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Letters to the Editor, Week of Sept. 13, 2023

The jail, scrap metal, a hero lost and government-as-a-business


Recently (CDN, Sept. 1, 2023), Andrew Reding’s guest commentary built upon (and linked to) a resolution passed by the Whatcom Democrats on Aug. 26. 

As a lifelong Democrat who has served a number of e-board positions with our county party, I found the resolution to be a mixed bag, combining some elements that were solid, with others that were shaky. 

For an example of where it is shaky, a “Whereas” in the Resolution underpinning Mr. Reding’s column calls for replacing the current jail with a successor jail downtown, adjacent to the courthouse. But: A trouble with urban, “vertical” jails is that no outdoor facilities can be provided for the inmates within the tiny available footprint. 

As a result, the inmates are kept penned indoors, never able to have the open sky overhead. That is cruel and unusual punishment. The La Bounty Road site, by contrast, allows a modular low-rise structure and unlimited outdoor recreation and wellness facilities. Access to the outdoors should be available to all human beings except in the gravest circumstances, which certainly do not apply here.

Abe Jacobson




As a new resident of Whatcom County and therefore relatively unversed in the mechanics of civil administration here, I have read the articles, letters and stories about the need to replace the existing jail to which debate I thought Andrew Reding’s article in your Sept. 1 issue added wisdom. It prompted me to Google “Bellingham Jail Initiative” which led me to the Whatcom County Justice project and Resolution 2023-006 of the Whatcom County Council passed in February accepting a needs assessment that had been developed and identifying the next steps to create a Justice Project Assessment Plan.

I have emphasized Plan. The first action step was to “Put a sales tax initiative before voters in November 2023 to help pay for the projects in this plan, along with funds from other local, state and federal sources”. With respect, isn’t that putting the cart before the proverbial horse? 

Surely the time to determine funding is after the very specific details of that plan when formulated are settled. What is to be built, requiring at the least a specific site and preliminary architectural plans, how built, at what cost and how managed. Given that there still seems to be a debate underway about sites and what should go on them, we don’t seem to be there yet. Should we be asked to approve additional taxes before these specifics have been reviewed and approved by our elected representatives on the council? Have they done so or are we being asked to write an essentially blank check with the details to be discussed afterwards? What does the county council see as its role in these matters?

I ask, again, because it seemed we had a similar situation last year with Proposition 5, for which I voted, despite little detail having been provided. I am reluctant to do the same again. 

Roger Griffin




“Boondoggle” is the word that comes to mind regarding the [Whatcom County] Sheriff’s new jail proposal. Even the county treasurer says we cannot afford it without raising the tax rate. Why the sheriff’s previous new jail was poorly designed and maintained leading us to the present crisis has not been answered; rewarding bad behavior by approving another poorly thought-out proposal makes no sense.

I was originally swayed by the CDN series to support the ballot measure. After reading the CDN guest commentaries and links to special reports, I am now opposed to it. 

Thanks, CDN, for hosting this much-needed discussion.

Jay Taber



Is Whatcom County a better place than it was 20 years ago? I moved here in 2002 and really enjoy life here. But to me, Whatcom County is not as nice a place as it was then. Traffic congestion is worse, parks and trails are more crowded, housing prices have skyrocketed and many more people are homeless.

Population growth is likely a major factor causing declines in quality of life. Over the past two decades, our population has grown by 33%, adding 56,000 residents. 

If we are worse off with more people, should we try to slow future growth? Should future population growth reflect limits on our ability to absorb more people — land, clean and abundant water, clean air, and money for new infrastructure (roads, schools, fire and police stations, libraries, and parks)? That is, can we plan and create a future good for both current and new residents?

The effects of population growth are a critical topic that almost never receives public attention. Some likely disagree with me, and I hope they write letters to Cascadia Daily News and other local media. Let’s have a robust discussion about the future of Whatcom County and the quality of our lives.

Eric Hirst




Whatcom County has lost a true environmental champion. 

Wendy Harris (CDN, Sept. 6, 2023) was fiercely independent, outspoken, brilliant, funny, engaging, irascible and fearless.  

She embodied the traits and skills one would find in a truly effective leader. 

Wendy had a true compassion for animals and, by extension, all living things and the preservation of the natural environment.  It was a full-time job that she did particularly well. 

The lesser among us give lip service to these lofty ambitions, but Wendy was able to effectively channel her fierce commitment and passion in a manner that made county decision-makers take notice. And ignore her at their peril.

Wendy could analyze, interpret and challenge the minutiae of a complex Environmental Impact Statement or Planning Department Land Use Proposal more quickly than any citizen advocate I have ever worked with.  And she did so regularly throughout her 20-year career as a citizen journalist.   

In retrospect, her positions, particularly those relating to water quality and land use, were correct and will be remembered as her legacy.

Her brilliant mind, Stanford law degree and an unbridled passion for environmental advocacy and animal welfare made her a force to be reckoned with in her presentations to councils of government. That voice is now sadly silent.

John Lesow

Point Roberts and North Vancouver, B.C. 



Thank you for your coverage (CDN, Sept. 7, 2023) regarding metal shredding by a Canadian company on Bellingham’s prime waterfront property. We attended the meeting last night hosted by the neighborhood associations. 

