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Letters to the Editor, Week of Feb. 8, 2024

Indoor rec, school levies, port self-aggrandizing and fire department discord


I was dismayed to read Mr. [Neil] Schaner’s Greenways victory lap commentary last week (CDN, Feb. 1, 2024). It struck me as insincere. I voted “no” on the Greenways Levy for the first time in 33 years (knowing full well that it would pass). I voted “no” due to the lack of transparency Mr. Schaner showed with regard to how much this levy would cost taxpayers (it was presented to elected officials and the public as a tax decrease, when it will be nearly a 75% increase) and the fact that there is no established, documented public need for any of the projects proposed by Mr. Schaner. (The fact that the REI crowd and the bikers of Galbraith with their $5,000 bikes vote for something does not mean there is a public need.)

We need indoor activities for people of color and women who do not necessarily feel safe alone on trails outdoors, those with differing abilities or mobilities that can’t access trails and outdoor spaces as easily, older folks that need indoor options to realistically get moving, and so much more — this is where the public need is, and it has been well documented by the city’s assessments.

Several times during the campaign, in CDN, Mr. Schaner committed to working to get more indoor recreation opportunities for our city. The community will be watching to see if he keeps his word.

Vic Werbie
Birchwood, Bellingham

In response to Rob Fix’s self-aggrandizing piece praising the Port’s recent accomplishments at Bellingham’s waterfront (CDN, Jan. 19, 2023), pardon me for objecting. Strenuously. Those accomplishments were won only as a result of repeated egregious errors. While he has to come up with something to show for repeated failures, it’s worth reminding the public of how the Port willfully ignored years of work developing a comprehensive plan for the waterfront only to have it dashed to smithereens by its contract with Harcourt, who revamped the plan into something unrecognizable.

Then, as many in the community predicted, Harcourt never lived up to its promises, defaulting, leaving a few building skeletons in its wake, which now hide behind murals so the public never sees the Port’s disgrace.

The final blow: ABC Recycling, a toxic noisy heavy industry surreptitiously moved on top of Bellingham’s own brownfield, and is now allowed to contribute its own sludge to the mix. Has anyone visited the celebrated pump track and food trucks on a windy day, only to have the toxic dust from the metal pile blow over them from a block away? How appetizing. That is not the way to encourage more business at the waterfront.

Mr. Fix hardly deserves his recent hefty raise, and I hope Mayor Lund is reconsidering retaining those instrumental in justifying this travesty.

Mind you, I am not opposed to a working waterfront. I am opposed to this kind of heavy, toxic industry that will only re-pollute what we’ve spent millions cleaning up.

Elizabeth Smith

Please help us understand how the Port of Bellingham spent millions of taxpayer dollars cleaning up toxic contamination from old polluting industries on Bellingham’s waterfront; and then proceeded to allow a new ugly polluter, ABC Recycling, and perhaps its expansion with toxic metal shredding. It would be most helpful to see a timeline showing the dates, actions and votes of each Port of Bellingham commissioner that created the ABC Recycling mess. 

Going forward, it would be helpful to know the dates of further actions pertaining to ABC Recycling and the shredder and the email addresses of the Port Commissioners, Whatcom County Council members, and other public officials involved in the decision-making so that interested CDN readers can make their voices heard. 

Paula Rotondi

Mayor Kim Lund’s fresh energy and commitment to serving our citizens was on display last week in her resolute action to keep the fleet of city emergency and maintenance vehicles operating safely.

The lack of routine maintenance of city vehicles due to inadequate staffing of fleet mechanics reached crisis proportions in December when the city was alarmingly short of operable fire trucks. This crisis escalated in early January when the city had no operable fire ladder trucks. The reasons for this paralysis of inaction can be traced to the cascading effect of bad decisions made by city public works managerial staff.

While the problem was clearly evident, the solution was not.

Fortunately, Mayor Lund’s executive abilities and experience helped find a way through the morass she inherited from the previous administration. After listening to city staff, meeting with union leaders and gaining insight from employees working the shop floor, Mayor Lund swiftly took the decisive steps necessary to attract and retain the skilled mechanics the city badly needs. Mayor Lund’s actions also resolve a long-standing labor dispute and end a state investigation into unfair labor practices charges against the city. City employees from all departments are grateful for Mayor Lund’s clear-sighted intervention.

