Letters to the Editor, Week of Feb. 15, 2023

February 15, 2023 at 5:00 a.m.


I recommend that it is time to step back from adopting the Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) ordinance, as proposed by the Bellingham Planning Commission and Planning Department staff. My wife Susy and I have been Happy Valley neighborhood residents for most of 45 years and have seen the changes before and after our neighborhood plan update (2001).

I just want to see the numbers to back up the claims of affordability when it comes to loosening the rules on ADUs and DADUs. Ralph Schwartz did a fine article last week (CDN, Feb. 3, 2023) on the issue that included testimonials from two southside residents who charged lower than usual rents. What would an out-of-town, out-of-state or out-of-country investor charge? I would think “whatever the market will bear” is the answer. According to his article, “In 2021, investors not seeking a home for themselves bought 22% of all homes sold in the state.”

What is wrong with the owner-occupancy rule? The owner keeps an eye on things and can afford to pass the property on to the kids. This makes for a happier neighborhood.

I hope the city council waits on the numbers, facts and proof before turning local zoning laws over to the wolves.

John Hymas



The headline of the article contains an editorial slant as it asks the question “ADUs: affordable housing or investor magnet?” Implying these are the two mutually exclusive possibilities found within the debate over loosening rules in Bellingham to encourage more ADUs.

There is also the debate within the article about what is meant by affordable.

That topic is a complex question that is lightly covered and best summed up perhaps by the question “affordable to whom?”

The idea that some ADUs are going to be built by “investors” and others by more benign homeowners ignores the fundamental definition of what is an investment property, which is defined as any property that a person or entity owns which is not their primary residence (with the exception of second homes that are kept for personal occupancy).

Therefore, we are all investors when we offer a place to others to live in for a price.

There really is no reason to discourage investment in ADUs because some people suspect that this will cause higher prices, which is contrary to basic economic behavior as it generally occurs.

The idea that rents perhaps should be at a certain “affordable level” implies some regulation to achieve the difficult-to-define affordability.

The system we live with employs a free market method of setting prices instead of attempting to accomplish a vague goal of “fairness” via government regulation.

The reason this works better is that when you increase the supply of something there is a strong tendency for competition between suppliers of that thing, housing in this case, to offer their product at a lower price. (And there are incentives for people to provide more homes.)

You really cannot set prices much above the “market price” because people will vote with their dollars to rent the best opportunity for themselves.

So over time, if we encourage more building of duplexes or ADUs in single-family neighborhoods, we will see a lower cost overall than if we increase barriers or leave them in place.

Really, why should it be necessary for the owner to occupy one of two homes they might own on their lot if the goal is to increase the amount of available rental units in Bellingham?

Glen Whitfield



I want qualified, thoughtful, knowledgeable, informed individuals serving on our Whatcom County Health [Advisory] Board, where their input is based on facts and science — not political ideology (CDN, Feb. 8, 2023).

Nominating three unqualified vaccine skeptics to the Whatcom County Health [Advisory] Board is a bad idea. Put forward by county council members Ben Elenbaas, Tyler Byrd and Kathy Kershner, vaccine skeptics don’t want to wear a mask, and refuse life-saving vaccines — fine! It is their right to do so. Just don’t impose their misguided, political conspiracy theories on the rest of Whatcom County citizens! Is this who we want serving on the Whatcom County Health Board? I think not! This is the quality of our community’s health we're talking about! 

County council member Ben Elenbaas was quoted in the article as saying that the county council should consider “diversity of thought” and that “folks on this council may want to view what these three nominees have to say as an opposing voice” with “different perspectives,” for three openings on the Whatcom County Health [Advisory] Board. 

Appointing unqualified people is NOT “diversity of thought,” “opposing voices” or “different perspectives” when the people nominated spout conspiracy theories that are demonstrably, factually, false!   

There are no conservative versus liberal health boards. There is no equivalency between facts vs. crazy political ideology. There should only be solid, practical, medical science involved in guidance, recommendations and decision-making coming from our county health [advisory] board. Maintaining the health of Whatcom County citizens should be the health board’s only focus, not conspiracy-based political agenda. 

