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Letters to the Editor, Week of March 13, 2024

Careful, Birch Bay; farm water, PeaceHealth, power grids and Trader Joe's

Editor,

Scattered around the West are a couple dozen resort communities dedicated to tourism. Very few of them seem to be happy communities, although that is subjective. Most have a long list of problems that make them highly transient and unlivable for families and long-term locals. Tourism revenues are so, so tempting because you only have to satisfy tourists for a few days, not a lifetime.

These towns go through an evolution of converting single-family housing to nightly rentals; invasion by chain retail and hospitality; accelerating property values, assessments and taxes; power accession by realtors and developers; dependence on low-wage service work to keep the wheels turning; exodus of families and service workers due to unaffordability; heavy commuting and traffic congestion, and so on.

I point this out in the context of Birch Bay’s consideration to incorporate (CDN, Feb. 29, 2024). It is already tourism-driven, and the independent incorporation studies point out, in a buried sort of way, the danger of driving it more so. I get that many Birch Bayers love their community and want to institutionalize its good things. That enthusiasm, however, can paper over the risk of getting it all wrong, and actually losing all the good things you set out to preserve. Be very, very careful.

Tom Horton
Sudden Valley
Editor,

Kudos to Steve Groen for his excellent response (CDN, Feb. 21, 2024) to Eric Hirst (CDN, Feb. 14, 2024) in “Whatcom farmers already sound stewards of water.”

To suggest, as Hirst does, that farms don’t feel the economic pain like others do simply is not true. When a landowner pays their water bill, they are paying for the maintenance and upgrades on the infrastructure that moves water, not the water itself, exactly what a farm does.  

Hirst calls for water conservation but fails to mention a key issue that limits the discussion: the state’s relinquishment law. Known as “use it or lose it,” relinquishment disincentivizes farms from showing actual water savings. Fixing this out-of-date, costly law should be the first item on the “let’s encourage water savings” agenda.

Hirst calls for a water tax. However, farmers already tax themselves through their Watershed Improvement Districts, and engage in both projects and leadership discussions surrounding water issues. They already do contribute significantly to looking for solutions. And Hirst knows this.

The farming community continues to work on the various aspects of water, be they quality, conservation, or legal, to be good stewards of the land. By making faulty comparisons and proposing damaging and unproven solutions, Hirst risks further compounding the mistrust that too often already exists.  

Fred Likkel, executive director, Whatcom Family Farmers
Lynden
Editor,

How, and why, did it take three years for this egregious mistake to see the light of day?

In a case of mistaken identity, PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center asked the wrong family for a decision to continue treatment or to withdraw life support from a patient who was considered brain dead by medical staff.

Using the terminology “conspiracy of silence” is a serious accusation. But one could make the case that PeaceHealth management in Clark County, the county medical examiner, a local funeral home and other entities made a pact to keep this story out of the public view to protect self-interests, at the expense of the public’s right to know. Based on even the limited information now revealed, it is not unreasonable to suggest these entities united in defense of their common interests.

According to the King 5 News report, to this day, PeaceHealth’s top management has not explained or apologized to either family that was affected by its appalling misidentification of a patient. 

PeaceHealth corporate administration has a well-documented history of lacking transparency and forthright communication with the communities it serves — three recent examples are how they mishandled the announcement to shut down the outpatient palliative care program in Whatcom County, the wrongful discharge of Dr. Ming Lin during the COVID-19 pandemic, and unlawful conduct related to patient eligibility for financial assistance

While it won’t be a panacea for all of PeaceHealth’s transgressions, I once again ask our Whatcom County community to advocate for representation on the system governing board. We deserve a voice.

Delores Davies
Ferndale
Editor,

In last week’s print, Catherine Rampel (CDN, March 8, 2024) talked about the state of the economy, which, along with immigration and the border, seems to be ranking up there as the top issues in next fall’s elections.  

People seem to remember a better economy just a few years ago. How quickly we forget. Reviewing the data does not support that. Overall, we are living in the best U.S. economy in a few decades. Our country is outperforming the entire European Union, as well as China.  

So, I read about people who complain that grocery store prices are higher than they were before the pandemic. I would ask those folks when they have ever seen prices lower than they were five years ago, unless it was during something like the Great Depression of the 1930s. Even the Federal Reserve is targeting a goal of 2% annual inflation, which means prices will perpetually go up, just at a slower rate.

Food in this country, even at current prices, takes up 11.3% of Americans’ income. About half of that total, however, is the money spent in restaurants and for takeout. That’s remarkable. Even at this total, we are still near the bottom of the world rankings for the percentage of our income spent on food. Many poorer countries spend 40–50% of their weekly earnings on food.

To my thinking, the real bind on finances in our country is the cost of housing. Both rents and mortgage payments are out of sight and unattainable for many people. Something like half of our population is spending well over the recommended 30% of their income on housing, which certainly cuts into what you can spend on the other necessities of life. The housing crisis is not based on who’s president, as it has been with us for many years.

When the economy is an issue, please let’s discuss it with a sense of perspective rather than one trip to the grocery store.

Rick Osen
Bellingham
Editor,

I enjoyed Isaac Stone Simonelli’s article on our maxed-out electrical grid (CDN, March 5, 2024). It’s clear we must stop burning fossil fuels if we hope to avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change, and electrification of buildings and transportation is an important step.

Beefing up our century-old top-down system of large-scale centralized generation, transmission and distribution with new transmission lines is essential, but it’s not enough. To generate extra power, enhance energy resilience, and stabilize the grid, we need to complement our centralized system with distributed energy resources or DERs.

