Letters to the Editor, Week of Feb. 8, 2023
February 8, 2023 at 5:00 a.m.
I read with dismay rather than surprise about the recent actions of our elected county prosecutor, Mr. Eric Richey. Richey is attempting to usurp the role of the voters regarding who serves as a judge on the Whatcom County District Court. Reasonable minds can disagree about whether it is appropriate and ethical for a sitting county prosecutor to publicly support or endorse candidates for judicial office when the prosecutor’s office appears before those judges in thousands of cases each year.
Here Richey decided that it was appropriate for him to support a deputy prosecuting attorney from his own office for district court judge. Whatcom County voters did not follow his recommendation and, instead, elected a well-respected and experienced criminal defense attorney, Jonathan Rands, to the bench. Upon taking the oath of office, our newly elected judge was immediately served by Richey’s office with hundreds of affidavits of prejudice in criminal cases pending before the court.
The county prosecutor alleges that he cannot get a fair trial before Judge Rands. Nonsense. The voters elected a well-qualified judicial candidate who is clearly independent from Richey’s office. That does not make Rands biased. In fact, the opposite is true. Independence does not equal bias. I applaud Judge Rands for standing up for himself, the voters who elected him, and, most importantly, for judicial independence, for refusing to yield to the cowardly and transparent attempt by Richey to bully him from the bench.
Matt Means points out an obvious concern about the prosecutors' affidavits against this new judge. By the standard this appears to represent, any prosecutor elected as judge should be subject to disqualification from any criminal case. To this retired lawyer it looks like retribution for having the temerity to run against a prosecutor.
Yesterday, as I was enjoying my usual “pint” (which is really 12 ounces) at Stones Throw, I happened to be chatting with a TV game show producer. Apparently, the recent antics of our petulant county councilman, Todd Donovan, as reported in the CDN, caught the attention of tinsel town. The producer is here researching a possible new reality game show starring Todd. They were thinking of possibly naming it “Tantrum Tod.”
The concept is that at council meetings, Todd’s body language is analyzed by experts, scored and shown on a screen mounted on the council chambers wall. Scoring would include such behavior as nervous fidgeting, eyerolls, pencil tossing, sarcasm, etc.
Three conservative Republican volunteers present in the audience, are selected and asked to choose a “Champion,” either [Kathy] Kershner, [Ben] Ellenbaas or [Tyler] Byrd.
As the meeting progresses, the audience follows the scoring as the champions challenge his positions on various issues, or that of the progressives on the council. “Donovan points” are awarded to the various champions according to the body language scores they elicit.
Style points are also awarded for histrionics. For example, if the star starts paper wadding, finger-pointing, shoe tossing, jumping up and down on the desk, etc., then the champion is awarded extra style points.
The show's climax is the anticipated Donovan meltdown. If it happens, then the round is over. If Donovan unexpectedly behaves himself and maintains composure, then the points roll over to the next meeting and three new contestants are selected.
Prizes are awarded to the champion player that accumulated the most Donovan points:
First Place is a weekend at the “Not the Titanic Hotel.” The winner gets either the always-in-demand “Iron Scrap Pile Room” or the romantic “Camper Land Suite,” which provides commanding views of the bicycle reclaim operation over on Cornwall.
Second Place is a large framed, “To whom it may concern” autopen signed photo of Mayor Fleetwood at the sewer plant and a copy of his Climate Action Plan.
Third Place is a lifetime subscription to The Herald.
Should be interesting to see what happens.
As Bellingham works to achieve its apparent goal of turning our waterfront into a noisy, dirty, smelly, polluted and soon-to-be underwater catastrophe, a new milestone has been reached. As your article reports “Port hears South Hill neighborhood’s noise complaints.” The residents of South Hill are reasonably complaining (of course in vain) to the Port of Bellingham about the 24-hour-a-day noise coming from loading scrap metal, trucked in from British Columbia, onto ships to ship it — who knows where?
Does the port care? Of course not, there are 18 union jobs involved in this crazy scheme to defraud homeowners of the peaceful enjoyment of their homes. According to your article, residents’ complaints were met by a shrug and a revolting retort, “It was suggested that we were paying for less property taxes by accepting the sound,” minutes of the neighborhood association noted. To add insult to injury, the port explained “that long periods of quiet experienced by local residents during two decades of limited activity at the site were 'abnormal.'” Really, that’s odd, I thought that “quiet” was a purposeful improvement over the noisy, smoke-belching toilet paper mill that previously polluted the site.
The port in conjunction with the City of Bellingham are going to “develop” the old contaminated mill site with luxury housing (and low-income housing), next to the railroad tracks, where trains spew toxic coal dust and toot their horns on one side, a junk metal processing plant and a giant, yet to be built, fish processing plant will float in front on the other side. Also, the so-called luxury housing is at risk of massive damage from sea level rise. Really?
None of the elements of the port’s land use plan are compatible with each other and this is by design. It reflects the industrial/resource extraction heritage that Bellingham seems to hold dear to its heart, even as it proudly proclaims that it wants to be a “green city” that attracts “green” businesses, technology companies and of course retirees for the endless housing development that is destroying our forests and wetlands. So, which is it: Are we still a 19th century garbage pail or a community that has learned from the past and is pursuing a plan to make things better? The answer is unfortunately all too clear.
