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2007 - July thru September

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Sunday, Sep 30

The Bellingham Herald editorial today is excellent. It raises the basic questions about the newly proposed Lake Whatcom land reconveyance deal to make a park on the very steep hillsides at the south end of the lake. It asks what will be the price that DNR asks, how will the lost annual logging revenue be made up, and what kind of park and how much impact and costs will it entail. It is a very perceptive editorial and a must read for all who are starry eyed over this conveniently timed announcement by the McShane and Kremen campaigns.

Indeed, it gives legitimacy to concerns I have posted here and that drew criticism. Yet here is the Herald asking these very key questions. There are more questions. I encourage you to check the links at the top right of this page to the Lake Whatcom website and to Tom Pratum's post on the North Cascades Audubon Society website.

These issues are not small matters to be ironed out in a negotiated process. Rather they are deal breakers if the answers are wrong. They go to the core of what is involved - better protection for our drinking water in Lake Whatcom. We need to protect that with a plan that is developed with open public process - something very lacking so far in this plan. As it says at the top of this page, lets do the public's business in public. That is the essence of democracy.

Fri, Sep 28

Let us be glad our Whatcom County Sheriff, Bill Elfo, is a fellow who has common sense and is not afraid to think. When I was publisher of the Whatcom Independent I got to know him a bit. We have a good one.

Not like the King County Sheriff's office - where they could not use common sense and look for Tanya Rider till 6 days had passed. The sheriff's staff had their noses in their policy book and could not manage to think - just plain think. Tanya drove off the road and into brush on her way home from work a week ago. For days her husband could not convince the Sheriff's department to look for her. They wanted to investigate him for maybe doing away with her. She was finally found today - 7 days later - in her car and almost dead. The Sheriff said they will review policies. Hmm - not a chance for any improvement there. It is common sense that is lacking. The inability of staff persons to think.

Wed, Sep 26

First a bit of news. It seems ACB will not be moving to the outskirts of Ferndale for their expanded manufacturing space. Instead they are negotiating with the Port to move into the soon to be vacant GP tissue converting plant.

The City Club luncheon today, with the two mayoral candidates speaking and answering questions, was packed to the walls with people. Over 300 and the MC noted how large it was. We were rewarded with an hour of great point and counter point by the two Dans. It was one of the best candidate forums I've ever attended. By the end every person there could have a solid feeling about who they were going to vote for. One person drew strong applause from all when he said that no matter which won, we were going to get a good mayor.

The audience wanted a clean campaign and at two or three points in the forum the candidates touched on this issue. Pike simply said he is only addressing issues. McShane brought up criticism and conspiracy and mixed them up with rumors. He seemed to equate criticism with rumors. It would be nice to have a video of this entire forum but there probably is none. I was particularly attuned to McShane's answer on this because of the personal insults that have been sent my way by the McShane campaign people over my criticism of McShane. Now I know a bit more. They have trouble discerning criticism from rumor.

The best question was perhaps when they were asked to each identify two differences between themselves. Pike went first and said: 1) that he would work for solutions in the neighborhoods and Lake Whatcom without creating two new departments as McShane has proposed and 2) he would work for better collaboration between departments on city issues and the city/county/port on regional issues. McShane said: 1) he was not afraid of change as we grow into a big city and 2) he has more experience dealing with local planning issues.

Judge for yourself. For me, the issue of Pike being afraid of change was a surprise. Where did that come from? No one till now has suggested that Pike is afraid of change. To me, this is how rumors start. McShane did not give any example to back up this statement. Ok, so now Pike is afraid of change. How do you counter that? Watch to see if this spreads.

By the way, McShane had minutes before talked of how collaboration was almost impossible when working to make a million dollar project go forward. Pike had spoken of how he got collaboration with many state and local governments and agencies over the past few years as he administered several multi million dollar transportation improvements in Puget Sound. So his citing that as a difference was based on what McShane himself had said.

I came away feeling very good about supporting Dan Pike. He continues to impress with his grasp of the issues and concerns that we have - and with how he will approach them to find solutions we all can live with. While Dan McShane is a fine guy and works for our community betterment, I think that with Dan Pike we have a rare opportunity to elect a person who will make an outstanding mayor. We want to elect this guy and put him to work for us as head of our city government. And we can expect very good things from him.

Tue, Sep 25

Tom Pratum has some good information on the proposed - and still mostly secret - Lake Whatcom land reconveyance plan. He posted it on the North Cascades Audubon Society website, which he runs. It outlines what a reconveyance is and has a map showing the land around the lake. It is worth reading on this subject.

On another topic that is currently swirling around:

Expect the Herald to print Barbara Rofkar's letter criticizing the Herald's judgement in running the racist political cartoon. Seems Letters Editor Scott Ayers did not realize that was a letter to the editor. Yes, we are expected to believe that. He is checking on another person's emails that were sent to the correct address - and Scott wonders if some "technicality" caused them to be lost. He is checking with his computer technicians. Yes, we are expected to believe that. Scott referred in his blog to the missing letters as "conspiracy theories". Now it is becoming a question of how many letters from how many people were mis-routed or lost.

Mon, Sep 24

The Herald continues to sit on the letter criticizing the racist cartoon in the Sat, Sep 15 paper. Last week, editorial page editor Scott Ayers said on his blog that he was out of letters and planned no letters in today's paper. And, indeed, there are no letters to the editor in today's Bellingham Herald. Maybe Scott and the Herald bosses should connect the dots - they are getting fewer letters because they selectively print letters.

Scott has at least one letter he is sitting on. It is from Barbara Rofkar, chair of the Whatcom County Human Rights Task Force. She sent me a copy of her letter and gave me permission to comment on it. My Sep 15 post (below) called out the cartoon as being racist. It is a very anti Latino. The Herald editors - Scott ? - in deciding to print it showed either an unconscious racist bias or a complete ignorance of what constitutes racism.

The Herald has a routine practice of not printing some letters even though they fully meet their criteria. Sometimes they just delay printing a letter until the issue is past or resolved. They carefully stomp on free speech while saying they sponsor it. This is denied by the Herald. Scott denies it again in his blog today. Yet today he has no letters. What might be the reason?

People have told me of different things the Herald has done. Like verify a letter and then sit on it for weeks until an issue has been voted on. Or get a letter, sit on it, print an editorial on the contrary side of the letter and not print the letter till the issue is resolved. Or demand documentation to prove some statement a writer makes - which seems to be common on letters dealing with pollution or waterfront cleanup or issues that run contrary to the interests of some of the Herald's big advertisers. And, of course, not print a letter at all.

Deciding to not print some letters for any reason is the right of the Herald. The issue is their constant denial that the editors go through submitted letters deciding to print this one and not print that one even though the letters fit their criteria but one is contrary to the Herald's business interests. The Herald does this and has done it for many years. They have been able to ignore the complaints until Scott opened pandora's box with his blog a couple weeks ago. Now they have to deal with it.

Lets see if Scott decides to print Barbara's letter. And when. Or what flimsy excuse he might give us for delaying the printing of it.

Finally, a little treat for you today that relates to letters. I do not publish the emails I receive from readers. The reason for not printing them is explained on this linked page. Today I am printing one email received yesterday from Mitch Friedman, the Executive Director - and founder - of Conservation Northwest. The reason for printing his email is explained on this linked page. If you write me, feel safe that I will not post your email. I value the information that many well connected persons provide to me.

Sat, Sep 22

The October surprise is a week early. Today's Herald has the carefully managed news of the land swap that John Watts alerted us to on Sep 11 - and which was then denied by the McShanes, Mitch Friedman and their supporters. I got some pretty hateful email from them over this issue and my complimenting John Watts for breaking this issue. The Herald had Dan McShane say that Kremen has kept him, Dan, up to date on developments. What a crock. His wife Lisa is in the thick of the processes.

Well - now the story breaks 'officially' in the Herald - putting the lie to the denials by these folks. It is breaking early because John Watts spilled the beans. This was apparently scheduled for October to help the McShane campaign. It was actually funny - after John Watts broke the story they denied it and after a few days they flopped 180 degrees and started saying 'oh, that - why we have been working on that for 8 years. No news there. No secrets.'

So - the posts here were accurate despite my being labeled a liar. (see Sep 11 & 12 posts) Watts had a private little meeting with Lisa where she convinced John to post a partial retraction - a naive move on his part. For days I have been pressured to retract my posts. Friday night Watts apparently realized his mistake and quickly posted information saying this might break in the next week. It has broken within hours of his post.

Missing? All the details. And my information is the devil himself is in the details. Expect there to be private land involved and agreements to transfer development rights to some very sensitive land on Gailbraith Mountain. Who owns that? Mr. Syre. Syre reportedly has land options near the lake and this deal involves his trading some land and/or development rights. He may circumvent county land use regulations and create his resort community on Gailbraith Mountain - all as part of this secret deal. Now - it is almost impossible to learn the details of what should be a very public process. If I had the time I'd do a public disclosure request and try and learn from other sources.

Gentle reader, there may well be far less expensive and better ways for protection of Lake Whatcom but Kremen, DNR, the McShanes and Mitch Friedman - and I think David Syre - are putting this together in secret. There are benefits and perks enough for them all if this can be put together. I could have posted all this weeks ago but was hesitant myself because of all the anger and denials by this group. I should have ignored them. And I will now catch hell for this post. They are an obsessive and abusive group.

Is there a better protection for the lake than a park? Perhaps there is. Foresty land with careful logging may be better protection over a long time. And much less expensive. Parks sound so nice - but really the goal is protection of the watershed and parks can be a very expensive yearly process. Again, all this should be for public discussion - not a secret deal announced after it is put together and signed.

I can tell you this: this solution - this land reconveyance - will be far more expensive for all of us in Whatcom County than a land swap or revenue compensation plan that could be put together in public. The reason for the secrecy is to prevent public discussion of the alternative methods of doing this. It is against state public disclosure laws for this process to be secret. But who will act to make it public? Don't expect the Herald to.

Fri, Sep 21

Scott Ayers complains in his blog this morning that he has so few letters to the editor that next Monday he may not have any to print. Yet I know of one letter he has been sitting on - not from me and meets all his criteria. The letter is very critical of the Herald and that racist cartoon. It will probably be printed on Saturday as that is the least read paper of the week. If he prints it. When asked why he does not print some letters that meet all Herald specs, Scott stalled for a week and then dodged the issue. It is pretty transparent that Scott does not print some letters that are too critical of the Herald or the Herald's interests. And it raises a question of Scott's honesty regarding letters.

8 am
Last night's forum
was the first of this general campaign season but the focus was not on the important issues. The sponsoring organizations were more concerned with candidates attitudes towards the homeless, immigrants, low income housing, police treatment of people and ethnic diversity.

Slightly over 100 people were at the Senior Activity Center for the Rainbow Forum.

The audience did get to start judging the candidates as persons as most had not been through the primary process. And the major issues of water quality and growth were touched on by some candidates. While I have several pages of notes on who had knowledge of the issues and who answered with specifics and who with generalities and empty words, time and work prevent me from posting any of that this morning. No corporate media - no Herald reporter. I didn't even see any Weekly or Indy reporters, but someone I don't know may have been there. I may post some comments in the next few days.

The evening felt like a gathering of the 100 political junkies with virtually everyone knowing everyone else. The organizing groups were fair to all candidates but had some minor problems with process and the sound system. The candidates all tried hard to make a good impression.

If you are planning to attend only one forum - or recommend one to others - then I recommend either the Oct 3 or Oct 16 forums. The Oct 4 will be very limited seating and will focus on neighborhood and southside issues. The Oct 10 will again focus on issues dealing with the poor and those at a disadvantage in our community. Those are issues of importance but will disappoint people wanting to judge the candidates on the major issues. Based on the primary forums, the Whatcom Indy forum on Oct 16 will be by far the best forum. Great seating, great sound and it gives candidates enough time to either shine or hang themselves.

