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2007 - April thru June

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Friday, June 29, 2007

by John Servais
Election? Campaigning going on? Gee, how did you know? Our one daily and two weekly newspapers certainly are not telling you. I've don't recall such an absence of coverage just 4+ weeks to voting. I waited for this week's weeklies and the only action is in a few letters. The Herald has not even phoned some candidates to schedule the editorial board interviews. Lois Garlick, running for perhaps the most powerful office - county executive - has not been profiled three weeks after she filed for office. The Weekly's Gristle went off on a meaningless rant about fiscal responsibility that implied there was a concern but did not express what it was. The Herald pontificates about how serious this all is but does not help us. The Independent, which supposedly is committed to hard news, printed nothing this week about candidates or the election. (Disclaimer: while I own shares in the Indy, I'm no longer involved in operations or management. I'll post a more full disclaimer soon.)

Then there is the lack of forums. First one I know of is July 17. Candidates are left with only door belling and wandering about local events doing some hand shaking.

So - where does this leave us? Me thinks the candidate web sites have just become the keys to this election. The candidates can inform citizens of their web sites and the sites themselves are getting more creative than previous years. I've not seen any posted pod casts yet, but they could be a super tool for communicating directly with voters. Ham Hayes was the first to post the questionnaires from special interest groups along with his answers on his web site. He politely informed a couple of the groups of his intention and they were surprised and concerned. One group asked him to leave out one question. The questions reveal starkly the self centeredness of these groups. They are concerned with their own narrow interests at the expense of the public and community good. The questions are litmus tests. This was Ham's idea and I applaud him for it. I see that other candidates are starting to follow Ham's lead. Let the process be public - just as it should be.

You can see in the web sites what the candidates think is important - design, photos, issues, straight talk, promises, their past accomplishments or just soft talk. There is very little cost and so even campaigns with little money can create good web sites. Brochures, TV and radio ads, direct mail and yard signs are all very costly. Only powerful incumbents or well connected candidates can afford these. The Internet is proving to be a great leveler - and this is good for democracy.

The best online candidate information is at the Whatcom Independent web site - where they post photos, info and full contact information. I hope they add all the forums there for us also. I will continue to post links to all web sites I know of - and will post information on political forums if no commercial media web site does so. This web site is a no revenue community service and I simply do not have the leisure time to spend the hours needed making sure information on forums is correct. I will drive traffic to whomever will provide the info.

Wednesday, June 27

by John Servais
We all have to quickly realize something. The primary election is only a month away. It starts August 1 - a Wednesday and exactly 5 weeks from now. The county Auditor's web page continues to tell us; "This year's primary will be held on August 21st." If anyone plans on voting courtesy of that information they will probably be left in the cold. The primary election runs from August 1 to August 21. Our esteemed Auditor, Shirley, needs to shake off her decades of experience with an "election day" and come to grips with vote by mail.

June 27 - screen dump from Whatcom County Auditor web site. Click to go there.

We old political junkies used to watch candidates squander August by not pressing flesh nor vigorously campaigning for the mid September primary election. Well, June is the modern August and candidates and news media have squandered it badly. The Herald has printed more actual words lecturing us about how important our elections and women candidates are than it has printed information about the candidates. The only forums are scheduled for late July. That is equivalent to having forums only during the last week of October and not campaigning at all during September and into early October.

There are two related issues to this primary election in the middle of our vacation and summer leisure time. One is the sad story of how our Washington Legislature foisted this dysfunctional voting system on us (complete with multiple ballots) and the other is a simple solution that is cost effective, enhances democracy and saves time but is strongly opposed by the two political parties.

First, the Legislature - including our local Democratic Party Senator and Representatives - worked hard to keep the political bosses happy. The result is a primary in August, multiple colored ballots that prevent us from voting for the candidates of our choice and a political campaign season that is now two months longer. Just what we don't need. In March of 2004, this website closely followed the legislature as it took away some of our voting rights. We can, if we want, elect state representatives who will restore these.

Second is Instant Runoff Voting, where we can combine the primary and general elections into one - preferably in November so we have a civilized campaign season starting after Labor Day. Most of us react negatively at first to this system but once we learn more it becomes obvious how elegant a solution it is. There are links to web sites with more information in the right side column.

Well - for now we have to deal with a totally screwy system where even our county Auditor is not sure how to tell us when we vote. Not her fault, really. Instead of naming August 21 "election day", it should be named "counting day", for that is what it is. Wonder when the Herald will tell us about our candidates.

Thursday, June 21

by John Servais
We notice Rick Larsen is one of the members of Congress who refuse to release their earmarks requests for the Federal Budget. Earmarks, pork or legislatively directed spending requests - he will not even respond to Anderson Cooper of CNN who is asking all in Congress for them. The Democrats said that with control of Congress they would require disclosure of earmarks. It does not seem to be the case - and our own Rick is one of those refusing to disclose. Maybe some of us in his district should ask him. Rick's staff checks this blog daily. Guys, consider this my request. I urge my fellow liberals to ask Rick for this. And let me know how his staff replies.

Tuesday, June 19

6:25 pm, by John Servais
Our Whatcom County Council this evening discussed taking long range planning back from the Executive and putting it under the control of the Council. Barb Brenner and Carl Weimer brought the question up. Laurie Caskey-Schreiber thought it also a good idea. Planning has taken way too long under County Executive Pete Kremen's management and very little has gone forward.

It was a lively debate and it revealed who had the courage to take action and who was simply disruptive. Below are my smoothed out notes. Missing was Pete Kremen. It all lasted about 40 minutes and was before the regular council meeting. In an Alice in Wonderland manner, the county staff person set up the video equipment for the 7 pm meeting and left it off during what may have been one of the more important discussions of the whole year. There were maybe 100 people in attendance - many of whom left at the start of the 7 pm meeting.

After Carl and Barb introduced the idea, Sam Crawford read from the charter to show planning stays with the Exec. Sam defending Pete? You bet. Pete has been allowing developers a free hand in the county - and this is Sam's constituency. By stalling the planning processes - contrary to state law - this gives developers just the confused environment they thrive on.

Seth and Dan kept quiet during the first part of the discussion. They are both running for mayor and are sitting next to each other.

Dan finally spoke quietly. Legislative actions have been slowed down by executive actions. And this is frustrating, he said. You should know that Dan has worked hard for years to push planning and has seen little progress. Dan said the council has the authority to do the long range planning. Dan referred to Section in the Charter about cooperation. Dan has talked with Pete about this. Dan also urged that the council expand the size of the staff that works directly for the council.

Seth. He also feels this discussion is legit - despite Sam's claims. And he said it has been very frustrating. He suggested that after this discussion that Carl, the chair of the council, go speak with Dewey and Pete about this. With the loss of planning staff, the problem has become worse. This rearrangement could just involve transferring some staff from the administration to the council.

Barbara put it straight out. She noted the council has been frustrated over this for months. She was disappointed the council is ready to go slow on any possible change. She pointed out how the county staff - whom Pete manages - have become more slow in responding to council requests.

Barbara and possibly Carl and Laurie hoped that either Dan or Seth would help make a majority to push this change through. Dan and Seth were super cautious and not willing to make a move. Each couched their speech in generalities.

Seth. Well he thought this was just a discussion. He was ready to act - but wanted to "sit down" with the exec and work this out first.

Laurie - said in a perfect world that would be the way to do it. But things have been left hanging out there for months by Pete. She said "it is clearly broken" and cannot believe how long it has taken for policy actions to be implemented by Pete. She spoke directly and without being coy.

Sam. "Wow. I feel like I'm in a different county from you guys." Of course, gentle reader, you should know Sam thinks he is in Pioneer County. Sam's constituency is the BIA and gravel pit owners and developers. Sam went on with empty praise for the county staff - which was not the issue at all. The issue is the executive not directing staff to proceed with council decisions. Sam observed that Skagit County with the 18th century form of 3 commissioner government is more efficient - and that the Whatcom County council is just making trouble for a dedicated county government. He spoke of this discussion creating less "harmony" - sort of like a communist china lawyer. Sam clearly prefers the back smoky room form of government.

Ahhh - Carl pointed out that council was not accusing the many people on the staff of any wrong doing. It is a question of how the council can do their job and see results.

