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Letters to the Editor, Week of March 29, 2023

New jail, pollution, and gun violence

Editor,

It is time to build a new jail. Previous proposals suggested an off-courthouse site and ferrying prisoners based off site to and fro. I don’t think that matches up to our climate pledges and the costs for this ferrying will only grow. Here is my idea — vacate Lottie between Girard and Dupont (Prospect), and demolish the [Whatcom County] building on the corner of Lottie and Dupont (Prospect). Use the “pit” across Lottie from the courthouse and build to the courthouse. Use this new building to house services that serve the at-risk population as well as the traditional jail.  

Craig MacConnell

Bellingham


Editor,

Perhaps you are not a fan of paying businesses to pollute. But the 2021 Climate Commitment Act (CCA) just held its first auction to sell allowances for emissions. The auction provides the state with $300 million to spend on climate mitigation, with more to come in future auctions. Bellingham and Whatcom County have developed climate action plans, hired climate managers and have identified the areas that need climate action the most. The missing piece has always been funding.  

Proceeds of the auction must be earmarked specifically for climate action. It cannot be used to plug holes in the general operating budget. This will be a balancing act since many regular budget items incorporate mitigation of climate woes. One of the main projects is mitigating the climate-caused low-stream flows that are not only endangering our water but are decimating Lummi Nation’s salmon fisheries. 

This is only the first money to arrive from the CCA. The city and the county have identified the built environment as their No. 1 priority and passed a plan for all new buildings to use clean energy systems. But they also need to address existing buildings that need retrofitting, including homes. This may require use of the money for outright grants or builder incentives to retrofit.

Transportation is the second-biggest climate challenge. Encouraging people to buy electric cars with monetary incentives is important, as is Whatcom Transit Authority’s stated mission to buy more electric buses. 

Lastly, Whatcom County is fortunate to have a high-value workforce at Cherry Point that must be retrained. Talks are in progress to convert BP to a green hydrogen and/or biofuel facility.  

The League of Women Voters believes that climate change is a serious threat facing our nation and planet, and that government at every level must take mitigating action consistent with the best available climate science.  It is critical that CCA funds be used for the sole purpose of mitigating climate change in our communities.

Robin Barker

President,

League of Women Voters of Bellingham/Whatcom County


Editor,

Cowden Inc. has asked for a permit to put in a 70-acre Mineral Surface Mine on South Pass Road, close to where it intersects with Frost Road. Many small organic farmers have moved into this area in the last five to 10 years, as well as multi-generational family farms close by. We bought our 20 acres five years ago, never imagining we would be confronted with this potential catastrophe. This pit is also in the South Saar Creek Critical Aquifer Discharge area. Note the word “critical,” yet their initial environmental review states that by using best practices, any concerns with down-gradient water bodies will be addressed. When has corporate America ever put public safety or water quality ahead of profits? Look at what San Juan Island Gravel just got fined for their complete lack of containment of pollutants, and this took years to enforce. So for years, they polluted the waterways. The same will happen here.

The impacts on fragile South Pass Road are huge; 25 trucks going in and out every day for 20 years! The fugitive dust will be hard to contain and has been well-documented to cause significant health issues if inhaled in large amounts, especially for the young, the old and those with chronic respiratory issues. It also drifts onto neighboring properties and causes harm to the entire environment. 

Please help us stop this Mineral Surface Mine application. I have only begun to address overwhelming environmental and quality of life issues this mine presents us with.

It is a recipe for rural degradation and family farm life destruction.  

Respectively,  

Tom and Elli Harron

Whatcom County


Editor,

On March 26, I read an author’s words about the panic after fictionalized gunfire in a crowded space was described by a character as “it could have been worse,” while another character said, “it should have been better.” This affected me deeply and I stopped reading to write the following.

We must strive for what is better and abhor what is worse because worse is more than bad and the next step is worst. When another school shooting occurs, how many of us will say “it could have been worse.” March 26, 2023, was the evening before three students and three teachers were shot to death in an elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee. This slaughter of innocents was the 129th mass shooting in our country in the first 86 days of this year. Given that a “mass shooting” is one in which at least four human beings, excluding the shooter, die in “what could have been worse” scenarios, at least 156 dead individuals seem to be a new normal.

What will be tipping point? What will be the “worst” mass shooting that spurs lawmakers, goaded by citizens who elect them, to identify and approve “should be better” life-saving options for common sense gun regulations to which Justice Scalia was sympathetic: “… the Second Amendment right is not unlimited …” If we as individuals and a society are unwilling to confront the onslaught of mass shootings by being silent, there will be no end to the mayhem, the heartbreak, the loss, the despair-ridden words: “It could have been worse.” It is time for all people of good conscience to take an unrelenting, conscience-driven stand: Guns are not more important, of more value or more sacred than human lives. 

Jerry Hunter

Bellingham

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