Letters to the Editor, Week of July 19, 2023

Paw-print criteria, consumerism, spendy gas and Mayor Seth
July 19, 2023 at 5:00 a.m.


I just finished reading the Whatcom Voters Guide and I was wondering: Are there any criteria for running for an elected position in Whatcom County besides getting signatures from six of your cousins and a paw print from the neighbor’s cat?

Seriously, the slate across the board is pathetic. I’m dealing only with Bellingham here. I discovered that in Bellingham we have a candidate running for “peace” and another one running for “love.” After reading that mush, I was almost surprised that there was nobody running on the “warm puppy” platform.

The buzzwords were buzzing. There were so many mentions of the words “sustainable” and “housing” as to make it seem that nothing else is important. Yes, “safety” was mentioned as well, but in recent months/years, safety in our city has come to mean “let’s find a comfortable space for those who are incarcerated and make sure that all their needs are taken care of.” 

I haven’t decided yet, but after 20 years of voting in Bellingham, I may just sit this one out. I realize, of course, that such action will negate my right to complain about things in the future. That’s okay. I don’t complain anyway. I like it here. I just don’t like to be talked to like I was a fool.

Ira Penn



When coal exporters proposed a terminal at Cherry Point, the Canadian and American vessel traffic agencies observed that the narrow passages through the San Juan and Gulf Islands were already congested, creating a risk of disaster. The proposed new Canadian cargo terminal just across the border near Point Roberts would exacerbate this congestion.

As consumers of goods shipped through the San Juan archipelago, the millions who call the Salish Sea region home have a choice to make between restored marine abundance and ever-greater mountains of waste. Consumerism is pumped into our brains 24/7 from cradle to grave, but now we need to decide if it’s all worth it.

Jay Taber



Our paper had dueling guest opinion pieces on the current cost of gas in our state these past two issues.  

Three weeks ago, I had the unique experience of driving my daughter's college car home from Orlando, Florida. I never paid more than $3.10 per gallon in the 11 states I drove through until I got home. Each of these states has, as part of this cost, a federal gas tax, plus whatever state gas tax they have.  

So obviously $4.75 per gallon gas in Washington state is way outside the norm for our country and the Washington taxes added are impacting our pocketbooks as designed by our Democratic leaders. The most recent carbon tax is going to keep going up each time Washington has an auction and that happens more than once a year. 

Our former Sen. Simon Sefzik, who voted against this tax on us, was correct in that the state is attempting to force us out of cars, and this unnecessary cost is hurting those that can least afford it. Sefzik, of course, was replaced with an economics professor who voted to apply this tax to us.  

Rep. Alex Ramel, who voted to apply this tax on us, is incorrect that oil companies are greedy. The net profit to a refinery on a gallon of gas is about $0.05 per gallon while Gov. Jay Inslee is charging us more than a dollar per gallon.  

Who is greedy? Pretty clear it is the State of Washington, not big oil.  

Terry McNabb



Re: “Why there’s reason to believe American democracy has a bright future,” July 12.

Like the U.S., Canada is relegated to a First Past the Post ballot (FPTP). While FPTP qualifies, though barely at that, as a democratic rule within the democracy spectrum, it is the proportional representation system thus governance that's truly representative.

Yes, legislation and governance can get stalled, thus take longer, but it's worth it for those of us who insist that our vote truly counts.

FPTP does seem to serve corporate lobbyists well, however. I believe it is why such powerful interests generally resist attempts at changing from FPTP to proportional representation electoral systems of governance, the latter which dilutes corporate influence.

Low-representation FPTP-elected governments, in which a relatively small portion of the country's populace is actually electorally represented, are likely the easiest for lobbyists to manipulate or 'buy'.

It's helping the biggest of businesses get unaccountably even bigger, defying the very spirit of government rules established to ensure healthy competition by limiting mass consolidation.

As it is, corporate lobbyists actually write bills for our (Canada's) governing representatives to vote for and have implemented, supposedly to save the elected officials their own time.

I believe the practice has become so systematic here that those who are aware of it (that likely includes mainstream news-media political writers) don’t bother publicly discussing it.

As far as Canadian ‘democracy’ goes: to truly have it, there first needs to be a truly democratic electoral system.

Then again, according to 'Calamity' Jane Bodine — a retired political consultant hired by an unpopular politician to help him win the Bolivian presidential election — in the film “Our Brand Is Crisis”: “If voting changed anything, they’d have made it illegal.”

Frank Sterle Jr.

White Rock, B.C. 


I strongly urge Bellingham to vote for Mayor Fleetwood. I have known him to be an honorable man who is deeply committed to his community, as evidenced by his time on both city and county council prior to becoming our mayor. Mayor Fleetwood is also our environmental candidate. He was trained by Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project and is committed to the implementation of the city’s Climate Action Plan. He created a Climate Office that directly reports to the mayor’s office, giving that staff the needed clout when coordinating with other departments across the city. 

As an environmentalist, I see Mayor Fleetwood as one of Bellingham’s most consequential mayors. All we need to do is look around us and see how our city is being remade to prepare for the coming climate crises and accompanying climate migration now underway. New building electrification, the Urban Villages, rapidly expanding bike lanes, and the Greenways Strategic Plan are among the many examples of his commitment, now rolling out under his leadership. 

 No other candidate in this race has these bona fides or this history of accomplishment. No other candidate has run such a large organization as the City of Bellingham or has such deep roots in our local politics. I can’t think of a mayor across America who has moved their city forward so profoundly in anticipation of what is coming our way, as has Mayor Fleetwood. Again, I strongly urge Bellingham to re-elect our exemplary mayor. 