Dewey Desler, Pete's assistant was invited to speak. This is a good discussion, he said. He wasted time with empty generalities about the modern world. Then said the administration is responding fast and with energy to replace the planning staff. Dewey shook his arms a lot as he said the administration would "put four wheels to the ground" to work with the council. Hmmm - me thinks that Pete is shifting into campaign mode. After years of dragging his feet, he will now put on a good show for a few months. Dewey spoke as if there has never been a problem.

Council members noted that it was obvious they finally had the attention of Dewey and Pete. Barb also clarified that this was not a slam on county staff and wondered why Sam chose to twist it that way.

Sam - wonders what it is that we are going to meet about. And Laurie said there are probably 8 comp plan amendments hanging out there. Sam belittled that as he might a belittle a child. Sam was working against any meeting. Barb said a meeting was the minimum needed but preferred action.

Boy - folks, you want to elect Ken Mann to replace Sam Crawford. Sam put on quite a show of the innocent teenager not understanding what the adults were talking about. All is well and there is no reason to go to Pete, according to Sam.

Council then discussed the wording of the motion. They worded it general enough to cover the bases. Sam interrupted to say that two council members can meet with Pete any time without a motion. He again acted as if he didn't have a clue. The motion passed unanimously - or so Carl announced. I didn't see Sam move his lips - but he did not say "nay" after all that objecting. Made no sense to me. If anyone needed any evidence that Pete's foot dragging is benefiting fast and loose developers then Sam Crawford provided it this evening.

We have two super cautious guys running for mayor. When Seth shows more courage than Dan then we have real caution. Laurie, Barb and Carl showed real leadership this evening. They realize the county is in a crisis situation and want to act. But they did not have the fourth vote from either Dan nor Seth. The vote was for Carl and Barb to meet with Pete and ask for action when the council enacts something. We shall see. Yes, Lois Garlick was there. Now, if she were county exec, there would be no foot dragging.

8 am
The Whatcom County Council will apparently have a most interesting discussion this evening about possible "rearrangement" of some county departments. This will be during the 6 to 7 pm meeting of the 'committee of the whole' - just before the regular 7 pm council meeting. This is premised on a memo sent by council members Barbara Brenner and Carl Weimer to the rest of the council. Here is an excerpt.

"This rearrangement would not itself require a budget amendment because it would not increase the number of positions. Nor would this be a legislative intrusion into the executive authority because the purpose would be to develop policy reflecting Council initiatives, not to administer or enforce the policy.

"We look forward to a productive discussion with Council members to determine whether and how to reorganize County departments to be able to serve the needs of the County Council and the citizens to whom we are responsible."

Wow. Sounds dramatic without explaining what is happening. Well it is actually about the chaos in the Planning Department where over six important staff have resigned this year, including the director Hal Hart. Pete Kremen is hunkered down in his office doing little about all this. Except perhaps getting permits quickly signed for projects that had not progressed much earlier on. Pete has much to answer for to the council and the public. So, indeed, the early committee meeting this evening could be interesting.

Fortunate for us that Pete has an opponent for election this fall or he would not have to respond. Thank you Lois Garlick. Maybe the gal has a better chance than was first thought.

Sunday, June 17

by John Servais
You know, I'm really trying to not pound on the Bellingham Herald. I've subscribed to it for over 20 years and read it every day. It is our daily newspaper and I want it to be good. We all do. But today's Herald - the Sunday paper no less - has not a single news article in the front or local sections by a Herald reporter. Oh - there is something on school lunches and something about exercise for kids. And high school graduates - and it is nice to give them public notice and congratulations. And Dean has something on poems.

But not one news article on the issues that are swarming around Bellingham and the county. Tuesday evening the County Council may strip Pete Kremen of some real powers - but not a word. We have political campaigns. The city is trying to redo the neighborhood plans for 18 of our 23 neighborhoods in one year and neighborhoods are up in arms over the proposals - but not a word in today's Herald. County planning department has key persons resigning every week - but not a single word. There are issues all over - but not a single local news article in today's Sunday Herald. Their sports section had some good local articles by their writers. And Dave Gallagher did his normal good job in the business section.

I've seen this before - finding a Herald without a single local news article - and not commented. But after what I found on the editorial page today, I could not resist. Scott Ayers has a quarter page piece about how the Herald strives to serve readers better with news - today and tomorrow. He concludes by writing; "We want to continue to be the best source for news and information for Whatcom ...." - well, you can finish that yourself. Cmon Herald, you can do better.

Saturday, June 16

by John Servais
Am adding another link to international news - to ynetnews.com which is an Israeli site. The idea of keeping a list of suggested links here is you might try one once in a while and perhaps add to your personal bookmarks on your computer. We Americans need to read foreign news in order to learn what our government is doing and to learn what other countries are actually doing. Our corporate media is so biased and so censored that we are like Gernans during WWII who were carefully controlled by their media. If you take issue with that statement then I challenge you to read foreign news regularly - every day - for a month. I guarantee you will change your mind.

Al-jazeera continues to be one of the best - and only those who do not read it have a low opinion of it. And via our American news you have probably never heard of Tzipi Livni - who is perhaps about to become very important to the Middle East. And you have no idea how hopeful we can be with Shimon Peres the newly elected president. Like it or not, Israel is key to any Mid East progress - and that involves the war in Iraq. Besides, the writing is usually very good and enjoyable. You will enrich your life with foreign press readings.

Thursday, June 14

by John Servais
Smoking guns
are fun to find. The Bush mob has been caught holding one. The White House claims Karl Rove and Bush did not direct the Department of Justice (DOJ) to fire U.S. Attorneys and replace them with political favorites by means of the almost secret Patriot Act clause that allowed Gonzales to appoint them and avoid Senate hearings and approval.

Whew. Follow that? It is very serious. It violates our rights to impartial Attorneys at the Federal level. Ahh - but now an email surfaces that shows the real workings of the DOJ to do the White House bidding by firing and replacing with favorites. When a reporter started asking questions of the DOJ, the top assistant to Alberto Gonzales, Kyle Sampson, wrote the below instructions to DOJ staff.

This is just fun to read. These guys are a bunch of liars and this email exposes very clearly how they think. Click on the email image below for a larger and easier to read view.

Hmmm. In (1.) he says lets "gum this", that is, lets stall this as long as we can and pretend we are working hard to resolve this quickly - pretend we are acting in good faith. This from the highest offices in the land. An open directive to deceive the US Congress - Senators. You don't find that often - but it is written as if this is one of the standard operating procedures for the Bush mob.

In (2.) he directs DOJ staff to use labels to deceive Senators and critics. In (3.) he says to not argue too much with critics but to just sort of hold the line. And in (4.) he explains they don't want the Congress to repeal the secret clause that was slipped into the Patriot Act at the very last moment before the vote without a single Senator knowing it was there. Of course this secret clause came to light as this scandal deepened in January. And Congress is still trying to learn how it got put into the Patriot Act. Of course it did not help that hardly any Senator or Representative read the Act before voting for it. There are many other sinister clauses in it.

So - the smoking gun?? The very last words where he points out that Karl Rove wants all this - as does Harriet Miers, the personal attorney to Bush. The White House connection and very solid evidence that the White House was directing all this .... that Bush was directing the Department of Justice to fire U.S Attorneys and replace them with his political favorites via a secret clause in the Patriot Act that allowed him to avoid US Senate confirmation hearings. This whole procedure was supposed to stay under the radar - as the email explains.

I thank Josh Marshall and his Talking Points Memo blog for this hot smoking gun. You can read TPM post of this story with a link to the email or you can just read the entire email including the whole thread of this deceitful discussion. Josh Marshall was the guy who exposed this scandal starting with a post on January 13 regarding the firing of Carol Lam, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California. She was prosecuting Duke Cunningham, the very corrupt Republican Congressman now serving time - and was possibly going to expose other corrupt Republicans. They got rid of her and 8 other U.S. Attorneys who were a threat to Bush's mob.

Note: Corrections made on June 15 to above post to properly label U.S. Attorneys. I had first labeled them as 'Attorney Generals'. I thank a reader for informing me of this. All else stays the same.

Wednesday, June 13

All part of the US push for military control of the world. If you think our building 24 military forts in Africa is a good idea, then you should also be for us Americans knowing about it. And all the other secret military bases we have - including the secret ones in Romania. Our government is pursuing world domination. Read the linked article on how we are going for Africa.

