To Jan - June 2001 on NW Citizen
Monday, Dec 31, 2001
We wish you and everyone a Happy New Year. May 2002 see us preserve our freedoms from attack outside and inside the USA. May our leaders and representatives - at local, state and national levels - have the wisdom to act for the long run and not for the applause and pressure of the moment. May the newly elected city and county council representatives make a positive difference. And, personally, I would hope that a couple more citizen run web sites would start up so I can link to them and we can all benefit. You take care.
Thursday, Dec 27
The Herald reporting on the Pit protests last spring was biased and painted the protestors as dangerous and very unlawful. The protestors tried to tell the city council of the injustices they had suffered from the police and the council shut them down. The Herald further marginalized the protestors and defended the council in its reporting. Now - today - the Herald editorial chastises the council for not being more attentive to citizens. The editorial takes the high moral ground and lectures the county and city councils.
Such hypocrisy by the Herald is routine. The reporting often trashes those without businesses that might advertise in its pages. Then the editorials will come out with wishful thinking for a cleaner, better world. Of course, of the 5 people on the Herald editorial board, there are very few years of experience living in Bellingham. And of the 5, we can expect 3 of them will be transferred to another Gannett newspaper in the normal course of their career promotions. Their ties to Bellingham are slim. They have more motivation to write an editorial that will be approved by a management team in Virginia, Gannett's headquarters, than be approved by knowledgable local citizens. Today's editorial head is "Councils must learn to listen", to which we say "Herald must learn to report."
Don't count on it. You cannot believe what you read in the Bellingham Herald. The reporting is inaccurate and purposely skewed to favor advertisers and the powerful. The editorials are Pollyanna pieces written to position the paper on the high moral road but not threaten its advertisers or the powerful. In 2001, the Herald contributed to the "horrendous" discourse that it bemoans in today's editorial.
We wish Season's Greetings to all. Whether Christian or other or non-believer, this is the season of the year when we take new hope for a new year. A rebirth of all that we believe in and value in life. A renewed awareness of our love of all other humans and our sharing of a common destiny with all other people. As we reflect on the special tragedies of this past year may we and our leaders have the wisdom to make things better. All the best to all our readers.
Saturday, Dec 22
Each winter, on many rainy days, an intermittent creek flows through the Sudden Valley golf course. Based on DNR standards it is probably a class 3 creek. We've heard there are finless trout in the creek.
So, we felt it appropriate to name this creek "Fitz Creek". The fact that the creek consists of raw human sewage is something the Washington Department of Ecology has ignored for many years. The fact that it flows into Austin Creek and then into Lake Whatcom - the drinking water reservoir for almost 90,000 people has been pretty much ignored by DOE for years. You need to know about this lack of concern.
As predicted yesterday, below, the Herald printed a correction today at the bottom of page 2 regarding the fuel sales at the airport. The Herald had a story reporting daily fuel sales of 7 times the actual amount. The importance of catching these errors is the Herald gets facts wrong all the time and this leads to citizens having entirely the wrong opinions of events and government agencies. This article would leave the reader admiring the Port for doing such a great job when in reality the Port may be doing a lousy job.
This airport article sought to show how the Port was doing a much better job than the private fueler they threw off the airport, Alpha Aviation. In truth, the Port is selling much less fuel than did Alpha Aviation. Now, part of the reason is the Sep 11 reprecussions on flying. Regardless, the article was based on a false premise. It painted a picture of great success which is not true.
The Herald gets a lot of advertising revenue from the Port of Bellingham during the year. They hardly ever make a mistake that makes the Port look bad. And they cover up stories that might embarrass the Port - like the toxic waste dump at the airport and the trucking of millions of gallons of contaminated water to Bellingham Bay from the dump. Nary a word.
The point is - you cannot trust the Bellingham Herald to tell you the truth about local events and government actions. The Herald is so riddled with mistakes as to make them unreliable for news of local issues. I can only catch a few of their mistakes. The community suffers from not having a viable competitor to the Herald, like a weekly newspaper. Competition would nudge Gannett into making the Herald a better newspaper. The community of Whatcom County would benefit. So would the Herald.
Friday, Dec 21
We first have to tweak the Bellingham Herald regarding today's story about the great success of the Port of Bellingham's fuel services at the airport. The Herald reported 4,500 to 5,000 gallons per day being sold. This, in truth, is the weekly amounts. The daily amount is 5,000 / 7 = 700 gallon per day. There, Herald, see how that is done? By the way, these amounts are below what was pumped during this time last year by the private fueler, Alpha Aviation, whom the Port kicked out. The whole point of the Herald story was to show how the Port is doing a better job at fueling. Tilt.
Expect the Herald to bury the correction tomorrow at the bottom of page 2. Wonder how many other "facts" in the booster story are incorrect? That story was not reporting - it was public relations by the Herald for the Port.
How bad was the sewage overflow at Lake Whatcom, the source of drinking water for 85,000 people in Bellingham? The Herald has reported it was 500 times the allowable limit. Sigh. DOE took a single test sample on Friday, Dec 14. It tested 1,000 times above the allowable level. The Herald got it wrong again.
DOE then went home for the weekend, doing nothing. Sewage was flowing when DOE left Sudden Valley. Sewage continued flowing Saturday, Sunday and Monday. It was only when news media started picking up the story on web sites on Monday that DOE felt motivated to act.
In this photo, we see kids walking through raw sewage on the golf course with no warning signs last weekend. That sewage formed a temporary class 3 creek. We heard it was named Fitz Creek. DOE figured they could ignore it for three days. Maybe no one would notice.
There are three "facts" you may have read in the mainstream media that need explaining.
1. The overflow was caused by "torrential rains" according to the Herald. The truth is the overflows occur most winters during normal rains. The heavier rains this past weekend merely caused the "normal" overflow to be a torrential overflow. The Herald covers up these overflows each year, denying their paid subscribers and readers vital information needed for living in Bellingham.
2. The Herald reports that "sewage-tainted storm water" spilled onto the golf course. A distortion of the first degree. A correct term is 'storm water tainted sewage'. The overflows came directly from the sewage system.
3. News stories hardly mentioned that the overflow was not so much from manhole covers as it was from the valve turned on by WD10 staff. The photo at left shows the valve open and the two manhole covers to the left secure. This was a release more than an overflow.
What is most amazing, as we look back, is the inaction of our State Department of Ecology and our County Health Department. Both knew about the sewage spill on Friday. DOE was busy at a holiday party. Neither agency did anything to stop the flows on Friday. It was only after reports at this web site and at www.lakewhatcom.org that action was taken on Monday. And the Herald finally felt compelled to report the story on Tuesday.
Citizens deserve better from their government agencies. And their local newspapers.
Thursday, Dec 20
National Public Radio in Seattle is broadcasting the story today about the sewage overflows at Sudden Valley. Indeed, NPR first learned of the story here at NW Citizen. The NPR reporter wrote us: "I routinely check Northwest Citizen for news tips I won't find anywhere else." - Liam Moriarty You can listen to the report by going to the NPR web site.
Gentle reader, this web site needs support if it is to continue investigating and posting stories that are ignored by the local media. With community support, I will be able to continue this work. After six years of postings, it is time for me to either back off or gain support from those who read and appreciate this site. Please consider donating at our new page for this. Thank you.
Wednesday, Dec 19
The Herald has a follow up story today on the sewage overflows at Sudden Valley. DOE is ordering Sudden Valley to stop the sewage overflows today. Go to the "Local & State" section after going to the Herald website. I've not had time to further investigate the situation. It is interesting that the DOE readily tell the Herald the results of their tests but DOE responds to my requests for test results with "... no information will be publicly available until the entire investigation is complete." And no reply from DOE to my requests for an explanation of this double standard.
Note the Herald story does mention that the Sudden Valley water managers opened the valve that then spewed the sewage onto the golf course. This was a conscious dedision, not a spill. Also, I was told by Sudden Valley water employee that only 5 truckloads of sewage was trucked off on Friday and then just discontinued and the valve opened. If true then this does not show much effort to contain the overflows. There are still many missing pieces to this story. And, gentle reader, be aware that this sort of spill has occurred on a pretty regular basis every winter for many years. Sudden Valley was started in 1968. We just have not been informed by our local media before. I will be trying to find out if DOE has ever before taken action like it finally has this time. Keep in mind that DOE inspectors took the weekend off while the sewage flowed by the thousands of gallons. And kids walked through the sewage with no warning signs. Our county health department is "working on it."
If you live on Lake Whatcom and get your water from the Lake, boil it before drinking.
The lake water is unsafe to drink. The Water District 10 sewage treatment facilities overflow valve was opened by District personnel to allow raw sewage to flow over the golf course, into Austin Creek and into Lake Whatcom. The sewage was flowing for much of Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday and was last turned off at 10:30 Monday morning. County health officials recommend boiling before drinking for 5 days after the sewage has stopped running, which would be 10:30 am Saturday, Dec 22. We will post more info here as we get it.
Tuesday, Dec 18
To state the obvious - the Bellingham Herald finally treated the sewage overflows as a real news story. After burying any notice at all for three days of "news" papers, this morning's paper has the story as the front page headline "DOE eyes sewage spills". (The Herald takes stories off line after a couple weeks, so this link is only temporary. Also, ignore their online instructions for searching their archives - they don't work.)
With visitors to this web site running from 200 to 1,000 each day, NWCitizen was probably part of the reason the Herald editors finally felt compelled to cover this story. It has happened before - we have broken stories a week to over a month before the Herald finally covered them. Over the past six years, without NWCitizen exposing important local issues, the Herald may never have covered many stories. This raw sewage story is only the latest. Read the posts below for Sunday and Monday.
A plea for support. NWCitizen is the part time endeavor of myself, John Servais. However, unless there is monetary support from the readers of this web site, I will have to curtail my efforts considerably. Some may cheer that. Ideally, I would like enough support to be able to devote full time to local reporting and writing. That would take commitment by some readers to provide pledges of continuous support.
I am at a personal crossroads and have to make a decision before January. I can no longer do this on my own. If you read and appreciate this web site - and the work that goes into it - then please consider donating $20, $50 or $100 to support this web site. If you are well off, consider committing to a monthly donation. To help, go to the new donate page and add your support to this web site.
NWCitizen often motivates our local mainstream news media to cover important local stories. I do my best to expose political news stories that our local "mainstream" news media miss, ignore, cover-up or misreport. This includes our only two viable news organizations - KGMI radio and the Bellingham Herald. Our single TV station, KVOS, could be good competition except they broadcast at 6:30 am and have such a small crew that they cover very few stories. (The new KVOS owners are considering the elimination of all news coverage.) It would be good for the community if the Every Other Weekly were to go weekly. What each of us citizens has to fully realize is that without news competition, we will not know what of importance is happening in our city, towns and county. I've tried hard to fill that gap. If you think I've succeeded then consider helping me continue. Thank you.
Monday, Dec 17
7 pm - We have received notice from Sudden Valley Water District 10 that the "release" of raw sewage was stopped at 10:30 this morning. If the valve is not turned on again, further polluting Austin Creek and Lake Whatcom, then those boiling their water before use can stop their boiling practice at noon this coming Saturday, Dec 22.
8 am - That raw sewage running from the Sudden Valley treatment plant has a few interesting aspects. The Water District was trucking off the excess sewage before deciding to stop trucking and just open the valve to allow the sewage to run down over the golf course and into the lake. The sewage running continued into Sunday afternoon - marking three days of over flows. The photo to the left may not look bad, but it is full of raw human sewage.
This morning's Herald again buried notice of the health hazard. Our Bellingham media and our local county and city officials have a 3rd world attitude towards health hazards. They treat them as something the public should not pay attention to and that are normal and routine events. Raw sewage where kids play? Oh, we ran a story about that a couple years ago.
This morning, our State Department of Ecology office in Bellingham was unaware that sewage had continued to flow over the weekend. They were unaware that the source was a deliberate opening of a valve by Water District personnel. They had sent someone out on Friday to take a "water sample", and were "monitoring" the situation. Their monitoring did not involve checking over the weekend. The DOE will probably monitor sick kid into the hospital. DOE did not order the valve closed.
Sunday, Dec 16
These two teenagers are walking through shit. It may not look like it, but all the near water in this photo is untreated human sewage flowing over the golf course at Sudden Valley and into Austin Creek in the background. The inadequate sewage system is polluting Lake Whatcom. We've posted more photos for your viewing disgust. But we must document these events or they will be denied later.
To the apparent surprise of our local health officials, it has rained again this winter. And the sewage systems are overflowing again. And the health hazard is being minimized again.
The Herald has minimizing this danger with small warnings on inside pages. The County Emergency Management system knew nothing when called. The Whatcom County Health Department is closed for the weekend with no warning on their phone system. So much for our local health and warning systems.
Our state Department of Ecology also declined to even go out and look at the pollution. Not their concern, they told the caller. Notice no signs posted to warn these young people of their danger. The photographer warned them. They said "Yuck" and left.
