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The Hammer: July 2023 Edition

Is NW WA life about to feature a permanent dry civic cough?

By Ron Judd Executive Editor

Thursday, July 27

Running on Empty? Not yet, but ominous signs this week about the local water table, with the sudden sucking-of-wind detected in well systems serving hundreds of folks in Ferndale. Not a helpful development at a time when people’s rights to water in our little corner are about to be adjudicated. 

Crisis, What Crisis? Sorry for the cheap Supertramp ref (kids: ask grandparents) but B. Hammer couldn’t help but notice that the Bellingham City Council, in its infinite wisdom, this week (why not last year?) declared the local housing crunch a “public health crisis.” What does that mean for those left out? Zip, for the moment. But just knowing that your city council members care deeply means something … doesn’t it?

We Kid Said Council, But Seriously: If we have learned anything it is that housing, writ large, is a tough nut to crack. In our capitalist universe, local public-policy options to push back against broader market forces are extremely limited. It’s almost enough to make one wonder about the otherwise-promising long lists of candidates running for both mayor and council posts most likely to bear blame. 

Fantasy Whale-Move Update: Sit down for this, but timing and most details of the uber-optimistic whale-lift scheme pushed by rich guy NFL owner Jim Irsay to bring stolen native Tokitae home to local waters is … well, uber-optimistic, according to state and federal officials who must OK the dubious venture. 

Meantime: The coy little game of not discussing the obviously promoter-pre-chosen Salish Sea Spectacle Site for the whale’s latter days, if it is in fact ever moved, is growing offensive, probably especially to San Juan residents who would bear the brunt of this virtue-signaling potential circus.

Tuesday, July 18

BREAKING AND NOT EXCLUSIVE: Word arrives this morning on State Street, dropped from above by an old MD-82 (is there any other kind?) onto CDN Biz Whiz Frank Catalano, that Paine Field no longer shall be Paine Field.

Huh? Yup. The new title is “Seattle Paine Field International Airport.” What could possibly go wrong? 

Seriously: They do know it’s in Everett, right? 

Even More Seriously: Did the airport folks feel like they need to follow the example of business types on Whidbey Island, who managed to strong-arm the Washington Department of Transportation — also for sheer marketing purposes — to rename the Keystone Ferry Terminal, forever located at Keystone on the west side of Whidbey Island, after Coupeville, which is several miles away, all the way around on the eastern shore? 

Further: Did the Chamber people in Coupeville not get a chance to bid on this one? Are they still checking their email?

And Beyond That: Start counting the number of tourons who disembark at SPFIA, squint in the cloud-light, and ask for direx to the Space Needle, only to learn that the most prominent local landmark is a massive sewage treatment pond adjacent to Interstate 5.

Our Own Spin: Locally, this aggressive move by Seattle Paine presents the frightening possibility that our own airport, always cheekily referenced by the late, great local newspaper editor Dick Beardsley as “Bellingham Intergalactic,” might fall behind in the air-transport-regional-location-obfuscation contest. How does everyone feel about rebranding BLI as Seattle/Greater Sumas North? 

It Fits the Pattern: And unfortunately, in this case, the pattern is full. Please return your BS meter to its original, upright position. 

Monday, July 10

Throwback Monday: Last time the Major League Baseball All-Star Game was played in the Emerald City was 2001. B. Hammer, then a scalawag scribe at The Seattle Times, was there, cruising the locker room for good All-Star quotes. As fortune would have it, the best one ever to grace this reporter’s notebook came calling, from no less than the late rock star Meat Loaf, a player in the celebrity softball game. (Not sure why he was in a cream-colored bath robe; doesn’t matter.) 

Hammer Asked: “If I mention you in my column, what’s your name preference for second reference? Should it be simply ‘Loaf,’ or, like The New York Times’ style with courtesy title, ‘Mr. Loaf?’”

To Which He Puffed His Cigar and Shouted: “Call me Meat, Babe!”