Tuesday, June 12

Armed Service veterans are twice as likely to commit suicide as civilians. Just another intangible cost of the insane war in Iraq. (It applies to all male vets from all our recent wars.) Counting just those actually killed in combat is sooo misleading. The war is wreaking havoc on all those who serve there in the forms of broken bodies for life for over 30,000, mental trauma for life for uncounted tens or possibly hundreds of thousands and who knows what other awful effects on their loved ones - parents, siblings, spouses, children and friends.

Counting just the 3,500 killed and saying the war is not that bad is just so childish - so like teenage logic that justifies most any behavior with some rationale. If you are against this insane war then write Rick Larsen and tell him. Write him every week. Tell him unless he speaks out now and changes his course of support that you will vote for his opponent in 2008. That is all he understands. It is litmus test time. And we can all help stop this.

Monday, June 11

Have added a new link in the right side column to a local Whatcom County political blog - Washington Outsiders. This Liberal/Progressive/Populist site has been operating for three years and I didn't know of it till informed this morning by an email. This is a very good website with a lot of photos and, very useful, videos of local interest. He has started posting speeches by our candidates for mayor of Bham - the way of the future for political campaigning beyond personally meeting voters. A fellow named CitizenSteve is doing a great job.

If you know of any other good local blogs, please let me know. This website claims no special corner on local news or opinions. With more good local blogs, we will have a better chance of knowing what is happening locally.

Sunday, June 10

Close Gitmo - this afternoon, says General Colin Powell.

The Guantanamo prison in Cuba the US Military uses for torture, illegal imprisonment and secret trials is a permanent black spot on our nation's history. Colin Powell has the courage to speak out against it. He also says we should restore the constitutionally guaranteed Habeas Corpus to all those prisoners.

If only Rick Larsen, our elected Representative, would speak out against.

Fri, June 8

5 pm - by John Servais
Last hour filings for political office on Friday afternoon are always fun to observe. Today, four candidates came in to file between 4:06 and 4:26 pm - with the cutoff time of 4:30. No commercial news media were there - just myself. Hmm - maybe this website should go commercial.

Pete Kremen has an opponent for County Executive - Lois Garlick. Lois is a very respected environmental activist in Whatcom County. She has filed because she "... feels the county should take a turn for the better." Lois is also a very active and fit senior citizen. She and her late husband George were mainstays of the local Audubon society for decades.

And our old stalwart political friend, Joe Elenbaas has filed for County Treasurer and will give Steve Oliver a lively race in the fall. Joe last ran for County Auditor against Shirley. Joe has been a political activist for at least three decades and was a freeholder in 1978 helping write our county charter.

Beyond that, Jack Weiss has a free ticket to our Bellingham city council with no opponent. And two more candidates filed for mayor, making a total of 7 candidates. For the primary election which will be held in the middle of our short warm vacation season, we will have only 4 primaries and 2/3rds of county residents in the unincorporated areas will have no primary. City wide, we will have a primary for mayor and the at-large council seat. The 4th Ward will have a primary for only residents of that Ward.

Gil Bernal, a 17 year Bellingham resident and Seattle police officer, filed for mayor. Gil said he feels a calling to try and make Bellingham a better place. He wants to do things that benefit everybody.

During the campaigns till November 6, we will try hard to list all the political forums on this page as a service to candidates and citizens. We will also continue the links to other local online publications that have candidate info.

And we thank all those who have filed for public office. Our democracy depends on citizens running for political office.

11 am
Bill Gorman will not run for mayor. In a released statement, Bill said; "It has become increasingly clear that the time and effort I am dedicating to the race is having a negative impact on my family, particularly my 16-year old son." As such, he has decided to not file for office. Bill was considered by many political insiders to have the lead with moderate and fiscally conservative voters.

Thur, June 7

by John Servais
Evan will complete his week long vigil at the old Federal Building in downtown Bellingham tomorrow afternoon at 4 pm - during the normal weekly peace vigil. During his week there, he has brought many people together when they came down to visit him and then met others in the community. He has had broad support and no harrasment - except from some of the drunks leaving bars in the early morning. He has brought a little magic to the anti war movement. We thank him.

His vigil has focused on one specific process that the Pentagon and the Bush administration have used for the Iraq war - the Stop-Loss practice. This forces military persons to be kept in the service after their enlistment or service time is up. It is being done because enlistments are so terrible and those who have served in Iraq want out - badly. Even $10,000 bonuses will not keep them in. As Tip Johnson wrote below, it is "indefinite indentured servitude". It is a shameful practice and most citizens do not seem to know about it.

Want to do something to stop the war and bring our troops home? Write Rick Larsen every week and tell him that unless he changes his slippery stance on the war and opposes it - even in Oak Harbor - that you will vote Republican in 2008. Copy your letter to your friends. Send it to one of our newspapers. Push Larsen.

By the way, I heard reliably that Larsen wanted to have his picture taken with Evan and that Evan turned him down. Told him he would allow a photo of the two together in Larsen's office - if Ellen Murphy was also there and Larsen would listen to what she had to say. How sweet.

Sat, June 2

We salute Evan. Check the website about his vigil. He is demonstrating while wearing his Army uniform - and he has every constitutional right to do so. But I predict the military will try and intimidate him. More and more soldiers are speaking out about the war while wearing their uniforms. The Pentagon and Bush are quick and happy to have soldiers in uniform at political demonstrations and speeches for the war. A plain double standard. Sign of the times. Go Evan.

Iraq War veteran Evan Knappenberger stands vigil at the downtown Bellingham Federal Building this week to protest the military's "Stop-Loss" policy of indefinite indentured servitude for enlisted personnel. Service people are being involuntarily retained to support the troop "surge" in the face of lackluster military enrollment. Knappenberger, when asked what he thought we were fighting for in Iraq said, "Whatever reason we had for going over there has been totally lost by now." (posted Sun, June 3)

Tue, May 29

by John Servais
The general's who can't count straight are caught again. The top general's have been loose with the facts in their effort to justify the war but this interview on Memorial Day was sad because General Pace dishonored our soldiers by not being honest and suggesting fewer have been killed than have been. This would be funny if it wasn't so sad. He doesn't even know how many kids he is responsible for having killed in the war. Even as he continues to order them to their useless deaths. He is sacrificing them to his own career. Nothing more.

In May so far, 118 of our kids have been killed - the largest number in a month in over two years - for our gruesome running total of 3,464 killed - and continuing each day. And even worse is over 25,000 wounded or sick enough to require medical air transport out. Over 50,000 wounded or sick in some form. And then the uncounted thousands mentally traumatized for the rest of their lives. The general probably doesn't want to pay much attention to these numbers. I'll bet he knows exactly how many ribbons he is wearing.

Mon, May 28 - Memorial Day

by John Servais
This writer - living in a small town in Washington State - has no ability to add value above national writers who have covered the Iraq war and politics in Washington. Only on local issues - Bellingham and Whatcom County - can I add value that cannot be found in our local corporate media. But I can speak out and be permanently on the record with my opinion. Our democracy still grants me that right - and my voice can be added to that of others who find this war loathsome. And I can apply my common sense to what I read. With that in mind, here is one citizen's views on this Memorial Day, 2007.

Bush will suddenly find a reason to withdraw the troops when Karl Rove tells him to - and that will happen when the Iraqis ask us to leave (all choreographed from the White House) - and that will be before Memorial Day 2008. Bush's exit strategy is now there for all to see and hear - he is now saying more frequently that we will leave when they ask us to which means he has his own timeline for withdrawal.

Our armed service members go where they are ordered and do what they are ordered. I served - during the Vietnam era but in Germany where we had the Cold War. Anyone who has served knows the choice is not theirs - and also knows that speaking out brings petty recriminations from the military brass. Freedom of speech is largely denied to our service members.

It is for us - the civilians who have the luxury of easy living - to speak out against this war - the aggression against an innocent country - this rape and destruction of a land and people who did us no harm and were no threat to us. The Romans said they were bringing the Roman Peace to peoples they slaughtered. The Spanish and the Roman Church said they were bringing Christianity to the American natives but they brought genocide and torture and then enslaved them for the large mission plantations that supported the Spanish. Now we say we are bringing Democracy to Iraq but we are only seeking world domination and a lock on the profits of oil resources. And we have spent 4 years destroying the oldest civilization in the world. We will go down in history as merely another in a long succession of aggressive military powers that raped other countries for our own profit.