Monday, Dec 3, 2001
This morning's Bhm Herald has nary a word on this evening's Bellingham City Council meeting. Nada. Not even notice that there is a meeting. You wouldn't know that they will vote on spending a half million dollars to buy another downtown property - the ReStore property at 600 W. Holly. The old Bham Sash & Door site. The mayor is hoping to slam dunk this in the remaining two city council meetings this month before Grant Deger takes over for Leslie Langdon in January. With Grant on the council the mayor may lose his majority for goofy and expensive projects.
Why no word from the Herald? You could ask them, but their editors will mumble something about slipping through or some reporter out sick or some other lame excuse. They always have in the past when questioned. You can supply your own reason as well as I could type mine in here. Regardless, you only read it here today. Tomorrow the Herald will report the result.
Check out tonight's city council agenda for yourself.
And, of course the Herald has not a word about tomorrow's Port of Bellingham Commissioner meeting at 4 pm. This after telling us citizens in their editorial that we should attend these meetings and keep up with Port activities. The Port has never posted their agendas on their web site. Recently they made a page for them but have still not posted them. Actually, they think they post old agendas, but their web site has never worked. Yes, I have repeatedly informed them. Check it out for yourself. Port of Bellingham page of agendas. Note they do not even list tomorrow's agenda. They may fix this sometime today after they read this.
So, the meetings may be open to the public, but if the public does not know what is being decided, much less that there even is a meeting, then there is no public business in public.
On a personal note, this web site may soon have to be reduced by about 90% in activity. Sponsorships that were provided for the election season run out with December. I will not have the personal time. When I started this site in 1995, I hoped that others would be inspired and other citizen run sites would sprout up in Whatcom County. This has not happened. I think the reason is that this is more work than it seems at first glance. One has to work to make sure the facts are correct. And there are always the libel threats - which I receive often - but which never actually happen. Guess my facts are correct. A libel threat causes most folks to back off from public involvement. Anyway, if you know of any local sites not listed in the left side column, let me know. I spent much of last week on the story below. This will not be possible in the future.
Friday, Nov 30
Noon - Have learned that the Port had a problem with ducks at the airport in the 1980s and asked GP to dump their pulp mill wastes in the marsh on the west side of the runway to fill it and drive away the ducks. It worked. Now the site is a toxic dump.
County Health says they are monitoring this transfer of water and it is not toxic. This is the same health department that told us the drinking water wells in the north part of Whatcom County were safe.
Millions of gallons of this waste water have been trucked out off the airport over the past several years. Millions of gallons. That is a lot of expense for water that is "not dangerous."
Gentle reader, did you know about this? Did the Port or County Health tell us how they are dealing with a self made toxic waste dump? Has the Herald informed us? Rhetorical questions all.
The Bellingham Department of Ecology office explained why they did not know about this multi-year cleanup of a toxic waste dump right under their noses. They said this program is run from Olympia. Our worst stories about bureaucracies don't come close to the truth of how badly they are run.
Finally, the Port of Bellingham started this morning to tell its workers to only call the Port offices by phone and not use their radios. Seems they are doing damage control. Expect much spin. And little full disclosure.
9 am - This photo shows a tanker truck dumping thousands of gallons of toxic water onto a parking lot behind the Georgia Pacific warehouse on F street down next to Bellingham Bay. The "water" was loaded a half hour earlier at the Bellingham airport. The waste chemicals appear to be going down a storm drain to the left of where the truck driver is standing. This location is quite hidden from public view and we could not go there to see first hand.
For 10 years the Port of Bellingham allowed GP to dump toxic sludge from their pulp mill on to the wet lands on the west side of the runway at the airport. Now the Port is helping GP to truck the leached contaminated wastes to the Bham waterfront.
The Bellingham office of the Washington Department of Ecology knew nothing about this process. Nothing.
I have talked to people who say it has been going on for weeks. This truck makes from 6 to 8 round trips a day from the airport to the Bellingham waterfront, carrying 6,000 to 8,000 gallons per trip. That means hundreds of thousands of gallons have been dumped during the past few weeks.
Note the sleeping sea lion on a wood float at the bottom of the photo. At the top of the photo we are polluting his home. The local DOE office is just off the left side of the photo about 300 yards away.
For more photos and information, go to our report at Whatcom Port Watch.
I'll try to learn more. DOE promised to start looking into this today. Amazing. They knew nothing.
I'm sure we will get a smoke and mirrors response from the Port and DOE. But you can bet this process will change. All is well but we will stop doing this. Right.
Monday, Nov 26
Today's Herald editorial wonders why only 44.5% of registered voters in Whatcom County actually voted on November 6. (The Herald had their % wrong.) The editorial ends by asking why citizens were so "uninspired." The Herald implies blame belongs with the voters. I disagree and place the poor turnouts with the voting system and the Herald.
Voter registration and turnouts have been a strong interest of mine for many years. I know folks who never vote. You, gentle reader, probably also know people who make it a point to not vote. I committed a lot of personal time this election season to help put on the lunch time political forums for candidates in downtown Bellingham. One of our goals was to help citizens to feel informed enough to vote. Our flyers urged people to vote. Besides that, I have put a lot of time into this web site trying to stir the pot and inform voters of things the Herald covers up. So, here are my thoughts on the 'low' voter turnout.
First, you should know that absentee voters had a 64% turnout while those who had to go to the polling places on election day had a 28% turn out. Here are the numbers for November 6.
Registered voters: 97,828
Absentee registered: 46,000, or 47% of all registered voters.
Absentee turnout: 29,647, or 64% absentee registered.
Poll registered: 51,828 or 53% of all registered voters.
Poll turnout: 14,516 or 28% of poll voting registered.
Total voter turnout: 44,163 or 45.14% of all registered voters.
Now, this shows that maybe there is something wrong with voting at the polling places. And I think there are a lot of things wrong. Many people simply don't know where the polling places are. Many have work schedules that make it difficult to get to the polling place on time. Many haven't the time for slow lines at a polling place and don't know ahead of time whether they will face lines.
What could be done to improve voter turnout? There have been valid suggestions for years available to our elected officials. Put polling booths at shopping centers, malls and places convenient to people. Allow voters to vote at any polling place. Computer technology easily allows this. Now we can allow online Internet voting. Again, the technology easily allows for this.
The Herald is partly to blame because of their timid and biased coverage of the election campaigns. Everyone knows or feels that the Herald is biased for self serving reasons. (The reason is where the advertising money comes from.) Most can only guess at those reasons, but the Herald's slate of endorsements rarely make political sense. They endorse candidates in different races who stand for opposite values. The Herald has a formula for election coverage and refrains from delving into real issues before elections. Their reporters are mostly newcomers to Bellingham - one had less than 6 months here - and they have no ability to ask critical questions of candidates or write with knowledge of issues important to the voters. Thus, voters have an impossible task becoming informed of the candidates or issues in Whatcom County. The Herald is our only mainstream source of political information.
Absentee voters are probably a more dedicated group - as a whole. They had to request absentee status. Voting absentee allows one to choose the day and take the time to carefully punch out the card. One can spread out candidate flyers and other aids and make careful choices.
Poll voters have difficulty bringing print materials into the small voting booth. Others are waiting in line to vote and it is embarrassing to take too much time. While polling places may be nearly empty during the middle of the day, they can be crowded in the evening.
There are some other things that need improvement.
- The punch cards are pure hell. It is too easy for anyone to punch the wrong hole, or leave those chads hanging.
- Many people probably don't vote because of the voting scandals of last year. Now we learn that many ballots are tossed out and not counted because of chads, double voting and other things we feel helpless to prevent. Why vote if the incompetent system can't count the votes? That is not my opinion - that is the opinion of many people who don't vote.
As a political activist in this county for over 20 years, I think most people want to participate in their governance. But over the years many have told me why they are tuned out and disgusted with the system of voting. And of the impossible task of learning how to vote intelligently.
The problem is not with the people. It is with our elected officials at the county and state levels. They lack the patriotism and civic commitment to improve a horribly screwed up election process.
Harriet Spanel, Kelli Linville, Doug Erickson, Dave Quall, Georgia Gardner and Jeff Morris deserve your comments. Tell them to fix the system - now. On the local level, we should support our County Auditor, Shirley Forslof, who has been trying to get our county council to vote the money to fix our local system. Tell the county council to spend the money to allow democracy to actually work.
And the Herald should look to its own self for where to place much of the blame.
Tuesday, Nov 20
I love it. Today's Bellingham Herald has no mention of today's Port of Bellingham budget hearing meeting. Not a word. After yesterday's editorial instructing the public to attend Port meetings "...particularly at budget time...", you should not think this ironic or a slip up. The Herald has ignored the Port for years. The editorials are written by a person who is totally removed from reporting processes at the Herald. The editorials are mere pontificating by someone who seems ignorant of the basic facts about the Port. There would normally not be a reporter at today's Port meeting. We'll see what inane story is run tomorrow praising the Port budget and will comment tomorrow.
At the Whatcom Port Watch web site, we have had the Port meeting posted for some time now. Check the top left corner. Whatcom Port Watch is a sub web site of NW Citizen and will continue to post information on the Port even though we failed to get either of the two reform Port Commissioner candidates elected. We citizens are not dependent on elections for our right to participate in our local political process. The effort for good government is a continuing one. With the Port, we voters of Whatcom County have unknowingly reelected corrupt politicians. The Herald helped them get reelected. Our effort for Port reform will continue.
Monday, Nov 19
Harris Ave in Fairhaven. Today the Bellingham Parks dept is planting the new street trees. We are down to 5 trees from the original 9 that were butchered in May - if my counting is correct. The new trees are Ashes - a very nice street tree. They are being planted with proper soil preparation. A boundary barrier extends down 24 inches to direct the top root structure down and prevent future cracking of the sidewalk.
Meanwhile, kitty corner from Tony's, along 11th Street between Harris and McKenzie streets, the city has replaced the sidewalk and left the trees. This is strong evidence the city could have done the same on Harris. Make no mistake - we have lost a treasured community asset with the 6 am no-notice and no-permit butchering of beautiful street trees on Harris last May. May the new trees have a better future.
Bellingham Herald Hypocrisy
I have been reading the Herald editorials since the election. Rarely have I seen such hypocrisy. Today the Herald says the Port benefits from public watchfulness and urges those who were critical during the past few months to not stop now that the election is over. Of course, the Herald refrained from any critical reporting during the election process, guaranteeing the reelection of the incumbents. How useless to not report on issues when the voters need the information for making intelligent decisions. Actually, the Herald did a couple articles on the day before the election that promoted the incumbent Port commissioners - stories that were little more than printing of Port public relations info timed for the election.
The Herald has not reported on the Port since a 1995 decision by the publisher that they could not afford to cover the Port. This was told to me by a high and impeccable Herald source. The Herald only covered a few Port issues after this web site exposed the Ginny Benton conflict of interest issue last July - before filings for the election. The Herald picked up that story from this web site, never gave credit to NWCitizen, and ran the story as their own. Actually, the truth is even more condemning of the Herald. I touched base with the Herald to let them know of this scandal. They already knew the basics but wern't pursuing the story. I finished my investigation and posted the story here. A week later the Herald ran it. And now they lecture us? Their uselessness to our community shows through. The Herald can't even manage to print notices of Port meetings. Something needs to be done.
Tuesday, Nov 13
1:30 pm - You might check Friends of Whatcom for their view on tonight's city council scheduled corrupt deal involving the Mason building site.
So, what can we learn from the election? For one view, check out the After Election Quaterbacking from our Sports Desk. I hope to have more perspectives soon. We can all look forward to this Thursday's Every Other Weekly and what the Skinny will have to say.
Friday, Nov 9
Our Whatcom County voter turnout was only 40%. Not good. We had 76% last year for the presidential election.
Election results as posted are very probably final. No changes in winners.
Wednesday, Nov 7
We congratulate the winners. We like some of the results and don't like all the results. During twenty some years of watching county wide elections, I've never felt the voters acted irrationally. The common sense and somewhat progressive tendency of our county has always been there. County voters don't turn out an incumbent unless given really good reasons. With no incumbent, the voters rarely give a landslide to either candidate.
That is also why the Port is such a hard nut to crack - people just don't know that much about it and tend to return incumbents. And it is not the voters fault. The local news media simply don't help because they don't cover the Port. In 1989, we tried for Port reform and lost. We then spent two years informing the voters of why the Port needed reform and in 1991 Scott Walker became the first challenger to unseat a Port incumbent in 60 years. But more on the Port below - later.
We won't know some races until Friday noon. As of today, a couple races are still very much up in the air. Roy - Wiesen in the county and Deger - Johnson in Bham. At least 10,000 and probably more like 15,000 absentee ballots will be counted on Friday morning.
Tuesday, Nov ember 6 - General Election today
Why vote? Because you love your country. Because, we each have an equal voice today. Those in power work each year to entice us to vote for them. Today we - each of us - has the incredible chance to secretly add our choice to who will be in power for the next few years. It is an annual bloodless revolution. The changes can be dramatic - as dramatic as a real revolution.
It is not a question of whether your vote will make a difference. It is a question of whether you love your country and want the best for it. It is a question of patriotism. True patriotism is contributing to a better country, state, county and town. Voting is free - it takes little time - it does not risk your job or social standing - it is personally rewarding. To vote is to participate with all others. Then we are better able to live with the results of our election.