Mayor Lund has shown she puts safety and protection of citizens above all else.

Dean Ireton Tharp
City of Bellingham Local 1937
Guild of Pacific Northwest Employees

Who else is disturbed by the lack of financial explanation in voter pre-voting material? The Ferndale School District proposition 2024-11 “School programs and Operations Replacement Levy” says, “This is not a new levy, it replaces the existing levy that expires December 2024 …” True, but there is no explanation why the previously approved levy of $11 million for 2023 needs to be increased to $14 million for 2025, rising to $17 million for 2028. An increase of over 50%. Why not?

Alas, this is not the first example. In November 2023, the jail proposition material did not disclose a bond of $150 million would need to be issued to finance construction that the sales tax increase would service, plus the costs of existing and additional services. We were told that at least 50% of the tax proceeds would fund those additional services in four to six years. Given the likely terms and servicing costs of such a bond, by my calculations, the tax will not be sufficient to fulfill that pledge. It seems likely we can look forward to a further increase in the tax for that purpose. In 2022, we were asked to vote for additional funding for child care without a clear explanation of where and how the additional funding would be spent.

I am sympathetic with these objectives, but I voted against the latter two because I resent being treated like an ATM. I shall do the same with the first.

Roger Griffin

We are voting YES to approve the EP&O and Technology levies for the Meridian School District. These two levies are not new, they simply replace the funding for similar levies which were approved four years ago. A yes vote will allow the district to maintain the high quality of educational opportunities which have been a hallmark of our small, rural district within whose boundaries we have lived for more than 40 years.

Our seven children graduated from Meridian High School, where they benefited from the dedication, the pride and the competency of the teachers, staff and administration, all of whom prepared them for the rigors of a university degree.

Our children continue to benefit from the foresight and generous spirit of generations of Meridian residents who kept our schools funded before we moved here, and we want to be part of the effort to continue the work of our district for future generations of young people.

Educating our children is one of the most important things that a community can do together. We in the Meridian School District believe in quality education, and we have proven our commitment by funding school levies for the past 23 years … the need is too great to stop now.

Please join us in voting YES for the two Meridian School District levy proposals.

Bill and Mary Chambers

Fentanyl, like other opioids available on street corners for less than a dollar, is a result of federal policy that widely distributes narcotics to chronic pain sufferers while banning the benign THC (cannabis oil). While I applaud those combatting the opioid crisis, I condemn Congress for causing it. Legalizing cannabis and making it available as medicine, like they did in Canada, would give us a healthier choice and help to eliminate organized crime. Until Congress stands up to the pharmaceutical industry, no progress can be made.

Jay Taber

There are two important levies for Bellingham Public Schools (BPS) on the February ballot. The approval of these levies would ensure we could maintain the amazing education our kids deserve!

My name is Lynnette Bennett. As a parent and volunteer with my daughter’s schools, I have seen firsthand the care and passion for education that every staff and teacher has for our kids. As a PTA leader, I have also seen that the budget provided by the state is not sufficient to fully staff what our district needs. Schools rely on these levies to fill the gap between what the state provides and what our kids need to receive a high-quality education. I believe we are very fortunate to have the best schools and I urge voters to help keep them that way.

My name is Sam Humphreys. I am not a parent of the district, but as a recent graduate from BPS (Sehome 2014), I have experienced firsthand the strengths of an adequately funded district. The teachers, technology, safety, sports, arts and more that I benefited from wouldn’t have been possible without levies.

We, the co-chairs of Citizens for Bellingham Public Schools, know that students are our future citizens. We believe that a YES vote for this levy funding is a direct investment in the future of our community. We encourage everyone to turn in their ballots by Feb. 13 and hope you, too, will support our students with a YES vote.

Lynnette Bennett and Sam Humphreys

A few thoughts immediately sprang to mind as I read “Fire Officials out of loop as Whatcom County mulls district overhaul” (CDN, Feb. 4, 2024):

  • Fire officials probably weren’t consulted because they were too busy trying to put the perfect sear on their porterhouses down at the station.
  • The Whatcom County Council is a bit of a joke, isn’t it?
  • It’ll be impossible to get two city councils, at least two unions, and 13 fire districts to agree to anything.
  • Some consulting firm gets to pay Christmas bonuses this year on the taxpayer dime. 