This website plainly spoke out against this war before it started in March 2003 - and the facts that are now being 'discovered' were plainly posted here from Feb thru April. Go check. The present quagmire was also predicted. Hmm - how could that be since I have no information aside from what I read? How could I have known what Hillary and McCain and Rick Larsen and all the other puffed up leaders are now saying they had no idea was happening? How indeed. How can all we Americans - who elected Gore and Kerry our presidents only to see coups by the Bush criminal mob - be so right and our leaders be so wrong? How could common citizens all over our USA have known facts and the future that our media and 'leaders' did not know?

That - my fellow citizen - is the question you should really think about this Memorial Day as we watch our sons and daughters get killed and maimed and traumatized for life in a idiotic war on the other side of the world. I salute our armed service members and those who have obeyed orders and then been killed and maimed and my heart goes out to the parents and dear ones of those so destroyed and damaged. And I only wish that more of those who also detest this war would find the damn guts to speak out loudly against this madness. Now you know how it happened in Germany in the 1930s - they did not speak out as they thought it would never go as far as it did. We can no longer look down our noses at the Germans for allowing Hitler to achieve total power.

Thur, May 24

by John Servais
Rick Larsen voted for further war spending today - with no timelines. No surprise. He has been a war supporter all along. Lets start now to find a true Democratic candidate or Independent or anti-war Republican to replace him. He has served his purpose of helping form a Democratic Party majority in Congress for these two years. He really is an empty suit. As anyone who has ever actually sat down and talked with him knows.

Wed, May 23, 2007

by Tip Johnson
Piecemeal Planning - Popping Poison Pills
Unpleasant material is messily whapping its way through the whirling blades in Neighborhoods throughout town as the City attempts to patch together a fatally flawed beginning to their Comprehensive Plan update, already years behind schedule.

In Fairhaven, property owners in the commercial district have formed a new neighborhood organization and petitioned the City for recognition as a planning district, like other neighborhoods. Fairhaven Neighbors, the existing neighborhood organization, have traditionally represented the area in City planning processes.

However, Fairhaven has changed radically in recent years. In particular, the commercial core may now, or will soon, house more residents than the residential neighborhood. And their priorities may reasonably differ.

Such differences are common to matters political. It's all about having a process to parse them. In this case, the City dealt with the traditional Fairhaven Neighbors, relying upon them to involve other interested parties within the Fairhaven Neighborhood planning district. That includes the commercial core. Somewhere along the line, that process broke down, resulting in squabbling, fingerpointing and various bad feelings, like property owners feeling excluded as the Neighbors moved to limit building heights without seeking commercial input.

And Fairhaven is not alone. Next door, in Happy Valley, there is strife over re-opening the Neighborhood plan for a Low Impact Development Overlay. Many feel that the overlay could establish thresholds for development that will determine whether the daylighting of Padden Creek will actually serve fish populations or, conversely, become necessary as a storm sewer to carry runoff away from densities that were doubled during the last opening of the neighborhood plan. Others feel that opening the plan could lead to more similar neighborhood indignities, forever altering the character of the neighborhood. After all, once the plan is open and before the council, staff can recommend and the council can add anything.

In a similar context citywide, the Public Works department has asked neighborhoods to pick up to three traffic calming measures within their districts - like where speed bumps might be placed.

Wait a minute! Neighbors are not qualified to analyze and plan traffic. Such piecemeal measures could create more problems than they solve. Furthermore, the City has never really met their mandatory element requirements under the Growth Management Act (GMA) to comprehensively plan for traffic circulation. Happy Valley has been promised such a planning effort for over thirty years. Meanwhile, their long-standing policy of restricting through traffic has been systematically trammelled by the City and University.

The problem originates with the last administration's unwillingness to follow the law. Past Mayor Mark Asmundson and past Planning Director Jorge Vega stood before a crowd of more than 600 citizens at Fairhaven Middle School and stated that the City would no longer - had grown too large and complex - to plan by neighborhoods. Of course, they didn't bother to change the law. Title 20 of the Bellingham Municipal Code (BMC 20.04.030) states:

In utilizing the comprehensive neighborhood plans as a basis of land use implementation, it is recognized that Bellingham is made of many unique and diverse areas each with its own characteristics, and further it is recognized that to treat these areas uniformly -- on a city-wide basis -- would not conserve or encourage those peculiarities which distinguish Bellingham from other communities.

Back then, both Asmundson and Vega proposed that each neighborhood (though probably not Edgemoore, etc.) would receive a so-called "urban vllage" upzone to help the city meet its population targets under the GMA. Obviously, without a strong public transit backbone, a hearty transportation demand management framework, huge investments in public facilities and public space, these upzones were doomed to perform like any other badly planned upzone - exporting impacts, destabilizing the surrounds and driving the creeping crud that lowbrow developers thrive upon. Folks aren't dumb. They would object. Hence the strategy of simply excluding neighborhoods emerged as an expedient to get the plan updated without a big fuss. After all, the State was already threatening to sanction the city if the plan didn't get done.

Similarly, the City figured it could avoid a lot of headache by not implementing a GMA compliant Public Participation Process. Instead, they held a number of Growth Forums. Citizens asked the consultant presenters and their City Council reps on numerous occasions whether these forums would constitute that process. "Oh no!", they said, "These are merely informative, as a matter of public education." Lo and behold if they didn't later change the name to something like Community Forums on Growth management, and now say that was our public participation! The neighborhoods were never consulted. That's Hogwash.

What we are witnessing now is a systematic breakdown stemming from that early deception with ulterior motives. It is not the neighbors' job to implement a "widely disseminated" public participation process. And everyone has the right to feel offended if they were left out. What is happening now - and it's not just on the south side - is a natural and reasonable response to bad planning.

It's time for a do-over. Start afresh. Bellingham would truly benefit from taking a little time off to think about it, have a nice summer and get started on the right foot again in the fall. Otherwise, I have a feeling the City will waste a lot more time explaining itself in front of the Growth Management Hearings Board, waste a lot of money doing so, and probably end up being ordered to do it properly anyway.

We need a comprehensive plan, not more piecemeal planning. We definitely need to do it, but we should do it right.

Tue, May 22, 2007

by John Servais
Good morning. Let us try and resume informing you of a few of the events and issues on our local front. Wish we could do more, but this is a hobby or spare time exercise. And recently, personal family concerns far away - a dear aunt is dying - have rightly become more important. I thank my friend Tip Johnson, an active citizen, former two time city council member and fellow political junkie for filling in while I was gone.

This morning's Herald editorial is very good and on target. It holds the city and county responsible for the illegal water hookups by Water District 7 to new homes in the Lake Whatcom watershed. They should have been tracking this. I would add there is the real possibility that city Public Works did know - and is just not admitting it. I've not read where they have been asked directly.

Seems the Herald missed an expensive half million dollar screw up by the city - one that the council partly fixed last evening. The Herald reporter left early and missed it. Actually, this appears to be closer to a million dollar screw up by city planning department that the mayor's office has known about for some time. Last night the council put a band aid on it by voting for $423,000 plus to plug the gap. Of course the agenda item misworded the action to make it sound like a positive step - transferring money to the General Fund. Actually, the shortfall may be closer to $800,000 - but the council is trying to tip toe into this without anyone noticing. We have now noticed.

Actually it is worse. The Planning Department has grossly exceeded its budget for - apparently - several years and the council has either turned a blind eye or was not paying attention to what was happening. Take your choice. We should wonder where else in our city budget this is happening. This is the sort of thing politicians like to keep hidden until after the coming election.

Thur, May 10

By Tip Johnson
Last Chance - Steal this Waterfront!

In a Bellingham Herald article dated May 4, Interim Mayor Tim Douglas "said it's too soon to make assumptions about the exact relationship between parks acreage and the intensity of development on the rest of the waterfront." According to Douglas, the waterfront master plan, as well as the Port/City development agreemant will get "intense public review."

Well, it's not working yet. According to another Herald article on May 7, about a dozen people testified at each of two public hearings on the scope of the project's Environmental Impact Statement. That's 0.014% of the estimated 166,814 population of Whatcom County, which the Port soaked for almost $7 million in property taxes this year. That's over $41 per man, woman and child. It's been happening every year - since 1920. Probably more than half of those in attendance at the hearings were Port staff or shills.

Now it's your last chance to say what you think is important to study. Comments will be accepted through tomorrow (Fri, May 11). Comments can be emailed to sepaofficial@portofbellingham.com , or snailmailed to SEPA Responsible Official, Port of Bellingham, P.O. Box 1677, Bellingham, WA 98227-1677.