Thank you county council members Donovan, Frazey, Galloway and Buchanan for voting “NO!” on these three unqualified individuals put forward for the Whatcom County Health [Advisory] Board. I share your exasperation and frustration.  

Mark Gale



I support the actions and request for resume information by Todd Donovan in the vote against appointing vaccine deniers to the Whatcom Health Board. I reject one council member's protest that the preposterous claims of Misty Flowers were simply “diversity of thought that should be considered.” Flowers has no substantiated evidence for her claims that a hundred people in Bellingham were dying suddenly without cause — as a result of the COVID vaccine. She has not realized the absurd and unscientific contradiction in the sentence “dying without cause” and “as a result of the COVID vaccines.” 

And to councilman Ben Elenbaas, I must point out that diversity of thought usually does not include denial of the proven science that saved hundreds of thousands of lives and restored a semblance of normalcy as soon as vaccines were finally available — after a million people had already died in our country from COVID. And Mr. Byrd has provided no evidence to support claims of the “fantastic experience of Flowers, Prosser or Ordo.” You are right about one thing, however; people do NOT want non-scientists appointed. 

There is NO equivalence here between lies, groundless claims and proven science. To me, diversity of thought is provided by a mind whose own experiences have been broadened in serving populations such as tribal, racial and ethnic minorities, and whose mind has acquired the knowledge and empathy to support truth in our communities and on our boards. We are tired of the nonsense of conspiracy claims and the unhelpful and backward policies such claims support. 

Rose Marie Norton-Nader



I had to learn about the disadvantages of Medicare Advantage programs (CDN, Feb. 10, 2023) the hard way. In 2015, I found myself in the emergency room on a Friday night having a stent placed in my left descending cardiac artery. I was grateful for the wonderful care I received for my two-day stay at PeaceHealth. Then the bills started arriving. My advantage program had a $6,500 deductible which was activated. My final cost was much higher than that with all of the co-pays for specialists and other miscellaneous expenses that were not covered. But there is a happy ending to my story.

In 2018 my husband discovered that he would require a serious surgery at Virginia Mason because only two doctors in Washington state could perform it. This time my husband’s surgery — a 10-day stay at Virginia Mason in Seattle — cost us $0. That’s right, nothing. All because the fantastic consultants at Vibrant USA (sponsored by Medicare and free of charge) had already explained to us the benefits of original Medicare coupled with a supplemental plan. We had switched our coverage as soon as possible. True, our premiums for his coverage costs $2,400 annually, but the bills for his care at VM, hyperbaric treatments, etc. must have been staggering. I shudder to think about our situation if we had not been old enough for Medicare.

All taxpayers deserve the right to enroll in Medicare. Your guest commentary in the last issue prompted my story. They made it clear that health care should not be a for-profit business. Gimmicks like gym membership discounts are not what we need. We can do better. Contact your representatives and demand affordable health care (Medicare) for everyone.

Claudia DeWees



President Biden asserted in his State of the Union that cuts to Social Security and Medicare are off the table. Yet, his administration fully supports the privatization of traditional Medicare by allowing private insurers to profit off the Medicare brand.   

So-called Medicare Advantage (MA) is neither Medicare nor an advantage. It is a scheme by for-profit insurance companies to line their pockets. We need to hammer that message into the public's consciousness before it's too late. MA plans are cuts to Medicare. Full stop.  

While elected officials pontificate about saving taxpayers' money, as it pertains to our social safety net programs, they support the bloated Pentagon budget. The U.S. has about 750 military bases in 80 nations. The UK has 145, Russia has two to three dozen and China has five. Washington is as willing to station forces at bases in undemocratic as democratic countries. What about us on the homefront? 

Sen. Patty Murray, who has a long history of voting for every increase to the Pentagon budget, has unbridled chutzpah suggesting to voters that she prefers giving them a “choice” to choose Medicare Advantage over traditional Medicare. Her priorities are off-base (no pun intended). Our country has the means to strengthen Social Security and traditional Medicare if we allocated taxpayers' contributions more equitably. 

