Video Exposes City Council Dysfunction on Waterfront Plan


With one major exception, there is a masterful montage of video snippets set to music that is posted on Riley Sweeney's Political Junkie. In only three minutes we see the absurd thinking of Michael Lilliquist, Terry Borneman, Seth Fleetwood and Gene Knudson as they explain how they do not like the waterfront plan they then vote for a couple minutes later. It also shows Jack Weiss, the one vote against the plan, reading the final part of his long note explaining why he opposes the plan. Apparrently Cathy Lehman and Stan Snapp had no worthy thoughts on the matter as they didn't speak. It passed 6-1.

The exception is from the time of 1:45 to 1:51 in the video where Terry Borneman is shown supposedly saying he thinks this is a horrible plan. If you check the full video of the city council session you can see at minutes 119:52 to 120:06 where Terry actually says, “I know Jack has a vision of what this will be will be pretty horrible. My vision of of what the possibility can be can be grand.” This is deceptive editing by the creator of this montage. I did not find any other example of this and the video does a good job of presenting the despairing attitude of the council members before they voted.

The main reason for their vote for the plan - from this video and their past remarks - is the council is just tired of dealing with this and is tired of trying to negotiate with the Port of Bellingham. What you see in the video is how a surrender looks in the making. Despairing waving of hands and arms, shaking of heads as they speak, and explanations of how they must have the serenity to not change what they cannot or how they will feel good with themselves when looking in the mirror the next morning. Trouble is, they did have the power to change this plan. But they gave up.

This is the noise and sight of a group giving up on doing the right thing. This is our City Council abandoning us Bellingham taxpayers to fund $200,000,000 - that is 200 million dollars - over the next decades to clean property and build roads and utilities for the benefit of private corporate developers. This is our City Council caving in to a bully - the port.

An added note. Terry shows some of the totally dysfunctional thinking the council indulged in. View this at minute 119:02 to 119:52 with the kicker comment in the middle at 119:18. Basically Terry says he would do it differently if he owned the property, but says he does not own the property and does not have the money to develop it. He then says the city does not own the property, the port does. Then he goes off the rails by saying all the city is doing is putting in place regulations for developers who will have the money. Terry forgets the agreement obligates the citizens of Bellingham to pay for the benefit of the developer. We don't own the property, but the agreement requires us to pay $200 million in improvements for a private developer who will own the property. The port plans to sell the property to private developers.

Added note: The text of Jack Weiss' speech is linked below.

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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

Wendy Harris

Dec 05, 2013

One of the principle issues that emerged from public comments and the public visioning process of the Waterfront Futures Group was the idea of public ownership.  The public wanted to own the land to use it for public benefit such as parks and habitat restoration.  The sell-off and intense urban development that we were provided instead has no resemblance to what the public requested.

I think people need to understand that while public process has always been a problem, the entire waterfront planning process was hijacked in 2011 when the mayor’s staff and the port staff met in private and spent two years revising the waterfront plan. A revised EIS was issued by the port because these changes impacted land density and land use in significant ways.  The public had no involvement in this revised plan until it was completed and rushed through to enactment in less than 1 year.

The revised plan contained more waterfront density, taller buildings, less connectivity, increased marine traffic, more emphasis on cars and parking, “beneficial reuse” of dioxin, “flexibilty” for the staff in the form of vague and unclear development proposals, and “certainty” for developers in the form of a Planned Action Ordinance that provided vested rights and eliminated the SEPA process, and reflected public subsidy of infrastructure costs normally paid for by developers.  Since that time, the city and port staff have been advocates for “their” plan and have fought tooth and nail to prevent even the smallest of revisions.



Dec 06, 2013

My thanks, again, to all those who helped rid Bellingham of that disagreeable mayor who fought the Port.

It is such a blessing to have a mayor now who knows how to get along with them and not lead the council into any controversial actions.

Hey, it’s great! Just go along and get along.  $200,000,000 out of taxpayer pockets is such a small price for peace.

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