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The Hammer: February 2024 collectible Digital-Facelift Edition

Bake sale alert: Mount Vernon's going to have to dig deeper to afford a new top cop

By Ron Judd Executive Editor

Feb. 16, 2024

Top Cop Shop Talk: Plenty of microscopic violins were deployed this week with word that Mount Vernon’s chief of police job didn’t pay enough to attract quality candidates peering in from other … uh, big cities, like Selah, Yakima County.

Serious Issue Though: City officials successfully pressured the Mount Vernon City Council  to boost the job’s pay range from $145,000 to $190,000 to as high as $209,000, citing the high-and-climbing cost of living here in Western Washington.

Sit Down For This: The cost of living in the Rich Folks’ Onshore Tax Haven of Washington state is 16% higher than the U.S. average, and housing is 28% spendier than the nation, Mayor Peter Donovan told the council — helpfully reminding most people who live in the area what they already know by looking at their own checking accounts.

The Difference Being, of Course: All those other folks don’t have a public till to dig a bit deeper into to keep them in their usual and accustomed comfort zone when deciding to relocate to the Big Soggy.

Meanwhile, Hammer Wonders: How does Bellingham Chief Rebecca Mertzig manage to struggle along in the even-more-expensive ‘Ham on a paltry $197K? Someone might consider starting a GoFundMe.

Don’t Get Hammer Started: About the pensions.

Speaking of (Spendy) Top Jobs: Notable that Greg Baker, chief of Bellingham Public Schools, did not, after all, land an outside job as superintendent of the Northwest Educational Service District 189, and will remain at the helm locally.

Probably Not Fair: To say he’s been held back.

In Fact: Baker said in a public message that he wasn’t itching to leave — even a little. “Staying in Bellingham is not a consolation prize,” Baker said in a release issued from Consolation Prize HQ.

Stay tuned.

Feb. 8, 2024

Struggling to Understand the Struggle: Wow, lots of conversation about a single CDN headline this week: “Bellis Fair mall retail grows as downtown Bellingham struggles.”

More on That: The juxtaposition came in a well-reported Frank Catalano piece noting the dual trends of declining business occupancy rates downtown versus the mall. On that basis, downtown is, it can be said, “struggling” in a relative sense. And in a broader one, as well, which is why we used the word, after strong consideration.

But While We’re At It: Getting all lathered up over the use of the word “struggles” in any headline about current downtown Bellingham (we’re not going to mention here any names, such as the Downtown Bellingham Partnership) is a non-starter in this space. CDN lives (some of us) and works (all of us) downtown daily. I think many of us would agree “struggles” is a polite assessment of a downtown that more accurately seems troubled.

Like Most Everyone Else: We’re hoping the people on the streets who want off them get help, and that the great overdose epidemic we see playing out all day, nearly everywhere, is stemmed. As a news org, we’ll do everything in our power to accurately portray that struggle.

But Then the Big ‘But’: Refusing to acknowledge problems is not a pathway to solutions; sticking one’s head into the sandstone, like an ostrich, behind one of the downtown’s success stories, is not a good look for local leaders or even residents. Let’s be real, people. It’s not the downtown it was a decade ago — in ways both good and sometimes awful.

Speaking of Which: Hammer would not want to be in the shoes of City of Bellingham employees tasked with regular cleaning up belongings of street residents. Nor in the shoes of people who might be losing their shoes to said work, on some occasions. This struggle is real and painful to observe.

Meanwhile, in Central Skagit: A year and a half ago, seven days of testimony was taken over a hotly disputed gravel mine off Grip Road, near Old Highway 99 north of Sedro-Woolley. Ever since, folks have waited for appointed hearing examiner Andrew Reeves to issue a decision, based on those facts. A long delay prompted a lawsuit — and clearly, some pride wounds.

This Week: Reeves did, in fact, issue a decision, effectively rubber-stamping the project without conditions, and using the space on his forms to rant like some over-caffeinated person in the comments section of a subrate news site.

Dude: You could have done that a year ago.

Three Thoughts On That: 1) What a great system for public-policy making! 2) Would counties be better off simply submitting the facts of a proposal to an AI bot and taking their chances? (Said bot might get everything wrong, but it would at least try to spit something out — and probably not spit back in the public’s face.) 3) So is it all now back to the drawing board after an inevitable appeal? (See Thought 1, above.)

Meanwhile: No home team to root for in the Super Bowl this weekend, but all good Northwest football fans know what to do — root against the annoying San Francisco 49ers, a team named after the average IQ of most of its Bay Area fans.

And Finally: Don’t overlook a true sports home team’s quest for a comparable level of greatness here at home: Lummi Nation’s current run toward the Class 1B state title, as chronicled by CDN’s Connor J. Benintendi.

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

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