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12 Questions (The Odd and Inappropriate)

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Update 4/27/2018: In an effort to be fair I always try to include relevant updates. After a 2nd attempt to get me to print written responses to the questions I sent Mayor Linville, again without an interview, I again voiced my concerns to her assistant. I was then contacted by a new assistant that has told me that the mayor will finally agree to a phone or in person interview with me. This makes me very happy. Of course, this all happened around the time that the COB released their “Big Telecom Propoganda Map” as I wrote about here, which has really made the broadband and Dig Once issues take off. So I will get to this as soon as I can. I will post the interview as a new article when I do.

The point of the 12 questions series is to provide you with real responses and analyses from your local officials. Since it’s an interview, it is fair to them since it lets them put their best foot forward too. While I prefer face to face interviews, I also offered an e-mail interview option which would have been an exchange of e-mails, not just a re-print of whatever answers they provided to me, like the mayor wanted. In both cases I would include analysis, especially in the areas of broadband, homelessness and transportation where I have expertise.

In the modern age, news outlets act too often simply as PR firms for politicians and this is sadly what many politicians have come to expect. In fact, they won’t even talk to news sources that don’t guarantee them certain kinds of interviews, that provide no real analyses. That’s why I will not be voting for anyone who does not respond to real interviews, with real analysis, like the 12 questions series.

To date Michael Lilliquist and Gene Knutson are the only local politicians to sit down with me in person and do a real interview that also allowed analysis. They did not try to censor me in any way, or even suggest it, like the mayor did. This level of transparency is exactly what you should expect from all of your politicians.

This is sadly not true of your mayor, Kelli Linville, and most of your council. With that said, I did have some other responses that might be laughable, if our situation weren’t so serious. Pinky Vargas, Dan Hamill, Roxanne Murphy (our local arbiter of the 1st Amendment), and Terry Bornemann did not respond at all. April Barker said my questions are too lengthy and she might answer some of them via e-mail, maybe, kind-a, sort-of.

The mayor responded in a disturbing way and, of course, she used a scapegoat/assistant, so she can pretend she was misrepresented no matter what happens. It’s a classic maneuver from a politician who is more used to appearing to care than providing real solutions. Well, that is except for her friends in the top 5%. She’ll give them our money all day long, without really looking into it. She likes anti-net neutral, anti-first amendment telecoms too like Comcast, Verizon, and especially CenturyLink. Oh yes, she cares about the homeless sooo much, that’s why she just couldn’t open up a publicly-owned 52,000 sq. foot building to keep them from freezing to death this winter, or even bother looking into it, because she cares about them. The name of the building is Lignin on Cornwall behind the Opportunity Council. I and many others communicated this to our officials. Michael Shepard is the only one who actually looked into it. She also only bothered to show up to the camp site for a short period of time, that HomesNow setup this December. Dan Hamill and April Barker also had some brief appearances there. Wouldn’t it have been appropriate for her to spend a night there? Isn’t that true of every council member? At least Gene Knutson and Michael Lilliquist responded to the problem in their interviews. There have been many articles written just on NWCitizen about all of this, and the jail scandal, so I’ll skip ahead here.

I will put the full e-mail exchange I had with her assistant in the comments below and explain why politicians can get away with non-responses. It has to do with a sad, long-term, trend in journalism where journalists often cut deals with politicians, where they treat them like royalty instead of public officials in a free society, and make deals with each other. The deal goes something like this. A journalist approaches the mayor and says, “I’d like to do a real interview with you and provide analysis to the community they can use to make real decisions with when election time comes.” If the official responds at all, which they usually don’t because they don’t like actually being held accountable, they say, “Well the only way I’ll agree to it is if you provide me with the questions and offer to print my answers, unaltered, and without analysis.” This effectively turns the paper into a PR firm for the mayor, which is unethical, but the kind of pretend journalism you see out of the Herald and other less ethical publications. This is the deal the mayor recently offered me. Pretending that my format of meeting with the candidates, recording the interviews, transcribing them word for word, summarizing the interviews to make them a readable size, and providing actual analysis is somehow odd. Perhaps to her it is because she is not used to having to answer hard questions. Also, she says she cares about the gun issue, but couldn’t stand with our heroic kids at the rally on February 21st?! She says she was in Olympia working on the issue, but because the city is very limited in what they can do, aside from applying a few zoning laws, shouldn’t she have been at the event, providing a speech herself to back up our heroic kids? Shouldn’t the entire council have been there? They keep saying that speaking out is the most effective thing they can do after all. You would think they would have been proud to stand next to our kids, teachers, school administrators, and community in general and speak on their behalf. Well at least they sent a letter.