Meanwhile, letters to editors and spoken comments around town are increasingly expressing a sense tht the Port is ramrodding an attempt to rip off our public waterfront for their development buddies. In the Port's most recently contrived presentations, they have begun enforcing the notion that if the public wants waterfront parks, they will need to endure a blockade of buildings taller than Bellingham has ever seen. Poppycock!

The "public" is already paying the health costs of G-P's toxic legacy. Bellingham already suffered 40 years of lost opportunity while G-P hogged the waterfront with its acrid spume. The bay, once a rich oyster farm, is now a toxic dead zone - a mercury dump the Port wishes to leave in place for the neurologic disadvantage of our children's developing brains (9MB .mov). The public will pay to clean up the mess because the Port, in it's public service wisdom, let G-P totally off the hook. We will also pay for the infrastructure to support any development - and the maintenance, in perpetuity. We already pay the Port to "manage" our waterfront resources. Ha!

Some management! Waterfront lands, which in Bellingham were also constructed at public expense, should be managed for what they are - a scarce and valuable resource. In most planning contexts, scarce resources are carefully marshalled for their best use. Waterfronts ought to be reserved for water-dependent, water-related and public uses - not sold off for a one-time shot in the arm for the Port bureaucracy.

But the Port has more grandiose dreams of filling their coffers with development cash while choking the public off the shoreline - or at best, leaving the public with the withering threads and scraps of lawn between parking lots and building entrances. A social and economic assessment of the potential benefits to our county-wide population of public space versus intensive development on the waterfront would make a very good starting place. But it is not likely to happen.

Mayor Douglas, in the aforementioned article, also says that agreement on the development scheme is not likely to happen in this calendar year. How many concerned citizens will still have the energy to attend hearings after another year of meetings? Probably we should just vote on it.

For a glimpse of what the Port is thinking will emerge through their protracted exhaustion of interested citizens, please watch a new promotional film being presented on Government TV, channel 10. You can get the schedule here. I haven't seen it yet, but will predict it is, again, full of whopping doozers. See what you think and send your thoughts to your elected representatives at the City and Port. And don't forget the Port's new SEPA official!

Last chance!

Mon, May 7

By Tip Johnson
Northern Neighborly News

Results from the first political forum of the season are now available online. Many thanks to the Northern Neighbors for organizing the event and providing such a great public resource. Seasoned political hacks will recognize a lot of the same old tripe - quality of life, cost-effective government, better public process, more diversity of opinion, vision and leadership, etc.

Citizens can use this material, reading between the lines, to get a better sense of how each candidate might address their issues and possibly find better questions for each successive forum. That's the key. Pin them down, get specific. Too often, the tendency to stick with broad generalizations allows candidates to wax philosophical, whilst avoiding the nuts and bolts of key issues. For instance, in the referenced material, each candidate asserts their approval of initiating so-called "urban centers" in the neighborhoods. Every candidate stresses their commitment to preserving the Lake Whatcom Watershed. However, those lofty statements fall far short of explaining how upzones will retain neighborhood character and avoid urban impacts, or why building around the lake is still booming while the water quality is in crisis.

Citizens, and neighborhoods, would be well advised to hone their issues with precision and put them directly to the candidates.

By Tip Johnson
Watershed in Crisis
- Drink up!

The new annual report on The Lake Whatcom Reservoir confirms that the quality of the water supply for half of the county's population is deteriorating. An article in today's Bellingham Herald points to phosphorus pollution as the cause. Humbug.

The cause of Lake Whatcom's deterioration is residential development - period. Phosphorus loading and algae blooms are symptoms.

Development has accelerated in recent years due to the City increasing sewer capacity to the Lake Whatcom Water District. A number of lgislative measures have deeply exacerbated the problem - half-assed building moratoriums that stimulated unprecedented permit applications, and the idiotic establishment of an Urban Growth Area around Sudden Valley that has residents now contemplating incorporation as a city.

Interim Bellingham Mayor Tim Douglas is quoted, "This (the report) is reconfirmation that the lake is going in the wrong direction in certain ways. We don't want to look back 20 years from now and say, 'Why didn't we do something?'"

Of course, this has already been a burning issue for almost thirty years when the first Lake Whatcom Management Plan was proposed. It languished for decades without enabling legislation. In other words, we already tried doing nothing. Lake Whatcom's water quality has been professed as a top priority by almost every candidate to have run for office since that original plan came out. All that talk is simply not working. Hot air will not fix the watershed.

Douglas also noted that "The city has spent millions acquiring land in the lake watershed to prevent development, while working in the city-controlled portion of the watershed to minimize runoff pollution. Now the city and county need to redouble efforts to reduce or eliminate use of phosphorous fertilizers in the watershed, while developing better stormwater controls."

Well, that's a start - like hacking away at the branches - but working with zoning laws to regulate what types of land use are appropriate in the watershed might better take a whack at the roots of the problem.

Property owners are constitutionally guaranteed a "reasonable use" of their property. Zoning, supported by oodles of case law, is a police power that allows jurisdictions to determine what reasonable uses will protect the public's health, safety and welfare. Typically, forestry, not residential development, is considered a reasonable use in municipal watersheds. Many watersheds won't even let you hike around, much less waterski, drink beer and urinate in the reservoir.

Buying existing forest is socially responsible, but not effective. The focus should be on regulating appropriate forestry practices, preventing further service extensions and residential subdivision while acquiring exisiting, serviced lots of record. Stop development and save the lake. It's that simple.

Don't ask candidates whether they support clean water. Ask how they intend to accomplish it!

Want to learn more? Careful, there are decades of pussyfooting to wade through! Try here, and here.

Sun, Apr 29

by John Servais
Gene Knutson is pulling out of his bid for mayor of Bellingham. In an email notice, Gene said "It is with much sadness and a very heavy heart that I have to leave the Mayors race because of ongoing back problems." His back has recently started to give him more problems. Gene has two more years on the city council representing the 2nd Ward and expects to resume his council duties on May 7.

Thurs, Apr 26

By TIp Johnson
The Port's Plan to Poison - Why the Log Pond cap won't work

An article in a recent Bellingham Business Journal detailed the debate over whether the toxic muck in the Whatcom Waterway ought to be dredged or capped.

G-P dumped tons of mercury into the bay during the course of their operation here. Elemental mercury is known to convert to a dangerous, bio-accumulative neuro-toxin as it is incorporated and released from microbial processes. The tragedy in Minimata, Japan, was caused by mercury releases into their bay and afflicted the population with crippling neuropathies.

Dredging could create a short-term release hazard and would impose the burden of finding someplace to dispose of the stuff. That's the problem with a clean-up. It's expensive. Capping, on the other hand, is relatively cheap. But it is unproven, particularly for catastophic events like earthquakes or tsunamis. Caps are also susceptible to ship scour (agitation from a ship's propeller) and erosion, as from wave action or the channels cut by streams like Whatcom Creek through the mud at low tide. A cap doesn't necessarily prevent release. It will likely mean lower releases over a longer term, but requires perpetual monitoring and remains vulnerable to physical trauma.

The Business Journal article discussed the experimental cap placed on the relatively protected log pond - one of the really hot spots - and the damage it has already incurred from wave action in the bay. Port officials remain optimistic, noting that wave action only damaged the cap near the waters surface - which varies tidally by as much as fourteen feet of elevation. They believe that they can repair and armour the cap to prevent further damage or release.

This is bunk and they know it. The proof will come years from now when mercury levels in the capped sludge can be compared to present day levels. If levels are reduced, the cap failed. Oh well. It will be too late to do anything about it then. This is exactlythe same strategy G-P employed in dumping their stuff: Put it somewhere where it will just "go away".

Following is an illustration of why a cap will not prevent releases. Roughly three feet of rain annually falls on Sehome hill and soaks into its largely

pervious surface. This water will inevitably flow downhill, as groundwater, washing mercury out of the log pond, into the bay. Some believe this is responsible for lower than original mercury levels in the nearby Chem-fix dump, where an estimated 15 tons of mercury was illegally buried on the G-P site. This dump was capped with an impervious asphalt surface in the 1970's, but that did not apparently prevent it washing away into the environment. Somehow, officials have managed to completely ignore this important physical charateristic of the site. Capping the inner waterway may be equally susceptible to this process, especially when the outer waterway is dredged, opening the soil profile to the bay, where groundwater can easily escape.

