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Letters to the Editor, Week of Oct. 12, 2022


I see that the Bellingham Public Works Department is back on the task of making our city streets safe — for no one!

I live in an apartment house with driving access to Chestnut Street from an alley halfway between Forest and Garden streets. This is my car’s only access to streets, since the city has allowed a construction company to indefinitely close off the other end of the alley — but that’s a traffic safety disaster tale of its own.

When I moved here, the three lanes of Chestnut Street comfortably carried one-way traffic away from the city core, as this major thoroughfare was designed to do. And there was never any problem turning into the street from my alley. Then the city — apparently never measuring the street’s traffic — decided it could arbitrarily squeeze three lanes of traffic into two by replacing one with a bike lane.

The result is that this part of Chestnut is regularly congested. Not only do I now have to turn directly from the alley into the street’s center lane, but cars are often backed up past the point where I need to enter. By the time they’ve cleared out, new traffic is coming up from the intersection below. In the afternoon, I often have to wait a minute or two just for an opening to pull into the street.

That’s not the worst of it. Sitting in my alley while waiting to turn, I have actually seen the line of cars back up by an entire block, leaving a car hanging into the previous intersection, unable to complete the turn from Forest onto Chestnut. How on earth could any public works department purposely create such a situation?

And what was all this for? To encourage and protect bicyclists? Neither before nor after the change has there been more than a scattering of cyclists using that street. For every cyclist made slightly safer by this arrangement, the city is inconveniencing and endangering hundreds, maybe thousands, of drivers.

City of Bellingham, let me clue you in: You can change up the streets all you want, but this will never be a major bike city. The hills are too steep and the weather is bad. I’ve gotten around on bikes most of my life, often preferring them to cars, but I sold mine when I moved to this part of the country. This is not Santa Cruz!

Please, please stop mucking up our streets for the sake of a pipe dream!

Aaron Shephard



The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists was founded by Albert Einstein and his colleagues at the University of Chicago, who developed the first Manhattan Project; its Doomsday Clock was created in 1947 to alert the public of the danger of nuclear war. It is reset every year by the Bulletin’s Science & Security Board, which includes 11 Nobel laureates. The clock has become a universally recognized indicator of the world’s vulnerability to catastrophes from nuclear weapons, climate changes and disruptive technologies in other domains. 

In its latest statement in January 2022, the Board pushed the hand to 100 seconds to midnight, “the closest it has ever been to a civilization-ending apocalypse because the world remains stuck in an extremely dangerous moment, while global leaders and the public are not moving with anywhere near the speed or unity needed to prevent disaster.” 

As someone who worked with Physicians for Social Responsibility for nuclear weapons treaties and disarmament in the 1980s, I can say Donald Trump was an unanticipated disaster. While Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev worked tirelessly to create the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 1987, which resulted in Soviet reduction of around 1,500 medium-range missiles from Europe, and the U.S. removed nearly half that number, Trump deleted the whole thing, putting us at greater risk than ever. 

Paradoxically, the five nuclear weapons-possessing states proclaim that “a nuclear war cannot be won and should never be fought,” at the same time they are all modernizing their arsenals and establishing plans for use in a variety of circumstances.  

The U.S., China, Russia, the U.K. and France refuse to ratify, and the U.S. has actively opposed, the now-established international law of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), proposed by 160 non-nuclear countries at the U.N. We need to put pressure on our government to take leadership, sign the TPNW and begin eliminating tens of thousands of warheads before it’s too late.

Dianne Foster



I strongly endorse Joe Timmons, who is seeking election Nov. 8 for state representative position 2 in the 42nd Legislative District.

I got to know Joe when both of us worked at Western Washington University a few years ago. At Western, Joe worked hard to increase educational opportunities for all students at the university.

Joe will be a hard-working, dedicated advocate, listening to and acting upon the concerns and needs of the citizens of the 42nd Legislative District. He is a smart and decent person who clearly cares about other people.

Please vote for Joe Timmons on Nov. 8. He will be an excellent representative.