And So: I did. (Warning, ancient paywall).

Breaking: Was the Shrimp Taco Election Stolen? One of our letter writers is mulling a demand for a recount in Brand-X’s recent online “poll” seeking “Best Shrimp Tacos” in Whatcom County. The suspicion is that 12 of the 14 total votes cast for the winner were made by crustaceans seeking to improve their own lots in life by discouraging overall consumption rates. Smells fishy and scandalous. (This story will not be updated.)

BTW: Margin of error on all clickbait online “polls”: About 99.6%, according to our local statistical analyst, dude at the end of the bar at Bellingham Bar & Grill (which as far as we know has somehow missed the boat on shrimp tacos entirely).

Discuss Among Yourselves: Looks like the Whatcom County Council is mulling the ins and outs of “natural rights” for orcas. One can argue that either way, but the Hammer’s take is clear: Good start, but doesn’t go far enough. Seems only fitting that natural rights of various crustaceans such as shrimp — by their very nature, often the victims of blatant sizeism — be offered as a friendly amendment.

Don’t Even: Get the Hammer started about the legal standing of bivalves.

photo  Shrimp, on a plate, captured as if standing still — clearly deserving of basic Crustacean Rights and other privileges. (Laurel F from Seattle, WA, via Wikimedia Commons)  

Thursday, July 6

Attention, Bellingham Planning Department: Thanks a ton for sending out all those Giant-Apartment- Complex-Coming-To Any-Available-Scrap-Of-Land-Near-You announcements to affected nearby homeowners and businesses. It must be a full-time task.

Super Helpful Features of Above:

1) User-friendly labeling that instantly attunes hapless resident to subject matter, and its location. Actual example: 

TYPE I and II

NOTICE OF APPLICATION and OPTIONAL DNS PROCESS

PDP2020-0006, DR2020-0030, ADM2020-0025, SEP2020-0032, MIS2021-0001

2) The notation that the project already is deemed “non-significant,” so you have two weeks or less to submit a well-reasoned analysis that basically amounts to a small fart in a development hurricane.

3) The crowning moment: Placing all the important project details on a cut-and-pasted consulting firm’s map in Lilliputian .000001-point type that could not be read using the world’s largest magnifying glass.

Seriously, COB: It’s not just a matter of size. Resolution counts, as can be seen on the city’s original website PDF. It’s really as close as you can come to perhaps meeting the letter of the law for major neighborhood changes without granting residents a meaningful way to know any relevant details of a proposed, clearly pre-rubber-stamped, project. 

Summing Up Here: Thanks for all you do, but please do better. We’d hate for the rumor to get around that you’re bringing in former customer service folks from Comcast. Now get off Hammer’s lawn — if you can find it on that postage-stamp-sized map.

photo  An actual public notice of a large neighborhood apartment project from City of Bellingham, circa late June 2023. Regulation size hammer for scale. Note: This notice is not exceptional; the format seems consistent with all such Planning Department public notices. (Ron Judd/Cascadia Daily News)  

Sunday, July 2

Tryin’ to Reason With Hurricane Season: Oh Lord, this actually appears to be true: Forgive us for wondering when the inbox dinged the other day with a curious release from U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, whose Washington First District taxpayers clearly have their political eyes cast toward Miami. The release urges “immediate action to ensure the safety” of the orca Tokitae (Seaquarium stage name Lolita) — from possible peril posed by the upcoming hurricane season.

You Read That Correctly: To quote the Kirkland congresswoman: “This includes consideration of whether Tokitae should be moved, at least on a temporary basis, to a more suitable location until any plans to bring her to a more permanent location can be solidified and the necessary permits obtained.”

We Have Questions: About moving a 53-year-old, ailing orca “on a temporary basis” to a less-hurricane-prone locale. Including: Such as? And: Do you not think that if a “more suitable location” for the whale existed as a temporary summer-hurricane-avoidance getaway — and that moving it there could be done practically and safely — the whale would already be living there?

