties will also go up. Clean air now. Some bay views - with no smoke and dust in the air.
Our town has a roaring future - whether we like it or not. GP has held back economic development in this city for 40 years. That is the dirty little secret that our city 'leaders' have long known. A few years from now we will have low living people complaining that the good old days were when GP was here and Bham living costs were low. Heads up folks - we just became attractive to clean companies.
Friday, March 30
Bellingham's Berlin Wall came down today. Georgia Pacific announced today that they are shutting down the pulp and chemical operations. That is 90% of the pollution in Bellingham. That is the god awful smell in downtown Bellingham. That is what has held back economic development in this town for 30 or more years. Most important, that is the source of the toxic air and water pollutants that have been the dirty secret of this community for many decades. In July GP will review the paper making and converting operations and decide whether to shut those down or continue them.
Our town will now go through a difficult time of confusion, stress, anger, and jockeying for advantage. In this writer's opinion, we are entering a twilight zone. In the short term, we need to look to how we can help the laid off workers. All the solutions such as retraining and education will be challenged. This town has long feared this day as armegedon. Many of my conservative friends feel we will not find any solution for laid off workers used to $20 an hour wages. GP has an obligation to help here. We'll see how they perform. State government can step in. Regardless, it will be traumatic for the workers. We should all do our best for them.
But for our city, the elimination of the toxic stacks is the best thing that has happened since - well since the coming of the railroad. Ten years from now everyone will say this was the good thing to have finally happen. We will have much more economic activity than has been possible in the past. Our downtown will now become attractive to businesses. We face a much better future.
Tuesday, March 13
Last week Puget Sound Energy and Georgia Pacific reached agreement on electricity. GP can buy from anyone they want to now, not just PSE. GP is no longer bound by contract to buy spot market electricity from PSE. The agreement will be approved next week by the State Utilities and Transportation Commission - the UTC. The GP electricity "crisis" is over. GP can install those 40 diesel generators out at Cherry Point and pay PSE to carry the electricity to their mill in downtown Bellingham.
You know all this noise and fuss by GP workers? Well they should be turning their anger on their GP bosses - in Bellingham and Atlanta. The cause of the plant shutdown is with GP management - not environmentally concerned residents of Bellingham who don't want to be poisoned with toxic pollutants. GP management hates PSE. GP could have signed a contract with PSE anytime these past few months - for a price cheaper than the diesel generator costs. But their emotions are in the way of their business sense.
I watched the GP worker rally. Here is my impression. It was hard to tell what they were rallying against or for. They expressed anger at the city council, the mayor and a "few" radical environmentalists. But why remained a mystery. They really never said. Do they really think a "few" radicals shut down their work place? That would be giving too much credit to the few. They can be mad at the mayor for filing his nuisance lawsuit. But why the city council? The emergency moratorium the council passed specifically exempts GP from coverage. The answer seems to me that GP management is trying to intimidate Bellingham and cover their own screw ups. The question is what plans does GP now have? What surprise will they pull on us next week?
Thursday, March 1, 2001
Do you believe in miracles? All those young folks demonstrating against Georgia Pacific's diesel pollution have been shown to be right. Today, the City of Bellingham, by order of Mayor Mark Asmundson, filed legal papers in Superior Court to force the shut down of the GP diesel generators. Who would have guessed. Mayor Mark deserves credit for doing the right thing. He got watery eyes this morning while driving on Chestnut street from the diesel fumes. He could smell the diesel fumes by his own home near Alabama hill. And, he saw the political handwriting on the wall.
Have you been irritated by the diesel exhausts? If so, you can support the city legal case by signing a declaration and getting it to city hall before noon on Friday. The Friends of Whatcom web site has the form you can print.
The Northwest Air Pollution Authority has gotten over 100 complaints from Bellingham residents since the diesels kicked in a week ago. GP managers have admitted that the diesels are dirtier and noisier than they expected. In fact, they are quite embarrassed at how bad the diesels are. The State Department of Ecology has also become more concerned in the past few days - their office on Railroad Avenue is in the zone of intense pollution. So, GP decided this afternoon to start shutting down the generators even before a court order is issued.