Thur, Sep 20

One concern about today's candidate forum. The sponsors have not provided specific information on how the forum will be conducted - and all the sponsors are liberal organizations endorsing candidates. This leaves a lot of room for mischief - above unintentional bias. Who asks questions? How are they chosen? How much time to respond? Are the same questions asked of both candidates for an office? Do candidates ask questions of each other? And there could be another dozen very relevant concerns about the format and process.

A few years ago I helped start and manage the Lunch Time Soapbox Forums in downtown Bellingham. We had conservative and liberal members of the team and had clear guidelines and rules so as to be fair to all candidates. It was a constant struggle to keep the liberal MC from "forgetting" some rules and allowing an advantage to the liberal candidates. The excuse was the errors were minor and didn't matter and besides not everything can be done perfect. In other words, it would continue.

Our conservative team members dwindled to one. I made one last effort to have the rules followed which only resulted in jokes from most of the committee about my hangups. I quit the team at that meeting to loud angry protests from the liberals calling me a quitter. For whatever reason there was never another lunch time forum. I think it was because I was doing most of the organizing work. The liberals were just using me. Conservative candidates perceived me as fair and the liberals were using that.

I have not forgotten that very personal experience. And as we attend this evening's forum we should all be very alert to a skewed process that favors liberal candidates. When one thinks they are on a mission from God then they find it almost impossible to not skew the process to favor their desired outcome. Am I prejudging? No. But I've seen it too often and we have only four forums scheduled for this campaign season. This alert and reminder are well in order.

Who insults you can sometimes be a compliment. And if the Bellingham Herald enables below the belt personal attacks with no redeeming content - then the insult also reflects more on the Herald than the target of the insult. I draw your attention to a comment about me in the comments to Scott Ayers Sep. 14 blog post titled "Literacy Council's important work matters". (you have to scroll down a bit) While the blue bar below his post says there are zero comments, this is just a bug in the Herald's computer program. There are 4 comments - the 1st by me and the 3rd by a mentally sick person. I know who the person is because she used the same words and phrases in personal emails to me in the past. The Herald editor Julie Shirley has chosen to leave the comment online. All this contrasts with Scott's high sounding words in his July 23 post.

Rainbow Coalition Candidate Forum
Sep 20, Thursday, 5:30 to 8:30 pm, contested offices for County, Bellingham and Bellingham School Board. Bellingham Senior Center at 315 Halleck
You can download a PDF file of their press release with full information.

Wed, Sep 19

First candidate forum is tomorrow evening. Just a reminder. It starts early - at 5:30 pm with snacks and the actual speaking and questions starting at 6 pm. They are putting county candidates first - which is becoming the accepted way for local forums as it allows those who have to drive home a longer distance to leave earlier. If you live in the county but work in the city then this is very convenient for you.

Where is the Senior Center? Here is a link to Google Maps. It is just a block off Cornwall Avenue by Whatcom Creek or just next to Bellingham High School or by the Ohio Street intersection. In that area.

The Whatcom County Rainbow Coalition is the cover sponsor but it is also sponsored by the Whatcom Human Rights Task Force, Whatcom County Democratic Women’s Club, Whatcom County Democrats and Democrats for America. See you there.

Tue, Sep 18

Sam Taylor, political reporter for the Herald, appears to have a new type of news feature in today's paper. He is reporting small but important bits of campaign news in one article. This format, if continued, will result in much more campaign information being printed in the Herald - something we really need. The Herald primary election coverage was abysmal. Lets hope the editors allow Sam to continue this informative feature and really cover the campaigns. They ought to give this format a catchy name.

Sat, Sep 15

A racist political cartoon in today's Bellingham Herald shows very poor judgement by the editors. Or else a misunderstanding of what constitutes racism. Or, perhaps the editors are unaware of their own racism. That happens. The decision to print this overtly and blatant racist cartoon by the daily newspaper that has been saying racism is no longer present in Bellingham shows just how pernicious and pervasive racism can be. The Herald owes the community an apology. And it needs to send its editors to a seminar on what constitutes racism. They obviously do not know - unless....

Fri, Sep 14

Will you be traveling after October 18? Know someone who will be - and not be here to vote? Working in Alaska? Travel to Europe? Well, you can vote now - today - at the counter in the Auditors office. This information is not posted on the Auditor's website. NwCitizen has asked her pointedly in the past and Shirley Forslof just remains quiet about this. She will admit in private conversation - but nothing to voters. You can vote now in mid September if you are going to be absent from Whatcom County when the ballots are mailed on October 17 till the election on November 6. So - know anyone who will be gone? Let them know.

Thur, Sep 13

Tom Pratum has a letter in the current issue of the Cascadia Weekly on page 4 that pretty much demolishes the 'facts' in Dan McShane's letter of last week. No letter of correction from McShane. Pratum lays out what Dan's actual votes were which corrects the erroneous voting record in Dan's letter. Editor Tim Johnson apparently went over this with Dan and offers a weak excuse for the errors. Of course the errors were the result of a conveniently faulty memory.

Wed, Sep 12

Rather than answer several emails individually, this post will clarify a couple things. First, why is yesterday's post by John Watts that I praised any different from his late July post that I criticized. Two big differences. Now he gives us a lot of information and suggests where this is going whereas in July he posted a short accusation. Second, we have over seven weeks till ballots are mailed whereas then we had only a few days. Now the people who are the subject of his post have time to deny, explain, and counter. In late July there was no time.

John suggests that several people have been working in concert and behind the scenes to make a land swap of immense acreage take place near Lake Whatcom. He further implies this may be rushed to make it happen in October to help Pete Kremen and Dan McShane in their campaigns. John is directly or by implication suggesting that others involved are David Syre, Lisa McShane, Mitch Friedman, Pete Kremen and several other state and local government agencies. If John's suggestions are in error then any or all of them can openly tell us that his post is wrong. So far I have only heard that I and/or John are conspiracy nuts and acting irresponsibly. No denials - even in email from one of the named persons.

Open public dialog is the method for letting the truth find its way to the open light for all to see. My goal has always been for open dialog. There is a lot of hiding of information in our area and the powers in Olympia have long had a practice of benign neglect towards Bellingham and the county. Thus it is very hard to get reliable information. The Herald has for decades gone along with governments to not report with information it has in return for easy inexpensive access to public officials for mundane reporting. The Herald brings in young reporters who learn the basics and then transfer to larger markets where they can make a decent living. The ones who stay do so because they like it here and take a lower career path - and learn to protect governments from any serious reporting.

The weekly papers and the Internet provide us with healthy public dialog. With John Watts getting going on his website we have two sites that are trying to seek out and post original information that is valuable to citizens in this county. Yes, there are other sites - and I link to them - but they are narrow in focus or haven't posted anything new in weeks or months. They start and they stop. I hope John Watts continues. And lets hope he posts more about this land "reconveyance" process that may or may not be in our best interests but that should be in the news so we can follow the process.

Tue, Sep 11

An astounding post by John Watts this afternoon on his HamsterTalk website. He has what amounts to a prediction of an October Surprise - implying strongly that it is intended to affect the election. He suggests a land swap is in the works on the Lake Whatcom watershed. It really is worth a read if you keep up with local politics. John has finally posted some new writing. And it is a doozy.

Mon, Sep 10

The letter by Dan McShane in the current issue of the Weekly has a few errors in it regarding how Dan voted and such. He wrote the letter to defend his actions on the county council regarding Sudden Valley. I have been researching with the help of others to learn exactly what the record is on the whole Sudden Valley process and learn how far his letter strayed from the facts.

Today I learned that Dan is planning a letter with corrections to run in this coming Wednesday's issue of the Weekly. As such, it is appropriate to wait and read what he has to say before commenting further. Apparently Dan realized on his own that he made mistakes. In reading the letter, the concept of his making simple mistakes seemed a bit of a stretch. Sudden Valley is not some minor issue. I will read the correction letter carefully. Fair warning. - John Servais

Oh - one more thing. Dan in his letter says he was "... the first environmentalist elected to the County Council in a decade." This is sad. He was first elected in 1999. Connie Hoag? She was elected in 1997, two years before Dan. Larry Harris in 1991 was an environmentalist. Ken Henderson in the 90s. And Barbara Brenner - who, while controversial, was first elected in 1991 and certainly cannot be dismissed with such a quick brush off. She has voted in a more environmental manner than McShane on some Lake Whatcom issues. That statement by Dan is unnecessary to his point and is unfair to others and betrays an unhealthy self centered attitude. Will he address this in his correction letter?

Sun, Sep 9

by John Servais
A sunny Sunday and an interesting time listening to a local politician show how to get on both sides of every issue and not ever be accountable for his own actions.

Terry Bornemann spent an hour or so responding to residents' concerns at a neighborhood picnic this afternoon. His fellow council members should know that he blamed them for half the problems and the mayor for the other half. With every response, he would explain how he alone or with one other council member had tried to do the right thing while the rest of the council would not go along. The most common reference was "them" and it referred to either the rest of the council, the mayor or city department heads.

Maybe I just don't follow city politics closely enough. My impression of Terry is very different. Terry has been Mayor Mark's bosom friend all these years and one of the reliable 'yes' persons for the mayor whether transferring budget funds, stalling on solutions to the problems we've had for his 8 years in office or prosecuting kids for free speech. He has been in lock step with other members of the council on most decisions for inaction. His idea of a solution is a study group. Of course none of the others were present so he could safely put the onus on 'them'. The residents seemed to believe it all.

I am voting for Bill Geyer. I urge all to carefully listen to Bill and his ideas. If you like them then lets give Bill a chance by electing him to the city council. Contrary, if you like Terry's ideas - and you find them new - then it is correct to wonder why you have not heard these from Terry before now. He has been on the council for eight years and has done little. His ideas seem to be just that - ideas with no action behind them.

Thur, Sep 6

by John Servais
Tim Johnson likes to play loose and cute with the facts. His Gristle in the current Weekly is a good example. The first four paragraphs describe the Whatcom County Boundary Review Board's recent decision to cancel the hearing on the proposed Chuckanut Mountain Park District (CMPD) with such terms as "balked" and "caution" and the descriptive phrase "Tossing the thorny CMPD from their caseload, ...". The thrust is to paint the Board as wimps who were afraid to hold a public hearing on the Park District proposal.

What happened is an attorney from the County Prosecutors office informed the Board and the audience that because other County departments had not done their job of analyzing the SEPA statement of the Park proposal, the Board was prohibited by law from holding the hearing. Period. The Board had no choice but to cancel the hearing.

The Board had been earlier improperly informed that it should hold the hearing. In truth, the County departments - under Pete Kremen - had dropped the ball and bungled this entire process. Probably the Planning department - but I say probably only because the County departments are confused and tossing this hot potato around. Tis a lack of leadership and taking responsibility by Pete Kremen that is to blame. Even now nothing is happening as the County hopes to toss the potato to some state agency.

Tim was not seen at the meeting. I was there. It is a disservice to the community to fault an appointed and unpaid board or commission which is doing its best. Tim took a cheap shot at the Board in his normal process of putting a cute and clever spin on government processes.

The CMPD proposal is languishing. The law is not clear what agency is required to analyze the SEPA part of the proposal. And state law is vague about how a 'lead agency' is decided upon. The law does allow the County to declare the Planning Department as the lead agency - but we will probably not see our do nothing county executive do that. Lets put the accountability - the balking - where it belongs - in the lap of Pete Kremen.

Mon, Sep 3

Have added a new link to a local liberal portal website - Mainstreampolitics. This is run from Whatcom County and has links to many blogs and selected online articles about the Northwest. The link is included with the Political blogs group in the right side column.

Sun, Sep 2, 2007

by John Servais
The Herald wants to know what it can do to make elections more "interesting". Boy, I thought I'd get three days off and then Scott Ayers writes this nonsense in today's paper. Scott really talks down to us readers and lectures us and complains that not enough of us voted. This is too rich.