On my way home from a lovely mother-daughter date, I nearly made a mistake, so I stopped short when I realized a car was coming through the intersection. The motorist behind me felt the need to roll down his window and shout at me about the way I’d yielded instead of stopping at several stop signs.
I was on a bicycle.
It seems to be a common misconception that bicyclists on roads need to follow the exact same rules as motorists, without exceptions. Actually, there are exceptions. RCW 46.61.190, on the topic of a “vehicle entering stop or yield intersection,” specifically notes that bicyclists may choose to yield at stop signs rather than come to a complete stop. With a not-terribly-lightweight child on the back of my bike and a slight incline, this option is quite a welcome help!
I will say, though, that the shouting driver and I have some common ground: I am sure we would agree that proposed increases in bike infrastructure, wherever they enable bikes and cars to travel with more separation, will make travel safer and more pleasant for everyone. Thank you, Bellingham drivers, for watching for bicycles on the roads. I hope that in the years to come, we will see each other more and more — on roads that are safer to share or are separated. And I hope we see more of each other around town as it gets easier to get out of our cars more often and interact at distances better suited to conversing.
I recommend that the time is now to move forward to adopt the Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) ordinance, as proposed by Bellingham’s Planning Commission and Planning Department staff.
Ralph Schwartz highlighted some of the issues facing the city council, as they weigh proposed changes to rules governing ADUs. He left us off with the questions: Would ADUs create more affordable housing? Should we relax the ownership requirement, and provide more opportunities for real estate investors to make a profit?
My perspective comes from being a member of AARP, from speaking with our neighborhood association, local designers and builders. AARP reports municipalities nationwide have been relaxing their restrictions against ADUs. I live in my ADU, at the house where I raised my kids for over 40 years. My daughter and her husband now live in the larger part of my house. I am aging in place gracefully and happily. Several of my Happy Valley neighbors are currently building ADUs for family members.
Five years ago, our Happy Valley Neighborhood Association board worked with former City of Bellingham Planning Director Rick Sepler to write the first Detached ADU (DADU) ordinance, borrowing a lot of language from Portland’s model. We were to pilot the DADU in our neighborhood, evaluate the results and move forward. But instead, after heated meetings at City Hall, the DADU ordinance went citywide, on the recommendation of the Planning Commission, and then was adopted by city council.
My experience in the last five years, following the growth of ADUs and DADUs built in lots of our Bellingham neighborhoods, is that ADUs and DADUs are well-liked. The more ADUs we have, the more diverse we are, inviting people of all ages and backgrounds to infill our neighborhoods with a variety of house sizes, with minimal visual impacts.
The proposed ordinance in front of Bellingham City Council would allow investors and homeowners to purchase and build ADUs. It seems like it would be a win-win situation. More affordable housing would be created and there will be more opportunities for investors to invest in more diverse housing options that are community compatible in established neighborhoods.
The time is now for Bellingham to relax requirements for ADUs.
“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” — Jane Jacobs, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”
I would like to see a campaign promoting bus ridership here in Bellingham and surrounding areas. The WTA is so unique. I've lived in other states and localities, where what we have here was completely NOT — meaning, no bus system, rude and underpaid drivers, scarcity of buses and locations. I am so grateful for the bus system here, and feel appalled that after the pandemic, there is so much more car traffic on the streets, even in town, and on weekdays, too.
What with all the attention given to the environment, plants and animals, all the cars in neighborhoods and on the streets are in direct opposition, an advertisement to young people to continue the destruction of our air, and emotional atmosphere of disconnection.
Years ago, [people] very rarely rode around in their car alone. One thing I remembered before moving to Washington was the memory that people in this state did car share. I was so impressed. I am very pleased also that WTA pays decent wages. I would like to see all of that in a WTA campaign to get car traffic decreased, and people back on the bus.
The Sehome athletic hazing debates seem to have missed two important contexts. First is the relationship between hazing and team performance. Actual data is hard to find and may not exist, but it seems intuitive that there's a point where excessive hazing can hurt team performance. As many point out, there will always be a pecking order and seniority function in team sports, and it should ideally serve to motivate team performance and goals. The adults — coaches and administrators — are in charge of those goals and thus are in charge of establishing hierarchy and intrinsic team motivation. How to do that is not a secret. Thousands of sports books out there illuminate the techniques. So when team members take over the construction of a hierarchy, as apparently happened at Sehome, it is plainly and simply because the adults failed to do so. Cause enough, I submit, to replace the adults.
Second, the pretext of athletics in schools is that it has a legitimate educational function. I think we all agree that athletics can change and improve young characters for the betterment of our tribes. But when a secretive hazing tradition is passed down from class to class, it can become a learned cycle of abuse, sending scarred athletes into the future rather than healthy ones. Public school is not an executive suite, or the military, or a frat house. It socializes young people in their formative years, and if it fails, the consequences come knocking.
Retired HS teacher/coach
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