Paul Cocke



Requiring 200-foot buffers on the Nooksack River will prove entirely futile for salmon restoration. Today, natural (non-hatchery) Chinook salmon are almost extinct in the Nooksack River. Soon, they will be gone.

Each year millions of predator coho fry are released from an antique hatchery located in Skookum Creek — 40 miles up the Nooksack River, above 99% of the spawning grounds of the few critically endangered natural Chinook which somehow have survived.

These hatchery-produced coho fry remain in the Nooksack River for a year, eating anything smaller than themselves, including native salmon fry. Their sheer numbers overwhelm the ecosystem.

Hatchery-produced coho are very important for the economic health of Puget Sound fishermen. However, it is completely unconscionable to continue to release millions of these artificial salmon into a critically endangered ecosystem.

Tom Copeland



I want you to know a bit about Sharon Shewmake, who is running to be our senator in the 42nd District. I have been homeless for nearly 3½ years. I have never been an abuser of any substance, nor have I ever failed to pay my rent on time. Still, I became homeless because of a vicious, lawless and unreasonable landlord. Ms. Shewmake has helped me to negotiate the difficulties I have encountered many times while homeless. She has been very generous with her time and attention to my issues. She is a remarkably caring person with a delightful sense of humor and a down-to-earth view of the problems Whatcom County needs to address. I am sure that whether you live on one of our farms, in the cities in the 42nd District, or are facing difficulties caused by the pandemic or those other “slings and arrows” that life throws at us all, we cannot do better than Sharon Shewmake as our senator.

I hope that you will see fit to print my letter in support of this wonderful woman and caring, accessible legislator.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Robert Wm. Astyk 



We had the pleasure of meeting Jonathan Rands a number of years ago at a fundraiser benefiting the animals of Whatcom County. As a defense attorney, he is known for having integrity, a strong work ethic and being committed to the rule of law. Over the years, we have also come to know Jonathan as a fellow animal lover who supports a number of local nonprofit organizations throughout this community. He has chosen to invest his extra time and resources by sponsoring and attending many fundraising events for pet rescue organizations, wildlife charities and other animal-related causes.

More than a decade after that first meeting as a result of our mutual love and compassion for animals, we are proud to say we will be voting for Jonathan Rands for Whatcom County District Court judge. Not only because he is qualified for the position, but also because his family shares their home in Ferndale with a rescued puggle named Max, a former stray cat named Maverick and a small flock of chickens.

Jennifer and Jason Sonker



It is with pleasure that I announce four Rotary Clubs of Whatcom County have come together to award study abroad scholarships to high school students for the 2023–24 school year. This highly regarded program offers placement in over 100 countries around the world with clubs in Whatcom County recently placing students in Austria, Japan, Spain, France, Peru, Argentina, Italy and Germany. Scholarships include tuition, room and board, a monthly stipend and are valued at approximately $25,000.

What makes the Rotary program so unique is the community aspect. Rotarians volunteer because they live the motto Service Above Self. None of our Rotary volunteers are paid, including the host families, which makes our program financially achievable for all. We emphasize high ethical standards, working toward achieving peace and understanding in the world (which our program was designed to do). Over 1.2 million Rotarians in more than 46,000 clubs create the extensive network that provides support for Youth Exchange.

Although students are responsible for some costs (usually between $4,000–$7,000), additional scholarship dollars may be available to assist, so no one should exclude themselves because they are concerned they cannot afford the program.

We are accepting applications via our website,, which also includes details about the program. Interviews will be scheduled once the application is completed. The deadline is Oct. 20. Minimum requirements to apply: ages 15.5–18 on August 2023 departure (may currently be in ninth, 10th or 11th grade), good academic standing, open-minded individuals who demonstrate leadership qualities.

This is a life-changing opportunity and we have more spots available in Whatcom County than ever before. Those who qualify owe it to themselves to determine if they are ready to take on the adventure of a lifetime!

