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Bellingham City Council gives away access to Hoag'sPond.

Six stubborn boys show they won't be pushedaround.

December 23, 1997

As the Herald will report, the city council overturned the Mayor'sveto of the land swap between Jack Choat, a high ranking city PublicWorks administrator, and the city. The city vacates that portion ofBroad Street that gives the public access to the public pond.

In a display of contempt for the public, the council refused tolet citizens speak before the vote. They did allow Tip Johnson to bethe symbolic speaker for citizens and then allowed Jack Choat'sattorney, land specialist Bob Tull, to speak. However, the 30 pluscitizens who interrupted their Christmas activities to attend the11:30 am meeting were not allowed to say a word.

The council guys were mad on Tuesday. Mad at staff for giving badadvice. Mad at the Mayor. And very mad at citizen activists who makean issue of something that was supposed to go down very quietly. So -they did what they know is probably illegal and wrong - they gaveaway a valuable public resource to a city hall insider. They showedthey won't be pushed around. Sort of like watching teenaged boys.

Three departments had to sign off on this deal - Parks, Planningand Public Works. Byron Elmendorf, Parks Director, was off skiing onTuesday. He wasn't letting his vacation be spoiled. Last July, hesigned off on the deal, approving it in a technical review. PlanningDirector, Patricia Decker, was at the meeting, trying to reverse herearlier approval of the deal. Public Works Director, Jack Garner, wasnot at Tuesday's meeting. He of course had to approve the deal in thebeginning. He is Jack Choat's boss. Insidedeal? You bettcha. Citizens lose.

Over the past few months, city staff have done a disservice to thecouncil in not providing full information in their council briefings.Back in July, staff recommended to the council that the deal was goodfor the public. Only Tip Johnson spoke as a citizen at the publichearings against the deal. In the last couple of weeks, the PlanningDepartment has tried to reverse it's recommendation. This upset thecouncil members. They got mad at staff and passed the deal 6 to 1 onDecember 8. Then the Mayor vetoed it on December 18. The councilimmediately called a special meeting to overturn the veto, schedulingit at a time when most citizens cannot attend - late Tuesday morning,the day before Christmas Eve.

It was interesting to watch them in action. Pat Rowe, councilpresident was adamant that no one would be allowed to speak. He saidwe had our chance at the public hearings. He failed to note thatthere was never a word in the Bellingham Herald about this issueuntil citizens flooded the paper last Friday urging some coverage. Abrief article on Saturday misreported the facts, leaving muchrelevant material out. A Sunday editorial urged the Council to listento citizens at the Tuesday meeting. No chance for that. If we didn'ttestify at hearings we didn't know about then we lose.

Louise Bjornson, council person at large, was the one vote infavor of keeping the public resource.

NW Citizen will report more on this issue. There is much more tolearn. How did this cozy deal for one of their own come to be? Wewill be trying to find out.

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Home Contents Info Correspondents ©1997 NWCitizen.com