Interestingly, when industry makes unpermitted releases, they are subject to fines and liable for damages. However, there appears to be no established protocol for dealing with unpermitted releases evidenced by a lowering of concentrations within remediation sites managed by regulatory agencies. That's good for the agencies, I guess.

Too bad for us, though.

Wed, Apr 25

By Tip Johnson
Bee where?

I have some large, beautiful pear trees at home. Spring is a glorious time, when they are festooned with blossom and the air is sweet with their scent. I have had occasion to observe these trees for over thirty years. When they bloom, I always pray for fine weather, so the bees can do their job, assuring us abundant fruit in the fall. Usually, on a warm day, one can stand under these trees and feel amazed by the loud, hymenopterous hum of thousands of the working critters. Not this year.

I recently took the time to carefully observe the trees for several minutes during prime pollination hours. I then went out of my way to look at several other neighborhood trees. In more than a half hour of trying, I saw not a single bee. A few flies, but no bees. Not one.

Interestingly, I saw a few cherry trees still blooming out along the mouth of the Blanchard Slough, down Chuckanut a ways, so I took a minute to hike out for an inspection. O.K. Thay had a few bees, but not too many.

Across the country, bees are disappearing. This is very unusual. Bees often die. There are a number of parasites, like mites, and diseases, like viruses or fungi, that can wipe out a hive. That's not the problem. In those cases, there are bodies evidenced in or around the hive. What is strange with this event is that the bees have just disappeared. Gone!

One theory is that cell phone use is interfering with their navigational system. But detractors point out that hives are disappearing even in rural Montana, hundreds of miles from the nearest cell-tower. Some believe it could be pollen from genetically modified organisms, a response to hybrid bees brought in to survive the mite infestations or some atmospheric or climatological change too subtle for us to detect as yet, but to which bees are acting as canaries did in coal mines. The truth is that nobody knows.

It's important, though. Bees are estimated to do over $14 billion of work in the US agricultural sector. Albert Einstein once opined that bees are so important to our food supply that should they ever disappear, human populations would soon follow. And he was no dummy!

In all likelyhood - as is the case with most complex, multi-variate, non-linear systems - there are a host of stress factors working in concert to overcome the system's natural resilience. Whatever they are, it behooves us to find out. We truly stand with our entomological companions in our habitation of this planet.

It could be an object lesson in how little we really know about the complexity of life, and why we should be more careful about genetic meddling, habitat reduction and toxic releases. Meanwhile, we had nice weather for the blossoms, but now I'm praying for fruit.

Tue, Apr 24

By Tip Johnson
Reclusive Representative - Persecution by Proxie

Our invisible Congressman, Rick Larsen, has finally had his way with that pesky protester, Ellen Murphy. In order to insure his privacy from prying constituents, Larsen had the local constabulary haul Ellen away from his office to be cited for trespassing - for life! Not surprisingly, they made a botch of it, having to revise documents and make up new rules to fit the facts. Nevertheless, our local kangaroo Municipal Court, under the nearly-as-invisible Judge Lev, had no trouble finding Ellen guilty of visiting her elected representative. We've come a long way, baby!

Undeterred after her arrest, Ellen Murphy reads the Bill of Rights to the closed door of Congressman Rick Larsen's hidden office in the now City-owned and patrolled Federal Building. Her grand-daughter seems unconvinced by the words, "derive their just powers from the consent of the governed."

Not wanting to seem draconian or undemocratic, the court condescendingly suspended both her 3 month jail term and $1,000 fine, leaving her only forty hours of community service and $43 in court costs to be paid. Hopefully she can count the service she is doing us by outing Larsen's true political character.

Of course, the court can hold the suspended elements over Ellen's head for future enforcement should she "re-offend". Hopefully others will find ways to be equally offensive. After all, the best defense is a good offense!

Incidentally, how many of you know that more than fifty citizens have been arrested and vigorously prosecuted in Municipal Court for expressing political opinions in ways that were traditionally merely supervised when such matters were heard in County District Court? Not really a kinder, gentler nation, after all.

Crimes Against Peace, War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity

All the fuss over whether the "surge" is a credible strategy, whether or not to schedule a troop withdrawal from Iraq or continue funding the war kinda misses the main point with which Americans still have to come to grips: What do we do about the lying and calculated misrepresentation the administration used to falsely justify the invasion during Bush's fantastic run-up to the war? It's worth reviewing the sixth Nuremburg Principle:

The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as crimes under international law:

(a) Crimes against peace:
(i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;
(ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).

(b) War Crimes: Violations of the laws or customs of war which include, but are not limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation of slave labor or for any other purpose of the civilian population of or in occupied territory; murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the Seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.

(c) Crimes against humanity: Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhumane acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial, or religious grounds, when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried on in execution of or in connection with any crime against peace or any war crime.

We've got lots of work to do to redeem America's integrity before the world community - and it isn't likely to happen in Municipal Court!

Mon, Apr 23

By Tip Johnson
The So-called News

Independent media? Freedom of the press? Peoples friend, tyrants foe? It was a good idea while it lasted, educating the electorate and forming a mainstay of our democracy. Now, we've either elected Bush twice, or tolerated two rigged elections. Either way, we've lost something and the press does not seem to be helping.

Today's Herald includes another of a long string of articles written by developers to promote their project. In an article entitled, "Environmental study process to begin at port", Port and City officials paint another rosy picture for their scheme of privatizing the waterfront.

The Herald's practice of allowing developers to write their own press began with the Port's acquisition of the property, but didn't kick into full swing until the last Port Commission election. It is an enviable privilege not afforded every developer. David Syre, founder of the Trillium Corporation, had to start his own paper - The Cascadia Weekly - to promote his development agenda.

In today's Herald "article" written by the Port, they emphasize the appointment of Andrew W. Maron as their new State Environmental Policy Act official. He replaces Mike Stoner who is now being assigned to the project management team. According to the article, "The port commission appointed Maron to ensure that the port's policy act official is clearly independent of the project management team".

The so-called article describes Maron as, "an attorney with Short, Cressman & Burgess in Seattle" who "has served as a city councilman and interim mayor for Bainbridge Island and on numerous other community boards".

However, on his law firm's website, Maron is described as focusing his practice on "commercial litigation with an emphasis on construction law, and municipal law". His bio continues to detail that "in his construction law practice, Mr. Maron represents owners, contractors, and suppliers in all phases of the construction process: negotiation, contract preparation and dispute resolution".

Hmmm. Somehow they left that part out. Maybe they thought it would undermine their assertion that Mr. Maron was going to be "clearly independent of the project management team". Sounds to me like he is going to be an important asset to the Port in their development process. It used to be that the environmental review was done in the public's best interests, not the project proponent's.

I'm getting the sense that the engine has started and the train for this railroad job is already heading out of the station. Get ready boys and girls, 'cause it's your waterfront and things are going to start happening very fast.

The Port will conduct two public hearings establishing the scope of environmental review for the project. These are currently scheduled for 6 to 9 p.m., April 25 and May 2, at the Bellingham Municipal Courthouse, 2014 C St.

More on that later!

Bloodbath in Iraq

According to the Washington Post, "President Bush warned Thursday that pulling out of Iraq too soon would trigger a bloodbath akin to that of the Cambodian killing fields of the 1970s, while Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid declared that it is too late to stay because the war has already been lost."

Wow! A bloodbath? Isn't that just what the invasion caused, too? That didn't seem to dissuade Bush on the way in. Why now, on the way out?

Lost War

What a great war strategy! Remember our guys bribing the elite Iraqi Republican Guard to not interfere with the invasion? Remember how they all vanished into thin air and we were able to storm effortlessly into Bhagdad? Remember our fearless leader proclaiming, "Mission accomplished"? Oops! Not yet! Too bad the Guard disappeared with all their weapons, eh? Somebody got suckered. That's how we lost the war.

Wed, Apr 18

By Tip Johnson
Your Waterfront
- Up for grabs

New Whatcom Redevelopment Project - The City and Port of Bellingham will hold public information a meeting. Bellingham Cruise Terminal. 355 Harris Ave., Bellingham. WA Times: 6:00 PM.

Also, the Port has a new video detailing their vison for the waterfront. It includes a couple whoppers, including the standard "clean-up" lie. Toward the middle, it states, "Right now 14 federal,state, tribal and local stakeholders are working together to clean Bellingham Bay". Of course, they really mean cover-up, as in literally bury it and call it good.