Please vote intelligently. Vote for the candidates you think will respect the open public process that is the cornerstone of our American democracy. Vote for candidates who will work for the common good and not special interests - of the left or right.
Monday, Nov 5
The Bham Herald again shows why it is such a good public relations arm of the Port of Bellingham. As it has been for many years. You want good news and endorsements in the Herald - then place lots of advertising. Former Herald reporters and writers have confirmed this fact repeatedly.
The day before the election, two Port public relations efforts have gotten nice distribution by the Herald and/or local radio. The Herald story tells us the Port won't raise taxes and then tells us all the good things that will be accomplished in 2002 - improved fishing docks, economic development, etc. The reporter no doubt did not read the budget herself as it is an incomprehensible document. I have been looking at it for several days now. So, the reporter depended on the Port staff for what was wonderful news for the Port incumbents. That is not reporting. That is PR.
Port commission challengers were not asked to comment on the budget for the Herald story.
I can tell you this. The Port will not spend half the money they budgeted for economic development this year. That according to a Port document of a few weeks ago. The half they are spending is salaries for Port employees, studies, reports, administrative expenses and such. The half not being spent would have actually helped the economy. For 2002, the money is again to be spent for studies, reports and analysis. The Port staff reported - and I was at the meeting - that actual help for the local economy will start until 2003. Over a year from now. The Herald did not have a reporter at that meeting.
Another story from the Port - the day before the election - is running on the radio this morning. The Port is doing a "survey" on how to help the Ferndale economy. Lots of voters out in Ferndale. Doug Smith and Scott Walker have a great campaign committee in their Port staff. And willing help from the Bham Herald and Cascade Radio. Keep those ad dollars rolling.
Ahh, but the Herald has purposely avoided the corruption story of Commissioner Doug Smith's conflict of interest construction work on Port property with his Com-Steel company. The Herald says Commissioner Ginny Benton should resign for taking a job with a Port tenant, but endorses Smith for reelection after he makes many times what Ginny earned. Go figure.
I urge you to ignore this last minute PR blitz. Look at the 8 year record of these two Port Commissioners. There has been no economic help. Only Port profits and competition with local businesses.
Do our local economy a favor. Vote for Port Reform. Vote for Fenton Wilkinson and Dan Warner.
One other recommendation. The new Bellingham Municipal Judge seat has been hotly contested. I've finally learned enough to understand what the differences are. Stark Follis is supported by both defense attorneys and prosecutors. Deb Lev seems to be supported by the local liberal establishment. Lev is part of the present appointed municipal judge team that Mayor Mark appointed - and which has so violated the rights of the Pit demonstrators. She believes in harsh jail penalties for even minor offenses. Why would the liberals support her? I don't think they know. She comes off so sweet.
Vote for Stark Follis for municipal judge. He has years of experience with criminal law and trials. Lev does not. The judgeship deals with only criminal mattes. Stark is far more qualified. And he is not tainted with being an appointee of Mayor Mark. He will be an independent judge, responsible to the citizens, not the mayor.
Saturday, Nov 3
The Port Commissioner election is a crucial one for the future direction of economic development in Whatcom County. Almost everyone agrees with that statement. The question is: Are the present Commissioners Scott Walker and Doug Smith doing the right things or are Fenton Wilkinson and Dan Warner correct when they say the Port is going in the wrong direction.
Today there is an article posted at Whatcom Port Watch written by the president of a light industrial company that is also a Port tenant Absorption Corp. This article clearly explains why the current Port - and to a degree the city of Bellingham - is having so much trouble with attracting and retaining good businesses. If you want still think the current commissioners are going in the right direction, then read this. It will change your mind. The current Port is driving business after business away from our community. Alpha Aviation at the airport is only the latest example of a quality business that is harassed off Port property. All because the commissioners are pursuing a flawed business model - one that has the Port making money instead of local businesses making money.
What is humorous is Scott Walker calling Dan Warner a "socialist" in his campaign. Walker is the socialist when he "nationalizes" the Port services by terminating private businesses and has the Port take over the work. Airport fueling is the latest example. If Walker and Smith win, they will continue their socialist agenda by taking over and running marina fueling and the Wellcraft shipyard as Port of Bellingham businesses. Walker is the socialist and anti-private business advocate.
Vote Port Reform. We haven't had this chance in 8 years and won't for another 8 years. We can improve our Whatcom County economy if we vote in Fenton Wilkinson and Dan Warner. They are very qualified and know what policies are needed for economic development. We do ourselves a huge favor by voting them into office.
Check my other election recommendations - if you are not sure of any local offices. This page easily prints.
Thursday, Nov 1
Most visitors to this site are politically active. As such, consider these numbers. As of tonight, 13,000 absentee votes have been received by the Whatcom County Auditor. Another 2,000 are probably in the mail. 44,500 absentees were mailed of 97,800 registered voters. Normally a larger percent of absentees vote than do election day poll voters. As such, if we get a total of a 40% voter response, then a third of the voters have already cast their ballots. All the expensive ads we will see over the next 4 days won't affect maybe 40% of all the votes cast. We just won't know the results for another week. The auditors office is so swamped opening and verifying absentee ballots that by election night at 8 pm, when the first computer tally of absentees is run, there will still be thousands of absentees at the auditors office that will not be verified and thus not counted. They will be run on Friday, November 9 - a week from now.
In the old days - 6 years ago - on election night in the lobby of the court house, we would get the run of absentees in early evening and they would amount to maybe 10% of the total vote. Then we would all settle down for a couple hours of radio interviews, political gossip and backslapping and wait for the hourly counts culminating about 10 pm with definitive results giving us winners and losers. The court house would be packed till then. Now, we get a disjointed process that stretches for 4 days. A lot of the fun of election night is slipping away.
Tuesday, Oct 30
Harris Avenue construction. I should make a comment here, since the Herald ran a short story this morning about it. Did we citizens gain a "victory"? Because of citizen efforts, the sidewalks are not being squeezed by wider streets. Well, you can chalk this modest gain up to the looming election. The mayor threw a bone to embattled city council rep Barbara Ryan. During four years in office, Ryan has shown little to no concern for the ambience of the south side. She smilingly accepted the tree cutting and poo poohed citizen protests. She made promises about review of the project that she broke. There never was a need to widen the street and Barbara never had the backbone to stand up to the mayor on this. Without the election we would have no gains at all.
A year ago, Barbara Ryan was pushing for a new apartment zoning in Happy Valley in what was and still is single family zoning near the Fairhaven commercial district. This would have allowed big cracker box apartments. This rezone was only proposed after all public hearings with the public were over. Most residents of the south side don't even know about this. Barbara pushed for the apartment zoning to the end. It took four other council members, including Gene Knutson, to defeat the apartment zoning. We retained our neighborhood despite Barbara's efforts to back anything the mayor and his planning department proposed. She does not walk her talk on neighborhood values.
I'll be voting for Russ Weston. You can be sure that if Russ were a council member that the Harris Avenue tree cutting and secret planning process would not have happened. He would have acted as a representative and insisted on a public process and adherence to the law. By the way, internal city memos that I have read admit the tree cutting was done illegally. They were cut without a permit and without Public Works notifying other departments beforehand - as is required by law. It was a classic case of act, take a little heat from the public, and then move on. The election gained us a few modest improvements.
Saturday, Oct 27
As you consider how to vote in the Bellingham City Council election, it is worth while to note how poorly the current rubber stamps on the council have served us. Mayor Mark gets what he wants. Public meetings are not announced in legal ways so no one attends. Then the meetings are sometimes not recorded - in violation of state law - and we do not know what decisions are being made for us without our knowledge. Louise Bjornson and Barbara Ryan repeatedly accept these illegal procedures when I ask them why they permit them. Louise and Barbara should be voted off the council.
Consider the preamble of the Bellingham City Charter:
"We, the citizens of the City of Bellingham, wishing to establish a government more responsive to the people, more efficient in its operation and more open to that essential ingredient, the concerned participation of citizens, do hereby adopt the following Charter."
Bold emphasis provided by myself. As an active citizen I only wish I could convey to my fellow citizens how much Louise and Barbara have comtempt for public process. Oh, they smooze and smile and talk to citizens. But when it comes down to pushing Mayor Mark's agenda, then they go along with secret meetings, illegal maneuvers, charade public hearings, and just plain deafness to the concerns of citizens. Afterwards, they go back to smiling and expressing concerns with citizens. Hypocrites.
City council representatives should respect the public process for those they disagree with and for those who need to know more about an issue. Council members must insist that city departments - especially planning which so affects us all - that all city departments must respect the State open meetings act. City council members should be able to ask good questions about the budget and understand how our tax dollars are being spent. Over the past four years when I've brought these issues to Louise and Barbara they have politely smiled and said that they thought everything was operating just fine. It is time to replace them with new council members.
Friday, Oct 26
Open process? Growth Management Act? Citizen involvement? If you want a good example of why the rubber stamps on the Bellingham Council - Louise Bjornson and Barbara Ryan - should be replaced, you can take a close look at how they allow mayor Mark's planning department to operate. Citizen input on planning is a routine last process item - after the plans have been quietly formulated in private away from the public. We in Happy Valley were able to disrupt that process over a three year struggle to keep Western Washington University from taking 17 full city blocks that it had no need for and no plans for, but wanted. We stopped them. It was exhausting and expensive. The Planning Department continues its merry way - ignoring state laws and not serving the residents of Bellingham.
I urge all to vote for Grant Deger, Joel Hile, Russ Weston and Gene Knutson.
We may not always agree with our representatives, but we must insist that they control the city hall departments and that they require the law be followed in public processes. I'm as liberal and progressive as anyone you will find in this town. Where I disagree with my liberal and Democratic friends is over public process. They don't mind secret meetings and violations of the law if it is for a liberal agenda. I abhor the efforts to keep the public ignorant until it is too late. And, in my experience as a citizen activist, my liberal friends are more guilty of back room deals than my conservative friends.
Last night I was the lone citizen at a cozy Bellingham Planning Commission meeting. It was at a remote park pavilion. It started at 5 pm. No audio recording was made. No minutes were taken. It was billed as a non planning session. But the public should have been there and there should have been public outreach. The meeting was for scheduling next year's planning projects. I was greeted by one planning commission member with derisive comments about why he thought I was there - because I suspected a conspiracy. The idea of the public being involved is foreign to them. Planning Director Patricia Decker gave the opening presentation - an hour long slide show. The last two words on the last slide said "Citizen Involvement". She mumbled a couple words and the presentation was over.
On the walls were several maps of Bellingham's waterfront - and the Georgia Pacific site. This is obvious evidence of their intention to discuss the future of our waterfront - and not just discuss scheduling for next year. Here are three of the maps. There were more on other walls.
What is going on? The G-P site is being planned for rezoning but the topic is felt to be too hot for public process. So, the planning commission formed a secret sub-committee last April to work on this. I didn't stay for all of last night's meeting - I left when the caterer delivered their dinner. I didn't want to sit there while they ate in front of me. I'm sure they enjoyed themselves more after I left. And I'm sure the topic of how to rezone G-P was discussed later. But we will never know. No recording - no minutes - no public. No accountability. Just snide remarks to the only citizen - who finally left.
Last night's planning commission meet was billed as a working retreat. So, I thought now might be a good time to show you a photo of the Planning Department's "staff retreat" last August 17. All in this photo are city employees of the planning department and all are being paid for this day in the sun. However, no work was done. Only beer and beach games. The staff had been asked if they wanted a day of formal training or a day of fun and games. Gee. The voted for fun. At taxpayer expense.
Above - the Planning Department all took a full day's pay for their "staff retreat" last August 17.
Vote out the rubber stamp council members. Vote in representatives who will look after the taxpayer's interests.
Thursday, Oct 25
2:30 pm - Have posted our Voters Guide to Whatcom County Council, Port of Bellingham and Bellingham City Council elections. This is a candid analysis of local candidates. Nothing shy here. As a citizen activist, I often see the difference between what our elected representatives say about themselves and what they actually do. Sometimes it is comedy - sometimes it is appalling. You get the benefit of my experience. My values are open process, integrity and backbone.
8 am - THE PUBLIC WAS NOT INVITED. A carefully staged and scripted joint meeting of the Bellingham City Council and the Port of Bellingham Commissioners was held last night. 99% of citizens in Bellingham and Whatcom county know nothing about it. The Bellingham Herald cooperated in not giving any notice of the meeting - except a very small paragraph in the almanac that minimized the city council involvement. The Herald can be counted on to cover up for big advertisers. The Port did not mail out the agenda - as is normally done. The Bellingham City web site did not display the agenda - as is normally done before council meetings. Citizens were not wanted at this meeting.
I attended the start of the meeting. Leslie Landgon, council president, did as she has so often done in the past - forbid any speaking by a citizen. Indeed, there was no public comment time and she enforced it. The meeting was held in the dome room of the Alaska Ferry Terminal. Lots of food and drinks for the invited officials. Some school kids had been invited to watch democracy in action. I spoke for a half minute anyway. Probably made a fool of myself, but the meeting was such a sham. I felt like Alice at the tea party.