All this information came out in a 40 minute news conference in city hall this afternoon. The DOE admitted that their modeling of how little pollution would result was wrong. The DOE supports the city's legal action. Funny, for weeks we've heard how helpless the city is to interfere with the diesel generators. Well, fellow citizen, you can see that there is always something that can be done. For weeks the mayor has tried to stifle information from getting out to the public. Now he is admitting by his actions that the many concerned citizens were right.
Credit for this goes to hundreds of citizens who refused to be cowed by the mayor and city council into silence. Some of those who deserve special credit are Alix Cummings, Dave Sansone, Chris Dillard, Robyn duPre, Tip Johnson, Marian Beddill, Doug Tolchin, and several others. We residents of Bellingham owe them our thanks.
The other shoe will drop. Expect GP to make a case for keeping 16 or so generators running. GP is loath to buy any electricity from PSE. Even now GP could sign a contract with PSE for cheaper electricity than the diesels are costing them. The two companies' representatives can hardly sit in the same room with each other. And the city will only continue with a concern for public health if citizen pressure is continued. The city council will probably discover the willpower to question the diesels now. And we still want the city to allow the health forum tape to be run on channel 10. And the city still has refused permission for this. The beat goes on.
Wednesday, Feb 28
Last Thursday, the Peoples' Health Forum came off peacefully with over 200 people attending. Dr. Koenig provided very important health information and warnings about the exhaust from the 40 huge diesel generators running at GP in downtown Bellingham. Meanwhile our city council representatives and the mayor say it is not their business and there is nothing they can do. We watch to see if State officials will listen to and respond to many citizen complaints about this serious health hazard. I bet the state will show some common sense. Then the mayor will try and take credit.
Mayor Mark now complains he never forbid the airing of the Health Forum on channel 10. That is not the impression he gave council members last week. Also, he has not given permission for it to play on the channel 10. And without permission, the tape cannot be played. So, the mayor continues his game is dissembling. And Bellingham residents are denied vital health information and warnings.
The mayor was correct is saying no more gas powered generators should be built in downtown Bellingham. However, it seems he is backing some favorite of his for a generator on Bakerview Road. Why there? Put the pollution on our county cousins along Hannegan Road? Keep the taxes for Bellingham? Watch for this deal to move fast with the mayor's behind the scenes help. In America we pay lip service to open, public process. Sometimes little more.
Perhaps Cherry Point would be a better place for our power generator. Our PUD should own and run this generator so we in Whatcom County can benefit from fair priced electricity without fake electricity shortages. The Port could finance the construction and allow the PUD to manage it. We taxpayers could spend a little extra to make it environmentally cleaner than would be the case with a private company. Just an idea.
The earthquake. 6.8 magnitude, which is very strong. Located 30 miles deep, which is very deep. Located 11 miles NE of Olympia, which is maybe a mile or two north of the Nisqualy Delta between Tacoma and Olympia. This is the strongest quake in Puget Sound since the 7.1 quake in 1949. Because it was deep, there were no and there probably will be no after shocks. It took place at 10:55 am this morning in Seattle. I timed it at 10:57 am in Bellingham.
Not the normal fare for NWCitizen, but I'm here and I was a geology minor at Western. Fun to report. Hi Ta.
Wednesday, Feb 21
A public announcement: People's Health Forum: Georgia Pacific and Air Pollution
Featured Speaker: Dr. Jane Koenig, University of Washington
When: Thursday, February 22nd, 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm
Where: Unitarian Church, 1708 I St., Bellingham
This educational meeting has been planned to allow the public to ask questions about diesel emissions, industrial air pollution, and health impacts. There will be time for public comment as well. Families are welcome.
This forum attempts to do what the canceled city council forum would have done - allow citizens to question experts about the diesel pollution from Georgia Pacific. At the secret, police guarded mock meeting that was broadcast over state TV there was not one health official.