It is hard to imagine why Bellingham/Whatcom County has not already rezoned this property to residential or community use, let alone that a company is planning this dangerous operation within residential neighborhoods. Scrap metal from all over the U.S. and Canada brought to Bellingham on trains, trucks, barges, ships … noise, large truck traffic on city streets, pollution from all sorts of toxic chemicals in our air and water.  

Rezoning was a significant option discussed last night. Barry Buchanan, the chairman of the county council, stated his support for rezoning now.

The worst of the worst businesses blotting our waterfront — destroying our unique setting — on beautiful Bellingham Bay.

Lynn Geri




Canada sends its hazardous scrap to Bellingham because the British Columbia government’s hazardous waste rules are far more restrictive than they are here. As for protecting lands and waters, is this more important for the people in B.C. than for the residents of Whatcom County?

Apparently, yes. The spokesman for ABC Recycling was clear by saying that operating permits in BC are hard to come by, especially when it comes to water access. 

At risk: Our beautiful Bellingham Bay, our clean groundwater, our fresh air, the health of our children (the toxic hazardous zone extends well beyond Alderwood Elementary School). Just one small ABC slip-up and say goodbye to it all.

Just ask the residents of San Pablo, CA; Farmingdale, NJ; Times Beach, MO; Tucson, AZ; East Palestine, OH; or the evacuation in Tuolumne, CA. It’s not “if,” but “when” we Bellingham residents are forced to evacuate if ABC gets the political go-ahead, which, incidentally, would be against what our residents want.

Don Chapman




So Dan Purdy wants to run Whatcom County like a business? (CDN, Sept. 7. 2023). That tired old cliché warns voters that Dan has no place in our city, county or state governments. It is a self-disqualifying phrase.

A business exists to make a profit by providing goods or services. The product can be essential or frivolous, but it must be profitable. I know this because I have started successful businesses and managed business enterprises, both for-profit and not-for-profit.

A city or county government exists only to provide needed services for citizens, regardless of ability or status. Profitability, the essential concern of a business, has no meaning in a civic context. To ignore or fail to realize the profound differences between the roles of local government and local businesses betrays the fatal flaw in Mr. Purdy’s platform.

Satpal Sidhu brings a solid understanding of local government’s proper roles and a strong effort to balance divergent community needs. Satpal should be re-elected and Dan should be allowed to continue with his “Lean 6 Sigma” jargon, “to increase the velocity of value creation in business processes.”

Rob Queisser




History has to be getting weary of debunking Dan Purdy’s failed myth — that government should be run like a business. It’s a favorite chalice on conservatism’s altar of magical thinking, and a slap in the face to just and intelligent voters. Government’s very purpose since time began is to provide crucial and humane services that can’t meet a business’s requirement of profitability.

We have an endless supply of examples of business processes utterly failing, over and over, at protecting human life and liberty because it isn’t profitable: the high cost and poor outcomes of for-profit health care; the increase in unjust incarcerations when prisons become businesses; the abuses of unconstrained child labor; the blatant disregard of traumatized war veterans, to name a few.

This is not to say that sound management shouldn’t be applied to each and every public service and nonprofit organization — alongside justice and compassion — but running government as if it were a business is an egregious myth. Both the idea and its candidates need firm rejection.

Tom Horton

Sudden Valley



Mark Twain once said, “History never repeats itself, but it does often rhyme.”

Just as the populace of pre-World War II Germany was seduced by another mediocre narcissistic psychopath, which resulted in the worldwide deaths of 75 million, many Americans have been victimized by the same lethal pathology, ASS (Adolf Sycophantic Syndrome) by the buffoon with the bottle-blonde bouffant, Putin’s Poodle, Donald Trump.

Not since the American Civil War when [an estimated] 700,000, roughly 2% of the population, lost their lives, has American democracy been challenged with such an existential stress test. 

Americans slaughtering fellow Americans. Taken as a percentage of today’s population, the toll would have risen as high as 6 million souls, plus millions of civilian collateral casualties. 

This casualty rate with muskets fired at a maximum three rounds per minute, now with over 40 million modern assault rifles owned by civilian Americans, capable of firing 300 rounds per minute — do the math. 

For those of you who may know someone who is intoxicated by the toxic, lethal cocktail from the Trump punch bowl, with the misguided romantic notion of advocating armed violent insurrection against the U.S. government out of some convoluted sense of “patriotism,” remind them that right-wing violent extremist militia members were recently sentenced to federal prison for their role in the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Enrique Tarrio: 22 years

Stewart Rhodes: 18 years

Ethan Nordean: 18 years (WA state)

Joseph Biggs: 17 years

Zachary Rehl: 15 years

Dominic Pezzola: 10 years

And counting …

Michael Kominsky



Letters to the Editor are published online Wednesdays and a selection is published in print Fridays. Send Letters to the Editor to, due Tuesdays at 10 a.m. Rules: Maximum 250 words, have a point and make it clearly. CDN reserves the right to edit letters for length, clarity, grammar and style, and personal attacks or offensive content. Letters should be submitted with an address/phone number to verify the writer’s identity (not for publication).

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