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The Mayor’s Statement in the Herald

Dan Pike’s guest editorial in Sunday’s Herald is a direct result of an article on NwCitizen earlier this week. Indeed, on Wednesday, after the article had only been up for a couple hours, I got a phone call from a very angry mayor who complained bitterly that the article was full of false statements and that several council members were “liars”. He did not ask that it be pulled down, stopping just short of that.

When I asked why he was calling me - as I had not posted the article - and what he wanted me to do, he was not sure. Then he asked if he could send a reply - and I told him yes and that I would immediately post it as a guest article. He said he would get it to me on Thursday or Friday. On Friday, I learned he had sent it to the Herald. He offered it to me for later publication, if I wanted it. I declined.

You can read his article on the Herald website via the link at the bottom of this post. The over 100 registered commenters at NwCitizen can comment on it here with their real names. Or anyone can post a comment on the Herald site using anon and false names to fool even the Herald editors as to who you are. Of course, the editors will not only remove the usual obscene comments but also those they feel are too close to genuine criticism - as they have in the past. Comments here will be signed by citizens who are not afraid to exercise their right to free speech.

On Wednesday, I temporarily removed the post while the writer sought further information in the face of the harsh criticism by the mayor. He found nothing to change and it was reposted late Thursday with addendum. It remains. I regret even temporarily removing it. Tip Johnson criticized the removal and he is right. I bowed to pressure from officials. I have learned that another council member was also behind the pressure to have it removed.

In the end, I learned that the mayor and most council members all told half truths to the public during the issue of the Port/City waterfront planning framework. In a future post, I will tell more about this.

Today’s Herald article by the mayor almost screams for us to please not comment on the total lack of public process in the passage of this important planning document. Now that the main planning document is passed, we can all comment on what kinds of flowers to plant on the waterfront. The GMA has been totally violated. Any group of citizens, or the Lummi Nation, can bring a lawsuit to the GMA board and have this document thrown out. It is a planning document that is not related to 5 years of meaningless meetings and years of work by the Waterfront Advisory Committee. It was concocted by staffs at the city and port and illegally presented to the council for a slam dunk approval without allowing any public comment. My hat is off to Jack Weiss and Barbara Ryan for calling it for what it was.

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

Tip Johnson

Apr 26, 2009

Is the mayor pulling the wool over our eyes, or the Port pulling it over his? If both are pulling, it could be very bad news.

The Herald editorial board applauds this “agreement on a waterfront redevelopment plan” approved by a “slim majority”. Yet the mayor says they were merely “approving a proposed framework”. He says they “endorsed” the “Waterfront District Planning Framework”, although “adopt” was the term used in the documents in the April 20th meeting, as in “adopt the proposed Planning Framework”. So is it adopted, approved, proposed or endorsed?

Where did this framework originate? From citizen input gathered in a widely disseminated public participation process? Nope! From Officials at the Port and Western. It represents ideas that “leaders and staff from various stakeholders” have been discussing since 3/4/2009. How very inclusive!

What did they approve, adopt, propose or endorse?

Here are the most incredible elements of a most incredible piece of policy work in a nutshell:

- They quite remarkably agree to a marina in the the ASB lagoon.  Never mind that the marina is outside the scope of environmental review for the waterfront plan. It’s time to decide if the marina is part of the plan or not.  The word “marina” appears hundreds and hundreds of times in the environmental impact statement, yet no environmental review of the marina is taking place because they purposely put it the No-Action Alternative.

Perhaps Dan Pike was joking when he assured his supporters that he would insist on an independent scientific review of the so-called clean-up and look at alternative uses for the ASB.  After he was elected, he said his hands were tied because the City and Port already had an agreement on the marina.  In three months of public disclosure requests, I was unable to find any such agreement.  Well, here it finally is!  That’s beyond sneaky.  It’s downright duplicitous.

- They agree to a new “preferred alternative for completion of a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Waterfront District”. It’s not clear whether that includes the marina they also agreed on. This constitutes a scoping document, as the mayor says, “a narrowing of choices”. Hey, isn’t scoping supposed to be done in public, with public notice?

- They also agree to “Create a draft Master Plan…based on the proposed planning framework and planning assumptions”. Gosh, that marina is as slippery as a camel and it’s nose is now definitely in the tent, thanks to Dan.

- They eviscerated the work of the waterfront Futures Group. In his guest editorial, Pike lays out sixteen “values” that he says were “core themes of the Waterfront Futures Group”(WFG):
+ Create multi-modal connections to downtown and surrounding neighborhoods,
+ Preserve historic structures,
+ Protect view corridors,
+ Restore natural habitat,
+ Create open space,
+ Scale streets for pedestrians,
+ Restore the health of the land and water,
+ Incorporate green design features throughout the site,
+ Support mixed-use development,
+ Reinforce a unique sense of place, respecting history, culture and the arts,
+ Support water-dependent activities,
+ Improve public access through parks and trails,
+ Promote a healthy, dynamic waterfront economy,
+ Strengthen ties between local resources and jobs of the future,
+ Create connections to maritime industries and markets,
+ Emphasize public ownership.

Unfortunately, in the documents for whatever was adopted, approved, proposed or endorsed, a carefully worded framework assumption actually reduces the WFG’s work to these four points:
“Waterfront Futures Group - Vision and Framework Plan, and Guiding Principles (below) represent the community vision for the Waterfront District.
(1) Reinforce the inherent qualities of each place on the waterfront
(2) Restore the health of land and water
(3) Improve waterfront access
(4) Promote a healthy and dynamic waterfront economy (via flexible
zoning and improved permitting)”

You can find a more thorough analysis of their action, with links to the documents in comments below another article here.

In any case, the handwriting is on the wall.  The official plan is emerging, the public be damned.  Pike’s promise of better public process has gone the way of his scientific review.  Now, he’s willing to keep inviting the public to meetings, but the scope is being defined in private.  I’m sure he is willing to listen until everyone has had so many meetings that no one shows up.  That’s how they can get their marina - even if it is a No-Action item and has not been reviewed. Is Dan shopping for a yacht?

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Scott Wicklund

Apr 26, 2009

It is very important to build a strong record for appeal to the adults who will be asked to finance this boondoggle.  Our Senators and Representatives must be apprised as to what a sham this whole “planning effort” has been and why the marina does not deserve to be funded, at the expense of a real cleanup of the mercury.

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Sharon Crozier

May 21, 2009

Many of the people now aghast at Dan Pike’s rush to implement the Port’s desires for our waterfront should review news stories of the mayor’s first few months in office. The new sign on the office door was still wet when he told council on more than one occasion that we need to get moving on the waterfront, opportunities were being lost, the first thing we need is that bridge-all the stuff recently approved by council.

You will also read that the councilors asked serious questions, were firm about not rushing into the unpopular port plans. The mayor back tracked and sternly announced that the people of Bellingham would not be rushed into any premature actions on the waterfront. “The Port has to realize…,” etc.

But time’s running short, the People have managed to stave off the Port for half of his term already. No matter what you may think of the mayor, a little research will clear it all up for everyone.

At risk of offending most of the house writers on this list, that history was the main reason I, and others, wanted to more about the unreported (and never really cleared up) benefit bash down on the waterfront.

Respectfully submitted.

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