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Making sense of endorsements

By On

It is appropriate to disassemble our daily newspaper’s election endorsements. The Bellingham Herald influences a lot of votes - if only on the basis of their circulation and reach. The Herald also touts itself as the best source for local news and opinion. But what is actually behind that curtain where the Wizard is pontificating? What is really going on?

Their editorial board has been decimated. Notice they no longer have two citizens serving? This quietly ended a few months ago. Probably saves staff time dealing with them. So the board is the publisher, news editor and editorial writer. Well, actually, take away the publisher. Glen Nardi is gone as of today. Indeed, he was absent for at least one session with candidates. And do we really value the opinion of a person who is outa here forever and back to his beloved old Southern States? So that leaves two. And Julie Shirley got called out of one session, leaving Scott Ayers to sort of fumble through 45 minutes of interview. Scott’s job is primarily supposed to be to write what the board decides.

So, it is not really the old Herald editorial board anymore. Scott and Julie do not get out to forums and hearings and Port meetings much. They are not in touch. The citizen members provided this value in the past. Also, in the past, the editorial board had a reporter present to write an article about the interview - separate from the endorsement. No reporter this time. Indeed, we hear John Stark, the Port reporter, is on furlough - indefinite leave without pay. Sam Taylor has had his workload doubled the past week.

The two big issues that two challengers put on the table were totally ignored by Julie and Scott. Neither Taylor nor Stark was available to brief them. Thus the Herald endorsement editorial on Sunday ignored totally the charge from Ham Hayes that Scott Walker has used his office to direct very favorable low cost development bonds to his own employer - BP Refinery. Over the past 10 years, BP has received 93% - $180 million - of all bonds authorized by the Port for industrial development. Ham has made this the main issue of his campaign - and the editorial board ignored it. Totally. This is the Herald covering for the Port. Instead the board commented only on secondary issues Ham has talked about.

Doug Karlberg has documented how the Port is losing money each year on operations - even while the Port claims it is financially healthy. Doug has shown how the Port is rapidly going deeper into debt each year. The Herald totally ignored this important issue and focused on Karlberg’s thinking about the fishing fleet - a secondary issue.

The editorial did endorse one challenger - John Blethen. This after praising Walker - and again ignoring the real issues Blethen has raised. Confusing. In general, the editorial lightly touched on a few secondary issues and bounced around trying for gravitas on the candidates. But overall it ignored the major issues the challengers have raised in the primary campaign forums. The very issues the Port administration wants ignored. Does the Herald truly think official favoritism for cronies and yearly operating loses are not issues at all?

What to do? Vote for any one of the challengers. Pick your preferred challenger and vote for that person. John Blethen or Ham Hayes in the 1st. Mike McAuley or Doug Karlberg in the 2nd. We need Port reform before our current commissioners bring us to the edge of financial disaster - as have the commissioners in Everett and Bremerton to their communities.

A further comment on the Herald - and why it is no longer a guide for us. For those of us who have worked for large corporations in the past, the very rapid exit of Glen Nardi indicates prior decisions. Glen was the last McClatchy person in Bellingham and this looks very much like he is being saved from going down with the Herald. His future is now with McClatchy, not the Herald. He was probably told months ago that if he would oversee the reduction of staff by half, the sale of the building and properties, the transfer of printing to Skagit, and the dismissal of 25 press employees - that after all that, he would be saved with a transfer to a more stable newspaper and could return to his beloved southern states. Glen performed, and he was whisked out of town. Now, there is no one left that McClatchy is obligated to. No press workers union. No assets. I doubt McClatchy will be running the Herald come the end of September. (time for Manfred or Steve to play their hand)

About John Servais

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Fairhaven, Washington USA • Member since Feb 26, 2008

John started Northwest Citizen in 1995 to inform fellow citizens of serious local political issues that the Bellingham Herald was ignoring. With the help of donors from the beginning, he has [...]

Comments by Readers

David Camp

Aug 10, 2009

FYI - “dissemble” = to deceive. I think you meant “disassemble”, or analyze.

Good criticism of the Herald’s editorial page and other weaknesses - the paper seems intent on destroying itself by blind adherence to bureaucratic cost-cutting rather than improving the product. Sort of like GM, they can;t seem to get out of the mental ideological box they inhabit. Failure of imagination, or lack thereof. Isn’t that what defines a conservative - adherence to the already known and fear of the new?

Perhaps (i hope) we are experiencing the failure of a paradigm on the scale of the failure of the SOviet Union’s paradigm in 1989. Bumpy ride ahead?

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John Servais

Aug 10, 2009

A correction of one point in my post above.  Ham Hayes has informed us that the Port has given commissioner Scott Walker’s employer 93% of the low cost bond authorizations.  But I was in error to write that Ham has said “Scott Walker has used his office to direct ...”.  Ham has not suggested any motivation to Scott Walker.

Indeed, Ham has been careful to not accuse his opponent of any personal wrong doing.  He has pointed out how these funds could have greatly benefited many locally owned businesses in Whatcom County - in particular our agriculture businesses - if the Port was truly interested in helping our local economy. 

And it is for the rest of us to consider whether or not Walker has used his office to help his friends and business associates to the detriment of the rest of the County.  And the Herald does continue to ignore the biggest issue of the Port campaign by ignoring this issue.

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John Servais

Aug 10, 2009

David - Thanks for the spell error note.  It is now corrected.

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George Dyson

Aug 10, 2009

If we’re being precise about language: to decimate (generally misunderstood) is to eliminate one out of ten. So you are right many times over about the Herald.

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