DERs use batteries, rooftop solar panels and other small-scale equipment to generate, store and distribute electric power locally. To provide energy resilience, Vermont’s Green Mountain Power found it was cheaper to subsidize a battery for every customer than pay recovery costs for extreme weather events and build new power lines to improve reliability.

To stabilize the grid, utilities such as Portland General Electric are aggregating DER systems to create virtual power plants (VPPs). PGE incentivized 525 batteries for their residential customers. In exchange, PGE uses a portion of the stored energy during peak electrical demand as a VPP. VPPs can replace gas-fired peaking plants.

DERs are less susceptible to large-scale outages due to extreme weather, earthquakes or terrorist activities.

Now is the time to develop a multi-year plan to electrify your home. The Federal Inflation Reduction Act provides a 30% tax deduction up to $2,000 per year on equipment and labor through 2032. The act also offers upfront rebates for low- to middle-income taxpayers. Rewiringamerica.org is an excellent resource to get started.

Ellyn Murphy
Bellingham
Editor,

I remember the original Trader Joe’s in Pasadena, California, a little storefront with a faux nautical entry portal complete with rope handrails. A local joint that sold good stuff.

Now 50 years later, everybody knows about the store. Even Bellingham has one fer cryin’ out loud. ‘Hamsters and half of Canada are in on the secret. We were resigned at the time that it was futile for our little secret to remain secret. When the idle rich from San Marino were seen sniffing about, we knew then the jig was up. Then Paris Hilton finally showed up at Burning Man.

A recent article in the Herald announced the possibility of In-N-Out coming to Ridgefield, Clark County. That’s good news, well sorta. One could hope that someday one might land in Bellingham. Nevertheless, like Trader Joe’s, the secret’s escaped.

In the old days, In-N-Out was a small mom and pop chain known only to the locals. There’s one in Capistrano. A typical summer day was carefully cultivating one’s future case of melanoma while surfing at San Onofre; then afterwards cruising into line there behind a Ford woody and everyone blasting the Beach Boys. All the while casting a “knowing glance” to your favorite squeeze as ya order “off menu.”

Sadly, even news writers at the Herald know the In-N-Out code now. Ah, the indignity! Cultural appropriation at its worst. “Mustard burgers-protein style, with roadkill fries and Arnold Palmers” could finally arrive in the ‘Ham.

The Bellingham twist: We’ll see a long lineup of Subaru and Prius owners with NPR cranked at full volume.

Bob Morton
Bellingham
Editor,

I have to express opposition to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) recent decision to block the merger between Kroger and Albertsons. The motivations behind the decision seem murky to me.

The evidence is clear, the traditional grocery space is a shrinking market. As consumers have migrated to buy online or in bulk, stores like Kroger and Albertsons have seen a steady decline in their share of the market. All the while, Walmart, Amazon and Costco have steadily grown. Kroger and Albertsons are simply responding to these market dynamics. Combined, Kroger and Albertsons are about half of Walmart’s market share. Keep in mind, Albertsons has been for sale for several years; they are going to be purchased by someone. Lastly, Kroger and Albertsons are union jobs; Walmart, Amazon and Costco are not. 

The FTC claims the merger will hurt consumers, but that makes no sense. Absent this merger, the number of long-term viable competitors is going to shrink. Albertsons will get purchased and Kroger will continue to contract. The Wall Street Journal called this decision a “a politicized mess,” and “a giant gift to Amazon, Walmart and other grocery retailers.” In the end, it’s unclear who really benefits from the decision, but I’m not sure consumers were the FTC’s top priority.

John Huntley
President/CEO, Mills Electric, Bellingham
Editor,

It is hard to ignore the rising polarization and isolation in this country. It is easy to go numb. We just can’t go numb. Do not sit silently and do nothing. Real power for change is with the people — especially you!  This is a critical time in our country that offers you an opportunity to search your soul and examine what you support and what action you can make.  Here is an avenue you can explore. We only need to look at the many nonprofits that serve in our community to see that when we come together and serve, we see the value and positive impact of bridge-building across differences. Volunteer!

Helen Moran
Bellingham
Editor,

A recent letter by Kristina and Mike Heintz urging an “uncommitted” vote in the March 12 primary (CDN, March 6, 2024) was logically flawed, naïve and dangerous. The authors have two aims: support the “Immediate Ceasefire Movement” (I assume in Gaza) and to “spark an Open Democratic Convention.” Voting uncommitted delegates does not have the slightest influence on Israel’s actions but will jeopardize the election of a Democratic president. Who the Democratic candidate will be is settled. That ship has sailed.

Anytime a party is not united behind an incumbent president, they lose (Carter abandoned resulted in Reagan, Johnson abandoned resulted in Nixon). There are several talented, quality well-known Democrats out there. But they are not seeking the office, have no funding, no campaign apparatus and almost certainly are not going to change their minds come convention time in August.

Secondly, if you wish to influence U.S. foreign policy, write a letter, join a protest march or other lawful means that target the specific issue. Otherwise, how is Joe supposed to know you don’t like his policy on Gaza? Voting to not support Biden strengthens Trump; an unintended, disastrous consequence.

Steve Bailey
Bellingham

Editor’s note: This letter arrived after the March 12 presidential primary election; it’s included here to allow the rebuttal point to be made.

Letters to the Editor are published online Wednesdays; a selection is published in print Fridays. Send to letters@cascadiadaily.com 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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