This behavior is sadly not surprising because our politicians are used to being able to go to other sources that coddle them out of fear of not getting an interview at all, and simply regurgitate whatever the official says. That is not journalism. It is simply printing propaganda and flyers for officials. The hour is too late for this kind of response from the mayor’s office. Both Gene and Michael were happy with their interviews, since we do not misrepresent officials at NWCitizen. We also do not print propaganda. I explained this to the mayor’s assistant and have been told it has been passed on to the mayor. The hour is late. We have serious problems and need straight answers from our officials. I urge you, regardless of your party affiliations, to expect a higher level of transparency from your officials. The kind of responses I have been getting from most of them are what we call “Cadbury Creme Egg” responses. Meaning that they look hard and good on the surface, but have a soft, creamy, center. This kind of response is what too many of our officials specialize in. We all deserve better. By the way, in IT we also call the security model most of you are unknowingly using, the “Cadbury Creme Egg” model from an attacker’s point of view. In short, you all deserve better from any politician, regardless of their party affiliation.

About Jon Humphrey

Columnist • Bellingham • Member since May 23, 2017

Jon Humphrey is currently a music educator in Bellingham and very active in the community. He also has decades of professional IT experience including everything from support to development. He [...]

Comments by Readers

Jon Humphrey

Apr 16, 2018

As promised, here is the e-mail exchange I had with the mayor’s office. The mayor took over a month to respond in the first place. Granted, she is probably pretty busy trying to put out the dumpster fire that she started.  

Hi Jon,
Mayor Kelli Linville has been working on getting responses back to you for NWCitizen, but she wanted to know if you would be willing to print her responses in a more traditional Q&A format, without edits to her responses. In other words, as direct quotes. Would that be acceptable?
Regards,
Vanessa Blackburn
Communications Director
Mayor’s Office
City of Bellingham
(360) 778-8100 office
(360) 778-8115 direct
vablackburn@cob.org
Sign up to receive City press releases here
*My incoming and outgoing email messages are subject to public disclosure requirements per RCW 42.56*

**** My Response****

Sorry Vanessa, but we maintain a higher ethical standard at NWCitizen. I am looking to do real interviews, preferably in person. What the mayor is asking for here is for me to act as a PR firm for her and simply reprint something for her, which I will not do. Michael and Gene were both very happy with their interviews. So I do know what I’m doing and she should respect that. The hour is too late for this kind of response from your office. Please let me know if she is willing to do a real interview. You guys already have the Herald to use as a PR firm. I have not misrepresented anyone in my interviews, so I would tread carefully before saying that that is your reason for asking for this. 

The format I have suggested is consistent with proper, ethical, interview standards. 
 
Thanks,
Jon
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Dick Conoboy

Apr 17, 2018

Jon,

Ouch!  You do come down hard.  Trying to bump me out of position?  :-)

Keep it up.

Dick

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Jon Humphrey

Apr 17, 2018

:). Yeah Dick, I just want people to start to understand what is going on in the background with many of our politicians. Roxanne Murphy talks about how she cares so much about respect, ethics, etc. and then violates people’s first amendment rights. The main right that all of our freedoms, and our ability to defend them, stem from. I wrote to the council today about 5G wireless and the insane idea they have about removing land use policies for anti-net neutral, anti-first amendment companies like Verizon. Remember how I said you’d probably have to put your face inbetween the emitters for a while for it to be a problem in my last article? Well your mayor, public works director, and council now support exactly that idea, if Verizon wants to anyway. By removing the land use policy, as other cities have done (an idea originally suggested by Ajit Pai, Donald Trump, Doug Ericksen, and other technological bafoons), companies can put small cells literally by the windows of citizens and expose them to millimeter waves radiation 24/7. I offered to let them talk to a wireless health effects expert, explain how the tech works from an impartial point of view, and they blew it off. They are totally fine taking their advice from some of the most unethical companies in American history and even pritiorizing getting the laws they want passed first. I did get an auto-reply from April Barker stating that she is at an “ethics conference” in Chicago. Funny how she claims to care about ethics, but resists public broadband (even though the poor communities are more negatively effected by a lack of access than anyone else) and when she is totally fine with Verizon putting a 5G small cell next to a babies’ window when even the FCC admits that they are unsure of the effects of wireless on children! Must be some ethics conference if they’re skipping over broadband and unnecessiliary irradiating poor babies. Then this with the mayor, who has all of the aforementioned problems that Roxanne and April do and adds censorship to it as well, like talking to her is the highlight of our lives and a privilege and we should know that. I really hope that people understand how full of crap most of these politicians are when they vote in the near future. 