Scott, you run the opinion pages and, as you have told us, you have nothing to do with news reporting. But you can walk across the room and talk with the news editors over there. Instead of asking us readers why we don't vote you might ask your news editors why they don't provide us voters with coverage of the candidates, the forums, the issues and the development of the campaigns. Maybe people don't vote because there is so little coverage of the election in our own daily newspaper. One way you can make election coverage more "interesting" is to have conprehensive election coverage.

Campaign news reports only started in the Herald several weeks after filing was over. Some candidates were 'covered' with a few questions in one or two articles. Some forums - including the packed house at the county courthouse for the last forum and the only one with all seven mayor candidates - were not covered at all by the Herald. No reporter attended. Not a word was printed. Hell, the Herald was even skimpy in telling voters about that forum. It seemed as if the Herald was afraid we readers could not handle a lot of campaign reporting.

In Sam Taylor, the Herald has a good, young and aggressive political reporter. I've watched him and read his stuff. He gets it and could do a better job of reporting than anyone else out there if allowed. But I know how the Herald operates and they probably feel that more political reporting will not get them more advertisements. And advertising revenue is the prime concern of the Herald publisher, not comprehensive election reporting. Scott Ayers knows this as well. And all the rest of us noted the lack of coverage. Every political activist in the county that I talked to this summer was disappointed in the lack of campaign coverage by the Herald.

The Herald probably will not release any numbers of how many people read their top rated election story that ranked 185th of their web site. I wonder how that compares with the hobby like effort on my part at this website. (this is strictly a personal free time thing) I got an average of about 200 visitors per day during August. But the statistic that astounds me is from one mayoral candidate website that got 867 referrals from NwCitizen during the same weeks they got 151 from the Herald website. A referral is tech talk for a person clicking a link on this page to go to another website. Hmmm Maybe I should accept advertising.

Scott, the Herald can make elections more "interesting" by reporting on the candidates and issues in a comprehensive manner. Starting this week. We would all be delighted and we could all vote more intelligently.

Fri, Aug 31

by John Servais
A morning comment or two on the election and then time to enjoy the long weekend. No pretension to any real insights. Just a bit on what most of us are noticing and reliable insiders - political junkies - have provided me.

More than one insider has pointed out how the Bellingham School Board contest drew more votes than the mayor's. What does this mean? Well, for one thing you should know that there is a large urban area outside the city boundary that votes for and pays taxes to the Bellingham School Board. But even with a larger voter base it is amazing that so much interest was on this usually below the radar and non paid position. Perhaps there are some school issues that are bothering people and that have not been noticed by our media. Emily, who won strongly, campaigned vigorously as an outsider and mother of school age kids. She wants to "improve" our local schools. The fall campaign between her and Bashaw should see real issues. I hope the political forums will make room for these two. The voters obviously take this seriously.

And on vote totals - Ham Hayes garnered more votes than Bob Ryan. This screams the question: where did all the conservative votes go? Lilliquist and Bjornson are both very liberal. Ryan was without question the most conservative of the prime five mayoral candidates. What happened? I think conservatives recognized that Ryan could not win and put their votes with Pike. And the conservatives did not see Hayes as viable and voted for Lilliquist.

Which brings up Keenan and Pike. Pike was judged not "viable" by the whole local liberal elite and they are just astounded that Pike beat Keenan. This was supposed to end up Keenan and either McShane, Fleetwood or Ryan. Their world is upside down for the moment. They have a dilemma in supporting either Pike or McShane - and I will explore that in a future post.

A persistent question is what now for the Keenans. While most insiders were very reluctant to predict the mayor's election, they are now very surprised that Don did not make it - and that he came in a very real third, over 800 votes behind Pike. Is there a local political future for either Joy or Don? She was on the city council at one time. They have been power brokers. It is hard to think they will not be back in some role within the next couple years.

Dave Pros lost in his bid for county council. Dave is all that the Democrats, progressives, liberals and moderates could want - and was a perfect replacement for Dan McShane. Ahh, but Lisa McShane picked Bob Kelly and the tribes promised big money and Lisa delivered on her organizations' endorsements. Dave was ignored by the Dems and local liberal elite as Kelly got the constituency that should have been Pros. Lisa was worried as Kelly did not obey her instructions on campaigning but he still easily won.

And, yes, most local insiders know all this. And, yes it is true. And, yes, I have decent info on this. And no, I have no intention of backing off providing you with the fun inside information on local politics. Maybe you might remember two years ago when, as publisher of the Whatcom Independent, I wrote a weekly series of articles called "Candidates, Campaigns & Confabs" which tried to give an inside look at local politics. I still get compliments from those who wanted to keep up with the action. The complaints I am getting this year about this website are all from political operatives who want me to post stuff favorable to their campaigns. And over 50% of the complaints are from one group. So, this will continue. And I appreciate the steady input of inside information from so many readers.

Lois Garlick is attracting supporters who have solid local political experience. Of course I am supporting her. A future post will tell the charming story of her filing for the county executive office.

Ken Mann is putting together a good campaign organization. Good for him. He is a very strong challenger to Sam Crawford. And, yes, I endorse him fully.

Finally, on the mayor's race, expect the Democratic Party to endorse McShane and Pike. John McGarrity, the head of endorsements, tried a move to give it to only McShane but that failed. The Dems endorsed four candidates in the primary and would have looked pretty dumb to withdraw it from Pike.

Well, one more thing. There are witch hunts for those providing me with information. If you have and you are asked if you talked to me or gave me information just answer with whatever you want. I will not be telling anyone about who is talking to me. Funny is the fact that some who blast me for reporting on one candidate then applaud me for reporting on another. The effort for secrecy is stronger this campaign than I have ever seen it. And this information is of value to citizens in deciding who to vote for. Enjoy the Labor Day weekend. The campaigns begin next week.

Wed, Aug 29

by John Servais
The attacks on my credibility continue via emails. So, tis time to spend some space on the accusations and the evidence I used in my posts. On Aug 23, I posted; "Well, negative campaigning was started by Dan McShane within minutes of the first primary results. Dan said on KGMI radio that both he and Dan Pike favor change - he because he has articulated it and Pike because he's from outside the city."

Here is what Lisa McShane wrote me: "If you're going to quote Dan you should quote him. You're spinning his quote in paraphrasing it. It's short. Be honest. Quote it in it's entirety."

And here is another from a person close to the McShanes: "You say the negative campaigning was started by Dan McShane. The question was about both Dan's, and McShane's answer was about both of them: Both favor change and both are new to city politics, You did not choose to play it that way. Shame on you! If it was KGMI that edited it that way, you should have verified a second source."

And there were more but these two will suffice. Basically I was accused of distorting what McShane said. Now, I invite you to reread that bold sentence again and compare it to the radio interview. Below is a podcast of the interview on KGMI radio by Tracy Ellis, their news reporter. KGMI posts their morning and noon news casts as podcasts on their website each day. You can go there in mid morning and listen to Brett Bonner do the 6 am news report. I received permission from KGMI to clip out the interview and post it here.

Now, gentle reader, did I miss something? If so, I'm ready to post more information so we all have the facts and we all know the truth. I think I got the statement right and my opinion followed from listening to McShane's statement. He started out his general campaign with a negative statement about his opponent. Dan Pike lives in Bellingham. More to the point, Dan Pike did articulate ideas for change during the primary campaign, as we all know. I think it was a cheap shot. But you can form your own opinion.

Mon, Aug 27

posted 3:30 pm
The election results for the two close races are safely decided. It will be Damon Gray to face Stan Snapp for the 4th Ward of Bellingham City Council. Gray has edged out Don Gischer by 30 votes and greater than a 1% margin. No recount. In the County Council District 1 primary, Chris Hatch has probably won over Dave Pros - by 19 votes and less than a 1/2% margin. This will probably get the mandatory recount but that should not change the results.

posted 12:30 pm
The Auditor numbers are fairly doing a dance since last Thursday. While there appear to be almost 500 more ballots to count, many have no signatures or were postmarked too late or have possibly invalid signatures. There appear to actually be 60 some ballots that will be counted and added to the total later today. We shall see after 3 pm.

Sun, Aug 26

by John Servais
New city of Bellingham website? (link disabled Mon morn) Sure looks like it. Check it out. I wouldn't want to lie.

-- Late Sun night. Does the city read this site? Bet your bibby they do. The new city site was taken down late Sunday evening. I'm leaving the link to nowhere up. But here is what it looked like earlier today. Added note even later: Gee, if I had not taken a screen dump of the city site, the city guys could call me a liar. So easy for government to cover up things. Toss, shred, lose, gag staff, delete. Still later note: contacted by city. Indeed they are working on a new site and I am respecting their need to work offline. Link is now disabled.

A comment or two on Friday's post. I've received many calls and emails of support - and none of criticism. I appreciate the support because that post was the most difficult in the 12 years of posting here. It was about me and I have tried to keep myself out of all this as much as possible. That may change. Interestingly, no elected person from the county council nor the county government has contacted me. Perhaps they feel that what Pete does is none of their business - or they have known about his abusive tendencies and don't care. Or, even worse, are protecting him. I intend to find out. This issue will not blow away on the three day memory.

The main reason I posted that was to hopefully stop Pete Kremen from abusing others. I'm a tough old fart and if he got to me then he could be devastating to others - especially young people and women. It is a mistake to think this was an isolated incident. Ask any professionals who deal with abusive personalities. Further, I have nothing to lose by any action of Pete's - but others do. County employees and those who do business with the county or are dependent on the goodwill of county officials have much to lose. Perhaps abuse like this has played a role in the recent resignations of many county staff.

Pete and Joe Bates accused me of being a liar. But they did not identify any lie - and that was the one question I kept asking them. The closest they came was my speculation that Joe was indulging in illegal political activity on behalf of Pete. Joe asked for ( dared me actually) space on this page to rebut and I said yes. The next day he changed his mind. That offer is still open - if he replies quickly.

I try to print the truth. And not lie. I challenge anyone to provide evidence to show lies on this website. This page is not a court of law - but there is evidence behind all that is posted here. Sometimes there is evidence that is 'off the record' and I cannot cite it. One example. A prominent local politician recently gave me information off the record. Later, that person accused me of lying when I alluded to that information in a legitimate manner - that is, without involving that politician. Now, I cannot use the fact that they gave me the info because I have to honor the off the record agreement. But they can publically call me a liar. How charming. The info was in the interest of the community to know.

Gentle reader, you should know that prominent sources are delighted to give me info on others but throw a fit when I post something critical of them. It is the nature of politics. And I accept that. But keep in mind that providing the news media with facts hurtful to political opponents is a routine practice in politics. And it is common for these same politicians to then say they consider the news media to have the facts wrong. They know better. This website has as its mission to provide information that we citizens need in order to participate intelligently in our own governance. I get that information from a lot of sources.

Back in the early 1990s, I was critical of the Port of Bellingham. The Port blew off $4.2 million on the KAP real estate fiasco. I had an off the record source on the Port staff. The Port commissioners - including Scott Walker - were trying to find and fire that source. They fired three people over two years time thinking they were feeding me information. None were. When the 3rd one was fired in early 1994 I quit my criticism of the Port. I was sick that the Port would act that way. Over the 20 some years that I have been commenting on our local governments, not one source has ever been revealed nor fired from any local government. And I am proud of that. Nor have I ever revealed a confidential political source.

Deciding to tell the truth is easy. Judging what is the truth is hard. Those people who live each day fudging facts and the truth for their own benefit think it would be easy to suddenly start being truthful. They have no idea. The hard part is figuring out what the hell is the truth - how do the facts lead to a statement that conveys the reality of something. And that is a challenge I enjoy. This website does not make up things. I do make mistakes or interpret information in a wrong way. But, if it is posted here then I have reason to think it is true.

Fri, Aug 24

by John Servais
He offered to fax the two page job description of the PR guy to me. I told him I had no fax but if he could leave a copy with his receptionist then I could stop by later in the day and get it. He said he would. And at 4:20 pm on Thursday, August 16, I entered the reception area and she said she would have the copy for me in a moment. Instead, he stepped out and said hi, offered his hand for a shake, and asked if I would step back to his office. I said I had to be at the County Auditor's office before they closed at 4:30 but could for a minute.