In a fit of optimistic window-dressing, the video also asks the public to imagine "An industrial waste lagoon transformed into a clean ocean marina". It is amusing that G-P's "treatment lagoon" has suddenly become a "waste lagoon". Sadly, the Port fails to mention that the lagoon is our only future stormwater or wastewater treatment resource and that replacing it will cost the public untold millions. An interesting sideline is that marinas never contribute to a clean ocean, and that this marina is being designed for 50+ foot yachts even though more than ninety percent of local recreational boating events occur in vessels 24 foot or less. That's serving the public!

It behooves all citizens to bone up on this plan. Information is available from the Port and the project website.

Here's my vision. It shows how the toxic muck could be removed and a larger marina created while retaining the lagoon's treatment capacity and linking Downtown into Fairhaven via a continuous public waterfront. However, officials don't seem to like these ideas.

By Way of Comparison - How the rest of the world works

Bellingham has the good fortune to be among the last dilapidated waterfronts to attempt rehabilitation. In theory, we could benefit from the experience of the last four decades of similar efforts. But somehow, we always need to say, "No", and reinvent the wheel, spinning it fervently with futile effect. Here are a couple links to tune you into basic principles that have been discovered over the years:

How to Turn a Waterfront Around - Key steps for creating great waterfronts.

Mistakes by the Lake, River, or Sea - Common problems that keep waterfronts from living up to their potential.

Poisoning the Public - A treacherous legacy

According to the Bellingham Herald, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources has recently approved leaving tons of mercury buried in Bellingham Bay. The documents are not yet readily available at the DNR's website. Here's the Port's Press Release.

The Herald article states that the deal requires the Port to monitor the site for the "next 30 years to make sure no mercury is escaping into the environment". However, everyone knows that mercury will be continually escaping, but claim that the rate will be equal to or less than the background levels coming down the Nooksack River. No one has explained why levels are so high in the Nooksack.

G-P admits to having put 20 tons of mercury into the bay, but other studies indicate that discharges from such facilities send as much as twenty times as much mercury to the air as to the water. Of course, those atmospheric discharges gradually return downstream. Together with the company's eggregious county-wide dumping, it is no surprise that background levels are high enough to mask releases from the Whatcom Waterway muck.

Based upon industry standard mercury usage per ton of product produced in similar facilities, Georgia-Pacific probably used more than 600 tons of mercury during their tenure on Bellingham Bay. Not one agency has ever required G-P to account for the final disposition of those tons. Incidentally, Whatcom County has a higher than normal incidence of chronic wasting health effects associated with mercury exposure. Not one agency has ever conducted a health study of the area.

Similarly, our three-county air quality authority, NWAir (Now run by former Bellingham Mayor Mark Asmundson), conducted a three year air quality study in downtown Bellingham during the last years of G-P's operation. Guess what they never once tested for - mercury!

Want to see why you ought to be concerned? (8.9MB .mov)

By Way of Comparison - A question of scale

A 3" x 12" shiny spot of mercury found in Yakima has landed a child in the hospital and triggered a sophisticated clean-up.

Also, the state is intent on collecting mercury by the tenth of a gram.

One wonders what the administrators responsible for the Whatcom Waterway cover-up plan would do if they discovered a flask or two of mercury dumped on their property or in their home. Think they'd just cover it up with dirt or sweep it under the rug? Hmm. I kinda doubt it.

Tue, Apr 10

by John Servais
How did Don Gischer get elected in the first 5 seconds of voting? The Bellingham City Council voted 4 -2 last Wednesday to appoint Don to fill Joan Beardsley's position until we voters elect someone in November to fill out her last 2 years.

We can't be sure with political jostlings, but several respected political observers - junkies and operatives to be exact - felt the fix was in for Rebecca Johnson. I was watching Terry Borneman carefully as the first vote was taken - and as Don got his 4 votes. Terry had 5 seconds of uncontrolled facial panic as he looked down the table at his fellow council members and then stared wide eyed up at someone in the back of the council chamber. He was clearly blind sided. He and Barbara Ryan refused to allow Don's appointment to be unanimous - both voicing loud NAYs when council president Bob Ryan ran the vote a second time with a suggestion for a 6-0 vote.

What happened? Best I've learned from several people is it was pay back time to Barbara Ryan by Gene Knutson for her snub of him for the mayor appointment last fall. The council had just spent half an hour in executive session but only discussed the resumes and qualifications of the applicants with no discussion of voting or nominating. John Watts and Bob Ryan were not expected to support Rebecca, so it took Gene to decide to nominate Don, and it took Louise Bjornson to go with Gene. Interestingly, Don is probably as acceptable to the unions as Rebecca and so neither Gene nor Louise will lose their support this campaign season.

What we saw was a political fix - a fix that included Terry and Barbara - get busted by Gene who had no interest in the back room deal. We tip our hat to Gene - and even have to give Louise credit for rejecting the deal. At least this is the best analysis so far based on several reliable perspectives.

Mon, Apr 9

by John Servais - 12 noon
Well, KGMI was fun this morning, although discussing gas prices was not the category I have the most to contribute to. After the show, one more phone call was taken from a caller who did not want to be on the show - and Jeffrey took it. The caller would not identify himself, but the voice was that of a very high elected local official. He said the reason we have higher gas prices in Whatcom County compared to Skagit is the oil companies are recouping their fines from the Olympic pipe line explosion of 2001. Simple as that. They are taking their fines out of our pockets. This person should know - but it would be nice to see the state Attorney General investigate this. The difference is enough to really raise the question of illegal price gouging.

And here is the link to the KGMI blogs that we discussed. The four bloggers get a lot of comments and so this indicates the posts are good and people are reading them. This link is now added to the local links - which has drifted down a bit below all the political candidates.

And some more information on the Rita Foley secret court room - posted below for April 6. That obscure and unmarked room the Superior Court Clerk NF Jackson assigned for the hearing also had the blinds closed over the door window by court staff to hide what was hapening inside. The more I learn, the more NF has to answer to. He admitted to me that "mistakes were made" but this now seems less like mistakes and more like a purposeful act of hiding a public judicial proceeding from the public. Where is the court oversight for possible violations of fair court proceedings? And what is the background of that pro tem judge? This blog should not be in the front of this concern. The courts should be. Are there any Superior Court judges reading this blog?

Sat, Apr 7

I'll be on KGMI Radio Monday morning, 8 to 9 am, discussing local issues with and at the invitation of Jeffrey Lustick, the temporary host. Any suggestions on topics? john@nwcitizen.us Yes, we will be taking calls.

Fri, Apr 6

by John Servais
Note on below article:
Below is a report on some shenanigans by Whatcom County employees and our Whatcom County Court system. On Wednesday, I went to the courthouse to attend a 2 pm hearing for a restraining order against 76 year old and wheel chair bound Rita Foley. I never found the hearing - and the clerk of Superior Court who searched the computer for the hearing time and location acted as if she had never heard Rita's name. She said there was no record of any hearing in District or Superior Court for that day. After 40 minutes of checking court rooms and going between floors in the courthouse I gave up and left.

I later found out that the judges had all recused themselves from Rita's case and the hearing was held at 2 pm by a pro tem judge - a local lawyer chosen for this duty. The Superior Court clerk's office had transferred the hearing from Superior Court room #2 to the 4th floor in a room with no sign outside that the hearing was taking place. Myself and several friends of Rita never found the hearing room. Superior Court Clerk NF Jackson has improvements he could introduce to help people find where court cases are being held.

Gentle reader - Rita is well known in the courthouse because of her years of complaining about her neighbor's violations of county codes in clearing his land. I'm sure that hearing was in the computer as it was taking place while I asked. Secret judicial proceedings are not justice. They are railroad jobs.

The pro tem judge ruled against Rita, admitting last minute testimony of county employees and granting a restraining order. All in a room away from the public, her friends and the press. All very protective of county staff.

You should know - for reading the article below - that reports of violations are supposed to be confidential to prevent retaliation. As you will read, county attorney Buckingham phoned plaintiff Stephen Scott's attorney Sitkin and told him that Rita was the complainer. This in itself should get an investigation.