Betsy Gross



On July 12, 2023, you published a “letter to the editor” from Austin Cooper attesting to the kindness of County Council member Kathy Kershner. It’s what the letter didn’t say that tells a different story. Mr. Cooper owns and operates Solvd Inc., an entity that has already been paid the majority of Kershner’s expenditures to promote her current campaign.

During the last five months, she has paid him over $10,000. That is in addition to the almost $9,000 she paid him in her last campaign.

It is inappropriate that Mr. Cooper did not disclose this information to you and the public. It also seems a bit desperate, but surprising, no. 

(Expenditures above were obtained from the Washington Public Disclosure Commission.)

Tami Dockter



Join me in voting for Seth Fleetwood for Bellingham mayor. 

Mayor Fleetwood is a long-standing environmentalist and the candidate with the best credentials for the job. I have known him since I moved to Bellingham over a decade ago. I first met up with Seth over the Cherry Point coal train terminal plan and found out he had also been very active in the successful bag ban issue.

Now mayor, he has gained much knowledge and experience through his many years of service to the community.  We now have a Climate Office, which reports directly to the mayor and which all other department plans are filtered for climate resilience.

As an environmental person myself and a long-standing member of Sierra Club, this is a much-needed achievement by Mayor Fleetwood. He has withstood much criticism over the last three years of COVID-19. I believe he deserves a chance to implement his ideas and plans which the pandemic sidelined. He dealt with crisis after crisis and the city is coming to grips with the many challenges COVID brought to us.

While biking all over Bellingham, I find that things are getting back to normal and the city is moving ahead. What a great place to live, and I am thankful to all our public officials for getting us through the pandemic.

While there are still many issues to solve; homelessness, housing and crime, I believe Mayor Fleetwood is up to the task of guiding us through the next four critical years. Vote for Mayor Fleetwood, the only candidate who has the right experience to get things done. 

Judith Akins



Recently CDN published a thoughtful letter written by Dr. Dave Lynch (CDN, July 17, 2023) lamenting that PeaceHealth seems to have lost its way in Whatcom County. I agree with everything Dr. Lynch has to say in the letter, particularly with respect to the closing of clinics and the palliative care unit because these operations did not meet the profitability threshold of PeaceHealth operating units.

More recently I was shocked to learn that the PeaceHealth Board includes members from such far-flung locations as Chicago, Denver and several locations in California, but none in Whatcom County.   

I was privileged to serve on the PeaceHealth Governing Board in Whatcom County for nearly 20 years from 1989 to 2008. During that time, the board worked effectively with hospital administration and Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace to formulate strategic plans to meet anticipated future needs and address the tactical problems of day-to-day operations. The Sisters were uncanny in their ability to recognize future needs and fearless in their willingness to meet the challenges that these needs presented.  

The members of SSJP were growing older and fewer in number. In 1997, after much thoughtful and prayerful consideration, the Corporate Governing Board (not the Community Board) was granted Pontifical Private Juridic Person status. The intent was to instill in the board the obligation to operate the business in accordance with Canon Law in perpetuity.

 I am pleased to know that the Governing Board still includes Sister Andrea Nenzel and Sister Kathleen Pruitt. I am sure these Sisters hold the other board members feet to the fire but I worry about what might happen when they are gone. I don't know if the board's performance vis-a-vis its obligations under the PPJP has ever been audited but it strikes me as not a bad idea. 

R.B. Swarens 



My name is Joel Johnson, the grassroots "write-in" candidate for mayor of Bellingham, and my position on the new jail has less to do with the decision to build a new jail and more to do with the liabilities the alleged human rights violations in the jail pose to the city. 

The City of Bellingham, to the best of my understanding, is self-insured. When we as a city take someone into custody who is suspected of committing a crime, we have a duty of care to those individuals who are innocent until proven guilty.

 When we transfer custody of these individuals to the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office fully knowledgeable of the deplorable, inhuman and uninhabitable conditions, we are exposing our community to a level of risk that is yet to be reckoned with. 

With all respect to the corrections officers and appreciation for their service, not even they deserve to be exposed to these conditions. I am advocating for an expanded Bellingham Police Department holding center. In such a facility, we could regain a sense of accountability in our community by interrupting unsafe suspected criminal activity. 

We would have capacity to hold people up to 48 hours, allowing them to detox if necessary, get connected with services and give us as the city time to figure out if we need to press charges and an appropriate placement. We cannot wait three to five years for the needed mental and behavioral health service if the jail vote passes. We need action now!

Joel Johnson



RE: “Climate change calls for balanced policies” (CDN, July 13, 2023):

County Council member Kershner’s laudable commitment to “balance” is undermined by a common misperception about forest management and the role that forests play in mitigating and moderating climate change.

Most of Whatcom County’s “managed, working forests” are logged at around 40 years, a cutting cycle that is designed to maximize profit, not board feet. Short-rotation forestry limits the capacity of forests to produce wood and to capture and store carbon. 

Kershner cites University of Washington research that managed forests “sequester carbon from the atmosphere at a higher rate than unmanaged forests." Here she mistakes the rate of carbon capture for the physical amount of carbon captured and stored. 

At 40 years, a Douglas fir is barely more than a sapling with centuries of growth potential ahead of it. Because they are physically larger, trees of 100 years and older absorb much more carbon, and add more to their roots, trunk and branches each year than juvenile trees can match. They, along with the undisturbed soils they grow in, store carbon for centuries.

Working forests containing older, larger trees require different management than juvenile forests because of the many different functions they perform. Ecological foresters wield chainsaws and feller-bunchers in innovative ways to increase the resilience of our landscape to climate impacts while supporting jobs and meeting community needs.

Whatcom County forest innovation can raise the bar for our entire region. Let’s not let 20th-century notions of “balance” keep us from adopting forest practices suited to the challenges of the 21st.

Edward Wolf


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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