Letters to the Editor, Week of July 12, 2023

Gas gouging, tree killing, rental assisting and electioneering
July 12, 2023 at 5:00 a.m.


Simon Sefzik’s guest commentary about gasoline prices and the Climate Commitment Act (CDN, July 4, 2023) tells a partial story, at best.

The purpose of the state’s cap-and-trade law was to address the cause of climate change — carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. Making gasoline more expensive by any means, as the Climate Commitment Act (CCA) does, encourages drivers to change their behavior by buying and burning less gas. This is not an unfortunate consequence of the act, it is an intended result.

The basic economic principle — make something more expensive and people will buy less of it — was more explicit in the first climate change policy put to Washington voters, Initiative 732, in 2016. That revenue-neutral carbon tax, perhaps more ideologically palatable to Sefzik than the CCA, was rejected by voters because it embraced the word “tax.” But it was good climate policy.

Curse the price of gasoline, if you must. But chalk one up for Gov. Inslee and the CCA. Washington state is addressing carbon emissions in exactly the right way, by making those emissions cost more. This is how we will move beyond carbon.

Edward Wolf



The real reason gas prices are so high in Washington state is that the oil and gas industry has complete control of the price you pay at the pump. If the gas companies must pay for cap and trade legislation to mitigate climate change, that cost is simply passed on to consumers. Never mind that the oil industry has suppressed information that they had about climate change since the ’70s. Never mind that the combined first-quarter profit (2023) for Exxon, Shell and Chevron was $27.6 billion dollars (and it rises every year).

They did suffer a setback in 2020, but that has been ameliorated. Never mind the industry enjoys untouchable tax breaks put into place 70-plus years ago. Never mind the taxpayers fund the infrastructure necessary to keep our highways functioning to burn the gas.

Mr. Simon Sefzik seems to think we should be angry at the governor for underestimating the cost of gas at the pumps due to the passage of the Climate Commitment Act. When will the industry that is responsible for our present crisis ever pay its fair share, or wait, any share for that matter, to solve this gargantuan mess? As long as the blame is deflected, and the beleaguered taxpayer shoulders the costs, nothing will change fast enough to save the millions of lives at risk now and in the future.

Claudia DeWees



My neighbors and I from Orchard Terrace recently attended a City of Bellingham design review meeting on the new high-rise that will be constructed at the State Street roundabout. We left after commenting on losing the existing on-street parking on Berry Street. One of the city council members commented that we were just complainers because our 1950 developer didn’t build enough on-site parking spaces for residents. Well, obviously, that is our message.

Current COB codes and code exemptions encourage, promote and reward developers who build high-rises without enough parking spaces for residents, leaving street parking as the only option. In this edge where downtown meets residential zoning, four high-rises have been built with anywhere between 0.5 to 0.8 parking spaces for every resident. That’s just under 1,000 new residents, at a conservative estimate of 300 cars parking on the street. This new high-rise will add perhaps 100 more. On Forest Street, two more high-rises are being built, with two more to be added soon. It’s crazy to deliberately add more than 500 cars, take away on-street parking, and offer no solutions. 

I understand the need to provide housing, but we also want a sustainable community, which will require places to park. Without parking, businesses, shops and restaurants fail, and this “urban village” will become a concrete ghetto. For 73 years, Orchard Terrace has provided an example that not enough residential parking is a problem for everyone in the community. I think COB should address this problem, not just scoff.

Jonica Todd



I attended the Monday, July 10 city council meeting, my first since the “coal trains” era. The threat to health, safety and quality of life were abundantly clear back then. What was so stunning to me at this meeting was that although roughly 54% of Bellingham residents rent their homes, the council was loath to take steps to enact the very modest relocation assistance to renters to be paid by landlords who choose to raise rents more than 8% per year (provided in Initiative 2).

Instead, they voted to forward the initiative to the November ballot, though they had the power to approve it outright. Kick the can. Why? Clearly, a majority of their constituents would favor the measure. Does it make sense to further delay what seems a “no-brainer,” especially with the need so urgent for so many? Surely the prospect of being priced out of your home is at least as existential as noise and pollution from coal transport.

Now the stage is set for an unfair campaign of distortions and disinformation that will ensue as the vested interests in the rental industrial complex seek to defeat a reasonable action favored by the majority of residents of this community. We failed in 2021 with a similar measure, let's get it done this time. Vote!

Steve Bailey



Julia Lerner’s article “Bellingham housing proposal has environmentalists calling foul” (CDN, July 6, 2023) tells us that AVT Consulting LLC wants to cut down 320 trees by the golf course to build “one-to-three story homes and duplex-style housing.” 

