Update July 2, 9 am: I will post more on Wednesday about the 6-1 approval to spend Greenways money. I have not yet listened to the council discussion, and Gene's angry speech, because the BTV10 sound was dead for online live council meeting. It was restored a while after I contacted the tech who did not realize there was no sound. I spoke during the comment time, then sat watching the council have a crazy confused argument about road safety that made no sense to me - and realized that other than 5 students who probably had to be there, I was the only citizen not out enjoying a fine evening. So I went home and intended to see what they said an hour later when they got to that item on their agenda. Reading lips and body language is not enough. Tomorrow. Thanks Wendy for updating the info. I suspect she was watching it on TV which I did not have access to.
Update 8:30 am July 1: Have added the graphic of the council using Greenways Levy funds for resurfacing the Arne Hanna swimming pool. City Hall seems comfortable using our special levy fund for most any sorts of maintenance. I will be looking for other projects that have used the funds this way. We can now expect a comment saying I'm against swimming pools.
Update 3:30 pm: To quote a comment below from council member Michael Lilliquist: “To answer your specific questions (from your blog and your email): now is certainly the time to raise any objections.” A further reply to his comment will follow this evening. He nit picks but has no defense for this expenditure beyond the facts laid out in my article.
Update 1:00 pm: If someone tells you that this $500,000 is not being approved Monday evening because it was approved last fall, then you should know that this bill enables the spending of the money that was budgeted last fall. Same difference. The vote Monday evening will effectively spend the money. Confusing processes like this are what enable the city to spend money without our knowing about it. As a very high ranking city employee told me recently - in losing John Carter to Everett, we are losing the only person in city hall who understands the budget. Sad.
Posted 11:28 am
The Greenways Fund is again being dipped into by the Bellingham City Council to pay for AstroTurf at Civic Field. This is hardly the use we intended when we voted for this special fund. We intended the fund for acquisition of land for trails and to preserve special forests and maintain them.
“Greenways” is a direct reference to trails - and all the campaigning to pass the three multi-million dollar levies involved a promise that the funds would be carefully invested in our connecting trail system. Now, the Greenways Advisory Board is apparently just fine letting the City Council dip in to help pay for plastic grass on a football field.
Western pays a very small annual fee to use the field for soccer and other sports. User fees should be levied for the use of the field - to the school districts and anyone else who uses the field - so the plastic surface can be maintained.
The council said they did not have enough money left in the Greenways fund to pay more for the Chuckanut Ridge land purchase, so a levy has been passed in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city to pay $50 to $200 a year per household to pay off the balance. This council decision to spend $500,000 of the Greenways fund for plastic grass on Civic Field for Western means the poor households in Happy Valley are subsidizing the sports program for Western Washington University. Anyone who cares to take issue with that, feel free.
But this is not the first time. In 2000, the city used almost a million dollars of Greenways funds to install the original plastic playing field at the stadium, a total violation of the promise made to citizens during the campaign for the levy. In the years since, I have asked Greenways Committee members about it and all have said it should not have been done. Well, those same committee members appear to be quietly allowing it to happen again. Again, I raise the question - let them comment here and answer - or post somewhere else and I will link.
I'm as green and enviro as they come, but next time the city asks for another Greenways Levy, we may all want to question what we are voting for. We may think we are voting for trails, park land, preservation of sensitive woodland, maintenance of trails and such, but in reality, we may simply be subsidizing other city projects that have nothing to do with what we were promised.
Any Greenways Advisory Committee members who want to comment or explain or defend this spending of funds for plastic grass for football and soccer, please do so. And please also tell us why we should vote for the next Greenways levy if this is how past levies are being spent. Heck, I invite any council member to comment as well.
Don't like this expenditure? Let the council and mayor know. Phone, email or attend Monday's meeting and speak. With this post on NWCitizen, they will all have read it by Monday afternoon and will be waiting to see if anyone is concerned. My posts on this website are just shouting into the wind and easily ignored by city council if readers do not act on the information that bothers them. Posting your thoughts here will help. I assure you, they do read them.