I followed him the few steps down the hall and into his office door and he motioned to a chair by the door at a round conference table. He sat down and so I did - expecting he had some questions. He said nothing. A couple seconds later Pete came through the door glaring at me and yelling "You're a liar. A liar. Your whole website is lies. It has been lies for years. All lies. You are nothing but a liar and everyone knows it." That's a paraphrase - very close to a quote. I said "Pete, you are on the record - do you realize that?" "I don't care. You are a liar and everyone knows it. You post lies and it is just outrageous."

About this time, Joe burst into the room past Pete and started yelling at me "You're a liar - you're a liar. I've known you for many years and you have been a liar all that time. And you are the worst liar in the county. You are marginalized, no one believes you and no one likes you and I don't know how you can continue to print your lies on your website". He said close to that or worse.

It was an ambush. I was sitting in a chair and they were standing, moving back and forth, pushing their faces at me and yelling at me. Yelling. Pete Kremen and Joe Bates. In Dewey Desler's office in the Executive suite of the Whatcom County Courthouse. I wanted out - and said I was leaving. Joe called me chicken. Pete said I was afraid to discuss the lies I post. I said I had no desire to take that abuse and besides I had told Dewey I had to get to the Auditor's office before they closed. More derisive words about my lack of being able to listen to the truth. So I said I would come back. I left.

At 4:34 pm I came back into the County Executive's office suite. Joe was leaning against the far wall - and said "I lost the bet". I had returned. The next 40 minutes are almost a fog - a surreal memory. I sat back down and they never sat down. The verbal abuse started up again. I felt like leaving but was fascinated that these two would be so arrogant as to think they could scream at someone, insult and berate so abusively and get away with it. It was like being called in by the Gestapo and given a complete chewing out and then told to leave and mind my own business and never step out of line again.

In reflection, I think they have done this to others and it has worked. They seemed to work off each other. They used the word 'liar' on me 40, 50 - maybe 100 times. I have no idea. They had printouts of my Northwest Citizen website and some other website pages they thought I was editing. I wasn't editing others but they called me a liar when I denied it. Joe said my web pages had the words "Independent News" at the bottom and that was a lie. I told him the words were not there and never had been. "Liar" came back. And it was yelled from three feet with an angry face directed at me.

I asked what the lies were. Joe read how I posted that he made "...a nice salary." He started ranting about this - how he took a pay cut to come to the county job from KVOS. He read a list of the things he has done on his new job - read from two pages he held - and yelled at me to not interrupt and to listen. I wanted to know the lies. He wanted to know why I had printed that he was working on Pete's campaign when there was no evidence. I pointed out his presence at forums and I had heard from others I trusted and that what I wrote was my opinion. I asked if he was helping on the campaign and he said no. He challenged me to allow him to submit a rebuttal and I said he could submit and I would probably post it but no promise as I don't sign blank checks. He said I would never print it - but I told him to send it to me and I probably would print it - if it was to rebut my opinion that he was working for Pete's campaign. He said he would. (The next day he declined to submit.)

The yelling and the calling me a liar continued by both of them. I really wanted to leave as it was really an abusive experience. But I stayed - I was not in physical danger and it was just too unreal. If you are being yelled at by the Gestapo you cannot leave and physical harm is a real threat. I was physically safe. These two guys were just two dysfunctional and gross thugs who were in power. They were exposing themselves to me for what they were - a couple of bullies. A couple of guys who thought they could browbeat me down and scare me into not posting any criticism of them again.

The idea of free speech being threatened is usually something we think of in relation to the Federal government. Gentle reader, it is also threatened by local government people. These guys tried to shut me up by scaring me - insulting me and making me feel like a chump. They were not angry for a couple minutes - it continued for the better part of an hour. And when I did get up to just walk out each of them stuck their hand forward for a hand shake. And I - like an idiot - shook them.

Dewey? He sat there quietly. Took some notes. My guess is he was there as the witness if I were to agree that my post was a lie. I felt that he had set up ambushes before. There are more subjects that were brought up and that I was told I was a liar about - and I will probably post some of them over the next few weeks.

This experience left me traumatized - and I enjoy healthy political give and take. These guys were out to humiliate me and demean me. They were dumb. I may sit there and take their abuse - but I am now posting up the truth - what they did. My guess is they have gotten away with this in the past. My guess is others have suffered this. And that it has worked. Perhaps county employees who could not afford to lose their jobs. Perhaps people who did work with the county who depended on Pete's goodwill for their work. Perhaps just citizens with some question of information that they did not want public.

Pete is not worthy of public office. I supported him when he first ran and won in 1995 - and was one of only about 10 people at his celebration that election night. I have worked on many campaigns for 30 years and have never seen a person run for office expecting to become corrupt. But after about 10 years in office I have seen most of them become corrupt - arrogant, abusing power, bending the law, getting land buy deals from developers, doing favors for their friends, and other corrupt practices. Pete has become an arrogant and gross bully. Joe Bates is his partner and they appeared to be co-dependent on each other.

By posting this I hope others who may have suffered will take heart that this sort of abusive activity can be exposed. By posting I hope others in official power will look carefully at Pete to see if he is abusing others. And, if so, act to stop it.

The next day I was still staggered. This was written about 30 hours after the abusive session, while it was fresh in my memory but when I'd recovered a bit. I will be posting more later of what they said. If they deny it then I'll let my integrity go up against theirs. I'm just a citizen who speaks out more than most others. It is my right as an American. These three guys tried to take that away from me. I will speak out even more from now on.

It was the August 16 post that they objected to. It was put up about noon that day and my request to the county was for more information on Joe Bates.

Thur, Aug 23

by John Servais
Well, negative campaigning was started by Dan McShane within minutes of the first primary results. Dan said on KGMI radio that both he and Dan Pike favor change - he because he has articulated it and Pike because he's from outside the city. So much for campaigning on the issues. So much for respecting your opponent. And an inside look at how his campaign manager, Lisa McShane, goes about winning campaigns. Spread the negative about the opponent. Fear, doubt and confusion.

Now, here is my position. Dan Pike and Dan McShane are both honorable and qualified persons and either of them will probably make a very good mayor. Each has the best interests of Bellingham as their guiding principle. One of them will be mayor. We are lucky in Bellingham this time around. We can hope for a spirited and informative campaign on their respective strengths and proposed solutions, and we can judge them as individuals. In my opinion, however, McShane is off to a bad start. Lets hope he quickly adjusts.

We have had a mayor - Mark - who was skilled at debasing those who disagreed with him. We want to leave that behind us. Tim Douglas has been a good caretaker for his year and we appreciate that from him. If Dan McShane is going to let Lisa run his campaign in a negative manner then this website will use a lot of space over the next two months exposing her tactics.

Dan Pike, in fact, lives in Bellingham. After years of working on our waterfront and earning a degree from Western, he went to Harvard and got a Master in Public Administration degree. He could not return to Bellingham because we do such a lousy job of creating a positive business climate that he could find no job. So he lived and worked in the Seattle Tacoma area until he found a job in Skagit County and he moved to Sudden Valley. And he now lives in the Lettered Streets area of Bellingham. He knows and loves Bellingham. He brings a knowledge of how the world works and how normal cities get things done. We in Bellingham and Whatcom County could benefit greatly from his experience.

Dan Pike is an experienced and skilled administrator. We need that in our mayor. We need a mayor who can work positively with the department directors. We need a mayor who is used to solving problems. Dan Pike has a degree from Western - Huxley actually - in planning. He has spent the past few years solving transportation problems in Puget Sound for various government agencies. Hmmm - you know, we could use his skills in city hall. Solve problems so we can go on to new challenges.

Dan McShane has much to offer - and he should speak to that. We citizens of Bellingham are smart enough to make our own comparisons. And Lisa now knows I will be watching for the rumors - such as the false one from Tuesday night. Oh, by the way - both Dans first came to Bellingham in 1982 from Eastern Washington to attend Western. Yes, both. McShane and Pike.

Wed, Aug 22

6 pm post
Second computer vote count has added 3,743 ballots, with maybe still about 6,000 ballots left to count. By Friday at 5 pm we should have the real final results. Today's tally firmed up Dan Pike to be in the general election - putting more distance between him and Don Keenan. Dave Pros is virtually tied with Chris Hatch for County Council and this race may require a recount before we are done. And Don Gischer and Damon Gray remain almost tied for the city council seat - and this also may require a recount.

by John Servais - 8:45am
Yes, Dan Pike's apparent selection for the general election is an upset of the local political insiders. Pike hit a responsive chord with citizens of Bellingham with his no nonsense practical approach to the issues we have been dealing with for years or even a decade. We believed he would actually work to solve these issues if elected our mayor.

Dan Pike being interviewed by Tracy Ellis of KGMI at the courthouse last night

Dan Pike reached out to all of us with his clear thinking and he did not have to pretend the problems are not real - as some of the others did. Don Keenan in particular shares much responsibility for our festering issues because of his many years in city hall when these issues went nowhere. For the record, clean drinking water, neighborhood planning, pollution on our waterfront, closed door to citizen initiatives, growth planning confusion and almost complete lack of traffic planning. There are more - deceit on levy plans, hiring unqualified department heads and bullying the council. Yes, I could go on but that suffices.

Dan McShane also won because he does not share in the creation of the city problems and because his campaign manager, Lisa, is the best campaign guru in the county. Her fingerprints are also all over Bob Kelly's success in the county council election for Dan's seat. She has not admitted to this, but it is well known by most local political insiders. Dan had the backing of the younger local environmental interests while Keenan had the backing of the older established interests - the quasi liberal elite that has controlled city hall for over 20 years - back at least to the election of Tim Douglas as mayor in 1983.

There is still the chance that Keenan's votes will nudge out Dan Pike - but this should not happen as the late returns tend to be more conservative and Pike is more moderate than Keenan.

Lets hope Dave Pros vote total can overcome the modest lead by Chris Hatch. Dave is by far the most qualified for council and will be an independent voice there. Local environmental and liberal groups passed over Dave, who would represent all they desire, in favor of a knee jerk endorsement for any minority candidate and because Lisa influences or controls so many enviro endorsements.

Quickly, it is fantastic to see Stan Snapp do so well. Here is a real guy with decades of civic service and a practical knowledge of our town. It will be Lilliquist's turn to lose to Bjornson this year. Expect a lot of conservatives to hold their noses and vote for her. I will reluctantly vote for him as she is sooo useless on the council and I feel we can hopefully elect a decent person in two years. No kind words for either of them.

There are 6,000 or more votes to count. New totals will be available about 4 pm or later for the next few days - with reliable results posted Thursday or Friday. There is a link to the totals in the top of the right column.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007 - primary election day

You can check the election results from the link in the right column. There may be only one computer run this evening if not too many ballots are received today. Monday's ballot returns showed no sign of a surge with about the normal 800 ballots returned - the same as each day last week. Tonight will tell all.

Below is page top Aug 1-21
Voting recommendations from NwCitizen. I look for integrity and competence. Not promises or what they did to supposedly earn our vote. Managing our governments is a serious business. Sloppy work results in wasted tax dollars, useless projects and even death. The bridge failure in Minneapolis is a result of sloppy government. We are not immune. Lets vote for the best. - JS

Mayor - Dan Pike. He will give us open, honest, competent leadership.
City Council At Large - Ham Hayes. He will start oversight of departments.
City Council 4th Ward - Stan Snapp. A quality guy who knows our city.
Bellingham School Board - Emily. She will bring common sense to the board.
County Council 1st District - Dave Pros. He has solutions for our planning.

Below is right side column from Jun thru August 21 - most links will disappear over time. Posted for archival reasons only.