The purpose of the meeting? To start new Port-City cooperation on waterfront projects. Well, with an election just days away, there is little to guarantee that many of the participants will even be in office after the election. Besides the incumbents, I saw only one candidate present. The last time there was a joint meeting was exactly 4 years ago - October 22, 1997 - two weeks before the election. At that time, the meeting was to supposedly start new Port-City cooperation on waterfront projects. That one meeting was the all that happened.. No joint waterfront projects have come forward in four years.
Last night showed a good reason for us voters to replace most of the Port Commission and city council members. The meeting was technically a legal public meeting. They barely met the legal requirements. But, I bet you didn't know about it.
The business was serious. How will the Bellingham waterfront be developed over the next few years? The Herald reporter, John Stark, was present. No story in today's Herald.
The Public's business was not done in public. The City and the Port routinely hide meetings and use taxpayer money for junkets and parties that pretend to be meetings. Check back for some more examples over the next few days.
Wednesday, Oct 24
City council representative Barbara Ryan has excuses but no answers for why the construction on Harris Ave started with no notice Monday morning. She had promised south siders that the council would review the issues before construction. Instead, she privately approved some changes in the plan and gave the green light to Public Works to start - without any communication with concerned citizens, much less any involvement by those troublesome citizens.
NW Citizen urges voters to not reelect Barbara Ryan. She has spent four years acting like a deer in headlights and sliding around on important neighborhood issues. She is one of mayor Mark's rubber stamps. Instead, we should give Russ Weston a chance to show what he can do as a city council member. He might make a very good member of the council. Since losing in his bid for mayor 2 years ago, he has continued to follow city issues. He has shown an ability to listen to citizens and has a strong desire to represent us. He deserves a chance.
Here is the construction on the street. We south siders have a lot of questions but there has been no release of information from the city. City hall beat us - again. We need city council members who will work for us residents of Bellingham - instead of working for city staff and the mayor.
Tuesday, Oct 23
12:30 noon - County Executive Pete Kremen has today decided that Exponent Inc. will not get the contract to study the mercury poisoning of Lake Whatcom, Bellingham's drinking water source. He phoned Susan Kane-Ronning of the Clean Water Alliance this morning to inform her of this. We compliment Pete for his decisive action.
The city of Bellingham, the county and Water District 10 are preparing to hire a firm to find out where the mercury is coming from. Exponent Inc. lists G-P as one of its clients. City staff have poo pooed this important connection, and the city council was reluctant to go against Mayor Mark's wishes last night. Anyone with business experience knows that IF Exponent Inc. found that mercury in the Lake was because of G-P that they could kiss off any future G-P contracts, no matter whether the work involved mercury or anything else. Our city council and city staff again have shown why we should replace Mayor Mark's rubber stamps on the city council.
10 am - Port Commissioner Doug Smith left no doubt about his opinion of our fishing industry. Another reason to elect Fenton Wilkinson to replace Smith.
We'll post a photo later today showing the construction on Harris Avenue. Monday morning the city started tearing up the sidewalks. This after the city agreed to hold off construction until the plan was reviewed by the public and council. No notice was given for this morning's start. Council representative Barbara Ryan had promised us southsiders that a review would be taken by the council of the plans before construction would start. She broke her word. Indeed, we have exchanged emails and she avoids answering why. Like with the trees, the city started early in the morn with no advance notice.
While the city is not widening the street - and thus not narrowing the sidewalk - there are still concerns about trees and pedestrian space on Harris Ave. The southsiders I spoke with today feel as I do; just let the city do whatever it has decided. Many feel as I do and will vote for Russ Weston for city council. While Russ has his rough edges, he can't be worse that Barbara Ryan has been. He might be much better.
The agenda for the Port Commission-City Council joint meeting on Wednesday evening will not have any public comment time. This meeting is a tax payer sponsored campaign stunt for incumbent city and port elected officials.
While the agenda is still not published by either the city nor the Port, I received a copy today. I don't expect the agenda to be publicized. Starting at 6 pm, the first item is "Socialize with appetizers and refreshments". So, if you are hungry, comon down. Eats for everyone. Then there will be introductions. Then presentations and self congratulatory comments. After a strenuous hour of meeting there is a 15 minute break for more refreshments. Then back for a last hour of presentations and nice comments. A facilitator will be paid to preside at the meeting, making sure each and every council and commission member has a chance to speak.
I suggest council and port candidates also attend this meeting and ask for equal time to speak.
Well, you might be thinking that the above comments are too critical. Well, consider that the last time the Port and City had a joint meeting was exactly four years ago on October 22, 1997 - two weeks before the election. The theme was the new and wonderful City-Port cooperation on waterfront projects. Dear reader, I was the founding president of the Bellingham Maritime Foundation in 1980 which was supported by the City and the Port. It was hailed by both as the organization that would be used for new and wonderful City-Port cooperation on waterfront projects. I soon found out that the city just wanted to use us to funnel and wash State and Federal grants for their own use. Oh the stories that could be told of those four years. It was an experience that motivated me to speak out as a citizen about local government corruption and tax dollar waste.
I'll be at the meeting Wednesday evening. I'll be asking to speak as a citizen for the normal three minutes. I'll ask that they allow other citizens to also speak. We'll see how these representatives of the people handle such a request.
Monday, Oct 22
11 am - The Every Other Weekly has put the Skinny and Fenton's "The Problem With the Port" online. The Skinny this issue deals with Port Candidates, a few other candidates, as well as come slicing comments about the Bellingham Herald. Fenton's article is his answer to the Herald Editorial that said while Doug Smith has problems they still endorse him and think Fenton is into experiments. Both the Skinny and Fenton's article show the Herald editorial board to be newcomers to Belliingham with little idea of what is happening in this area.
10 am - Port Commissioners are refusing to give an accounting of their votes and actions. Instead, Scott Walker and Doug Smith are lashing out at the editor of this web site, calling me a liar. A short report is at WhatcomPortWatch.
The Port Commission and the Bellingham City Council have a joint meeting t
omorrow, Tuesday evening at 6 pm, correction - meeting Wednesday evening at 6 pm at the Alaska Ferry Terminal. Mainly a campaign stunt for reelection of the Port Commissioners, this will be entertaining but not important.
Friday, Oct 19
We urge you to pick up The Every Other Weekly which came out yesterday. It has two good articles. As usual, the Skinny is on target. Tim Johnson, the editor, focuses on his recommendations regarding select city and county candidates. He also hammers the Port of Bellingham's economic practices, dissecting the absurd policy of equating Port profits with economic development.
A second article is a guest piece by Port Commissioner candidate Fenton Wilkinson. He offers several examples of economic development projects the Port could be doing now to help county businesses. I recommend every business person read this to see what we have been missing all these years from the tax money we give to the Port Commissioners to spend.
Sorry for the break. Got overwhelmed with political activity. My priority has to be these web sites.
Thursday, Oct 4
Almost 100 people attended the soapbox forum yesterday and were treated to a couple outstanding debates.
Gene Knutson and Stephen Trinkaus, running for city council, started the series with a vigorous debate of the issues while maintaining a respect for each other - something much appreciated by the audience which gave them both a sustained applause. Class act. Stephen showed a very good grasp of the issues and Gene was able to explain how he is an independent thinker on issues before the council. While most of us political junkies figured Gene had this office in the bag, first time candidate Stephen is giving Gene a real race.
Laurie Caskey-Schreiber and Al Schrieber, running for county council, also gave us a good understanding of their differences. Laurie definitely out debated Al on issues, with Al unfortunately sliding sideways on many questions. I expect Al will get his answers better at the Herald forum next week. Al also did something I've rarely seen in political debates - he got mad at an audience member and her question, leaning forward and yelling at her. Catching himself, he apologized and finished the debate in good form. This race will live up to its billing as a real all out effort by both candidates.
The debate between Ward Nelson and Sherry Jubilo, running for county council, was subdued and dealt mostly with civil rights and indian affairs - issues more relevant to Marlene Dawson's campaign. Ward is a fine fellow who treated Sherry with respect. Sherry is a long time activist for civil and human rights who is quite passionate in her beliefs. Ward did not duck from engaging Sherry on her issues, to his credit. Sherry does not have a chance of winning this race and is in it to have the chance to bring the rights concerns to the public debate. I tip my hat to both of them.
The soapbox forum continues today at noon. See schedule to left. Today features the Port of Bellingham candidates.
Wednesday, Oct 3
8 am - As the Herald confirmed this morning, SkyWest is discontinueing service to Bellingham. While the Herald listed a few other cities also losing service, it did not list those keeping their service. Seattle- Pasco stays, as does Seattle-Spokane, Seattle-Boise, Seattle-Victoria and Seattle-Vancouver.
Back in the 1980s we had scheduled jet service to Seattle, but the Port lost that through greed over landing fees and lease arrangements in the terminal. We have had 10 years of screwups at the Bellingham airport and we have seen service continue to go down. Word at the airport is Horizon is next.
Yesterday at the regular monthly meeting of Port commissioners, they said not a word about this. No informing the public of what is happening. No accountability. We need new Port commissioners.
12:05 am - Reliable reports say SkyWest - United Airlines - is pulling out of Bellingham. They are ending service between Bellingham and Seattle. If true, this should not be a surprise, given how the Port of Bellingham has been running the airport lately. High landing fees, poor ground service, incompetent fueling service and confused management. I expect confirmation on this report by Thursday.
Tuesday, Oct 2
The Port of Bellingham repainted the fuel truck - and got it wrong again. The "Jet A" sign is in green paint and the FAA regulations are very clear about it being white letters on a black background. We have the photos right here.
Monday, October 1, 2001
Well, this morning the Port of Bellingham took over fueling operations at the Bellingham Airport. First thing they did was start training their 6 new employees the different parts of an airplane and fuel truck. Their staff has only one person with fueling experience. The rest had a one day "training" classroom last week on basic safety. Fueling is dangerous and exacting work. Where is the FAA on this?
Below are a couple photos taken this morning. You can see these larger plus others at WhatcomPortWatch.com
OK, class, this is the back end of a fuel truck. And over there is the first airplane you will ever fuel in your life. Alpha Aviation, the firm the Port has thrown off the airport, had several long experienced and highly trained staff who fueled planes. Alpha is the outfit our three current Port Commissioners brought to the airport in May 1998. The commissioners told us then how progressive and great a company Alpha Aviation was. This was after the Port threw Cascade Air off the airport in April - saying they were just not up to the task. Who has the problem? The Port or their tenants?
The Port wasted no time repainting the fuel trucks. Too bad they didn't know the basics of sign safety. This truck carries jet fuel, but the Port also painted on an advertisement for aviation gasoline - which is against all safety regulations. I expect this will be repainted as soon as the Port sees this photo on the Internet. The Port does not know how to run a fueling operation and their taking over creates a very dangerous situation at the Bellingham Airport - in my opinion. You judge for yourself.
Sunday, Sep 30
There was confusion at the Bellingham airport yesterday as pilots were unable to get fuel for their airplanes. Maybe you read the error ridden Herald article which had Port executive Jim Darling saying all was routine. He said the Port was simply cleaning a tank as they do once a year. The truth is the tank they cleaned has been empty and unused for a year and could have been cleaned months ago. It has never received annual cleanings, this being perhaps the second time it has been cleaned in 10 years. Not only that, but in order to put on their charade, the Port illegally cleaned the tank on lease to Alpha Aviation and with an agreement that does not allow the Port to touch the tank. This action has liability issues and legal reprecussions attached.
So why was the Herald in error? Apparently their reporter believed what Darling said without checking the facts. I spent yesterday getting tidbits of information from Port employees who have been forbidden to talk to me on pain of being fired. I invite the Port to counter any of the facts printed here. Their plan is to ignore criticisms and concerns - hoping the Herald doesn't get any stories correct. So far the plan is working.
I am working on an overall evaluation of yesterday's Herald article.
Friday, Sep 28
5:20 pm - Today the Bellingham Airport had no aviation fuel and had to send a notice to all other Puget Sound airports that no fuel was available here. That is probably the first time in 60 years that our airport has been in such an emergency. This at a time of national security alerts at airports all over our country.
The Port of Bellingham sent out a notice this morning saying fuel would not be available until Monday morning. The cause was the Port's mismanagement of the transition from the private fueler to the Port's own government employees who start fueling on Monday. The Port had not made provision for coming on line with their own fuel when the ordered the current fueler, Alpha Aviation, to shut down business.
Late this afternoon the Port finally offered to buy the equipment from Alpha Aviation, including fuel tanks. The Port could have bought this equipment anytime during the past two months but kept trying to get a lower price. With the Bellingham Herald working on a story for Saturday's paper about no fuel available, the Port's attorney, Frank Chmelik, finally decided to sign a purchase agreement with Alpha Aviation.
Fuel should be available by noon on Saturday.
This is just another example of total mis management by Port staff of our public airport and harbors.
Of the seven new staff who start work Monday morning fueling airplanes, only one has professional fueling experience. The "training" the others received consisted of a one day classroom of lectures. Expect more problems with fueling at the airport. Would you want your plane fueled by a totally inexperienced crew? Will the FAA allow this? Stay tuned.
8:45 am - Check today's posting at Whatcom Port Watch. The kids at the Port of Bellingham are playing with matchs - and we in Whatcom County may get burned.