Is Bellingham serious about fighting climate change and providing more affordable housing? If the Bellingham Planning and Community Development office and city council allow AVT Consulting LLC to go ahead with its plan for its space-wasting housing project, the answer is “no.” 

It will take another couple of decades for the saplings promised by AVT to start really doing their job of sequestering carbon; by that time, the scientists say, our climate will have passed one or more tipping points. And the presence of expensive “one-to-three story homes and duplex-style housing,” which take up a lot more space than a couple of multi-story apartment buildings, will not encourage development of more affordable housing: it will just invite more of the sort of people that can afford above-median-cost homes. 

If we must use that land, we should use it for more compact multi-story apartment buildings hosting the same intended number of units. That will allow more trees to stand. Let the financially comfortable forgo their lawns and share in the fight to save our trees, save our climate.

John Holstein



When you cast your vote for a county council member, you don’t exactly expect them to show up at your door the next time you’re sick. But council member Kathy Kershner did. In August 2021, I came down with COVID-19. Because I’m a type 1 diabetic, it hit me hard. I remember feeling the shortness of breath, total weakness throughout my body, and anxiety about keeping my wife and newborn baby safe. I felt unprepared and was having a difficult time getting into the doctor to receive the recommended antibody treatment.

That’s when there was a knock at my front door. My wife opened it, and it was Kershner. I was so surprised that an elected official would care enough to show up like that. I remember thinking, “What did I do to deserve the attention?” She brought me vitamins and groceries and called around to different hospitals to try to get me in.

Kershner is the gold standard for a public servant. I’ve witnessed firsthand her care for flood victims, COVID patients, people with disabilities, and any constituent that needs a helping hand. Her decades of service in the U.S. Navy, her eight years on the county council faithfully representing you, and her lifetime of leadership and unwavering positivity are reasons to return her to the council. Please vote Kathy Kershner for Whatcom County Council (District 4) by Aug. 1.

Austin Cooper



Since PeaceHealth Vancouver management announced its irresponsible cuts to outpatient palliative care, among other services such as allergy clinics, there has been a steady flow of letters to editors, guest essays, reporting and direct correspondence to management.

Community feedback is hospital executives have not responded — not even to those burdened with cancer or other critically ill patients. Is it because executive salaries are exorbitant (millions) while the quality of care decreases with programs like palliative care being discontinued? Palliative care saves money by keeping people out of the hospital but I guess that's not the goal for PeaceHealth.

Who is holding hospital leaders accountable for their actions? It raises questions about governance. Shouldn't the governing board review senior management and oversee quality? Are PeaceHealth executives overseen and accountable to finance professionals and others with corporate backgrounds who are likely to focus more on revenue and expenses — profit — than the needs of its staff and communities?

Of 11 governing board members, three live in California, one in Chicago, one in Denver; the other six live in Washington or Oregon. Whatcom County has no representation on the board.

We have few mechanisms to hold nonprofit hospital leaders accountable. St. Joe's has market power because most patients cannot take their business elsewhere. More than half of U.S. hospitals are nonprofit. They receive generous tax exemptions, in exchange for benefitting their communities. PeaceHealth is not fulfilling that mission to its patients, their families, even their own workers.

Something's got to give. Because PeaceHealth administration's decisions and the lack of oversight from the governing board have eroded all accountability, aggressive community action must be nonstop.

Sheri Lambert



Even though Mark Stremler and his wife Shari are friends from our past, we were not going to assume that he was the best to represent us and our district. After all, he is running against another conservative, but why? As old friends, we had to at least give him the benefit of hearing what he had to say. And we are so glad that we did.

Mark is the right guy for this job. He is not a politician. He is a man of integrity. He will stand firm and vote for what's best, even if it means he stands alone. He will listen. He will work hard, giving 100% for the best of our, and his, community. 

Don't take our word for it. If you get a chance, go to one of his meet-and-greets. Meet him, talk to him, and hear his passion. He is doing this not for himself but for you, for us and for his family who are also a part of this community. 

Also, do some research, look at the voting records of the Whatcom County Council and your representative. Are they voting in a way that represents you? 

Ann Appel


Letters to the Editor are published online Wednesdays and a selection is published in print Fridays. Send Letters to the Editor to letters@cascadiadaily.com, due Tuesdays at 10 a.m. Rules: Maximum 250 words, have a point and make it clearly. CDN reserves the right to edit letters for length, clarity, grammar and style, and personal attacks or offensive content. Letters should be submitted with an address/phone number to verify the writer's identity (not for publication).

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