Auditor's voter's guide
Auditor Election home
Cascadia Weekly - candidates.
Bellingham Herald election page - with candidate interviews.
Whatcom Independent candidates

Red = primary election Aug 1-21

Mayor - Tim not running
Dan McShane - on county council
Dan Pike - experienced admin
Seth Fleetwood - county council
Bob Ryan - city council
Don Keenan - former city admin
Gil Bernal - Seattle police
Doug Karlberg - iniative is issue
Council - could see 5 new!
1st Ward - Ryan not running
Jack Weiss - walks in
3rd Ward - Watts not running
Barry Buchanan - politically savvy
Larry Farr -
4th Ward - Gischer appointed
Don Gischer - served in 80s
Stan Snapp - former fire chief
Damon Gray - Alabama Hill
5th Ward - Terry in 8 yrs
Terry Bornemann - incumbent
Bill Geyer - former city planner
At Large - Louise in 20 yrs
Louise Bjornson - does her best
Ham Hayes - business savvy
Michael Lilliquist - fr Fairhaven
School District Pos. #3
Kelly Bashaw
Emily Barnett Highleyman
Thomas Stanley

Whatcom County
Executive - Pete seeks 4th term
Pete Kremen - smooth operator
Lois Garlick - the gal has issues
Council - at least 1 new
1st Dist. - McShane not running
Bob Kelly - Nooksack activist
Chris Hatch - from Acme
David Evans - engineer
Dave Pros - county planner
2nd Dist. - Sam seeks 3rd term
Sam Crawford - incumbent
Ken Mann - chairs plan comm.
3rd Dist. - Barb Brenner
Treasurer - Corey not running
Steve Oliver - is assnt Trea.
Joe Elenbaas - not a chance
Auditor - Shirley Forslof
Assessor - Keith Willnauer
Sheriff - Bill Elfo

Port of Whatcom
Jim Jorgensen - in for 2nd term

Jerry Landcastle - for re-election
Gary Jensen - challenger
Ken Downey - challenger

Fri, Aug 17

Ballot returns are very low - and unless the last three days surge is very large, we will have less than 30% voter turnout. As of the end of today, Friday, and after 15 days of returns with only 5 real days left, there is only an 18.7% return. The rate this week is less than 1,000 ballots per day - with 14,352 ballots returned out of 76,756 ballots mailed out August 1. Shirley Forslof confidently predicted a 40% return last week after a week of returns. I just don't see it. You can do the math. There is always a surge ( almost a dirty word now) in the first few days and another surge in the last three days. We shall see. It may be that those who doorbelled and targeted voters with get out the vote efforts will prevail in this primary if the turnout is low - below 30%. - John Servais

Thur, Aug 16

The candidate, Lois Garlick, speaking to a room full of close supporters at the Roeder Home yesterday afternoon.

Lois is a single person, with much experience and ability, who has chosen to run against the powerful and entrenched and secretive county executive, Pete Kremen. She decided on her own to file and challenge the teflon don. The politically powerful in our county have smilingly dismissed her candidacy. Moments after she filed, Pete's PR guy Joe Bates - on the county payroll but attending political forums with Pete - told Lois he had only one question for her. How old was she. Joe apparently does not follow the common rule of not asking a woman over forty her age. Lois looked him in the eye and said she was not going to answer him. Of course her age is public knowledge and Lois was only putting Joe back in his place. But Joe showed how little class he has. And Lois had her first experience with how the establishment will try and dismiss her. I invite you to check out the Elect Lois Garlick website.

Lois has another campaign event this Saturday, Aug 18, a bit to the east of Bellingham at the home of Nicole Armstrong, 2399 Mt. Baker Highway - next to the Circle F Machine Works - from 10 am to 3 pm. All are welcome. I encourage all who have concerns about how the county departments are running to come and meet Lois. Learn what she intends to change if elected.

Joe Bates? His official title is "Information Communications Coordinator for Whatcom County". He gets a nice salary. The position was created in April by Pete's executive department as Joe was let off by KVOS. (He supposedly competed for the position. And I'll sell you a bridge.) The county council did not approve the new position - as is required by law. Joe reports to Dewey who is Pete's assistant. Supposedly Joe is going to the political forums with Pete just on his own. And by the way, the above answers were not easy to get from the county. It took several phone calls and being told more than once that they had to check if this information could be released to the public. I got it because of persistence but most citizens would not get the answers to these basic questions. This is public information that should be readily available to anyone. - John Servais

Wed, Aug 15

Today, 4:30 to 7 pm - Lois Garlick's kickoff reception. Don't miss it. Lets hope she gets warm approval from many political activists for having the gumption to file for County Executive. Lois has almost 50 years of civic service behind her in our community. She and her late husband George were mainstays of our environmental community long before it became fashionable and politically correct. Hope to see you there. At the Roeder Home. See Monday post.

Mon, Aug 13

Lois Garlick has her campaign kick-off reception this Wednesday afternoon at the Roeder Home. All are invited. All, including other candidates, supporters, political insiders - whether you intend to contribute or just enjoy the company of others. From 4:30 till 7 pm. Carl Weimer of the County Council will introduce Lois and she will speak, telling us of her priorities for her campaign for Whatcom County Executive. One area will be to start enforcement of county building and environmental laws - where Pete Kremen is so lax with over 800 unenforced violations in the county now.

NwCitizen is strongly backing Lois - and for you practical minded ones who think she has no chance, how about a vote for Lois as a protest against Pete. Send Pete a message that we want him to do a much better job during his last term. Who knows, Lois could win on the protest vote. If she does, she will provide us with integrity and a respect for our laws - now missing from the executive office. She will no doubt also hire a solid administrative assistant - which is also something that Pete fully depends on. She has more administrative experience than he had when we elected him 12 years ago.

Roeder Home - 2600 Sunset Drive - near Broadway
Wednesday, Aug 15 - 4:30 to 7 pm.
Speakers, good company and refreshments.

As a note, Pete did decently for his first few years. But, like so many who become comfortable in office, he now thinks he is bigger than the office. His 8 acres of land on Squalicum mountain has many questions attached to it. He has allowed absolute chaos to reign in the departments under him, planning especially. He has ignored the enforcement of many laws. It really is a shame that none of the many candidates for mayor chose to run against Pete.

Trivia. Word is the ballot returns are low and Auditor Shirley Forslof's prediction over the weekend of 40% voting may be wishful thinking. Under 30% would be an indicator that the concept of August primary elections is as stupid as this blog has been saying. Also, I've not heard any confident predictions of which two of the five leading mayoral candidates will end up in the general election. - John Servais

Wed, Aug 8

by John Servais
Politically savvy folks from the left, center and right are endorsing Dan Pike for mayor. Imagine the Bellingham Herald, Tim Johnson of the Cascadia Weekly and myself of NwCitizen all agreeing on Pike out of seven candidates.

Aug 9 clarification: The Weekly gave strong arrows up for three candidates and the longest was for Dan McShane, with Seth and Dan Pike sharing slightly shorter up arrows. Thus, their strongest endorsement was for McShane.

(The Whatcom Independent does not give endorsements as a matter of policy.) Below is an endorsement photo taken yesterday on the steps of City Hall with Dan in the middle surrounded by supporters with different perspectives. Activists, community leaders and even former mayoral candidates - as we get to know Dan we readily endorse him.

From left: front, Taimi Gorman, Joanne Peterson, Dan Pike, Marian Beddill, Brett Bonner, Mike Marker; back, John Servais, Vinnie O’Connor, Bill Gorman, Bob Marshall and Stephen Trinkaus. photo by Alan Heugh

Many who have been involved in trying to improve our government locally recognize in Dan the qualities we seek in a mayor. Intelligence, honesty, administrative skill, and a proven competence in making government work to solve problems. We recognize that we have the chance now to elect a really good mayor. One that is fair to all and brings openness to City Hall. His only agenda is good government for our city.

I urge you in voting to give Dan Pike your vote in this primary election. Lets get him into the general election with one of the other better known candidates and make our final choice for mayor in November. It would be a shame if Dan was not one of the two we had for consideration in the general election. Lets each of us do all we can to get him into the general. Vote for him.

Friday, Aug 3

by John Servais
To make today's post more fun, read the following four paragraphs before clicking the link at the end.

Promises, promises. Or how about 'the more things change the more they stay the same'. As we make our choices for voting in this primary election, I've a reminder for all of us to be careful of the promises by candidates. Promises are cheap and easily forgotten once a candidate is elected. Most candidates spend time with their campaign group thinking up promises and how to word them and which ones might get the most votes. Promises are not something deeply imbedded in candidates. They are just tools for getting elected.

Instead, we might focus on integrity and a candidate's past performance in whatever job they had. After decades of focused political observations, I am convinced that integrity and competence are the two most important qualities we should look for in our elected officials. Experience in city hall is not viable preparation for being mayor. It is only indicative of a pumping heart and being a cog in an organization. Experience in private practice or on some other government agency - county, for instance - provides as much or more relevant experience for the job of mayor. Or representative to a council.

While the Minneapolis bridge collapse is an extreme example of incompetence by elected officials, it does illustrate that we people suffer when governments ignore real problems. We have real problems locally. Drinking water quality, mercury contamination in our waterfront, toxic wells in our county, inadequate waste water treatment facilities, unsafe crosswalks throughout our city, etc. The list goes on. We need competent elected officials to make wise decisions for our public facilities.

Now the evidence. A competent fellow with little integrity was elected a few years ago to a prominent office. I was all for him. In fact, I hosted his website right here on NwCitizen - the first political website in Bellingham or Whatcom County history. That site is still in place. Check out the 'Stands on Issues' - and note how many years ago those were made and how many were not fulfilled.

First candidate website in local politics. The year was 1995.

Lets look to integrity and competence in our choices. Government is serious business and needs the best people running it. We cannot afford to simply elect those who collect the most money from wealthy friends or who profess a love for our city or county. We all love this place. We need the best in our elected offices.

Wednesday, Aug 1, 2007

by John Servais
The Whatcom Independent forum last night was a success - a very enjoyable and meaningful event for all - candidates, live audience and radio listeners. For the first and probably only time, all seven mayoral candidates were together. The photo below shows the packed county council chamber and the seven. The format allowed each candidate a full five minutes to do with as they wanted and the candidates loved it. Some took questions from the audience and some used it to fully explain some important aspect of their agendas for the city. The forum was cosponsored with the League of Women Voters and KGMI radio. Brett Bonner was a superb moderator.

The courthouse council chamber was packed for the candidate forum last night. Above are the seven mayoral candidates with moderator Brett Bonner on the right.

The three county council candidates in the 1st District primary are all well qualified and each would make a good representative. For voting guidance, Bob Kelly brings the perspective as a Nooksack Indian and wants to protect our urban areas. Dave Pros has long experience on the county planning commission and has a strong knowledge of all the issues. Chris Hatch is a 5th generation county resident and comes from this perspective. Dave Evans was again a no-show.

Of the three, I personally favor Dave Pros and hope he makes it into the general election. With him I think we have a capable representative who will be effective in going up against the bureaucracy. Dave really wants to represent us - residents and home owners - rather than any other interests. And he will know how to do it because of his experience on the county planning commission.

Mayor. The big race. We have an unprecedented choice in our city history. Five candidates all have good chances of being in the final two for mayor in the general election. Doug Karlberg is running so he can express some of the very real frustrations we citizens have had with our city hall - and he does an excellent job of it. Gil Bernal is running - well, he says he wants to do whatever we want him to do. Both are fine fellows but are not serious contenders.

Mayor candidates, from left: Bob Ryan, Gil Bernal, Dan Pike, Don Keenan, Seth Fleetwood, Doug Karlberg and Dan McShane. Moderator Brett Bonner of KGMI on far right. The two women are sign language communicators. This is only time all 7 candidates were together.

Of the remaining five, let us all hope that Dan Pike will make it into the general election. Dan is outstanding in his qualifications, knowledge and experience managing governments. His suggestions for solving our dozen of obvious problems show common sense. I will be voting for Dan Pike on the primary. I hope either Seth Fleetwood or Dan McShane also make it to the general election. Each has served well on the county council. If either does go on to be elected mayor, they will give us an honest administration.