Will this meeting be televised on our open access channel 10 like the closed, controlled meeting was broadcast? Probably not. The mayor has ordered that no TV broadcast be allowed. The city council could overrule him but so far only three council members - of seven - want to allow the broadcasting of this forum. They are Gene Knudson, Barbara Ryan and Terry Bornemann. Most against broadcast are Leslie Langdon and John Watts. Watts says channel 10 is not open access but is city government controlled TV. Bob Ryan is out of town. I suspect he would be in favor of broadcasting this forum. Which leaves Louise Bjornson. Her phone number is 733-7756. Let her know your feelings. She could provide the fourth vote for a majority and allow broadcast on channel 10.
Police Chief Randy Carroll is true to form. He refused to allow local police to provide security. The organizers have hired two state patrol members from Seattle who are providing their services at half price. The hat will be passed at the forum to pay their fee.
Finally, I want to give some credit to the Bellingham Herald. Last July when the mayor was sliding his revised cable TV ordinance through the city council, the Herald saw through his grab for power and editorialized against it. We, including myself, missed what was happening. Now we see what the mayor had in mind - power to repress public access TV.
Sunday, Feb 18
Pete Correl, the CEO of Georgia Pacific, is called to task for polluting Bellingham and our Bay. Pete Correll has stated he wants good relations with the citizens of every town G-P has a plant in. Well, Pete, you have a problem in Bellingham.
Saturday, Feb 17
A surprise decision to not site a power plant in a wetland near Sumas can be read online. The Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council decided unanimously to deny this application. This is an amazing decision because the council routinely approves projects.
The council was established in 1970 by state law. The members are from State Agencies and advise the Governor. Gary Locke will make the final decision. For this Sumas Energy 2 decision, there were Whatcom County representatives on the council. While the power plant proponents claim the facility was clean and needed, neither is true. It was a dirty site that would have polluted our Canadian neighbors, was to be built in a wetland, would have sucked the ground water from the Sumas area, and would not have benefited Whatcom County electricity needs because they intended to sell to California for high rates.
You can read more at the Friends of Whatcom site. The Friends site did a great job informing the public on why this project was so stupid in the first place. We tip our NWCitizen hat to them. And to all the citizens who worked so hard to stop this project. Now Gov. Locke needs to do the right thing. And we all need to write him urging him to do just that.
Finally, we want to point out to Police Chief Randy Carroll and Mayor Mark Asmundson that over 500 people assembled and demonstrated on Friday against this project. No disruptions. These two are either paranoia or have a more sinister agenda to protect Georgia Pacific even if it means violating the most basic rights of citizens. They have not explained their actions of last week when the cancelled the G-P pollution information meeting and then held it in a secret location and broadcast it on their little state run television station.
Wednesday, Feb 14
Click for a possible solution to G-Ps electricity needs.
It also looks like G-P and Puget Sound Energy may resolve their rate dispute this week - maybe today.
Tuesday, Feb 13
The secret meeting is now being televised to Bellingham residents. Reporters can be seen in the selected mock audience. The location of the TV studio is a closely guarded secret by Bellingham city government and the Bellingham Police. The police are fearful of violent or disruptive local environmental activists putting the Georgia Pacific speakers in danger to being injured or worse. I'm not kidding. If you are Seattle media, you should check this out. This is like a third world dictator televising a pretend meeting from a secret location. All is well - please stay in your homes. ; )
The meeting was opened by Barbara Ryan of the Bellingham City Council. She supposedly objected to this closed meeting. Maybe they bought her off by offering her the role of MC. She looks very proud of herself and did not apologize for the closed, secret nature of this propaganda presentation. The "panel' consists of state environmental officials, Georgia Pacific spokes persons, and one person critical of the diesel pollution our town will start enduring this week. That one is Robyn duPre of Re-Sources in Bellingham.