All in a day’s work. 

Lincoln Vander Veen

Jonna Gillham’s letter was, perhaps, the most important, the most well-written, and the most passionate letter in last week’s CDN. That an eighth grader submitted that letter gives this retired teacher hope for our future.

I would like to draw the attention of Jonna, and every other person concerned about climate change, to Our Children’s Trust. This nonprofit organization is suing the federal government and several state governments seeking to compel them to protect the Constitutional rights of young people — not yet even old enough to vote — to a safe and healthy future.

Tom Goetzl

I love our authentic historic downtown and it was a prime reason for my relocating here. I appreciate the local news you provide in an era when it is declining, and I realize that you strive to provide in-depth reporting. However, you have managed to trash our downtown in the past few editions with pictures and headlines of homelessness, and maintaining in your latest headline that it “struggles.”

First, the homelessness is a minor problem mostly confined to a few alleys, and the merchants I have talked to are concerned, but not overly so. People move freely and safely throughout the downtown.  Second, the minor fluctuations in vacancy rates in the downtown do not indicate decline but merely normal fluctuations that are currently influenced greatly by the closing of Rite Aid, a company with bigger problems.

If our downtown is struggling, why is high-end Swedish retailer Fjallraven moving into the large space on Holly Street to join all the other quality stores there? If it is struggling, why is it so hard to find a parking space at any time of the day, and why is a new parking garage going into the basement below the Samish Sea office? 

If it is struggling, why are the restaurants and music venues packed almost every night? If it is struggling why is one closed restaurant quickly replaced? Why is the Mount Baker Theatre doing so well? If it is struggling, why is the Bellingham Tower filled with upscale tenants and why are there so many professional services located downtown?

Why is our library always full and why are there waiting lists for books? If our green spaces are the soul of Bellingham, then the downtown is our heart. As our primary source of local news, you should dwell sometimes about the positives in our downtown.

Ken Dalena

Editor’s note: CDN, located in the heart of downtown, stands by the word in the headline.


As we speak, another few hundred Palestinian civilians are being massacred with our tax dollars. President Biden feigns concern with a wink and a nod as he hands Bibi another $32 million of our hard-earned tax money. Meanwhile, millions of protestors from Cape Town to Tokyo, New York to Oslo, are ignored. Daily calls to the White House and Congress for BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) are fruitless, as AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) has bought them all off.

I’ve been listening daily to Amy Goodman for years as she reports on Palestinian deaths, yet most of the mainstream media is deaf to the screams of little children and their wailing parents, a surge in the ongoing Nakba since 1948. One young man unable to bury his mother, as her body parts were strewn about in pieces. Another reporter tells of his 65 extended family members murdered in the last three months. 

Journalists such as Shireen Abu Akleh are executed summarily for exposing the truth. What is to be done? We need a huge and united peace movement that cannot be divided. The prospects are dim, given that Trump is far worse than Biden, and only one presidential candidate, Cornel West, is not a Zionist. 

I donate monthly to Jewish Voice for Peace, as I watch brave rabbis commit civil disobedience confronting this latest Holocaust.  How many more than the 27,000 victims will we tolerate before we pull the Benjamins, baby?

Dianne Foster

Three cheers for Congressional members passing a bipartisan bill that begins to return the expanded Child Tax Credit that lifted millions out of poverty. This legislation passed the full House by a large majority thanks to constituents, like readers of Cascadia Daily News.

Now at least 400,000 children will be lifted out of poverty and millions more will be better off. Of course this bill must still pass the Senate. Both Senators Murray and Cantwell are in full support, but taking a minute to thank and encourage them to help pass it can still make a difference (202-224-3121).  Our voices matter and millions of children will be grateful that we spoke up.

Willie Dickerson

Letters to the Editor are published online Wednesdays; a selection is published in print Fridays. Send to by 10 a.m. Tuesdays. Rules: Maximum 250 words, be civil, have a point and make it clearly. Preference is given to letters about local subjects. CDN reserves the right to reject letters or edit for length, clarity, grammar and style, or removal of personal attacks or offensive content. Letters must include an address/phone number to verify the writer's identity (not for publication).

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