Any one of these three will provide us with an open city hall, honest dealings with us citizens and a genuine working relationship with the city council - all missing from city hall these past 12 years. Most importantly, any of them will bring fresh ideas and energy to our city problems - water quality, waterfront costs and cleanup, traffic and transportation messes, neighborhood frustrations with planning and sanity with the growth issues.

Which brings us to Bob Ryan and Don Keenan. Each has to share in the lack of progress by city hall these past years. Bob has been a key member of the council and has shown little desire to speak out on issues. He says he likes to work quietly - but this has made him an accessory to the do nothing councils. Don Keenan worked in partnership with mayor Mark for many years. If you liked Mark then you like Don. To me, he is part of the problem. Tis interesting to listen to these two give suggestions on what we should do in the future when they have not provided these suggestions in the past. Let us hope these two go away.

Each of the mayor candidates answered the one question from the audience - whether and how the waterfront development should go forward or not. Only Dan Pike spoke to doing the cleanup correctly before we develop it. The others either ignored this most important and expensive part of reclaiming the area or gave passing comment to it. Time after time, Dan Pike showed a candid appraisal of our challenges and a full understanding of the facts and options.

Doug Karlberg spoke more for all of us citizens than as a candidate. He had a good grasp the issues and spoke passionately for genuine citizen involvement with our future. I hope we see more of him in the future.

The At Large city council seat. I encouraged Ham Hayes to run and will be voting for him. His proposal that our council needs to bring oversight to the city departments is long overdue. Currently the council does not have much of an idea what happens after they pass the budget in November. The departments shift millions of dollars to different projects with virtually no council oversight. This practice makes the council almost irrelevant. Louise Bjornson has twenty years on the council and it is time for her to be politely shown the door. Michael Lilliquist was one of the organizers in the Fairhaven neighborhood and is a one issue candidate. He showed an arrogance last night that many of us have seen from him at southside meetings. He is a hot head who is trying to show a cool head during the campaign and will make a poor representative if elected. Better than Louise, yes, but not what we want.

The Bellingham 4th Ward primary will only be voted on by the residents in that ward. Damon Gray was unable to make the forum last night. Most of us do not live there but we will all vote on their two choices. Both Stan Snapp and Damon Gray will bring fresh energy and ideas to the council. Hopefully we will get our choice between those two. Don Gischer has no new ideas and his time has passed. A fine fellow but we need new energy and new ideas on the council. And independence from the administration.

Stan Snapp made a good point last night. When he was a fire department chief, he participated in presenting the annual budget to the council and the council would not take the time to understand or even allow a decent presentation of the fire department budget. The council just wanted a short, simple presentation. This is what Stan Snapp wants to change - as does Ham Hayes. Lets hope we have a choice between Stan Snapp and Damon Gray.

And finally, the Bellingham School Board. This was not included in last night's forum, but needs addressing. Emily Barnett Highleyman brings to the election a desire to represent the teachers and parents and make the school administration more accountable. She is well qualified and will bring fresh ideas to this board. If you have met her then you know what I'm talking about. Unfortunately the forums did not provide these three candidates with time to speak to us and we don't know much about the other two. However, I do hope Emily makes it into the general election - and this website will pay more attention to this important elected office in the general election.

Ballots arrive tomorrow. We can always hope that we will elect people who will try and actually represent our best interests. Tis a good time for real change in our city government. Please, lets have the courage to give fresh faces a chance to take us forward into the next few years. Maybe they will actually do something about the 10 year old problems.

Monday, July 30

by John Servais
We will probably learn a lot more about the candidates at Tuesday evening's forum at the County Courthouse. We have watched candidate positions and promises evolve over the forums so far as the candidates respond to their opponents. Tomorrow they each get 5 minutes to control and use as they want - to ask questions of one or more of their opponents, to just speak or to take questions from the audience. Five minutes to use as they wish. What every candidate wants.

We need to see how candidates think and speak and respond in a live situation with the other candidates - side by side. We never get our perfect candidate. Elections are a process of making choices and often we don't very much like any of our choices. Sometimes we are delighted to learn about someone who we really want to serve us as an elected representative or administrator. Live forums allow us to judge the candidates as persons.

Candidates will reveal a lot about themselves during these five minutes. Will they ask unfair or trap questions? We will notice and judge. If asked a tough question by an opponent will they be evasive? We will observe and judge. The candidate controlling the time can cut off the evasive answer and state that the question is not being answered. The candidate with the 5 minutes totally controls those minutes as the MC. Think about it. A candidate may spend all 5 minutes giving a speech. Each can do as they wish - speaking, asking, interrupting - and we can get an insight into each candidate's internal makeup. Tis a fitting format for helping us choose.

Tis too bad the Herald will make their mayoral recommendation before this forum takes place. For the rest of us, this forum will be valuable. And having only primary candidates means we don't waste our time on races we won't vote on for three months. This is a fitting final forum for this primary election.

Tuesday, July 31 - 6:30 pm start - County Courthouse in council chamber - the Whatcom Independent forum for all city and county primary candidates - live on KGMI, 790 AM. Brett Bonner is the MC. The League of Women Voters is co-sponsoring this with the Indy. We can expect this forum to be well run and the format to be very good.

Saturday, July 28

An apology from John Watts for the political smear he posted on his new blog. However, in his apology, he spends a sentence trying to make his smear stick - and fails as he gets his one fact wrong. He apparently got some complaints and they are what moved him to apologize.

Friday, July 27

9:30 pm
Don Keenan has responded. He sent an excerpt from an email he sent early in July to those supporting his candidacy, including John Watts.

" ... I hope you will join in my commitment to a positive campaign. I've worked on many campaigns and I've never seen personal attacks win. Voters want candidates to stick to issues and that's what I plan to do. Believe me, it takes discipline not to respond, but in the end nobody benefits from participating in negative exchanges. I have a long record of public service and a positive vision for the future of Bellingham. I am proud of that service and desire to continue to be of service to the people of our community."

He further wrote that Watts actions were "clearly not" on behalf of his campaign. Obviously he is saying his campaign has nothing to do with John Watt's actions.

I've not heard from John Watts today and he has not made any changes nor new posts to his new blog.

9:45 am - by John Servais
Shame on John Watts. He is smearing the McShane campaign with unsupported charges. On Wed night he posted his smear on his new blog and promised substance on Thursday. When it did not appear, I wrote him and he assured me he was "working on it now". Tis Friday morn, nothing further is posted, and I will not let this irresponsible act continue without comment.

Oh he posted the smear as if it were just a question to be answered yes or no at a later time. To post a damaging statement about others without accompanying evidence is a smear. At best it is very sloppy. At worst it is intended to encourage a rumor. How about: "Is so and so not faithful to their spouse? Anything to this buzz? We will look into this and tell you the truth or false nature of this in a few days." That is not what Watts posted but is an example of this type of smear.

Watts is doing what is considered the worst about blogging - posting cheap unsubstantiated personal attacks on the Internet that are intended to damage others. I will not blacken my page with his absurd charge but will note the irony of the next paragraph on his page where he cites Kipling about his friends being the facts. And you can read it for yourself - until he takes it down in embarrassment.

Watts is part of the Keenan campaign group. If they have nothing to do with this smear then let them denounce it and distance themselves from John Watts. If they do not - and do it quickly and with strong words - then they will share in this.

Personally I do not know the facts first hand. And I'm probably voting for another candidate than either of them. But as a connected long time political junkie, the smear to me is totally false and I have made an effort to learn the facts. I could dismantle it categorically - piece by piece. Its posting will probably cause Dan McShane to lose support from his environmental supporters. McShane is considered the most serious threat to Keenan by many of us. This smear is perfectly timed in the election cycle and only a savvy and experienced campaign manager would know that. A legitimate question is: are others involved with Watts in this? And if so, who are they? If Watts has second thoughts about all this then he should come clean with the facts and who else may be involved.

This is a sad ending to John's 9 years of public service. He may know a lot about city council business but he obviously knows little about how dangerous it is to post rumors about others on the Internet. Shame on him. If he posts a retraction and apology then I will note that and link to his post.

Thursday, July 26

The 43rd annual Bill Mize Forum took place last night at the Rome Grange, a few miles east of Bellingham on the Mt. Baker highway. This gathering of political candidates, their supporters and all the local political junkies is a classic bit of Americana with socializing before and after as part of the event.

Candidate Joe Elenbaas fields a question from a citizen at the microphone.

27 candidates showed up, spoke and answered questions. KGMI radio broadcast it live and the organizers had the candidates hopping and kept to the schedule. Even the sheriff was cut off in mid sentence when his time expired. It takes a brave timer to cut off the sheriff in mid sentence. Bill Elfo just smiled, stopped talking and accepted the polite applause to his 4 minutes of time. He is running unopposed.

Bill Mize started the forum in an attempt to bring citizen of city and the county together for a common evening of political activity. It has worked. Bill also wanted to bring citizens and candidates into closer contact and so at this forum no committee filters or censures the questions. Citizens line up at the microphone and ask the one candidate at the podium their question - in a loosely enforced 10 seconds. And the candidate has 30 seconds to answer. No real time for nonsense or evasiveness. It keeps an audience alert for the two hours. And it provides us all with a valuable opportunity to see into the candidates personalities and thinking processes.

Some candidates showed their stuff well. Damon Gray was a pleasant surprise. I knew nothing of him and he was quite solid in his speaking. Dave Pros showed himself to be willing to take a stand on several issues on planning. He showed solid knowledge of county planning when answering questions. Ham Hayes spoke very well on how he thinks the city council needs to provide more oversight of departments. And Dan Pike provided the best and clearest statements of any of the mayoral candidates. All from my viewpoint, of course.

There is one more forum - next Tuesday evening. The county council chamber is large and air conditioned. The format should be a good one. Lets hope it is well attended. It will be broadcast live on KGMI radio and Brett Bonner will be the MC. And attendees can form their own opinions of who they like and will vote for.

A thanks to the crew that put on the Bill Mize forum, Russ Weston, John Wilson and Larry West. There were many more who helped pay for the KGMI air time, and the ladies who provided the fine treats after the speaking and the others who helped set up and take down. A fun evening was had by all. - John Servais

Wed, July 25

by John Servais
A leading primary election candidate has reminded me of two facts regarding yesterday's post about the unknown early voting process. 1.) Others who could have benefited from early voting in June are fisher folks who have gone north to Alaska. This includes those who go even earlier but take a break to home in July before heading back up till October. Plus students registered here but traveling on summer vacation. 2.) If any primary race has a narrow win margin - like less than 10 or 20 votes - then this is an election that could have been decided differently with those missing votes.

I think it is very reasonable to think that fishermen may favor one or two specific candidates for some offices. And students also may have been inclined to give a majority to one or more candidates who may miss by a small number. If there are any close third place finishes then our Auditor should be held accountable for not informing voters of the early voting process. We shall see.

By the way - if you will be traveling this fall from mid October to early November then you can probably vote before you leave - or take the ballot with you for mailing from your distant location later. You can do this starting August 8. Ask at the Auditor's office for particulars. They have not posted this information on their election web page nor provided me with specifics despite my repeated requests. For some reason they seem to not want this information out.

Tue, July 24

by John Servais
Did you know that you could vote today - or tomorrow? Or last week? This could be very nice to know if you are planning a vacation during the first three weeks of August and will not be home to receive and mail your ballot for the primary election. Tis simple. Just go to the Auditor's office and ask for the ballot over the counter, fill it out and turn it in. They will want some sort of statement from you about your being gone during the three weeks.

Shirley Forslof, our Auditor, has nothing about this on her web site. On asking her about it via email these past few days she has been reluctant to give a straight answer and declines to comment. Yet it is true - you can vote up to three months before the election if you are going to be traveling during the voting period.

This idiotic summer election requires voters to have all the help possible. This information should have been posted prominently months ago. Indeed, our election process has become almost dysfunctional. An example is the Auditor website saying the election is on August 21 but Shirley now joining others in saying we should vote at the latest by August 20. So - if you know someone who is leaving on a good trip, let them know. The Auditor sure is not.