The State Department of Ecology folks told us there is no danger to health from the 40 huge diesel generators. They said hardly any increase in pollutants will result. Chip Hillarides, G-P Environmental Engineer, told us the diesels will not exceed any safe or legal limits. He displayed charts showing how we residents cause the majority of pollution in Bellingham, not G-P. He also went off topic and told us all sorts of corporate propaganda of how wonderful G-P is.
A very amateur production - a high school class could put on a better broadcast. This is surreal. Our city government is hiding from its own citizens. Broadcasting from a secret location somewhere in Bellingham. There is no doubt a police guard on the building. The citizens can watch on the public Channel 10 or listen on their radios. "They" want us to believe their presentation of how all is well. But they are afraid of the questions we would ask in a public, open meeting. They are afraid of us.
Robyn duPre stated her disappointment that the meeting is closed and she is the only citizen allowed in. She then described the mill as a polluter and that we citizens are not told the truth by G-P officials. She pointed out the crisis is a result of G-P decisions to not buy electricity from Puget Sound Energy (PSE). She told it straight - G-P is responsible for the soup they are in. Robyn listed all the toxics that G-P and Ecology officials forgot to mention during the previous hour. She mentioned the eight schools directly downwind from G-P. Robyn made a strong call for open dialog and public meetings as our community deals with questions of pollution and environmental health.
What is the cause of this crisis? Georgia Pacific and Puget Sound Energy are in a fight with each other and we residents are bearing the pollution. G-P does not want to sign a rate contract with PSE because that would allow PSE to win their 5 year fight. A year ago PSE offered G-P a contract rate of 2.1 cents per kilowatt. G-P turned them down. The rate PSE is now offering is higher. I do not know what that rate is as both fighters are not saying. And in two days the pollution begins to rain down on our town. Much of it will be invisible and unfelt - the toxins.
During the question time from about 7:30 on, the industry and state experts ducked questions, asking others to answer the few hot questions from Robyn. The questions from moderator Rob Kelly seemed watered down and made safe. To many hard questions the experts didn't know the answer but promised to "look into it" or promised to "look into that with you after the meeting". Chip Hillarides of G-P was especially evasive and dissembled his answers. To the question "Will there be increased health risks to the community from these diesel generators", G-P refused to answer, pointing to a state official to answer. This was probably so G-P can avoid any possible lawsuits. In general, all the experts gave vague answers, referring to their computer models and their best estimates. We could hardly hear the G-P answers half the time.
The "event" as they termed it, was televised from 6:30 pm to 8:48 pm. Towards the end of the event, we slowly learned that the 40 huge diesels might run for a year. They will probably at least run through the summer.Well, the public has been informed, their questions evaded, er, answered. Let the generators roar to life.
Attention news media. If you are in Seattle, help. We have third world mentalities running this town.
Hey, Bellingham Police Chief Randy Carroll, click here.
Protesters showed up in force at last night's Bellingham City Council meeting. Maybe 70 people, as reported in the Herald this morning. They were peaceful - of course. This is Bellingham. There were many familiar faces of citizen activists - Chris Dillard, George Dyson, Adam Ward, Marian Beddill, Zeta Bracher, Larry Williams, Doug Tolchin, and more. The seven that spoke scolded the council - in civil tones - for fearing their own citizens and canceling last Thursday's meeting and scheduling a second meeting for tonight in a secret location for televising.
Here is some trivia on last night's meeting.
Police Chief Randy Carroll was there in civilian clothes. Apparently most protesters had no idea who he was. The chief kept a blank look on his face and I never saw him talk to anyone. The chief - with several uniformed and plain clothes police in obvious attendance - had to watch the very people he has branded as dangerous to public meetings as they spoke against city government paranoia.
Contrary to the Herald reporting, council president Leslie Langdon did not extend the public comment period by 10 minutes. She refused to extend it. Seven people spoke during the total time of 19 minutes. Another 20 would have spoken had they been allowed. Leslie said the council had to halt citizen comment because the council had to get to their business. Seems the council does not consider listening to citizens as part of their business. The other 6 council members sat in lock jawed silence staring at the speakers. None offered any comment against Leslie's cutting off citizen's right to address their representatives. One citizen requested she extend the time and allow one minute comments - she said no.