Below is an anonymous report from a person who has first hand knowledge of what went on in that secret court room. I know this person well and trust this report as being truthful. The writer is anon because of the violent temper of the fellow accusing Rita of threats. Even an elected county official told me the guy is a bully and out of control. Seems the county system does not mind railroading Rita to stop her complaining. This all reminds me of the Philip Marble case back in the '90s when some county employees collaborated with county residents in an attempt to defraud Philip of some of his land. It took some vigorous reporting to get higher authorities to look into the mess. Me thinks Pete Kremen needs to look under some rocks. He likes to pretend all is well in the old orange pumpkin castle - as Dick Beardsley used to call the courthouse..

by Anonymous
Battle in Whatcom County’s legal system

Wednesday, two neighbors from Blue Canyon road were in court, a 38 year resident, another of about 7 years.

Recently, one began clearing land for a new larger 2nd house on Lake Whatcom Reservoir. His construction methods earned him three “correction notices” from Whatcom County and a fine, since reduced. Posted notices were reportedly for illegally clear cutting and grading up to the stream banks of a formerly productive Kokanee stream.

The hearing was to stop the alleged “harassment” including reported threats made by the long time resident to County employees. Attorney for the victim had four County employees who all recited a similar story. The 76 year old woman, however, denies making any threats, ever.

Alleged threats were reported by County policy to the Sheriff who apparently was not concerned enough to do anything to the 76 year old wheel chair bound woman. Coincidentally, enforcement inspections on the illegal activities by Dept of Natural Resources, Washington Dept of Fish and Wild Life, and the County were all happening on a more frequent basis. The story of an alleged threat was then relayed by the Assistant County Attorney, Royce Buckingham, to the neighbor’s attorney: J. Sitkin. At this point, Sitkin was instructed to “take her down”.

Witnesses admitted they thought the woman was extremely frustrated as she had repeatedly reported the land clearing that wiped out trees within the 100 foot Critical Area Ordinance buffers up to the stream edge. A simple stop work order would have saved the stream’s trees. None came.

The plaintiff, refusing to answer several questions while on the stand and arguing with the defense attorney, loudly commented that he had never paid a fine. The hearing judge pro tem, a local attorney, believed the well coached County witnesses & cited the recent U. of Washington shooting as an imperative that he must issue a anti-harassment order for a lengthy three years. The woman is now filing for her own anti-harassment order against her neighbor.

Thur, Apr 5

by John Servais
This from Juan Cole - on Tuesday. Lest we forget the trauma we are foisting on the world.

21 Shiites from McCain's Market Killed
3 US Troops Killed Massive Truck Bomb at Kirkuk

Remember that Baghdad market visited on Sunday by Senator John McCain to show how calm things are? James Hider of the London Times writes, , "21 Shia market workers were ambushed, bound and shot dead north of the capital. The victims came from the Baghdad market [Shurja] visited the previous day by John McCain, the US presidential candidate, who said that an American security plan in the capital was starting to show signs of progress."

McCain walked through the market surrounded by 100 US Army soldiers and with three helicopter gun ships circling overhead. The market was also swept before his arrival by US Troops. And he wore an armored vest. And after the 'walk through the safe market' he was widely reported in the corporate media of saying how safe Baghdad was becoming and that he could walk through the wonderful open air market. Of course, because of his walk, the very people who he nodded to and possibly spoke with were executed that night. Our corporate media seem to have forgotten to tell us that as strongly as they reported McCain's statement.

Wed, Apr 4

by John Servais - 9:30 pm
Don Gischer was appointed to the Bellingham City Council this evening to serve until the end of November when a new council representative will be elected. The council voted 4 to 2 for Don on the first vote. Rebecca Johnson was the only other nominee and received 2 votes.

Of the nine applicants, Stan Snapp, Myron Wlaznak and Jacqui MacConnell gave the best presentations, all showing a strong knowledge of local issues, presenting resumes of decades of civic involvement and speaking to what they thought should be council concerns during this year. The most enjoyable 5 minute speech was new comer to our town, Gary Namie. Richard Maneval spoke of his many civic involvements and expressed a strong desire to now serve on the council. He will run for the 4th Ward position in the election.

Now to a little dissection. I need to get the thoughts of others on this, but for now, here is my best take. I noticed Terry looking completely shocked and confused by the vote - as if he expected Rebecca to get the 4 votes. He voted for her. Barbara Ryan nominated Rebecca, so she voted for her. But some of us junkies in the audience expected Gene and Louise to also vote for her. Louise looked almost embarrassed as she raised her hand in a vote for Don. Gene nominated Don and voted for him. John Watts and Bob Ryan voted for Don and this followed from expectations of them voting for one of the former council members. The Louise and Gene votes were the surprises. They may be risking some political support during their election runs because of tonight. And I lost my nickel that was on Rebecca.

In Don Gischer we have a fellow who served 12 years on the council from 1984 through 1995 and can participate fully for these next 8 months. Don is a common sense guy who speaks his mind. He is a good successor to Joan. I don't know if he will run for the office.

All in all, I think most of us were impressed with the quality of the applicants and the very good 5 minute, carefully timed, speeches. It was a good night for political observers.

12 noon
Bob Ryan will announce his political intentions next Monday about noon. He has told me of next Monday's announcement. He has remained very mum on his plans. I have heard reliably from others that he will announce for mayor.

8 am
A few quick political observations. This morning I have reliable confirmation that Bob Ryan will run for mayor - and will announce soon. This means we will have at least three new council members come next January. If Gene Knutson is elected mayor, then the council will appoint a 4th new member in January to serve till the November 2008 election. I still hear that Louise is considering running for Bob's 1st Ward seat as this would give her a 4year term. Don Keenan is considering running for mayor with the decision by Craig Cole to not run.

I just wonder how many of the 9 candidates for the vacant 4th Ward who are not selected will then file for either the 4th Ward or the At Large positions if Louise switches to the 1st Ward. Normally few want to challenge an incumbent and fewer want to challenge Louise. Only Ham Hayes has shown the courage - or whatever - to challenge her. If she switches, then perhaps several of those from the 4th Ward will be making choices between the 4th and the At Large. Once you get your blood up for a political position it is not always easy to forget it.

I appreciate the reliable tips many responsible political junkies have been giving me. The list serves two purposes - as a fun place for all of us to follow the action and, more seriously, as a reference for those considering running for office. While it is sometimes part of the strategy of a candidate to hold back on announcing - especially incumbents - it is in the interest of fielding good candidates for us all to know what the score is. The list - and links to web sites - will continue till the November election. More information may be added later. One bit of info now - the Bill Mize forum at the Rome Grange is on July 25.

Tue, April 3, 2007

by John Servais
At the Ellen Murphy hearing yesterday virtually nothing happened and it lasted about a minute. Ellen's attorney, Joe Pemberton, told judge Lev that in light of the changes in the charges by the city that he may want to interview the arresting officers again and she had no problem with that.

I've been informed that Ellen was issued a 'citation' not an 'arrest warrant' as posted below. While I've no doubt that this is correct, to me a citation does not lead to jail time and a criminal record. Ellen could serve time if convicted. I'm also told by a former prosecutor that 80% of citations are filled out incorrectly by the police and need to be corrected later in court. To me, this seems absurd. Why our courts would tolerate - why defense attorneys would tolerate - such a sloppy enforcement of justice is beyond me. Our police need and deserve continuous training so they can cite accurate charges and times.

Part of the problem the city has in trying to convict Ellen Murphy of 1st Degree Criminal Trespassing is Larsen's own confusion of what are his own office hours. His office is open till 5pm, but the front doors to the Federal Building are locked at 4:30 pm to incoming traffic. This prevents last minute visitors to the various government offices in the building - and allows the finishing of business with those at the offices for a 5 pm closing.

Since Rick's staff called the police on Ellen before 5 pm, Rick Larsen and his staff decided their office actually closed at 4:30 and thus she was trespassing. Then they came up with a rule - applied retro - that citizens who were just sitting protesting were only allowed 15 minutes and then they were trespassing. Of course Luke - Larsen's office manager - had not informed Ellen and the several other protestors of this rule - because the rule had not yet been thought of.

Rick's staff has admitted under oath that Ellen and the several others sitting quietly in the office were not causing any interruption to business. He did not mention that the only person to come into the office during the sit in was surprised at what he came onto and decided to join the women in sitting for a while in support. Rick's office is not exactly a beehive of visitors. His three local staff have a lot of office time with no visitors.

Rick himself stated at the City Club that "anyone who stays after 5 pm will be arrested" - thus giving weight to the original 5 pm closing. His words are now causing problems for the city attorney as he tries to convict Ellen of trespassing during normal office hours.

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