The Hammer Shall Wait: And wonder, both about Tokitae’s summer-vacation destination, and DelBene’s expenditure of time and energy over it all. Perhaps she can scare up some federal disaster-relief dollars to build a retractable roof stadium over the poor whale while its ultimate fate is debated? Just trying to help here.

photo  In this March 9, 1995 file photo, trainer Marcia Hinton pets Lolita, AKA Tokitae, a captive orca whale, during a performance at the Miami Seaquarium in Miami. U.S. Rep. Suzan Delbene has called for the whale, being studied for transfer back to its Salish Sea home waters from which it was captured in 1970, to be temporarily moved to an alternate location to avoid injuries during the coming hurricane season. (Nuri Vallbona/Miami Herald via AP, File)  

Friday, June 30

Hello: Welcome to the new and arguably improved Hammer, now a constant presence, like a lingering dry cough, on the Cascadia Daily News website, a local institution for more than a hundredth of a century.

The Plan: Is for the Hammer to now be a running dialogue (see: cough, above) that is updated freq … er, occasionally throughout the week. (You’ll know this is the case when the headline changes and a new social media post emanates from CDN Global HQ on State Street, like smoke from the Vatican chimney.) New stuff goes at the top. Please enjoy. And feel free to pass on Hammer targets to the email address below.

By Any Other Name: Some historical photos we’ve come across of late include the notation that CDN’s ‘hood on State Street once was known as The Tavern District. What do we have to do to get that back? Just seems fitting. 

Not to Be a Skeptic, But: Did anyone else find it odd that an EPA official and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Idle Time, traveled cross-continent to announce $281 mil in new federal bucks, available to some 720 Western U.S. tribes — at the Lummi Nation, which may not even be in line for any of the money?

One More on That: Larsen seemed to try to Rep-splain it by noting that Lummi Nation in his mind as a “center of gravity” for water infrastructure projects on Indigenous land. Quite the nimble tap dance there, congressman. 

Speaking of Larsen: Sounds like the humble exclave of Point Roberts is going to need some federal help to get workers inside the gates to maintain vital and just desired services there. Worth noting that Hammer’s alter ego, the Opinion page editor, offered up a perfectly sound, win-win-win solution here last year: We will trade Point Bob for a simple, single Tim Horton’s franchise. 

What We Heard Back from Toronto and the Lesser Washington: Zip.

photo  We’re lowering our price to Canada for the exclave of Point Roberts from a single Tim Horton’s franchise to a box of Timbits. Seems like a no-brainer. (Photo courtesy of Lauren Salvati)  

Look, We’re Just Trying to Get a Deal Done Here: Given the circumstances, we’ll now agree to settle for a lesser price: Point Bob for a single jumbo box of Timbits. Only fools would turn that down. 

We Are Fans of Both Places, But: The owners of Adagio and Avellino, two fine coffee shops on Bellingham’s Railroad Avenue, really should get together and work out a name compromise. Two premium coffee vendors within sight of one another, having a name starting with “A” and ending with “o,” has led to countless mixed-message missed meetings. 

We’re Not Sure: How to remedy that, but drop by both and have an iced latte while you help them figure it out. 

However One Lines Up: In the Subdued City newspaper wars, it was sad to note this past Monday is the first in likely more than a century when a local newspaper was not dropped on a single Bellingham doorstep, as the old paper went daily-mail only instead of home delivered — an industry trend. Less news, or even later news, is never good news.

Weekly City of Bham SeeClickFix I-5 Exit 252 Wagon Rut-Repair Update: Crickets! Still awaiting that emergency pothole repair team to make an appearance.

The Hammer, a somewhat-less-studious alter ego of CDN’s executive editor and various other pointed-barb influencers, publishes online monthly and is updated somewhat regularly; ronjudd@cascadaidaily.com; @roncjudd.

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