Thursday, Sep 27
Mercury in our drinking water? Today's Herald has a front page article on the spike in August at the Lake Whatcom intake - but failed to mention the spike in September. Also failed to note the meeting just last evening of the Clean Water Alliance attended by over 40 people - and publicized by this web site in the Events section to left. What is causing the mercury spikes? Perhaps better monitoring equipment would detect mercury every month. What can we do about it? Why was County Executive Pete Kremen not told about the August spike for two weeks? Why did it take the Herald over a month to report it? Are our local media and governments asleep on this critical health issue? Answer: yes they are.
The meeting last evening was attended by several city and county council members. Interesting how current Bellingham City Council members line up on the question of a moratorium on new development in the Lake Whatcom watershed. Gene Knutson favors a moratorium. But Barbara Ryan and Louise Bjornson think it all just needs "more study". So, who is concerned about our environment? It has been apparent to this political activist for a long time that Barbara and Louise give lip service only to the environmental concerns and it is amazing that my environmental friends are so duped by them. They are not the friends of neighborhoods nor the environment. They don't walk the talk. Those two would have let WWU devour the Happy Valley neighborhood. They do not deserve to be reelected. I wish my environmental friends would wakeup.
Check back later today. We have some new Port of Bellingham stuff to post.
Wednesday, Sep 26
The Lunch Time Soapbox Forums are back for the general election. They will start next Wednesday, October 3, at 12 Noon sharp in the old Penney's store at 1316 Cornwall Ave. We have the complete schedule posted on line. Print it and post it at your place of work to let others know about this.
There are 4 forums scheduled - Wed Oct 3, Thur Oct 4, Wed Oct 10 and Thur Oct 11 - for a total of 5 hours action. Each race has a half hour for learning about the candidates and issues. You can ask questions of the 20 candidates for the 10 major offices in Bellingham and Whatcom county. They will ask questions of each other. Candidates will stand on two soapboxes together. Of course, the candidates are not allowed to use notes - just as was so welcome at the August forums. The forums are designed to allow us citizens to get a good gauge of the candidates and issues.
NWCitizen is pleased to again help sponsor these forums. NWCitizen exists to nudge local governments into being more open to the public. We also strive to help citizens learn about issues not covered by our daily newspaper and local radio stations - which leaves a lot of issues for us to investigate. We are supported by subscriptions and sponsors. If you read this site and feel it provides a needed additional source of local news then please consider supporting it with a check. Thank you.
Tuesday, Sep 25
The county auditor counted another 6,000 absentee votes this afternoon. No races were changed. Louise Bjornson dropped another half percentage point to just over 47%. Russ Weston kept his lead over Audrey Borders, guaranteeing his going into the general election. You can read all the numbers at the county auditor's election page.
This puts the total voter turnout at 27%. Shameful. A much larger percentage of people are waving flags from their homes, cars and places of work. Waving a flag and not voting is empty patriotism - hollow jingoism. Voting is the very essence of our democracy.
In a blatant political campaign public relations move, the Bellingham Port Commission and the Bellingham City Council are planning a joint meeting for Monday, October 15 or 29 - just before the election. This will be put on as theatre to help the incumbent candidates - especially the two Port Commissioners. The PR departments of the city and port are working on this. City-Port cooperation has consisted of back room deals for years. Hopefully the voters will not be fooled by the charade of public process. My guess is they will promise cooperation on waterfront planning and discuss this with colorful visual aids.
Friday, Sep 21
11:15 am - 4,000 absentee ballots were counted this morning. No races changed and it appears none will when the final 4,000 absentees are counted next Tuesday. Our dismal voter turnout is now at 20% and will be lucky to reach 25%. By the time we are finished, the absentee ballots will makeup 73% of all the votes. Amazing. Ten years ago they made up 10%.
Louise Bjornson lost another 2% to Joel Hile, dropping her to 48%. She is in trouble in the general. In the closest city race, Russ Weston increased his lead over Audrey Borders from 91 to 110 votes. Other races changed less than 1%.
You can view the full results at the county auditor's election page. As of this posting, they do not yet have the count from this morning posted. If you go to the Auditor's site, you want to click on the link to the Sep 19, 2000 election to get this year's results. I told them about that mislabeled link on Wednesday, but - well - they are a government agency. ( Hey, you visit this site to read attitude.)
8:40 am - Later this morning, this site will provide news of any changes in the voting totals. Shirley Forslof, county auditor, will count over 7,000 absentee ballots this morning. Check back.
The editorial in this morning's Herald chastises the Port of Bellingham for being crude and rude about glaring lighting at the new Bellwether complex. We support the editorial. I have to give a sort of left handed compliment to the Herald. This issue of lighting has been going on for over four years. Peter and Jan Willing have been literally pleading with the Port administration and the Commissioners at meetings for years. They have been treated with disdain by staff and commissioners. I've watched it this year. Staff, led by Jim Darling, has run the Port for years, with the commissioners being scolded by Jim Darling in private if they stepped out of line.
(How do I know? A commissioner told me several months ago. A commissioner talked to a disgruntled Port tenant and was told by Jim Darling that he did not want commissioners talking to tenants without a staff person present. Commissioners are obeying his directive.)
It is good to see the Herald again covering the Port. The Herald publisher decided in 1995 to stop regular reporting on the Port and only resumed this year - after I got involved again. I did not go to a single Port meeting between April 1994 and February 2001. You figure. Now we will see how long it takes before the Herald reports on Port Commissioner Doug Smith's violations of state conflict of interest laws. Doug's company, Com-Steel, has been the contractor for constructing new buildings at the airport for Port tenants. I have posted information on two buildings at www.whatcomportwatch.com and will post info on a third building later today. This information has been posted for weeks.
Thursday, Sep 20
A couple observations about the primary election.
Most incumbents are in trouble. The Herald also told us that. Some, like Barbara Ryan, city council 6th ward are in denial. This should result in very vigorous campaigning during the general election. Any PAC with enough money to conduct a weekly phone poll will be able to target their efforts in the general election.
We have a new star political performer - Lisa McShane - who has helped several county office candidates who are strong on environmental beliefs. This is why Marlene Dawson is in such trouble. Seth Fleetwood did an outstanding job with his first time of seeking political office. Several other candidates who have stated their concerns for the environment finished in the running.
Another incumbent in trouble is Scott Walker of the Port. Granted he didn't campaign much but 33% by an incumbent is usually a prelude to defeat. The three challengers shared 66% of the vote.
Today there are 7,100 uncounted absentee ballots at the County Auditor's office scheduled for counting on Friday. So far, 16,590 ballots have been counted. This would put the total voter turnout at 24% of the registered voters. Not a good turnout. The percent will go a bit higher, but not much. Experienced political observers don't expect any races to change. But there is always the chance.
Tuesday, Sep 18
So, do you have an American flag flying? Or a new flag decal on your car or truck? To show your patriotism? Yes? Good for you. Now -- did you vote last November? If no, then your flag is an empty symbol. You can make it a real symbol of your patriotism by voting today. Voting is the core of American Democracy - American Freedom - American Patriotism. Not waving a flag. And, if you did vote last November and plan to vote today then I salute you - you help make this country work.
Plan now on when you will vote. This morning, noon or evening. Make needed arrangements - take the time - put a string around your finger - don't forget. Vote. If you know nothing of the candidates for a particular race, then skip that one. Vote for the ones you know about. Being an informed voter is pretty difficult nowadays, so do your best and be satisfied.
This web site has recommendations. They are listed so you can vote conservative or liberal depending on your values. My recommendations cross between the two views. Check the candidate web sites. Do your best.
Finally, here is the Whatcom County Auditor web site. It may have voting information that you are looking for. It will be the first web site with voting results this evening. I will not be trying to post results this evening. I will be down at the court house.
Saturday, Sep 15
The Sikh Temple - at left, in the Events - has extended us a generous invitation. I hope today's events at their Temple proceed to everyone's benefit and increase understanding. If they do, I hope the Sikhs will consider another invitation with more lead time so others can accept an invitation and show solidarity with them in the coming difficult times.
On the Making Sense Of It All page, is posted a message from George Drake, a well known local active citizen. George is retired from teaching at Western, is a former city council member and has been active in other community events for over 30 years.
Friday, Sep 14
3 pm - About 5,000 people gathered at Bellingham Civic Field for a Prayer and Remembrance Service this noon. That is about the same number of people as perished in the terrorist attacks this week.
This photo shows most of the crowd. They are honoring fire fighters from throughout the county - lined up at the right. The honor guard in the middle of the field. The speakers and choir are across in front of the stands. People continued to enter the field and hundreds more were later on the field listening to the speakers. We sang patriotic songs, we listened to short, good speeches, we bowed our heads in prayer and we honored those who protect us. We thank those who organized this.
8 am - I urge all to attend the Memorial Service at Civic Field today at Noon. Come early - it may be a brief half hour long. I would guess an hour, but the sponsors are saying a half hour. We need this coming together. President Bush is encouraging prayer and remembrance events throughout our country for today.
Today's Bellingham Herald Editorial is excellent. I am pleased to be able to compliment the Herald. As we search for how we should now act, writing such as this is helpful to all citizens.
Finally, I am posting the PDF version of a report from Paul deArmond on the attack. I have not had a chance to read it but Paul is a nationally respected writer on terrorism, anarchy and militia movements. He lives in Bellingham. The Rand Corporation has written that Paul's analysis of the WTO demonstrations in Seattle is the best analysis written. High praise, indeed. Paul's report is available exclusively here at NWCitizen.com. You can read more of Paul's reports at www.nwcitizen.com/publicgood I will read Paul's report later, comment then and also post an online copy. For now I want to make it available to you, the readers of this site.
Thursday, September 13
Tomorrow our city will hold a Community Service at Civic Field at Noon. Everyone is invited to attend and participate. Local religious leaders and civic leaders will help make this a true community service. See notice in the left side column.
Wednesday, September 12
6 pm - I've created a page for writings on the Terror. As we all try to make sense of this, this can be another small effort towards a consensus of understanding and action.
Making Sense Of It All - some writings by regular citizens about the Attack On America.
8 am - Talk with your kids. Help them understand that we must work together to help each other through this. Caution them to not lash out at other kids or adults they might perceive as being enemies. They will express anger and confusion. They are more horrified and scared than they might want you to know. Hug them. We adults must now act to help our young people get through this without making things worse. Worse for themselves and others.
How it could have happened. A good link for some perspective by Rand Corp. terrorism expert, Brian Jenkins.
Shattered Dreams and Unsung Heroes
We went to bed last night and we woke up and nothing will ever be the same. Our television brought us such images of death and destruction that have only been portrayed on movie screens, Not at home, Not in our backyard, Not Here, Please not Here in our Home Land. Not in the United States??!!... and then we listen to familiar voices - Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings calmly trying to explain. What can Not be explained. A New York Skyline resculpted by a monsters plan; a shredded symbol, A Pentagon fortress bombarded, a plane hurled to a field by a brave pilot refusing to hit the DC target.........
As the images flash across the screen I am left with images in my mind of people trying desperately to reach those they Love, Firemen groping in rubble and smoke, Unsung Heroes who ran into buildings to help people because that's their calling. Nurses and doctors tending more people than they can count or hold,. Police trying to find order and calm panic....
Reporters and cameramen filming while running trying desperately to still get the truth out. I am struck with the realization that hours before, they had breakfast, walked their dogs, laughed with their kids... Hours later they may have been clutching perhaps a wallet photo and whispering "goodbye" and "I love you" into a cell phone..... Courage is found in the rubble and the dust, dark smoke doesn't cloud such bravery..... Rubble, ashes and paper falling like snow, like tears...... a deadly rain.......
Tonight my son is drawing superheroes with his friend and eating peanut butter sandwiches, and my dog is in the yard, and my cat is still pestering my canary in his cage outside in his cage under a blue sky, and the skies are so ominously silent. My husband is a flight nurse and I look expectantly at the skies, and for the first time Ever I don't want to see him flying , I want his feet on the ground. I am haunted by an odd coincidence - the date: 9-11,emergency.......
"So what do we now?", my son asks. It is a good question. Then he asks about people wanting Revenge, and I have to tell him that for this level of destruction and death that perhaps there is no retribution, that revenge doesn't measure out when there is such dark evil at work. We have to stay calm and focused, being careful not to judge what we can't understand.
So what do we do now?....... Perhaps we try to take care of each other, hug our kids a little harder, check on neighbors, give blood, and we pray and light candles. Be gentle to each other my friends and have hope. And remember days like these are full of unsung heroes that can be eclipsed by the tragedy of the moment. They are People just like You.
- Allie Cummings, Bellingham
Tuesday, September 11, 2001
12 noon - Now we know how our parents and grandparents felt about Pearl Harbor. We must be careful to not lash out in retaliation. We must not demonize those of the Islamic religion nor Arabic speaking peoples. We are a strong country and in time we can find and retaliate against those responsible. For now we need to do what we can to help.
Who am I to write anything? I love our country and this United States. We all have the common right and responsibility to speak out. This web site will post any intelligent, insightful and appropriate comments that any readers submit. There are prayer vigils everywhere this morning. Surely our Bellingham Herald will comment. We need our natural and elected leaders to speak out and share their perspective with the rest of us. We, as a country, need to use our brains and common sense to support our leaders and to participate in the decisions that we in a democracy are responsible for.