Leslie repeated the old saw I've heard in years past. She admonished the packed council chamber that the council once did not have a public comment time - and they should feel fortunate for such an enlightened current council. Well, folks, in days of old the council let people comment at the beginning and didn't need a formal time. In fact, they let people comment during sessions. The comment period was started so the council could shut people up for the rest of the meeting. Same thing happened with the Port of Bellingham. The comment period - with its many rules - allows council or commissioners to cut speakers off for any number of reasons. Exceeding an arbitrary time limit, speaking on a forbidden subject, repeating the concern some earlier speaker expressed, etc.
The most angry citizen was some old guy I've never seen before from the Cornwall neighborhood. He let the council have it. Said they were failing to represent the people of Bellingham by letting G-P increase pollution of our town. He said the council should "hammer" G-P to decrease its pollution, not increase it. He was mad. I kept looking over at chief Carroll to see if he was going to have this old guy arrested. This old guy, for some reason, did not like the city council approving the poisoning of Bellingham adults and children. The young speakers, by comparison, were absolutely polite.
After the public comment time was closed, most people left and the council got to their regular "business". Their first item was to hold a public hearing on their illegal "Memorandum of Agreement" (MOA) which allows Western Washington University to build roads and projects with exemptions from city laws. The council listened to testimony and then, without any discussion of the testimony, approved the MOA and extended it for several more months. So much for even holding a hearing. When the powerful GP or Western are involved, the council has little interest in what citizens say or what the state law says. The state Growth Management Hearings Board ruled in October that the MOA as illegal. The city and Western just spent many thousands of taxpayer dollars in a losing defense of the MOA before the Growth Board.
If Tip Johnson and I had half the money they spend, we could have this new MOA declared illegal. Where is the County Persecutor, the State Auditor, the State Attorney General? Where is the agency to make city government obey the law? Where is the self policing of the system? We know where the police chief is - waiting for some young citizen to look cross eyed at a police officer.
Well, try and enjoy the sunshine today.
Sunday, Feb 11, 2001
Hey, Bellingham Police Chief Randy Carroll, click here.
The reporting on NWCitizen.com last Saturday of the police roughing up demonstrators was the excuse Police Chief Carroll used to justify the cancellation of the Georgia Pacific diesel pollution information meeting. That's right. I have that information from a most reliable source - which shall remain anonymous, of course. If the city wants to play loose with anonymous sources then so can we. But it is true. Plus the Friends of Whatcom and their link to Seattle Independent Media web site. We know the mayor played a roll and will report more when/if we learn more.
You know, all this fuss and feathers is going too far. Everything I stand for and have worked years for is public dialog and public process. I don't even participate in demonstrations - not my thing. (I've been in two over the last 40 years of political activism). But I do speak and I do research issues. Anyone who knows me will tell you that. I believe strongly in the right of citizens to speak to their representatives at public meetings - to voice opinion and ask questions. It is disappointing for me to learn the police chief is demonizing me. Hope he can take the above joke without flipping out.
Today's Bellingham Herald had nothing - nothing - about Tuesday's TV info telecast on G-P's pollution. The Herald did not even list Monday evening's City Council meeting. The Herald is not reporting news - it is rolling over for the police chief and mayor. It is imposing a news blackout on meetings. The editors and reporters should be ashamed of themselves.
You can attend the City Council weekly meeting tomorrow, Monday, Feb 12, at 7 pm - and speak out against the canceled meeting and the hidden TV meeting. At the beginning of every council meeting is a 15 minute public comment time. You can speak for 3 minutes. Let the council know what you think of their hiding meetings and avoiding public discourse. There never was any danger of violence. It is a bogey man concocted by Mayor Mark and Chief Carroll. Expect a strong police presence - keep your cool.