Felicity Dye



As former mayors of Whatcom County’s fastest-growing city, we know the importance of having someone in Olympia with a unique, independent and persuasive voice battling for us. That voice is our own Sen. Simon Sefzik.

Join us in voting for Simon on Nov. 8.

One-party rule in Olympia has served neither the smaller cities nor our county well. Too often ignored are small businesses and family farms that struggle under the burden of taxes and regulation, children who are falling behind and are being distracted by the latest in political correctness, and families who must choose between gas, groceries and housing, which all keep going up because of wrong-headed government policies.

The majority has plenty of voices in Olympia. We need to keep Simon there, to keep families safe, taxes low, our economy strong and government out of our lives.

Jon Mutchler and Gary Jensen

Former mayors of Ferndale


“Let’s Go Washington” (Fix what’s broken) is soliciting signatures for 11 initiatives to the Legislature that, if enough signatures are obtained and validated, will place the initiatives on the Nov. 8 ballot. According to a signature gatherer, the text(s) of validated initiatives, if any, would not be included in the Nov. 8 Voter Pamphlet because this type of Initiative goes directly to the 2023 legislature. These efforts reek of minority party sour grapes because at least some of the 11 did not make it through the 2022 legislative session. If you can’t get approval through the front door, try sneaking through the back door.

Initiatives titles: Restore Police Pursuit; Make Hard Drugs Illegal; Keep Guns from Criminals; Trim the Sales Tax 1%; Cut State Gas Tax by 24.7%; Property Tax $250K exemption; Repeal the Capital Gains Tax; Emergency Powers Review; Electoral College Allocation; Voter Protection Act; and Curriculum Transparency.

While legal, initiatives to the legislators weaken our representative democracy that provides voters with the full text of initiatives as well as for and against statements in the Voter Pamphlet. Why are supporters of these initiatives keeping voters in the dark? A “no” vote for each of the initiatives is the way to keep sunshine on our elections.

Jerry Hunter



Has Whatcom County lost its mind? 2023 Property Assessment Notices have been received by homeowners this week and, if others were as shocked and dumbfounded as I, property values were increased by over 35%. And we received these notices just in time for a midterm election. With historic inflation hitting households at nuclear-bomb levels and housing sales coming to a screeching halt, how does the county justify this beyond-insane increase? I have no plans to sell my home, but if I did, I could not sell for the price the county has valued my property. Comparable homes currently for sale in my neighborhood are priced tens of thousands of dollars lower than the county now has valued my home. So I take this all to mean that citizens are now expected to pay tax on money and/or valuations that do not exist?

The midterms are next month. Any proposed bond or legislation on the ballot that would have even the most minute impact and add to our property tax increases is now as good as dead. People’s wallets have been stretched beyond capacity. The county needs to reassess our assessments.

Nancy Grigsby

Birch Bay


I’m voting for Prop 5, the Healthy Children’s Fund, because it will provide early learning and child care programs throughout the county that meet the specific and unique needs of children and families. 

The Healthy Children’s Fund won’t provide a one-size-fits-all solution to the child care shortage, because Whatcom County isn’t a one-size-fits-all county. Whatcom County has a beautiful and diverse population, and each family wants something specific for their children. And they should be able to make the choice that works for them.

Early learning and child care programs vary in the types offered including options to enroll siblings together in full daycare in a center, infant care in a safe and nurturing home-based program, part-time preschool, options for parents who want to stay home full-time with their children, care that provides transportation to and from a developmental preschool — and that’s just to name a few. We need to make sure children and families have access to high-quality options they can choose from, not the first and only program to have an opening. 

Because there is a focus on quality, affordability, accessibility and recruiting/retaining great early childhood educators, Prop 5 will make sure families have options that feel supportive and welcoming in all areas of the county, with a variety of program models, run by high-quality providers. 

The teachers who cared for my babies were kind and nurturing, and were exactly who I needed to help me navigate my new life as a mother. I want that for any of the 10,000 young children in Whatcom County that want early learning opportunities.  

Meredith Hayes

Unincorporated Whatcom County

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