Proposed over-water walkway is dead
Sat, May 21, 2016, 4:32 pm // John ServaisIt can now be reliably reported that the long planned over-water walkway, running from the north end of Boulevard Park to the Cornwall Avenue landfill, has been cancelled by…
Tue, May 24, 2016, 8:25 am // Dick Conoboy
In the spirit of Memorial Day... If you want to support the local non-profit Growing Veterans and have a fun evening with wine, a buffet, a silent auction, a raffle and other "stuff" come out to the Samson Estates Winery in Everson on June 2nd from 6-10pm. Call the numbers on the flyer pictured here for additional information.
Fri, May 20, 2016, 1:25 pm // John Servais
Elisabeth Britt has posted a good article on her Latte Republic website. It concerns the safe locating of our public schools. The new Options High School is to be build over a 10 inch high pressure natural gas pipeline. The Bellingham School District says it is not "over" it but offset to the pipeline. At the Hearing Examiner meeting the other night, the school district did not say how far from the pipe the school will be - but it seems it is less than 10 feet. That by most definitations is over the pipeline. Elisabeth writes of her research into state codes about pipelines and schools. California has good guidelines. Our state does not.
Her article, "Why the location of our public schools is important to our children’s health and well-being" is a good read and one that makes us aware of the casual manner our local schools are placed in dangerous locations. The school staffer responsible for the past 30 years setting school locations defended the Options HS location on the basis that he has located several schools near or over potentially explosive pipelines. Hmmm.
We need common sense to be exerecised by our local powers. They may be able to sneak their projects through the permit hoops, but that does not make their decisions good ones. Common sense needs to come into play. In this instance, the school district did not even mention the existence of the pipeline in their SEPA check list and environmental determination of non-significance form. At the hearing, the school district poohed staffer poohed any danger, saying gas pipelines do not explode.
Thu, May 19, 2016, 4:43 pm // John Servais
Are you a PHP programmer? (If you're not sure, then you are not.) The NWCitizen website runs on a content management system called Expression Engine. It uses PHP code for customizing and features. I am looking for a programmer who has a job, is located in Bellingham, and wants to pick up a bit more paid programming. This is probably not beginning level coding. There is already a solid base of PHP code behind this website from my previous programmer, John Meloy, who would be available for transition information. Although NWCitizen started in 1995 with my hand coding of static html pages, Meloy installed the present system in January of 2008 and has tweaked it since. His business is now keeping him too busy for this part-time tweaking. Hence, this shout out.
You can do the work on your own schedule and at off times. I would send my change requests via email and would hope you could get to them within a week. If you are interested, contact me at john at nwhouse.com Not only is it paid programming, but you will be helping the community benefit from a solid website for news and commentary.
Tue, May 17, 2016, 8:32 pm // John Servais
Just posted is an article by Pat McKee on the need for a traffic study before building the new Options High. The Bellingham School District basically cheated on filling out their non dertermination form for city planning. And our Bellingham Planning Department has helped to sneak this process through.
Sneak? Yes. Since we approved the levy in November of 2013 for a new Options High School building, the school district has communicated they planned to build a 200 student building. Until they could no longer keep the wraps on it at a hearing in late March of 2016. They were planning a 400 student school. The neighbors were shocked. The notices had not been clear on what was planned. Sort of like the KPLU radio sale charade where the Fight Club rule prevails. (Don't talk about it)
Now, tomorow on Wed, May 18, the Bellingham Hearing Examiner, Sharon Rice, will hear the school district request for a conditional use permit - without a traffic study. McKee's submitted statements (updated) will make the plea to the hearing examiner that a traffic study is needed. One reason is the school district feels only 67 parking spaces are needed - an absurdly low number considering students, staff and teachers. Let us hope she turns them down and asks for a proper traffic study with plans to accomodate the increased traffic and parking.
The school district assumes they will get not only the conditional use permit, but a green light to vacate the bicycle trail and half of Franklin Street. Assumes? Yes. Without permits, they have let out the construction bids, and on May 12 they opened them. Construction is scheduled to start in June. Oh - and they expect the city council to approve the street vacation on June 6.