One last thing - in case you are not up to date on all this. There was never any danger of violence or disruptive behavior at any meeting. However, Georgia Pacific has every reason for getting the meeting cancelled - they are running a toxic mill on our waterfront. The mayor and police chief obliged them.
Thursday, Feb 8
At 6:30 pm this evening is a candle light vigil on the court house steps in protest to the canceled G-P pollution meeting. I urge all, young and old, to attend and show our commitment to peaceful democratic processes and protest police actions that cancel public meetings because of police paranoia. You can learn more at the web site Friends of Whatcom - one of the sites that scared police chief Carroll. (Apparently along with this site - NWCitizen.)
I now have reliable anonymous information that mayor Mark Asmundson ordered the police to crack down on the peaceful marching protesters last Saturday. The police reluctantly carried out his order. Now the police involved are expressing private remorse about their participation. They know the crack down was unjustified. Police Chief Randy Carroll is taking the heat for the mayor's decision.
I recommend you get today's issue of the Every Other Weekly and read the skinny. Excellent analysis of this out of control use of police power. You can read the story on line also. Back 30 years ago, the Bellingham police would beat vendors - teenagers - selling the local underground newspaper The Northwest Passage. They would bop the kids and take all the papers. I wonder if chief Carroll is now wondering how he can stop criticism of his actions as police chief. I urge you to pick up an Every Other Weekly and read it.
Wednesday, Feb 7
Apparently a G-P official did call the City Hall and express concern about the safety of their employees at the now canceled informational meeting on Thursday evening. This probably influenced the Police Chief in his decision to seek cancelation.
Well, it appears that perhaps the Sheriff Dale Brandland contributed to the hysteria. He apparently called city officials on Monday asking them to cancel the meeting. He cited evidence from Federal and State monitoring agencies that disruptions were being planned by folks from outside of Bellingham. It would be nice if he explained himself.
I've learned this from my usual sources. If the police want to play an anonymous source game then we will also. The truth of my reporting will be tested in time. Just as I was called a "liar" by the Port of Bellingham commissioners 10 years ago, so the city officials have started on me now. This issue may take weeks to months to play out. (It turned out I was very correct and the Port was very wrong regarding the 4 million dollar loss of taxpayer money in the KAP scandal.)
The Bellingham City Council has canceled a meeting about Georgia Pacific pollution practices on the recommendation of Police Chief Randy Carroll. The Police Chief says that disruptions and violence are being planned by individuals and groups for the meeting. Carroll cites anonymous sources and does not give names. The only name mentioned is former two term city council member Tip Johnson. The chief urged council president Leslie Langdon to cancel the meeting. She contacted three other council members to get a majority of four.
OK. I have been close to the events. And I have checked with my sources. Fellow citizen, no one connected with this issue has done anything to foment any disruptive behavior. One source is Tip Johnson. I have others. The police chief cites three unnamed web sites as part of his sources. The links to the only other two web sites are listed below in Tuesday's post. None speak of any plans for anything. Again, I put my personal integrity behind the statement that I know of nothing remotely related to any plans, action, or talk of any disruption, outsiders coming into town, or violence at the now canceled Thursday evening meeting. Nothing. And if I don't know, then I doubt there is any truth to the Police Chief's statements. The Police Chief is yelling wolf. And a bare majority of the city council believed him.
I urge the city council to investigate these allegations by the police. Where is the Mayor in all this? I tip my hat to council members Barbara Ryan and Bob Ryan for not panicking and speaking out against this meeting closure. And we should question council president Leslie Langdon's ability to provide leadership to the council.
What is happening? Simple. Randy Carroll is trying to destroy Tip Johnson's reputation. He is using his police power to bully those who dare stand up to him. The police were smiley and polite on Saturday while the Seattle media were watching. When they left, the police - with Randy Carroll on the scene in plane clothes - got rough.
Tuesday, Feb 6
The Bellingham Herald finally reported on the Police arrest of Tip Johnson. Tip and the Police have contrary descriptions of what happened. The police claim they never had Tip's camera. There is also a report by Seattle Independent Media also has a story. They were at the demonstration - the Herald was not. Finally, you can read Tip's own story at Friends of Whatcom.
