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Atul Deshmane: Public Utility District 1, Commissioner District 2

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A very important, yet often overlooked position is on your ballot this fall. It is for PUD (Public Utility District) District 1, Commissioner 2. Why is it so important? Well, because the PUD has a wide jurisdiction and unique powers granted to it by the state of Washington. If it is run by individuals who actually care about serving the community and will show it in their actions, the PUD can be of great benefit to the community. This can be said of reforming any poorly-run governmental organization. That reform will not come from the current establishment, but from new candidates who are up-to-date on the needs of a modern civilization.

Fortunately, we have an excellent candidate in the electrical engineer Atul Dushmane who has vast experience in working on public utility projects. He has shown this as a business leader in the community who has worked to create opportunities for sustainable energy among other things. Atul outlines three major areas of focus but cares deeply about our community and will do as much good for it as possible. How do I know this? My journey through the dumpster fire of a broadband situation we have in Bellingham has taught me one thing for sure. That the old leadership is full of good-old-boys (and girls) who will take advantage of the community to serve special interests.

The 3 areas:

1. Renewable Energy - Atul will bring modern technical knowledge and experience to the PUD that benefits the whole community. It’s obvious that investing more in our local economy by generating electricity from renewable resources will reduce pollution, gain autonomy, and create jobs.

2. Atul will encourage conservation of our freshwater resources to meet the needs of residents, farms, fish, and local business. For example, in our current water purification process, run by the old guard, we foolishly take the energy dense biomass that is created as part of the process and simply burn it in a 1970’s “global warming doesn’t exist” style. Atul has talked about the potential to burn this biomass to create energy, but doesn’t stop there. He also understands the potential for the use of other energy sources like wind and solar. Forward thinking like this has earned him an endorsement from Washington Conservation Voters.

3. The PUD can also deploy broadband to under-served rural communities and has jurisdiction in the city as well. Not wireless garbage that won’t even work well in our environment, and will give rural communities over-priced shared bandwidth, AGAIN. Instead, deploy real fiber-optic infrastructure. You know the stuff you need to make everything else work well that’s totally safe and currently costs less than fishing line per strand. Atul believes that we can learn from Anacortes, Mount Vernon, and other local communities that have public broadband fiber optic infrastructure. As I wrote about in two previous articles, 5G will NOT meet the needs of our rural communities. Here is article 1 and article 2.

Since I know a thing or two about local broadband problems I’ll expand on this point. One of the rumors you’ll hear out there is that the PUD “tried this already and lost millions.” I put “tried this” in quotes because the PUD has unique powers granted by the state of Washington to provide broadband that other entities simply don’t have. You will hear the rumor that it didn’t work, the PUD was losing money on it, and they had to sell it to the city. You will often hear this from a salesperson at WAVE broadband, probably at church while they are using the venue to try and shame you for looking into public fiber. WAVE changes about 13.25 times as much for fiber as they do on public networks in other parts of the country like Chattanooga, Tenn., if you can get real fiber service from them at all.

Yes, there was a failure, but NOT for the reasons WAVE and other private interests are telling you. The “failure” of the old PUD broadband project was all because of good-old-boy (and girl) jackassery, greed, laziness and incompetence from the old PUD leadership. Remember, the actual lazy do-nothings in our culture are usually at the top.

Here’s the truth though. It didn’t really fail. It was sold to the City of Bellingham and helps provide fiber for municipal services like our schools, emergency services and libraries. In a truly odd move, when the city council at the time (in 2009) purchased the fiber, they decided to protect the big telecoms by restricting it to internal municipal use only. Man, if the city council has a history of doing anything, it’s going out of their way to protect the big telecoms. This poor decision can be reversed with a simple vote.

Anyway, since the old PUD project in 2002, our need for bandwidth has grown 800 percent. So hanging onto fiber resources would have shown good long-term planning. The old project failed because the old PUD leadership tried to run it like a for-profit business and was not happy to run it just for the benefit of the community. You know, like creating good jobs for regular working class people. They did NOT have a true Open Access structure; most of their providers charged too much, and there weren’t enough of them. They also were penny-wise and pound foolish with its construction. This is the kind of old thinking, and poor leadership you’ll get with Paul D. Kenner. I know the ballot says this is a non-partisan race, and for Atul it is, but the old PUD leadership has a long history of bias towards big business, even at the expense of our environment and our community. Atul will NOT make these kind of backward mistakes.

So in short, if you want a modern leader, who will create next-generation jobs, cares about our community, and will finally give us the services we need vote for Atul Deshmane. If you want NO PROGRESS, old policies that damage our community and environment, and narrow childlike thinking like a coal terminal shipping out droves of uncovered coal cars every day (aka the cutting edge fuel of the 19th century) then vote for the current establishment candidate — Paul Kenner.

I think our current situation in Bellingham and Whatcom County should make it obvious to everyone that it’s time for a change.

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 [...]

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