Fri, July 20

by John Servais
The Southside Forum last night had a packed house attendance - showing a strong voter interest despite the mid summer timing of the election and the lack of media coverage. The Herald could not bring itself to list the time and place in yesterday's paper, only referring to "various neighborhood forums".

From left: Seth Fleetwood, Dan McShane, Dan Pike and Bob Ryan and the full house.

Mayoral candidates:
To this listener, combining the two nights of forums, a pattern emerged. The incumbents respond to critical questions in a reactionary manner, down playing problems and citing all the progress made till now. This group includes Don Keenan who was an integral team player with mayor Mark for years and Bob Ryan who has been on the city council for years. All of us have a viable next mayor in any of the three young challengers - Dan McShane, Seth Fleetwood and Dan Pike. All three provided new ideas in sharp contrast to rehashes of old talking points from Keenan and Ryan.

An example. For years, South Hill neighborhood residents have been trying to get the city to enact a view protection ordinance. Sheri Ward led the effort on this before she became involved in the Whatcom Independent weekly paper. City Hall - with Ryan and Keenan on the team - could not have cared less. Last night Ryan, in response to a question about new tall buildings on the South Hill blocking views, said that despite no current view ordinances, "... no one would ever let that happen." Guess Mr. Ryan does not know that it has been happening all during his years on the council. This was typical of the out of touch with reality responses from Keenan and Ryan.

Over the next couple weeks we can try and learn more about the three viable candidates. Let us hope any two of them make it into the General Election. The Bill Mize forum will give very little time to each of them but the Whatcom Independent forum on July 31 should give plenty of time and opportunity for us to compare these three excellent candidates.

City Council:
Same conclusion on the At Large council race. Ham Hayes and Michael Lilliquist had fresh ideas and Louise Bjornson could only read her usual list of past accomplishments - and most of them council decisions which she did not always play much of a role in. She flubbed badly on the questions from the audience, stopping short on one answer by saying her time was up - while she still had plenty left. Ham and Michael both knew the problems that they were asked about and had thoughtful answers. We need them both in the general election so we can put them through a campaign and make our choice and get fresh thinking on the council.

An example. They were asked about the lack of budget oversight by the council as evidenced by up to $47 million not being spent on projects the council budgeted that departments later used on other projects. Louise had not a clue this was happening and said she thought that was for the reserve funds. Both Ham and Michael had studied this issue and gave similar answers, noting this has been occurring these past few years and the council has not dealt with it.

5th Ward candidates Bill Geyer and Terry Bornemann also answered questions although they are not in the primary. Again, challenger Geyer showed a better grasp of the questions the audience asked and provided fresh thinking. On that same budget question, Terry expressed bafflement and said he "... did not know..." that much was not being spent as budgeted each November. Bill said the unspent funds meant the departments were setting the priorities instead of the council. He said the council needed to carefully manage the budget as it evolved during the year. We are three months away from voting for one of these two and it should be an interesting campaign.

I hear that the local liberals are abandoning Louise but sticking by Terry. While the Rainbows and Dems may name her in their endorsements, as individuals many have little interest in helping her. Same for some of those prominent liberals who have endorsed her in previous elections - they are missing this time. Louise has voted too erratically too often and her previous supporters have finally figured that out.

There is a primary election we - including myself - have overlooked. It is the Bellingham School District Position 3. It has three candidates and will be voted on by all of us in Bellingham - plus by many in our rural areas near the city limits. Last night I met one of the candidates and was so informed. The three are now listed in the right column and I will link to their web sites as they go up.

So - these comments do not pretend to be "coverage" of the forums. These are my observations - and it is sad that the Herald was not even at last night's forum. Nothing in today's Herald about last night. I wrote more than the Herald on Wednesday's forum and some told me last night that I did a better job. Well, the Herald reporters are so new to town they do not know the players nor how they became players nor what they represent. Many of you reading this have years or decades of experience in our local politics and read this to compare your thinking with what I write - and because this seems to be the only commentary available online. I hope for the general election to have some additional knowledgeable writers posting here with diverse but honest opinions.

We all thank Pam Went who was the primary organizer of last night's forum at the old Firehouse Performing Arts Center on Harris Avenue. It was sponsored by the Coalition of Southside Neighborhoods.

Thur, July 19

by John Servais
Some thoughts after the League of Women Voters Candidate Forum last night at the Municipal Court building at Girard and C Street. 7 to 8 pm, all 11 city council candidates. 8 to 9 pm, the 5 to 7 mayoral candidates. This is the first real forum of this campaign season. It was video taped by the city and will run on BTV10 today at 12 noon, Friday at 9 pm and next Monday at 6 pm. The forum had an overflow audience of 200 or more citizens. Tanya Baumgarten was excellent as the MC and the league put a lot of work into this forum. It would be nice if the city would tape and broadcast other forums.

Council candidates:
All the candidates cited their experiences in many civic projects over the years. All love the community. Their priorities pretty much matched with growth, Lake Whatcom, economic development and waterfront development - in that order. Only Ham Hayes said something different. He criticized the planning department for encouraging the neighborhood associations to have restrictive membership requirements, thus excluding many home owners from the neighborhood planning process. You can read his statement on another page.

During the question time, Bill Geyer stood out as having the best grasp of solutions to issues, in my opinion. My enviro friends are leery of him but I encourage them to give him a fresh look. Bill had by far the best understanding and solution for preserving the gems of Chuckanut Ridge. I now know that Bill Geyer would do more for our environment and neighborhoods than Terry, the liberal, ever has. Bill also spoke strongly for a charter review commission. Terry has spoken in the past as being against a commission as he does not trust the citizens. He ranted against this again this evening - literally flailing his arms.

All candidates said they are for respecting neighborhoods. Terry is for infill - a loaded code word for overbuilding. Geyer said the present codes do not allow for the more creative and charming infill residences, such as town houses and said we need revised codes or will just be cramming density onto nice neighborhoods. Louise spoke of growth in different areas. Ham cited uncertainty feelings by home owners over changing planning processes. Michael spoke to neighborhoods taking more power in planning process to get the kind of growth we want.

Mayoral candidates:
Seth was born here. McShane hikes a lot as a geologist. Ryan was a fisherman. Don worked for the past mayor. All candidates love the city. All have many experiences of community involvement. All want to work better with county government. Mayoral candidates are all on the same page with their priorities and top issues. Growth, economic development (growth) and Lake Whatcom (clean water). The waterfront was a third or fourth priority. The only new idea was from Dan McShane who said we need to prioritize how we as a city spend our tax dollars. The question for us voters is which one do we trust to actually work on the common priorities with the solutions promised.

From left: Dan McShane, Don Keenan, Seth Fleetwood, Dan Pike and Bob Ryan. Photo courtesy of Marian Beddill

How to protect our water from Lake Whatcom was asked. Dan McShane repeated his idea from a previous forum to create a single or joint agency to look at the entire watershed. Other candidates agreed with this idea. Even Seth agreed with this, Enforcement need was cited. Don Keenan noted the city only owns 3% of watershed. Sweep the streets was a mentioned solution by Don.

Downtown was discussed with only Dan Pike supporting foot patrols. Subsidizing businesses was recommended with code words. None offered any support for other viable commercial areas.

Neighborhood planning was addressed in generalities and platitudes. None seemed to grasp the nitty gritty aspect of how planning is going about its business. None mentioned the odd fact that after 6 years of not doing any neighborhood planning at all, the city is this year alone revising the plans of 18 of our 23 neighborhoods. Bob Ryan said planning is overdue. (Bob has been on the council for 8 years.) Seth would "empower" neighbors. Don would empower neighborhoods. None showed much understanding of the fear many home owners have about the unpredictable planning process city hall is currently pushing. One proposed the idea of an Office of Neighborhoods.

Bob Ryan and Don Keenan generally refused to acknowledge some of the problems other candidates spoke to. Incumbents in general minimized problems the challengers brought up. Is Lake Whatcom - our drinking water - a serious problem or one that the city has made great progress on?

In general, the candidates are promising all the normal things and citizens will have a real problem differentiating them on this basis. Citizens have concerns the candidates see only in broad terms - growth, economic development - and not the nitty gritty problems of spot rezones in residential neighborhoods for politically connected big businesses or special development interests. Future forums may see some of the positions modified as candidates try to emerge as leaders.

Tue, July 17

by John Servais
It is not bad enough that the city council schedules the public hearing on our future Shoreline Master Plan for the middle of July - a plan many years in the making and one with two time extensions from the state. The council - with not a single member objecting - scheduled and started the public hearing well after 9 pm - leading many citizens to sit for over two hours waiting to speak and many having to go home because family concerns did not allow them to stay till 11 pm for a chance to speak. Yes, the council meeting started at 7 pm.

This is not the first time. Indeed, our city government - planning, mayor and council - know well what they are doing by holding hearings in the middle of summer and requiring people to wait hours to speak. They are controlling the process and reducing public participation. John Watts, that supposed paragon of public process, apparently does not object to this. Louise Bjornson, that supposed peoples' representative, sits meekly and silently and lets it all pass before her. Terry Bornemann, who is contemptuous of the public in his private speakings, participates in disenfranchising the public. Barbara Ryan tells those who object to these controlled processes that they are "conspiracy nuts". Barbara is either incredibly naive or is in favor of reducing public participation.

What we need to realize is the agenda is under the control of the council - and the council chose by default or by request to have the hearing on our future shorelines to be delayed until late in the council meeting. They acted contrary to the interests of citizens.

We should elect whomever runs against Louise in the General Election - Michael Lilliquist or Ham Hayes. We should elect Bill Geyer to replace Terry Bornemann. Mr. Watts will be leaving on his own accord. Shame on all of the council members. Any of them could have spoken up and represented the citizens' interests.

Mon, July 16

by John Servais
Forums. On Wednesday evening, the forum will - gasp - have all city candidates speak and answer questions. But not the County primary candidates. What a loss. This will make for a very long and over scheduled forum. It will strip away much needed speaking by Primary Election candidates. The Thursday evening forum organizing group is yet to meet and decide on the format - speaking times, how questions will be taken, etc. Candidates do not yet know how to prepare. One minute speech? Two? Prepare a question for other candidates? Or questions from audience?

While we all appreciate the effort by any group to organize a forum, it would be nice if they knew how to run them. I know one group who has a forum planned for this month and has left everything to one person. The others members have just checked out - but will no doubt be on hand to try and take credit. At least the groups have avoided scheduling two forums the same evening - as in the past couple years. And then you have this problem of conservatives avoiding forums because they think they are liberal events. Sigh. Well, it will be interesting to see if a dynamic campaigning process has any chance before voting starts in two weeks.

A note on Ken Hoover. We will all miss the guy. His even temper, easy smile and immense knowledge were rare and valued. Ken was a true political junkie and loved discussing issues and philosophies. He also happened to be from my home town in the Midwest and we shared gossip when we met. Last summer, Ken was the MC for the Bill Mize Forum at the Rome Grange and provided fair and firm monitoring of candidates and questioners alike. He was only 66 years old. His memorial service is Friday, 3 pm, at the First Congregational Church, 2401 Cornwall Ave.

Sat, July14

It was a pleasant and still informative meet and greet last night at the Democratic Women's forum. It was more like a Midwest American summer political fest and included a potluck the ladies provided to candidates and attendees. Campaign opponents were all easygoing and chatting with each other. Almost all primary election candidates were there and each got 3 minutes to give their best. It was good practice mostly for the heavy duty forums next week. The open air pavilion at Cornwall Park added to the informal and relaxed event.

Hard edged reporting on the event? Well, not really. I was the closest person to media. All candidates spoke to water quality concerns. The best statements I heard were oriented around replacing the incumbents up for election because they have had their years to solve some water problems and have instead made minor efforts while the problems have gotten worse. I think the voters will face the question of which candidates might actually act effectively on water quality if elected - and this puts the incumbents behind the 8 ball. Several other political observers think Louise could be voted out this time. While not present last night, Terry will also face this situation. And the 5 mayoral candidates will all face the question of how to differentiate themselves on water quality solutions. Just my guess on where the issues will be centered next week. - John Servais

Fri, July 13

by John Servais
The Silver Beach Neighborhood forum went well last night with about 75 people attending. It was the first public chance for citizens to compare candidates and gauge them for their potential. I could not be there and so have no first hand report. Tonight is the Cornwall Park event which has each candidate making a simple 3 minute speech. No debate or questions. I'll be there. Supposed to be sunny and warmer by 6pm.