I have been working hard on another story these past couple weeks and have not been able to write more about this school project. There is much that seems very wrong with this school plan. It appears the school district is warehousing poor students and those it expels from the three high schools. They do not have organized access to any outside recreation areas. No access to the Bellingham High fields.
I hope to post more articles about this Options High School. We all desire for all our young to get a good education. But it appears the Options High process is not that.
Sun, May 15, 2016, 2:26 pm // John Servais
Yes, I am soliciting for another news outlet - but it is quite special. KPLU public radio is based in Tacoma but via repeater antennas is present throughout Western Washington. That includes Whatcom County and Bellingham. KPLU has outstanding news reports daily - with jazz music between. It is independent, factually trustworthy, and comprehensive. No dumbed-down news with absurd and exaggerated lead-ins. It is a Pacific Northwest news treasure and has been on the air for decades.
Last November, we learned of a threat to dismantle it in a most nefarious manner. It was to be acquired and integrated into the other FM public radio station. The University of Washington owns KUOW and it competes, in a sense, with KPLU. KUOW worked secretly to purchase KPLU from its owner, Pacific Lutheran University of Tacoma. Its intention was to subsume it under KUOW and own public radio news for our area.
In the opinion of many, KUOW news is biased and controlled by the UW. Or to put a positive spin on it, KPLU is considered much more independent and trustworthy in its news reporting than is KUOW. KPLU does not ignore important issues that are awkward for local governments and public institutions.
Today the Seattle Times has an expose article on how the University of Washington and Pacific Luthern University conspired to keep secret their intention for UW to acquire KPLU and fold it into KUOW - and thus effectively kill its independent news coverage. Cliff Mass, the popular NW weather blogger, has been informing us on this issue for months. Indeed, Mass has helped lead the effort to raise funds and buy KPLU from Pacific Lutheran University and make it independent.
I am donating to that cause. Maybe only $10, but something. I hope many reading this may choose to also donate - and spread the word about this effort. We each have our own charities and causes to support and my words are not intended to suggest this cause shoud be everyone else's. But I want you to know about it. To donate, just go to the KPLU website.
Locally, we can pick up the KPLU FM station at 88.7 from Bellingham, or 88.9 from Sedro Woolley. Out of Seattle it is at 88.5.
Sat, May 07, 2016, 10:18 am // Dick Conoboy
Consideration of changes to Bellingham's Comprehensive Plan now migrates to the city council for a series of work sessions, hearings and eventual approval, most likely in September. But now is the time to get involved. The city council's committee of the whole will get a briefing from city staff on May 16th and a public hearing will be held by the council on June 6th. The planning commission's recommendations have been added to the draft comprehensive plan posted on the city's website (click here) You will also find a public comment tracker that has been updated as of May 4th to give you an idea of those issues that have already surfaced during the planning commission process. Not all comments carried over to changes in the updated draft.
The comprehensive plan covers policies in the following areas that are surely to affect our neighborhoods for the next 5-6 years and not always in a positive manner:
Parks, Recreation and Open Space
Capital Facilities and Utilities
Pass this information to your neighborhood association board of directors for discussion and action. Otherwise someone else will decide what your neighborhood looks like in the future.
Wed, May 04, 2016, 12:57 pm // Dick Conoboy
Three years ago I wrote a piece here entitled Obamacare and the Coming (Not Again?) Wealth Transfer that provided a resume of the then current, reality based take on the obomination called Obamacare. What was obvious then about the future of the Unaffordable Care Act has played out in its realization. The cruel, repetitive, neoliberal joke has been played on the American public, leaving the fat cats laughing all the way to their offshore accounts. The excerpt below comes from a wonderfully comprehensive look at the Unaffordable Care Act written by Howard Waitzkin and Ida Hellander in a piece for the Monthly Review entitled The Neoliberal Model Comes Home to Roost in the United States—If We Let It
Excerpt: "Abundant data substantiate that the failure of Obamacare has become nearly inevitable. Even after the ACA is fully implemented, more than one-half of the previously uninsured population will remain uninsured—at least 27 million people, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office—and at least twice that number will remain underinsured. Due to high deductibles (about $10,000 for a family bronze plan and $6,000 for silver) and co-payments, coverage under Obamacare has become unusable for many individuals and families, and employer-sponsored coverage is headed in the same direction. Private insurance generally produces administrative expenses about eight times higher than public administration; administrative waste has increased even more under Obamacare, and remains much higher than in other capitalist countries with national health programs. These administrative expenditures pay for activities like marketing, billing, denials of claims, processing copayments and deductibles, exorbitant salaries and deferred income for executives (sometimes more than $30 million per year), profits, and dividends for corporate shareholders. The overall costs of the health system under Obamacare are projected to rise from 17.4 percent of GDP in 2013 to 19.6 percent in 2022. A conservative projection shows that premiums and out-of-pocket expenditures for the average family will equal half of the average family income by 2019 and the full average family income itself by 2029."