We must take extra care to vote intelligently next week. Our local elected leaders are also important. Democracy needs to be taken seriously by all of us. We must elect intelligent representatives who have critical thinking abilities and the backbone to act in our best interests.
Was it bin Lauden? Was it Saddam? Was it domestic terrorists? We should not rush to decisions. We should not do to our Arab speaking friends what we did to all Japanese in World War Two. We should try to be more fair to the Arab nations and not be so prejudiced against them - as we have been. I fear we will go the other way. Islamic beliefs overlap with Christianity and Judaism. We should try to come out of this with more understanding and not go into 20 years of blind vengeance.
Our national intelligence agencies totally failed us. Totally. CIA. NSA. FBI. Military intelligence. State Department. Zero clue this was to happen. They must be totally reformed.
Expect a national identity program. Resistance to this will be swept aside. This program will be of limited help, but it is now, imho, inevitable.
It is America Under Attack. Our enemy has chosen two of our most prominent symbols - the heart of capitalism and the command and control center of our defense. We are at war. We do not yet know our enemy. We must first defend ourselves. Then we need to learn who our enemy is. Then we need to carefully neutralize our enemy. Totally neutralize them. We are in for some very serious times. Our lives will change. I hope our democracy survives.
If you want to email me your comments for posting I will consider any received. The email address is at the bottom of this page.
May our country be preserved. And now it needs every citizen to act in patriotic ways. Give blood. Volunteer for emergency service organizations. Vote intelligently. Control our rage and act rationally. Not let hate replace cool action.
Monday, Sep 10
The Herald has the Stanello's restaurant lighted sign story in this morning's edition. A couple observations. First, contrary to what is reported in the Herald, Stanello's in not in the Fairhaven Historic District. So, you can eliminate half the reasons in the story that city planning gave the Herald reporter for not giving him a sign permit months ago. Second, the story makes much of the "fact" that the planning department did not say "no" to Stan's sign application. True. True. But what is missing is that the planning department would not say "yes". What the planning department means by saying they did not say "no" is different from what you and I mean by that. They said "no" for weeks to Stan, but they did not hand him a formal letter that said "no". So to their way of thinking they never said it. Pure bureaucratic speak. You can read our story below - 10 days ago when Stan still needed help getting his sign. Why does the Herald bend over backwards trying to help city hall put a positive spin on screw ups?
A correction to the Planning Commission reporting just below. Chris Morgan is the fourth member of the secret sub-committee for CBD West, not Mike Kohl. I stand corrected. More on this issue coming soon.
Not reported here was my filing of a Public Disclosure Complaint against the campaign of Port Commissioner candidate Dan Warner. I didn't want to seem to be publicizing my own filing. However, to my surprise, the Herald learned of it and ran a story last week. I filed the complaint on Saturday, September 1, and received a phone call from a PDC administrator on Tuesday, Sep 4 saying they were looking into the complaint. Well, on Friday, Sep 7, at 5:15 pm, I received a second phone call from the same PDC administrator. He told me the Public Disclosure Commission does not have jurisdiction over violations of the Public Disclosure Law by Western Washington University. A couple years ago, the PDC investigated the state legislature and found widespread use of government staff and resources being used illegally by our legislators for campaigning. So, the state legislature changed the law and now does not allow the PDC to look into the affairs of state agencies. They created a new agency called the "Executive Ethics Board". I have to resubmit my complaint to them. More on this later.
If you are one of the many who check this site about 10 am each morning, you might want to know that I will be posting at different times of the day from now on. As I am now doing this full time, being supported by a few sponsors, I find it easier to post when I finish researching - which is sometimes in the middle of the day. So, check back late afternoon.
Friday, Sep 7
Last night's meeting of the Bellingham Planning Commission was a strange affair. With a single citizen surprisingly present at the meeting, the commissioners spend a long time in useless discussion of the now 4 year old issue of 4 bedroom duplexes. They didn't know how to solve the basic problem. They ended the discussion with no action.
Then they got to the second item on their agenda, and I quote the first sentence of the item: "Discussion of possible CBD West (waterfront) plan update." This is the Georgia Pacific area. Pat Decker, planning department director, said she has talked to Western Washington University about their expanding into the G-P area. Commission members then were unwilling to discuss this subject - one that they had all agreed to at an earlier commission meeting.
My opinion: The reason for not discussing the agenda item was that Tp Johnson, a citizen, was present. This meeting was intended to be only with commission members and planning staff. Bellingham Herald reporters almost never attend these commission meetings.
You can read the rest of the story below on the late night posting. This is a secret process that I have been quietly following for some time. NWCitizen is on record since last April as urging public discussion of the G-P site. But I meant public discussion, not secret discussion - as I report below. There is a Growth Management Act that rules here and it says that planning shall involve the public from the beginning and continuously. The city has ignored that in the past. They are trying again.
Thursday, Sep 6
11 pm - The Bham Planning Commission meeting this evening had their planned discussion of the G-P site rezoning disrupted by the presence of a single citizen - Tip Johnson, a former two term city council member. Tip sat and listened to the commission members discuss Nick's letter - see post below of 4 pm - and watched as they tabled discussion of rezoning until their "retreat" planned for October 6 at 9 am in the Mayors Board Room. This date might change and we will watch and post so other citizens can attend. There had been agreement by all the commission members to discuss the G-P site this evening. Apparently the single citizen present changed their plans.
Besides the commission members, a member of the city legal team was at the meeting. After the meeting, outside, he said the following to Tip Johnson. "Why are you such an ass? Did you write the book on being an ass? Why don't you think about giving the people who serve this city a little respect?" Seems the lawyer was upset over the presence of an uninvited citizen at a public meeting.
4 pm - You didn't know it, fellow citizen, but since last spring planning for the rezoning of the Georgia Pacific site has been going on at illegal secret meetings by members of the Bellingham Planning Commission. Led by Nick Zaferatos, the "subcommittee" of four has met in threes to avoid having to comply with the state open meetings laws. Nick, Doug Starcher and Mary Passmore met at least once and maybe more. Nick, Doug Starcher and Mike Kohl (correction - Sep 10 - it appears that Chris Morgan is the 4th member of the sub-committee, not Mike Kohl) met at least once and maybe more. They were intending to include Port of Bellingham staff or representatives in their meetings but I have not been able to learn if they participated.
Tonight, at 7 pm, the full commission will meet to discuss the sub committee's recommendations. The recommendations are couched as a letter from Nick to the commission. The plan is to briefly discuss them this evening and then fully explore them at the commission retreat in October - time and place TBA. The rezoning of the G-P site is considered "hot" and as such city planning department and planning commission members decided to keep the meetings secret. The irony is that last April 4, NWCitizen posted suggestions for city planning of the G-P site but I was met with a barrage of criticism for this in a front page article in the Herald on April 8 by G-P, Port and City officials. Meanwhile, they are meeting in secret to plan exactly what I proposed - that as a community we start thinking about the future.
So - if you read this in time, you might attend tonight's commission meeting. 7 pm, city hall in the mayor's board room. Very nice quiet meeting. Herald reporters rarely attend. Hopefully some citizens will attend. I won't be able to.
10 am - Well, Stanello's has a sign permit from city planning. See article below on Aug 29. Seems the sign that was not permitted for weeks was legal after all. It just took radio ads, newspaper ads, and signs on the side of his restaurant urging citizens call the mayor and city council to get the permit. Patricia Decker, Planning Director, quit trying to redesign his sign to her taste and whim and granted the permit late last week. She had personally taken part in trying to redesign his sign and her department has held up his permit in trying to force him to accept her design. Stan, the owner of the restaurant, refused to kowtow and appealed to his customers and the general public. It worked. Watch for his new sign about the first week of October. Stanello's Italian Restaurant, corner of 12th and Old Fairhaven Parkway in Fairhaven.
Tuesday, September 4, 2001
Welcome to autumn. With luck we will have 6 more weeks of nice weather before the rains set in. Sometimes September is the most pleasant month of the year in Bellingham. Hope you had a great Labor Day weekend.
On Saturday, I attended two public events - the Bayfest at the Bellwether complex on the waterfront, sponsored by the Port of Bellingham, and the Street Fair, sponsored by several downtown businesses and staged on one block of Cornwall Avenue. Quite the contrast. The Port spent good taxpayer dollars on an event that could have been low key and meaningful. The two photos below tell the story better than words.
No cheating here. I took the top one at Bayfest a little after one pm, drove downtown, parked, walked over to Cornwall and shot the photo on the bottom. In fairness to Bayfest, there was a nice crowd of people outside the tent. However, they were not checking out the newly dedicated facilities or listening to the band - they were watching Reptile Man and his pets. Downtown was hopping all day with great food, music and art. I hope they do it again next year. Yes, way back under the blue awning is the musician, one of many during the day.
Politics. I've been trying to read the Bellingham Herald page of questions to political candidates and all the answers. They have been going through the Bellingham City Council hopefuls. The nine questions are the same every day. I've two observations that are worth sharing with you, thoughtful and intelligent reader that you are.
1. One question asks "Did city officials react strongly enough to the disruption of a City Council meeting by protesters? Explain." This is a question combining knowledge of the facts with opinion. It is amazing how many candidates give their opinion even though they were not at the council meeting. How do they know? Reports of what happened are all over the map - and the mayor ordered the video camera to not show speakers. Today was refreshing. Barbara Ryan admitted she was not there. What is really refreshing is that Audrey Borders, a "conservative" candidate, was there and says that the council could have easily handled the situation better, implying that the walk out by the council was unnecessary. Russ Weston, another "conservative" candidate was also there and his comments were also critical of the council and not the protestors. Louise Bjornson ducked answering the question. She was one of the most arrogant of the council members towards the young people.
I was there. The council was arrogant and contemptuous of the young people. A few weeks earlier, I was at the council meeting when developers and builders packed the council chamber, angry with the new sewer tax. They were more disruptive than the young people. And the council fell all over themselves to respond positively to the crowd. Extra testimony was allowed, interruptions were not rejected. The council responded as a representative body should - it worked with the citizens and scheduled further consideration of the issue at future council meetings. Ahhh - but then the young people. All citizens. And better behaved than the developers. You know the rest of the story. A double standard.
2. The Herald questions are very leading. The community center vs $175,000 for the new fire station is one. The question could as easily be "Do you favor taking $175,000 out of the $500,000 budgeted for pergolas at the new Fairhaven park and putting it into a useful community center that is desired by the residents of the 6 south side neighborhoods? Or "If you are against the $1.7 million Alabama Overpass because there is little need or return for this expenditure, then would you give an example of a project of this amount that you would favor as giving the citizens a good return on their dollars." Ahh, and the answers would be quite different. The Herald could do better.
Friday, August 31
We add this link to the County Auditor's web site of candidate profiles. Each candidate submitted a brief statement and biographical profile.
Our candidate recommendations are posted for the primary election. Those of you voting absentee already have your ballots. Depending on where you live, you will only vote in 4 or 5 races. We all vote for the At Large positions and for any primary in our city ward or county district. The date for the election is September 18. Absentee voters have till 5 pm on the 18th to have their ballot mailed. Play it safe and mail your ballot before Sep 18. Make your vote count. Every vote has real importance.
This is the time of year when we are the rulers of our city and county. The politicians are all being nice to us. Phone calls are answered. An attentive ear is given. Promises are made. Now is when we should dump those elected officials who have not proven themselves during the past few years. Now is when we should give new people a chance to do better.
Vote or don't complain later. If I could change one state law today it would be the jury selection process. Jury pools are now selected from the lists of registered voters. Many people do not register to vote because of that. The selection should be from those with driver's licenses or some combination of lists. Voter registration should be only for voting. I can't believe how many complaining people admit to me that they are not registered to vote because they don't want to serve on a jury. Yet they whine about politicians. Well, we could change that.
Follow my recommendations, ignore them, or vote contrary to them. But vote. As a citizen activist I have more opportunities to see our elected officials at work. While I have a good grasp of the elected officials, it is often harder to correctly judge new candidates. Some, such as Bob Wiesen, have proven track records going back years of their own political activism, which makes it easier to summarize their candidacy.
Enjoy the long weekend. Check out the downtown street fest on Saturday and Sunday. I will be posting during the weekend.
Wednesday, August 29
4 pm - He just wants a sign to attract customers. Stan Velis, owner of Stanello's Italian Restaurant in Fairhaven, has refused to kowtow to city planner Pat Decker. He has asked the public to call the mayor and city council. He wants their help in getting approval of his modest sign. Yes, his sign complies with city codes. However, Pat Decker wants the design to follow her ideas of what it should look like.
As you can see, he has signs hanging on the building asking for help. He has ads on local radio. And an ad in the Bellingham Herald.
Only Gene Knutson of all the city council members showed concern with Stan's situation. Gene has talked to Stan about things and is trying to help. The representative from the south side, Barbara Ryan, has not been seen.
I just have to tip my hat to the man. He has jumped through the hoops and modified the sign from the original design to conform with city planning requests, even though the original was code legal. Now they want more changes. Same old same old. And he has said no.