I agree with the CDN guest commentary that we must support our young people to ensure they get all the benefits of traditional Medicare that we've had when it's their turn. 

That will not happen unless we hold politicians from both sides of the aisle accountable. 

Delores Davies



The pandemic and natural catastrophes have revealed how much we depend on each other for survival. The recent guest commentary on Medicare Advantage sparked many feelings for me. Intergenerational contracts are essential for the human race to survive. These contracts are the glue that hold cultures together — except the cultures that allow and tolerate greed.

The Medicare Trust Fund is being drained. Reports for years have said that the millennials will not be receiving Medicare benefits (perhaps Social Security) when they reach 70 years old. This is pretty upsetting. They are paying their taxes in good faith so we must guarantee they get their full benefits. Legislation must fix these increasing problems now.

Traditional Medicare uses 2–3% of its pie for administrative costs. Some Medicare Advantage plans use 12–18% for their administrative costs. Quite a discrepancy in the use of our tax money.

We all have friends and family who are telling us stories that Medicare Advantage Plans stall or deny medical authorizations for their health care needs. We are reading reliable news sites that validate this information: that denials and longer delays are routine and ultimately detrimental to care. It almost seems like they are saying that Medical Advantage incentivizes less care? 

Education is essential. We need to pay closer attention and advocate.

We need our federal government and supportive health care allies to dig into this and fix it. Put pressure on our public servants: Patty Murray, Maria Cantwell, Rick Larson. Start your letters: “I read about this fraud ...” “My insurance will not authorize …”  “Fix the problem: the next generation deserves Medicare ...” Demand that they introduce legislation to halt the creeping privatization of Medicare. 

Join the intergenerational fight.

Keep banging the drum.

Barbara Sardarov



Perhaps we are finally coming to terms with “woke,” the replacement term for “politically correct.” Possibly the most woke activity that every single one of us participates in is the “Pledge of Allegiance.” Think about the words and their meaning. It is woke because it is aspirational. It expresses our desire to achieve certain goals, even though we fall short in the moment. Marriage vows are woke in the same way. So are job performance reviews. So are achievement tests in school.

The truth is that woke permeates all of our lives, and nobody thinks twice about it EXCEPT when it comes to social justice topics. Somebody decided that aspiration, progress and striving to treat our fellow humans better is a bad thing, and a few of us decided to believe it. Think about who, in your life, that might have been.

Tom Horton



The BP Cherry Point marine terminal expansion was intended to facilitate fossil fuel export after BP successfully lobbied Congress to remove the long-standing export ban. This terminus for BP Tar Sands oil via the Trans Mountain pipeline is implicated in the Tar Sands Holocaust perpetrated against First Nations.

In 2012, the Nobel Women’s Initiative sent a delegation to speak with women in the Canadian province of Alberta about the impact of the Tar Sands oil mining on them, their families and their communities. As Nobel Laureate Jody Williams notes in her observations, the denuded Boreal forest area of the Tar Sands project is geographically the size of Florida, and while oil companies had at that time made $14 billion on the project, local indigenous communities have reaped respiratory problems and cancers.

As a project that daily uses enough natural gas to heat 6 million homes, one has to ask, what is the social benefit of the dirtiest industrial undertaking in human history?

Six years after the Nobel Women’s delegation listened to stories about the annihilation of indigenous peoples’ independent and sustainable way of life and ever-increasing rates of sickness, substance abuse and suicide, we might want to ask why the broader society finds this cultural genocide acceptable. Would we accept this if the victims were white?

One thing we learned watching the movie Deepwater Horizon is that British Petroleum puts greed ahead of concerns for human life and the environment. That greed led to BP paying $4.5 billion in fines and penalties in the largest criminal resolution in U.S. history.

In 2012, BP Cherry Point was fined $81,500 by the Washington Department of Labor and Industries for willfully violating workplace safety and health rules. As Fred Felleman reported, “the Gulf gusher was not an isolated event in BP's accident-riddled record."

Jay Taber


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