Saturday, Feb 3
Bellingham Police, with chief Randy Carol in civilian clothes, got violent with peaceful Georgia Pacific protesters today in downtown Bellingham. Thus, our local police, roughing up citizens, join Seattle police in starting violence if the demonstrators don't. Police chief Randy Carol said he had "no trouble" with what his police were doing. The demonstration and police use of excessive force took place about 1:30 pm today on State Street a block north of the Bellingham Herald building.
Former two term Bellingham city council member Tip Johnson, reporting on the demonstration for Friends of Whatcom web site, had his camera smashed by the police after they took it from him. He was arrested and roughed up while photographing the first arrested demonstrator in a police car. His citation is blocking traffic but that is a fiction. He stepped off the curb and was between bumpers of two parked cars at the side of the street when the police assaulted him.
The demonstrators, including many young people, were just finishing an almost two hour peaceful and pleasant demonstration against the toxic wastes and new diesel generators being set up by Georgia Pacific Corporation in the center of Bellingham. They were on their way to an espresso coffee shop a block away.
Photo by Tip Johnson
In the above photo, demonstrators are asking the police to chill and let the arrested girl go. Tip crossed street after taking this photo, walked down sidewalk and stepped off curb to photograph the girl handcuffed in back of police cruiser. He did not disobey any police order. He identified himself as working press. The police roughed him up, bruising him and slammed him against a police car. He was handcuffed and placed in the back of another police car. After citing him for blocking traffic - an obvious fiction - he was given his camera back - smashed beyond repair - and released. Randy Carol, Bellingham's new police chief, looked on with approval.
Tuesday, Jan 16
A nice story about Bellingham's own Mitch Friedman can be read in the Oregonian. Mitch heads up the Northwest Ecosystem Alliance from down on Cornwall Ave. You can read the article online. You can also check out their Alliance website. We in Bellingham should be proud to have Mitch and his group here. They are working to make the Northwest a better place to live.
Sunday, Jan 14, 2001
All that was missing was the cigar smoke when the Bellingham Planning Commission met with Western Washington University planners and consultants last Thursday evening. It was a cozy board room meeting among friends. It was legally called a 'work session', and so the press and citizens were not there. But, it was not a work session - it was to allow Western to present their new Master Plan to the commission without citizens and the press there. It was a back room deal. It violated city and state laws. Not one Planning Commission member raised objection.
I dropped in and dropped a written objection on the table. Chairman Nick Zaferatos objected to my action and scoffed at my objections. After I left, Commission member Mike Kohl asked the other members to discuss the issue. The commission decided to allow Western to only present information on their Master Plan processes, not the plan - and to not ask any questions. Western still presented core elements of their plan. Thus a work session was turned on its head with the Commission members muzzling themselves and a plan proponent - Western - getting over an hour to lobby for their plan.
Today, Sunday, the city printed an addendum in the Herald that Western will make a presentation at the Public Hearing this Thursday, Jan 18, 7pm in the City Council chambers - where public hearings are supposed to take place. Apparently they considered my objection valid.
I also requested that Nick Zaferatos recuse himself. Nick is an employee of Western and has an obvious conflict of interest. His participation destroys the appearance of fairness of commission proceedings. It is just amazing that the Bellingham city attorney is allowing Nick to participate. Nick scoffed at my request.
So - the city has been violating the law on a regular basis for four years as a courtesy to Western. The process continues. Those who have watched over the years agree - Western plays the tune and the city dances. As Western President Karen Morse wrote in her letter to Planning Director Pat Decker; "We look forward to continuing our cooperative working relationship with the City...". Indeed. And Western continues to insist that the state Growth Management Act does not apply to them.
My feeble postings here on NWCitizen will not do much. Only if others who read this call their Council Representative, or the Mayor, the Planning Director or the City Attorney and express concern can we expect the city to change. It is up to you.
What was new in 2000 on NW Citizen.
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