July may go down in history as when the Bush war monolith cracked and started to crumble. The trickle of conservatives abandoning Bush may become a flood by this fall. In June we still didn't know if this insane war policy would continue for another year. Now it seems clear to this writer that it is all over. Just how it will crumble is all that is left to play out.

This video cartoon from the Houston daily newspaper - in Bush's state of Texas. Regardless of your attitude towards this, it is strong evidence of the crumbling of support for this administration.

This Evening - Friday, July 13 - 6 to 8 pm at the Cornwall Park pavilion - North Sound Democratic Women will have a sort of meet and greet with candidates getting 3 minutes to talk. May be a bit noisy with kids and private BBQs going on around.

Thur, July 12

by John Servais
The Herald does not even follow its own mandates. On Sunday, the editorial said the candidates "...must address 6 big issues." Must. Then they sent out their own list of 8 questions to council candidates and addressed only one of those 6 'must' issues. Did not even go near the other 5. Growth was the only issue common to both. Candidates have till July 23 to return their answers. This is a bare week before voting begins. Will the answers be printed? Maybe not. The Herald told the candidates they will post the answers online.

KGMI will interview a mayoral candidate a day next week from 8 to 9 am on the Brett and Debbie show. Mon - Dan McShane; Tue - Seth Fleetwood; Wed - Dan Pike; Thur - Bob Ryan; Fri - Don Keenan. 790 on the AM dial.

KVOS-TV is apparently taping the mayoral candidates for broadcast in early August. They are doing this in conjunction with Tim Johnson of the Weekly.

The Department of Ecology has finally posted their Draft Consent Decree for the "cleanup' of Whatcom Waterway. It is huge, confusing and hard to read the maps online as they are small. It is almost hidden without info on the DOE home page. You can download the 7 page 'Fact Sheet' which is conveniently on NwCitizen (moved a copy here from the DOE) The public hearing is on Wed, Aug 8, 6:30 to 9pm at the Cruise Terminal. Of course not notice in today's Herald on this. This is just the toxic pit of our city and county that has been killing us for decades and with enough poison to continue killing us for decades.

You know, I've got a question - for someone in the corporate media. We have all read and heard how irresponsible bloggers are - and how damaging to the accurate reporting of news the rise of blogging has become. Ok, if so, then why are all these reporters and editors starting blogs? What do they need with a blog - since they control the editorial pages and the radio waves? What are they going to tell us in a blog that they cannot tell us with their commercial media?

Me thinks the answer is not in any desire to communicate information but is driven by commercial needs to get ads online. So - they tell Scott to blog. And Scott is not sure what in hell he is supposed to write about. During the two plus years that I was publisher of Whatcom Independent - Nov 2003 to Aug 2006 - this website pretty much stayed away from local issues. The Indy covered only local and state issues and so I commented on national issues here. But the idea of blogging in competition with my own publication would have been counter productive. So - why are editors stooping to become irreputable bloggers that they supposedly scorn?

This Evening - Candidate Forum - this Thursday, July 12, 7 to 9 pm, at the Bloedel Donovan Multipurpose Room - out at Lake Whatcom. Door is open at 6:30. This is sponsored by the Silver Beach Neighborhood Association. Lake Whatcom Reservoir is the topic of the forum. Apparently the 3 At Large primary candidates are not included in this forum. Very strange.

Wed, July 11

updated at 9 pm - by John Servais
Election info online is starting to appear in addition to the candidate sites.
- Whatcom Independent - Candidate Forums - except for the one at top of this page on July 12.
- Cascadia Weekly - candidate interviews. Very strange no link to this page from the Weekly home page. Maybe he wants us to pickup the paper first. Anyway, only council candidates. Maybe mayoral next week.
- Bellingham Business Journal - to post Q&A online later this week - plus this Friday's Journal will have a special pullout election section.

The Herald? The last post on their special Election page is dated June 19 - over 3 weeks ago. Expect their coverage to start next week - with just two weeks to the start of voting. We have pointed this out in earlier posts but want to note a more sinister aspect to this very late start of campaign coverage by our daily newspaper. By squeezing all coverage into a very few weeks, the Herald gains more leverage in swaying elections their way. How? By not allowing the normal development of issues via dialog between candidates, news coverage, citizen letters and forums. We get a very static presentation of candidates and the Herald endorsements and we have little else.

The Cascadia Weekly out today has some good candidate summaries. Unfortunately, Tim Johnson, in listing the forums, could not bring himself to list the Whatcom Independent forum on July 31. Maybe he forgot.

Mon, July 9

by John Servais
Only a government agency would do this. The Herald ran an ad for the State Department of Ecology informing us of the web site where we could find the Draft Consent Decree for our waterfront cleanup. Well, it isn't there. Upon inquiry, Lucy McInerney of DOE informs us that it will be posted in a week because that is when the public comment period begins. We wonder why DOE ran the ad if it is not available.

Post the decree, DOE. Let us read and discuss the decree - now. This decree - if it sticks - is important and we need to read it and have a chance to study it. Scheduling this in the height of our vacation season reduces the number of people who will see and respond. Not posting it till absolutely required by law - even though it is apparently ready - further reduces our chances by a week. Then the public hearing will be on Aug 8 - with only 4 more days after for comment - which includes a weekend. All this reduces the time that citizens have to find, read, discuss and comment. A few days deleted here and some more there. DOE is expert in minimizing public participation when it wants to. This is just a latest example.

A public hearing on Wednesday, August 8. The very center of our brief warm summer weather. Do you want to sit in a stuffy room for several hours on that beautiful summer evening? None of us do. It could easily be scheduled for mid September. After all, Lucy has been working on this process since 1996. Seriously. I used to attend her meetings back then. Huge wastes of time. Now the final decision is laid on us in mid August. In truth, we must compliment DOE and Lucy for their mastery of the slippery public process that few people will follow.

Sun, July 8

by John Servais
Ham Hayes has posted a well worded response to the Herald editorial that ran in today's paper. Ham is running for Bellingham City Council, but he speaks for all local candidates in his short and pithy post. The Herald slammed local candidates for what the Herald says they have heard "on the campaign trail" so far. Well - if the Herald has heard anything they have certainly kept that from their readers. Of course no local campaign reporting in today's paper. Just empty pontificating from someone who knows little about local politics. Read what Ham has to say.

Sat, July 7

by John Servais
The Herald continues to ignore the political campaigns. Nary a word about candidates - and we are just three weeks from the ballots being mailed. Yesterday Scott Ayers wrote on his blog about how he does not feel like writing about "serious stuff" with this nice weather. He referred to "local politics heating up." Indeed, Scott is referring to his blog - but he may as well be referring to the print pages of the Herald. Four weeks after candidate filings, our daily newspaper has not started to cover the campaigns. I have heard the Herald will only start coverage a week from now - two weeks before ballots get mailed.

Me thinks the Herald editors do not understand the basics of democracy. They view their job as informing readers of where candidates stand on issues and writing something colorful about who the candidates are. That would assume our political process is a static exercise. It is not. Candidate positions are forged and changed by the process of questions from citizens, reporters and their opponents. Issues develop and become live through reporting, challenges from opponents, forums with citizen involvement and the candidates themselves learning more about issues. Most readers of this web site have participated in many campaigns and know how dynamic a process it is. To reduce it to a two week reporting gig is to demean what democracy is all about.

Perhaps the Herald is afraid to overwhelm us with too much political coverage. Perhaps they just haven't enough reporters to cover the news. I've news for Scott. The local political scene is not heating up. That is because the Herald has pretended it did not exist. To heat it up the media has to cover and stimulate the political process. Our nation is founded on the press being part of the process - government, citizens and the press. Without the press the dynamics of our choosing our representatives is reduced to advertising.

Lastly, I agree with Scott that this sunny weather is a hard time to pay attention to politics and serious issues. And I predict we will have the lowest voter turnout ever for the August primary election. Our state legislature - in its abysmal idiocy - created this summertime election. And the Herald never informed us of how this process went down as our state Senators and Representatives did the bidding of state Republican and Democratic party leaders. However we need to now make the process work as best we can. And it is important that our daily newspaper participate - all during the campaign season.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy Independence Day. To all people residing in the United States, may you have a fun day and may you benefit from the principles of freedom, justice and opportunity that are the foundation of our nation.

Yes - all people residing here. Tis sad that bigots have concocted insulting labels for many people who are here. And that there now rages debate in our nation about what rights to justice and opportunity many people should not enjoy. Tis very simple - any person here gets full benefit of our Constitutional protections. A casual reading of the guiding document for our nation makes that point very plain. There are references to "people" and "person" and "persons" and to "citizens" in the Constitution. Read and note which apply where.

Those protections extend to all those in US military control - what ever the Bush administration tries to call them. That includes those in foreign prison camps controlled by our government. Our State Department proudly claims that our embassies in foreign countries are American soil and part of the USA. Well then it follows that so are our prison camps in foreign countries.

We need to remind ourselves of this fact. Our Constitution guarantees all "persons" their freedoms. The document clearly differentiates between persons and citizens. The word "citizen" does not appear in the Bill of Rights - the first ten amendments - but the words people, person and persons are used in defining our rights. Let us all resolve to speak out for the rights of all who are here or under our control. Tis the American way.

Today we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence. From that came the Constitution - which has its day on September 17. Didn't know that? Seems we make too little of our Constitution. Lets make more of it. And let us allow all people here to enjoy their independence and the rights that go with it. - John Servais

U.S. Constitution - http://www.usconstitution.net/const.html

Declaration of Independence - http://www.usconstitution.net/declar.html

One more thing. Read some of our grievances against King George in the Declaration of Independence. Some apply today against usurper George.

Tuesday, July 3

11:40 am, by John Servais
Tried phoning the White House to weigh in with my comment that Bush shows no respect for the rule of law by commuting Libby's sentence. After a minute of ringing and no answer, I hung up. Sent an email.
White House phone for comments: 202-456-1111
White House email for comments: comments@whitehouse.gov

8:00 am
A quick reading of articles on the Libby amnesty - er, sentence commutation - increases our perspective of this affair. As Governor of Texas, Bush wrote how he respected verdicts and proceeded to sign 152 death warrants. No problem there with killing possibly innocent people nor with possible excessive punishments for criminals. 152 people. Did he not sign any?? Let me know.

I see others are also noting that Libby could implicate Bush and Cheney in crimes if he is not given protection. Indeed, by not granting a full pardon, Bush ensures Libby will keep quiet for the eventual pardon as Bush leaves office. Also Libby can take the 5th when/if questioned by Congressional committees - but would not be able to if pardoned. Sweet. These guys are not shy. They not as concerned about public opinion as they are about protecting their secrets. Their criminal secrets.

Monday, July 2

by John Servais
In a nutshell; "Keep me out of jail or I talk." So they paid the price. The fall guy is Libby. The criminals - for releasing the name of a CIA undercover agent - are Bush and Cheney. All Libby did was lie a little - and he probably would have gotten away with it except ... that is another story. By the way, Bush can pardon him fully later. So, don't let the talk of just commuting the jail time make you feel better about it all. And I'm ready to give odds on the pardon - if any conservative wants to try me. This is a pardon all the way. In stages. Expect more for those who keep quiet while Bush is in power.

Any lingering questions of whether this is a criminal administration have now been answered. This is a continuation of the Nixon White House - only more so. By the way - very direct links between the two. Just a sad place that our national government has come to. But I expect it will get worse. There is one thing these guys will not allow to happen - and that is for them to lose power. They will do anything. Anything. To prevent that. They are doing anything.

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