All talk of somehow "building" on this terrible legislation is so much bunkum. Put whipped cream and a cherry on a turd and you still have a turd.
Tue, Apr 26, 2016, 2:20 pm // John Servais
Elisabeth Britt has just posted on her blog, Latte Republic, an article telling us there is a 10 inch gas pipeline running under the proposed site for the new Options High School on Franklin Street. The present temporary buildings for the school are set adjacent to the pipeline. She points out that in California this school would not be permitted. And in our county it is recommended against.
She does not mention the high tension power lines running directly over the school. With emmissions raining down, this is hardly the location for a school for kids with various hinderances to being in our conventional high schools.
The more we learn of this school - the weirder it seems. We are all in favor of matching facilities and curriculums to students in need. But the planning of this school by our Bellingham School District appears to be slip-shod and intended to hide the facts from taxpayers, nearby residents and our City Council. Thanks to Ms Britt for revealing yet another problem with this plan.
Thu, Apr 21, 2016, 1:05 pm // John Servais
Last evening, our county changed from three voting districts to five. In a single vote of a few seconds, it became law. It is a change that now dramatically changes how we citizens of Whatcom County will be represented in our local government. And perhaps in the Port of Bellingham government also. After the Districting Committee decision and dissolution of their committee, I rushed home to write the article of this news and post it here. And then....nothing.
No other local blog or webite posted the info last night. The Whatcom Hawk, which had been aggressively commenting on this issue for months, had nothing. It had become a non-issue. No interest. The Bellingham Herald this morning, nothing, even though the vote was before their deadline. Today on the Herald website - nothing. Apparently it was not important for residents and citizens of Whatcom County to know this.
This morning Prince died. Within 30 minutes the Herald had three stories online about this - including graphics. Still nothing about important local political news.
For years, I bashed the Herald for not reporting important local issues. It is why I started Northwest Citizen in 1995, to post what the Herald covered up, what it ignored, often to the benefit of a local government agency that was screwing up. For the past couple years, I've eased off as the Herald staff was decimated and austerity caused those remaining to just hope to keep their jobs for a while longer. Last summer the Herald noticeably stopped covering local government and started covering car accidents, minor crimes and weather events as major and even headline stories. These may be interesting reads, but such stories do not provide us with the information we need to act intelligently as citizens. Our local newspaper has stopped being our source of important local news.
As the Herald continues to deteriorate, I find I am even more committed to providing a forum for citizen journalists and reader comments at NWCitizen. Through donations I hope to pay the expenses of managing this site. Through advertising, I hope to make a modest living so I can devote full-time to this endeavor.
We have several writers now who are knowledgeable in different public areas and are committed to informing their fellow citizens of important issues: planning that impacts how we live; politics that impact those who make our public and political decisions; corporate action that endangers us or compromises our environment; government processes that waste our money or lie about what they are doing with our tax dollars. And more.
If we residents - we citizens - are informed about what is happening around us, we can participate in decisions about our future and vote intelligently. We can actually act as citizens and not subjects or pawns. But first of all, we need to know what the hell is happening.
I am looking for a few more writers. If you are knowledgeable about some issue that impacts us locally and can write decently (we have an editor who can help smooth out your articles), and if you want to join us, please contact me. We can meet for coffee to see if we both feel it might work. We could start with some guest articles to see how it goes. If it works, then you can help your fellow citizens know more about important issues in our local communities. If you feel you are qualified and are interested, please write me: email@example.com - John Servais, owner and publisher
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