Get this. His original design did not include any neon. The city planning wants neon, so he included it. The neon will be brighter than the backlit original.
The Fairhaven Association, which includes the store owners in the Historic District, has approved his design. The other shop keepers have no trouble with it. Stanello's is not in the real Historic District but about two blocks outside of it. Other businesses closer to the Historic District have bigger and brighter signs.
During the past couple meetings with planning staff, Director Pat Decker has made her own suggestions on how the sign might be redesigned. This bigger. That smaller. This brighter. That not backlit. This neon. Etc.
To the left is a rendering of how the new sign would look on the building. It is backlit, not neon. It would be nicely visible at night and help business on those long, dark and drizzly nights that we have here in the winter.
Help Stan get his sign before the rains set in. Give a phone call to your council representative. Pat Decker is hand and glove with the mayor, so a call there might not do as much good. Besides, the mayor is up to his usual tricks on this issue, claiming he wasn't aware of all problem. He has been aware of the process from the beginning, as the paper trail shows. Stan has followed city codes. The Planning Director's job is to see that the law is followed. She has no business designing signs to suit her fancy. Help Stan get his sign. Make a phone call.
9 am - Absentee ballots are mailed today from the Whatcom County Auditor. The election is on. Starting today, a registered voter can even go into the Auditor's office at the county court house and fill out an absentee ballot. What is amazing to this political junkie is the impact that early absentee balloting has on our elections and how stuck in old habits we all still are. As county auditors across Washington State look at improving the ballot to make it more intuitive to use, they should also work with the Secretary of State to revise our voting schedules. Traditionally, primary campaiging kicks into high gear on Labor Day weekend. With over 50% of the to-be-cast ballots already delivered to voters before Labor Day, this has become a very disjointed process. NW Citizen will post more on this issue during the next few week. I welcome any suggestions from readers for inclusion on the postings. How might we revise our state election laws to better serve fair and rational elections? Email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
I've posted an update to the Port of Bellingham Bellwether office building story at Whatcom Port Watch. Have an interesting quote from Preston Burris, director of Building Services for Bellingham city government. Seems my reporting was correct. Preston explains what has happened from his perspective.
Monday, August 27
I've found a second building at the airport that was constructed by Port Commissioner Doug Smith's company, Com-Steel. $480,000 contract according the the building permit. Good work. Too bad this violates state conflict of interest laws. A full report is posted at Whatcom Port Watch.
Slight correction to the Friday post below. Bellingham Building and Codes did not issue new occupancy permits on Thursday. Actually, new permits were hurriedly prepared on Friday for probable issue this week. In talking late Friday to Preston Burris, Building Services Director, he stated that his "temporary verbal occupancy permits" from months ago were still valid. You can read more on this story at Whatcom Port Watch.
Folks - here is my opinion. There is no such legal thing as a "verbal" permit. If the paperwork for a fully inspected and approved building is being processed over a period of a day or two, then a verbal OK from Preston is legal and practical to allow move in of tenants. However, this is not the case here. Here is saying that his "verbal" permits in April are good for 5 months on a building still under construction and which has serious allegations of fire safety shortcuts. Indeed, the coverup is very active. Preston has allowed illegal business in the Port Bellwether office building for months. The fix is being prepared.
The Carpenters Union agent filed a report back in June with charges of fire code shortcuts which make this publicly owned building less than fully fire safe. I will continue to report on this issue. Hopefully others in positions of more influence will take action to stop this illegal process at Bellingham Buildings and Codes.
Friday, August 24
The fix is on. Port and City officials hurriedly met yesterday to issue permits for the Bellwether Office building. This is the new Port owned office building that is drawing tenants from the private sector office buildings in downtown Bellingham. It is an unsafe building with numerous fire code violations. The Port saved money by cutting corners on safety. The City Buildings and Codes winked and turned a blind eye to the code violations and even allowed the Port to fill the building with tenants over the past few months - without occupancy permits. Don't try this on your home. The inspectors will torture you.
All I can do is report government corruption. It is up to the County Prosecutor, County Auditor, State Auditor and State Attorney General to enforce the law on municipal governments. This is blatant government corruption. Our community up here in the far corner of Washington state has a lot of corruption - so much so that we citizens are used to it and feel that it is normal. Dear reader, it is not normal. If this were to happen in Seattle, the newspapers headlines would be screaming. But in Bellywash, this type of coverup has worked often in the past and will work again - unless good citizens phone elected representatives and demand an accounting. Just where are those city council representatives and port commissioners? They can request that the auditors and attorneys general investigate - and prosecute if wrong doing is uncovered. Right now its being covered up. The fix is on.
Thursday, August 23
The Port of Bellingham does what it wants - even violating the law when convenient. The Port has illegally allowed nine business tenants to move into the unfinished Bellwether Office Building. This is a Port owned building that competes with the private sector office buildings - who have to obey the laws. Bellingham Building and Codes director, Preston Burris, has been caught in a coverup of this several months long violation of the law he is responsible for enforcing.
Click to Whatcom Port Watch for the entire story. We will be posting photos later today as time permits.
Monday, August 20
The final Lunch Time Candidate Forum for the primary election will be held this Wednesday, August 22. We have the schedule posted here. We are repeating the two At Large positions - one Bellingham City Council and one County Council - because all of us voters in Bellingham will vote on these two offices in the primary. In the primary, each office has three candidates and we will reduce that to two candidates for each office. This primary is important because the challengers have strong differences with each other.
For our city council, challengers Joel Hile and Myron Wlaznak are quite different in substance and style. The first forum on August 8 brought this out. There is little question but that Louise Bjornson will make it into the general election. The question is who will face her. She had no opponent 2 years ago.
For the county council, Marlene Dawson has two challengers in the primary, Seth Fleetwood and Barry Buchanan. Again, Barry and Seth have different positions on the issues and Wednesday should help us to learn more about which we want to have challenge Marlene in the general. Marlene will be defending her record in the primary. This race is one of the hottest - read most watched - election campaigns this year. Marlene is strongly supported by some and soundly condemned by others.
So - in my humble opinion, the primary elections are as important as the general election. We choose who carries the challenge to these two incumbents - who can best give us voters a real choice in the November election. We should put as much effort into the primary as we do the general. Yes, I'll be coming out with my recommendations - but only after the lunch time forum on Wednesday.
Tuesday, August 14
On Whatcom Port Watch, I've posted a first report on how Port Commissioner Doug Smith benefits from projects on Port property. This is a blatant conflict of interest by an elected public official and makes the recent controversy by Port Commissioner Ginny Benton pale by comparison.
Monday, August 13
NW Citizen is one of the sponsors of the Lunch Time Candidate Forums. One reason for so few postings here this past week is I've been scurrying around to help make the forum come off smoothly. You, and other citizens, have an opportunity to listen to each candidate speak and answer questions for 15 minutes or longer. And then you can go over and chat with them one on one. All while on your lunch break.
What boss can say no to your request for an extra half hour so you can fully inform yourself of the candidates? Check the schedule online. Look for the primary elections that affect you and find a way to attend. People who have attended say the forums are informative and enjoyable. Doug Starcher will be the moderator this Wednesday as I'm too close to the Port races for a neutral atmosphere. Liberals and Conservatives are sponsoring this forum - both the Carpenter's Union and United for Bellingham have provided funding for the flyers. Bring your lunch - tables provided.
So - check the schedule for the candidates you want to hear, and arrange your lunch schedule today for Wednesday and Thursday. Hope to see you there.
Friday, August 10
Whew. To regular visitors of nwcitizen, I apologize for the lack of posts this past week. The Lunch Time forum has occupied most of my time.
You know, this is when we citizens are rulers. We now get to select our representatives. We are collectively appointing our government ministers. We should pay attention and take our citizen responsibilities seriously. Absentee ballots get mailed on Thursday, August 29. A majority of all votes cast in the September 18 primary election will be via absentee ballot. This dramatically skews the very nature of candidate campaigns. Many - maybe most - voters will have decided how to vote before Labor Day which is the traditional day for campaigns to kick into high gear. That is why NW Citizen got involved in the downtown lunch time forums - to help voters learn more about candidates before the Absentee ballots are mailed.
County Auditor, Shirley Forslof, has posted a question on the Internet. It asks if we in Whatcom County want to spend $1 million to convert to a modern voting system. It would be paper based with computer scanning. Her office is conducting a study on the question. I voted yes, even while the question of whether we need to spend that much money has yet to be shown. You know, the Port of Bellingham just spend $1 million on a new staircase in the Alaska Ferry Terminal. Very little benefit from that. A lot of benefit from a better voting system.
Schedule for Lunch Time Political Forum in downtown Bellingham. In the tradition of London's Hyde Park, candidates will speak from a soap box without notes and answering questions from the audience.
Saturday, August 4
We interrupt this news and opinion web site for a bit of Mariner mania. Do you realize how good these guys are this year? Right now they are the 4th best team in the history of baseball - that is over 100 years of professional seasons times all the teams over the years - thousands.
Team - Won/Lost Record after 109 games into the season
1902 Pittsburgh Pirates - 81-28 - no world series (first one was in 1903)
1944 St. Louis Cardinals - 81-28 - won the world series
1998 New York Yankees - 80-29 - won the world series
2001 Seattle Mariners - 79-30 - ??
Wish this information was available in our local daily newspaper. So, I'm posting it here. If any reader is able to help with these statistics, please email us at: email@example.com I'll start a sub page and post this daily if I get a little help. We aren't going into sports, but the Mariners are making history. 5:30pm - Mariners won again. See Mariner Mania for latest record.
You know, these guys show true teamwork. We in politics could learn from them. Each player does his own job to his best and helps his fellows where they come up short. None try to shine or take away from the other guy. That is all that teamwork is. As a young guy, I made my living as a news photographer in my hometown of Green Bay. This was 1960 thru 63. Yes, I covered the Packer games from the sidelines - and their practices. Yes, I covered Vince Lombardi running practices and games. I was a lucky kid. I've my own Lombardi stories. But you know, what I saw was just teamwork by what had been a loosing team before Lombardi came to town. He taught them teamwork. I watched it. That is where I learned what teamwork meant. And the Mariners show it this year. No superstars - just 100% focus and working together. Those Packers from the early 1960's, Jerry Kramer, Fuzzy Thurston, Henry Jordan, Willie Wood, Jim Ringo, Willie Davis, Ray Nitschke, Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Max McGee, Jim Taylor - they became well known names because of how they worked together.
Thursday, August 2
We are helping sponsor a political forum. The Bellingham Hyde - A Soapbox Forum will begin next Wednesday, August 8, at 11:30 am to 1:30 pm at the downtown Public Space Project, 1310 Cornwall - the old Penny's building. It will run on six different days, allowing for a more full discussion of the issues with candidates than most forums allow. It has support from the left and right, conservative and liberal.
In August, no one wants to go to 7 pm political forums - it is just too nice outside. Plus, there are no real forums during this hot primary time - most are held after the primary election. But, lunch hour on working days we can do. The forum will be run in the most fair manner we can manage. There will be plenty of tables so you can bring your lunch. We will invite vendors to be available near the forum. We will post a list of nearby eateries that will make lunches to go. So, click the link above and check out the schedule. Come on over next Wednesday, listen to the candidates, enjoy your lunch, and enjoy the ambience of a downtown at noon activity.
Monday, July 30
Mercury. Toxic. In Bellingham in quantities. From Georgia Pacific. These are the facts. For decades our local news sources have covered up the danger. Even now the dangers from mercury in Lake Whatcom are being covered up and minimized by our State Department of Ecology. As GP seeks a cheap exit from their mill site there will continue to be cover ups. Today's Seattle P-I has an intriguing story about mercury in the Columbia River. There are parallels to our situation in Bellingham.
Have posted another tax free loan story at Whatcom Port Watch. Ginny Benton is not alone in conflict of interest favors to friends. Today I post how a friend of Commissioner Doug Smith benefited. And Scott Walker's friendly gesture to his employer ARCO was posted last week. All about relationships when doing business with the Port. In fact, that is their inhouse mantra. Its all about relationships. So cozy. I urge you to support the reform candidates for Port offices.
Wednesday, July 25
10:30 am - New stories have just been posted at Whatcom Port Watch. I will be posting all Port of Bellingham related stories over there from now on. If you are interested in Port issues, then you want to bookmark the site. Seems Port Commissioner Scott Walker also uses his elected position to help his employer ARCO get tax exempt loans. It is not only Ginny Benton who should answer some questions. Read it at the new Port Watch web site.
8:30 am - There was a productive meeting of about 50 people last evening at the Alaska Ferry terminal. The subject was the Harris Avenue rebuild between 10th and 12th streets. Barbara Rofkar moderated with Dick McKinley, our new city Public Works director, in charge. They did a better job of bringing out ideas, concerns and visions than 99% of the "public hearings" this city has put on in the past. They were interested in what the merchants, southside residents and Fairhaven district addicts had to suggest for the street of stumps. The final decision will rest with the Public Works director. He has communicated a feeling of trust - that he will look for the solution that will solve the most problems and enhance the ambience of the street.
I will post some photos and more info at a sub page later this week.
Shirley Forslof, County Auditor, has improved her web site to include daily updates of candidates for elected offices. It looks like we will have some good primary races.