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jim peterson

Apr 17, 2018

Thank you for writing this. I would like to add about the campout on the city hall lawn. Doug and I from HomesNOW had 2 private meetings with the mayor doing the campout. We truly were trying to work with the city. We kept explaining that the mission and drop-in center worked for some but not all. That HomesNOW wanted to step up and set up a tent city and also build tiny homes. I know in those meetings and others we have had the mayor had the nerve to say on several occasions that she cared and that the city was looking for a nonprofit to work with on these issues. Mind you we are a legal 501c3 and told her that many times. Now we are told through others that the city and council will not work with HomesNOW no matter what. What I don’t get is why this is since we are not asking for one cent of taxpayer money. The biggest thing I have said through all of this is all we want to do is help the homeless, no hidden agenda yet the city refuses our offers. If the Mayor and city council really cared about the homeless then they would use the help offered to help the homeless, not turn it away.

 

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Jon Humphrey

Apr 18, 2018

Thanks Jim, since the city claims that it’ always out of money (which is usually bs) we started out by approaching the city with a volunteer offer to install fiber, etc. for public use. Basically, we offered to hook up certain sites for free, to reduce the expsnese to the city. That’s when I was pulled into a meeting with Ted Carlson (the public works director), Marty Mullholland (the pro-big telecom IT director hired specifically for that reason), and Brian Heinreich the mayor’s deputy administrator (who showed up more than half-way through the meeting to show me how seriously they were taking it). The point of the meeting was to teach me how things worked. This was also the meeting Ted Carlson threatened to end on behalf of PSE. He also, mentioned how he felt we should all “wait for wireless” which showed his incompetance and bias since you need fiber to do wireless. Roxanne Murphy especially, but the council in general, gush all over anti-net neutral, anti-frist amendment companies like CenturyLink and will violate people’s 1st Amendment rights to protect them. About 6 years ago they released a public study of Comcast that claims that “overall citizens are pleased with the service but just want more ala-carte programming.” As a person with a lot of advanced math under my belt, incuding Statistics, I can tell you that the report was designed to be as biased as possible in favor of Comcast. Furthermore, I have yet to meet a person that likes them, especially after the whole net-neutrality thing. As far as housing goes, my impression is that the council, and mayor, have the same feeling about land and the homeless that George Orwell talks about in his non-fiction book “The Road to Wigan Pier.” They assume that the homeless want to be, and they want the homeless issue to be someone else’s problem. They want their wealthy friends to build overpriced housing on the land, not help other human beigns out. That’s why they use zoning the way that they do. To keep you from doing the right thing. If you push, they do some token work to make it appear like they care, but they don’t. For example, they say they’re still looking for a site when 52,000 sq. ft. publicly owned buildings are available this winter, and have been for years. They look at the homeless as another species and consider themselves to be the Ubermensch. The sad truth is, they simply don’t want the homeless around, and hope that if they drag their feet, they’ll simply leave. Of course, the truth is that the homeless are real people, and anyone can become homeless, especially in the society that we’ve built. It’s time to suspend the counicl and mayor from making any decisions until an ethics committee, with full supoena power, can investigate them. I’m sure you’ll find a lot of Verizon, CenturyLink and Comcast investors. I’m also sure that you’ll find a lot of investments in housing in general. They wouldn’t want the value of their land or housing to be effected by Tiny Homes, etc. There is a book everyone should read that explains their behavior. It’s called “The Dictator’s Handbook.” http://a.co/1S3l4Su A lot of their behavior can simply be related to elitism, a lack of compassion, and stupidity though. 

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Jon Humphrey

Apr 18, 2018

I received another unacceptable response from the mayor’s office today, via her assistant of course. She simply refuses to do a real interview and be held accountable for her responses. So I am moving on. We deserve better. 

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