Monday, July 23
Today is the start of election filings. I'll be covering this and will post information later today - starting about noon.
Police violence. We have it in Bellingham. Seattle has it. And it was rampant in Genoa. This site focuses on local issues, so here is a link to a report on the police violence at the G8 summit. Most of my conservative and middle class friends simply do not believe reports of police violence until they experience it. As I have seen several times over the years, the police attacked the peaceful demonstrators while allowing the violent group to smash things. Why? So the media will show the violence and middle class folks will think all the demonstrators were violent. Similar process happened with the pit folks in Bham. I watched the arrests in the middle of the night. We have 30 some false arrests on our hands in this town. Read about Genoa.
Thursday, July 18
We are having a computer problem and it is difficult to post. We expect to be posting by this afternoon or Friday morning. Please check back. This also applies to Whatcom Port Watch.
However, here is one tidbit. I do not think Ginny Benton should resign as Port Commissioner. There is more to this story than the Bellingham Herald has printed. There is a rush to judgement here by the Herald and the Bellingham Business Journal to condemn her. While I disagree with her on most Port issues, a sense of fair play dictates more information and time. The call for the resignation of an elected official, as the Herald did last Sunday, is something that should only be done after much more time and consideration. I will have more on this as soon as the computer problems are fixed.
I also now have good answers from the Bellingham fire department and Cascade Natural Gas regarding the fire over the weekend. The answers put to rest the concerns expressed here. Full posting in the next day or so.
Tuesday, July 17
Some new postings this morning on Whatcom Port Watch.
9:00 am - Bellingham city officials - building inspectors and fire department inspectors - are reluctant to answer some tough questions about the weekend fire.
- Why did it take over three hours to turn off the natural gas? This 30 ft. flame was a jet engine for hours.
- Why is no expert inspection being done on the gas pipe? It has been dismissed as a cause of the fire.
- Why did Cascade gas crews have to "dig up" a place to shut off the gas? Aren't valves installed at important junctions?
We will continue to press city hall and the fire department for answers. We can't improve safety if we cover up the causes of spectacular fires. The gas main contributed to the fire. How much it did the authorities seem to not want to learn.
Monday, July 16
4:30pm - The weekend fire scene is being treated as a crime scene. According to a source at the Bellingham Fire Department, there is now an investigation into who started the fire and how. No outside state or Federal agencies are involved. The city is working only with the insurance company. The fire department has discounted the possibility the fire was started by the 2 inch gas main to the building. The gas line is now being called a "victim" of the fire. As such, there is no independent inspection by state or federal pipeline agencies. The fire department has rejected calling in outside independent experts to inspect the pipe for possible defects and determine if a defective gas main contributed to the cause of the fire.
8:50 am - The Office of Pipeline Safety should investigate the cause of the huge fire by Bellis Faire. Saturday, the unfinished condos blew up/burned in an amazingly fast and hot fire. The fire department seems - from statements in the Herald - to be trying to negate the possibility the fire was started by the gas pipe. This needs top investigation NOW by appropriate State and Federal investigators - before local fire officials and others destroy the scene of the fire. The pipe should be preserved in its condition in place. Anything less will be blatant stupidity by public officials - or a cover up.
The Herald yesterday called for Port Commissioner Ginny Benton to resign - immediately. No mention by the Herald that this story of conflict of interest was first posted by NW Citizen - a week before the Herald printed a word.
The Bellingham Police used crude processes on Raptor - holding him for 12 hours in a cell with no phone, no water and no contact with the outside world. He had to pay $450 cash bail. There are 4 more outstanding warrants for pit protestors. We will be telling you much more about this over the next few days.
More news later today. We are off to request some Port of Bellingham documents - and contact officials about the fire.
Friday, July 13
No word in the Herald about the arrest of Raptor. See our report below posted late Thursday. Who is Raptor? he is one of the young pit demonstrators. The dragnet has been on for a month now. The Herald has covered up the efforts by Bellingham Police to "capture" these fugitives who have outstanding misdemeanor warrants.
I am now posting to two local news web sites - this one and my new Whatcom Port Watch. I hope you will check it out. The Port of Bellingham gets a share of the property tax from every part of Whatcom County - not just from the city. Two Port Commissioner positions are up for election this fall. Two of the three. We can change and reform our Port if we get a few good candidates. If you are a concerned citizen of Whatcom County then please check the Whatcom Port Watch web site. Thank you. - John Servais
Thursday, July 12 - 4:00pm
Raptor is nabbed. Bhm police - 5 of them - arrested Raptor this afternoon about 4 pm. Corner of Cornwall and Magnolia in downtown Bhm. He was seen getting off a city bus and the police swarmed in. So much for the street word that the police were not wasting city taxpayer dollars trying to arrest the pit crew for misdemeanor charges for growing flowers in May. The city officials tried to tell us that they would only arrest any of the Bellingham Ten if they tried to attend a council meeting. Well, now we know they have been briefing the police every day to search for the "pit" demonstrators. Such childish behavior by supposed adults.
Ten warrants were issued by the city and now 3 have been served. That leaves 7 fugitive but innocent young people who are hiding from the police. Who they are we don't know officially because the city of Bellingham will not tell us. No city council member has the plain guts to speak out against this abuse of police power. We can speak out on this web site but we need our elected or civic leaders to speak out. Of course, we citizens will be able to speak out at election time. Maybe it is time to elect 4 new council members.
Wednesday, July 11
Headline: Herald prints article on Port of Bellingham. A week after NWCitizen broke the story. Today's Bellingham Herald finally has the story of Port Commissioner Ginny Benton and the company she is entangled with, port tenant Safe Transportation Systems out at the airport. Back in 1995, the Herald decided to stop covering the Port of Bellingham and did a good job of not doing it. Seems their parent corporation, the Gannett Corporation, couldn't afford enough reporters for full local coverage and some hard decisions had to be made.
I will continue to report more details that the Herald missed on this developing Port of Bellingham story. And the beginning of our new web site - www.whatcomportwatch.com - will focus on all aspects of the Port of Bellingham.
Keep up your daily check of NW Citizen. We will continue to post news that the Herald is either slow to report or does not report at all. And this is a healthy competitive situation for our community. We occasionally miss a day but that is because I need to make a living. I don't know which persons check this site - unless you tell me - but do know a huge number of folks come here every day from government agencies - city, county, port and the state level. And you come back every day. Hits peak about 10 am every morning. Saturday and Sunday are much quieter. Plus business leaders check here also so as to keep up with what is happening. As I am a committed American business person, I feel the time is ready for NW Citizen to start accepting ads. Email me - firstname.lastname@example.org - if you are interested. First advertisers will receive long term discounts.
Back to helping do the public's business in public.
We have posted all the voter registration lists for the city of Bellingham. This is what you can buy from the County Auditor's office - but our posts are in a readable format that makes sense. The tab delimited mass of data from the Auditor is very difficult to use. A long time supporter of NW Citizen has mashed the latest data from the Auditor's office for us. It is now ready for your use.
If you are running for public office this fall, feel free to download these files and use them One set of lists - a separate list for each precinct - is in walking the street order. Another set of lists is by name for looking up someone. These are PDF files. Finally, we have spreadsheets that can easily be used for printing mailing labels - so you can campaign for your favorite cause or candidate.
Any citizen can use these lists. It is all public information. NW Citizen is posting them for use by anyone - at no charge. Lets bring more power to all citizens.
Monday, July 9
The proposed Village Green park in Fairhaven was covered in a nice article in today's Herald. However, it was a short article and many important details were omitted or need clarification. You, lucky reader, get to know more than the person you have lunch with today who hasn't visited nwcitizen. Here are some speaking points.
- The land is already owned by the city. The article could leave you thinking the price tag included land purchase. Indeed, it is the Village Green park now. The citizen group is proposing improvements to an existing city park, not the creation of a new park.
- The citizen group hopes to raise much more than the $150,000 stated in the article. They hope to raise over $300,000 towards the final price of $440,00 - not the $500,000 the city estimates. They are guaranteeing to raise at least $150,000. The public restroom is the only item their fund raising is not targeting. The restroom cost will be around $75,000.
- The entire Village Green is 150 feet by 100 feet. The Herald article would have the area much larger. The proposed enclosed grassy area will be about 88 feet by 50 feet. People will sit here to watch the moies, kids can romp here, all folks can sit and enjoy the ambience.
- The supporters office in the Village Inn is being donated by Ken Imus.
- The architect, John Stewart, has donated his services already. Only his costs are being reimbursed by the group.
- Trivia. The name of the park is The Village Green. Not Town Square.
There. A positive report. Hope this leaves you feeling good and ready for another beautiful week in Bellingham.
Friday, July 6
Ginny Benton, Port Commissioner, has an interesting position. She is suing a Port tenant for back wages while the Port is trying to collect back rent from the same tenant. All this should come out in the open at next Tuesday's Commission meeting. However, the Port continues to allow Safe Transportation Systems (SFTS) to continue business at the former KAP warehouse, renamed the International Trade Building, out at the entrance to the airport. The more I look into this mess the bigger the numbers get. This outfit may be stiffing the Port in excess of $100,000 in rent and improvements - and Port staff have explained it to me as if it is no big deal.
I've learned that SFTS has not posted their rental bond yet. This was supposed to be done back in January. They actually took possession of the building in January but the Port let them off the first two month's rent while improvements were made - at Port expense. They then paid February and March and nothing since. Thus, the Port has recovered about $2,000 of some $50,000 in improvements. Business as usual they tell me.
When the Port voted last September for SFTS to receive $5,000,000 in tax free industrial development bonds, SFTS said they expected to hire over 20 people and start shipping product by spring 2001. Well, that does not seem to have happened.
Starting on Monday, I will be starting a new web site dedicated to helping the citizens of Whatcom County keep track of the Port of Bellingham. The Port collects taxes from every property owner in the county. It should be renamed the Port of Whatcom. The Bellingham Herald stopped reporting on Port activities back in 1995. They admit it. Well, I sense an opportunity.
I will be soliciting advertising and sponsorships. Sponsorships can be anonymous. I will need financial revenue in order to continue the Port Watch web site. If the community - port tenants and concerned citizens - will support this new web site then it will continue posting. If not, it may only last a few months. Either way, I'll do my best. Please consider helping. I'll post how you can help on the new web site.
Enjoy the weekend. I will.
Thursday, July 5
We have another solid city council candidate who will announce soon. Stephen Trinkaus will run against Gene Knutson for the 2nd Ward position. Stephen is a local business person and co-owner of the Terra Organica food store on State Street. He has some solid political experience and a realistic understanding of local issues. Gene Knutson is one council person who is respected by all citizens who have dealt with him. As such, this council race should see a clean and aggressive campaign by both candidates. We citizens will get the benefit of two good choices.
Tuesday, July 3, 2001
The Port of Bellingham is having a bad experience with the KAP building tenant - again. The commissioners authorized $5 million in tax free Industrial Development Bonds for Safe Transportation Systems, Inc. (SFTS) last September. Then the company hired Port Commissioner Ginny Benton as their top Administrator - full time job. Ginny duly noted at a commissioner meeting that she had been hired. The Port attorney had assured her there was no conflict of interest. And then the company leased the International Trade Building out at the entrance to the Bellingham Airport from the Port.
Then, just like the original KAP scandal in 1991, the deal started to come apart. Since January, SFTS stock, selling on the OTC, has plummeted from well over $4 a share to below 50 cents a share. The company hasn't paid their $15,000 a month rent to the Port since April. Port Commissioner Ginny Benton quit her position in June and is suing the company for back pay.
In asking Port officials about all this, the top managers and directors all seemed very unconcerned about any problems. The rent is no real problem - the Port is making legal moves to get the back rent, so they say. The bonds were only authorized - seems the company never followed through to take out the loan. So, to listen to Port staff, you would think all is business as usual and there are no real problems.
This building may be jinxed. The Port lost over $4 million dollars when the company renting this building went bankrupt in 1991 - when it was named the KAP building. The Port changed the name of the building after that. In 1990, working before I started NW Citizen, I exposed the KAP scandal to the public with the Port denying for months that there was any problem. Here we go again.
I will continue to investigate this Port of Bellingham business involvement.
Enjoy the holiday. See you Thursday.
Monday, July 2
City Council candidates are lining up. Here is news you may not know.
At Large - Myron Wlaznak is committed to running against Louise Bjornson. Myron is a middle of the road guy with common sense. He would probably make an excellent representative. Louise has served 12 years on the council and is viewed as more vulnerable this election than any in the past because of her close working relationship with Mayor Mark. Interestingly, I have learned that both United for Bellingham on the right and the Democratic Party on the left are not sure if they can support Myron. He does not easily pass their litmus tests. Hmmm - this could be his biggest advantage in the election. With Joel Hile also running, this seat will be in the primary.
6th Ward - Russ Weston is ready to announce he is running against Barbara Ryan. Russ ran a spirited campaign for mayor two years ago and has continued to keep a close eye on city government since then. Russ would go against the United for Bellingham candidate Audrey Borders. Again, Russ may have trouble getting endorsements from the left or right. However, he knows the south side well and should have an excellent chance to make it through the primary.
To Jan - June 2001 on NW Citizen.
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