Letters to the Editor, Week of Sept. 6, 2023

Port development, PeaceHealth and recycling, fire risks
September 6, 2023 at 5:00 a.m.


Is it time for the Cascadia Daily News to ease up on the much-maligned Port of Bellingham? For one, we can't accuse the port or environmentalists (see Enron) for shutting down a malodorous waterfront eyesore that at least paid living wages and made a useful product. 

But with help from North Ireland, the port has conferred on us a historic grain elevator that once stored chicken feed and now houses a yoga studio. Nor should we neglect to acknowledge the Acid Ball, the row of rusty rockets, the container cluster and the pump track. And not too far away, another iconic curiosity, the great red wheel (the main component of a tree-trunk shredder). 

True, the port seems to have swerved some from its core mission, once exemplified by the late legendary commissioner Pete Zuanich, which was to provide affordable moorage rates for commercial fishermen at Squalicum Harbor (Zuanich himself being a commercial fisherman). And likewise, by managing, for economic benefit, a dredged harbor with easy road and rail access — a piece of infrastructure that would arouse the envy of many West Coast cities. 

Not to ignore this latter mandate, the port has facilitated the shipping out of scrap metal from Canada. While this process would seem to be a plus with both economic and environmental benefits, it has aroused the ire of nearby condo-dwellers with their unparalleled (and for most of us, unaffordable) water and island and mountain views. 

One might ponder on the compatibility of waterfront-related commerce with yet more condo units and hotels. Perhaps a workable compromise might be another fake lighthouse. 

Paul Kenna



I read the guest commentary from Andrew Reding in opposition to the jail measure (CDN, Sept. 1, 2023) and he conflates homelessness and crime as the same issue. They are not. While there is certainly a great deal of overlap with the two subjects, they are not the same. Ignoring the basic facilities needs of the jail actually makes homelessness worse. A primary function of the jail is to provide a “timeout” so that justice can occur safely without further incurring trauma for victims and society.

Saying we shouldn’t invest in the jail because it doesn’t address the root causes of homelessness is like saying we shouldn’t invest in the emergency room because it doesn’t address the root causes of health problems.

I have a small business that I operate adjacent to downtown Bellingham. I’ve watched a lot of crime occur in the last few years. We have a very small portion of our population committing crimes on a regular basis. Most of them are repeat offenders. When I ask every local law enforcement officer and official why they can’t stop these repeat and escalating offenses, the answer is always the same: There is no room in the jail for them. People stop reporting crime when nothing happens, then victims become victims again. We have a 148-bed capacity at the current jail to facilitate a population of Whatcom County of 230,000. That’s 0.06% of the population that we have capacity for committing jailable acts.

The new jail measure is reasonable. Vote yes.

Adam Bellingar



PeaceHealth trying to say “Oops, really we care,” in their decision to return palliative care services with “more efficiency” is like the port and City of Bellingham saying the Acid Ball and the digester tanks are valued art pieces.

Nancy Grayum



“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead, author, and American Cultural Anthropologist.

The proof of that profound statement has been clearly demonstrated recently here in Whatcom County. 

Several months ago, our PeaceHealth Hospital Program, because of alleged budgeting issues, made the decision to abandon its popular palliative care program. 

However, “after hearing a constant wave of criticism” from patients, and community members, PeaceHealth announced it is bringing back its outpatient palliative care program. 

All of you “thoughtful, committed citizens” deserve a constant wave of gratitude from your fellow citizens, for all the letters and phone calls you sent expressing your criticism, and your rage for the hospital's sudden decision. 

Your “constant wave of criticism” changed our world. 

Jack Lee

Solstice Senior Living, Bellingham


At first blush, there was a sigh of relief when PeaceHealth management, in collaboration with “the foundation” announced it had reversed course on its decision to shut down its outpatient palliative care program. 

Then, on further thought and consideration, some in our community, including me, felt “the foundation” in the guest commentary (CDN, Sept. 1) took an inexplicable, dominant role in the announcement. 

Most people have no idea who the players are in this: “The foundation” is the development arm, i.e. fundraising department, the people who convince people to make charitable donations. They are the people who plan glitzy, often black-tie galas, at great expense to raise money from the elite. Typically, foundations (in this context) do not make policy decisions. Policy decisions are the purview of the executive suite in collaboration with a hospital governing board — not a foundation board. 

I'm not reassured that the guest essay stated that PeaceHealth management made a commitment to have “an embedded liaison from the foundation collaborating on the future of the program.”

I'd prefer a medical professional or a person with lived experience on the benefits of palliative care as the embedded liaison, rather than someone from fundraising. 

The reinstatement of the outpatient palliative care program should not be so heavily reliant on philanthropy for its viability. 

PeaceHealth management, thank you for changing course and listening to our community. But, figure out a way to sustain the outpatient palliative care program without letting “the foundation” take you hostage. Good management can make that possible.

Delores Davies



The hard-won announcement to reinstate outpatient palliative care (CDN, Sept. 1) is a welcome first step.

However, the announcement raised a number of questions that should be addressed before another public uproar ensues. 

I have heard many valid concerns from health care advocates expressing doubt that the reinstatement of palliative care will actually occur. That skepticism is not wholly unwarranted, considering that PeaceHealth management in Vancouver, Clark County, did not engage productively during the months of letters to the editor, phone calls, guest essays and other communication from patients and medical professionals invested in the benefits of palliative care.

In our current social (and political) climate, disagreements seem inevitable, but we can turn that dissent into a benefit if we come together to listen and learn. Productive disputes, even with their challenges, can become a healing process. 

I believe PeaceHealth management should face the community it serves — in this case Whatcom County, in an open forum.

I also believe that, if this meeting happened, participants would be polite, open-minded and respectful.

There's more to this conflict than the reinstatement of the palliative care program. As soon as possible, a Whatcom County representative must be added to the PeaceHealth system governing board. 

Let's get beyond the blame and attack mode and find solutions. A transparent cooperative, collaborative forum is in order, in my opinion. Who will be the trusted, impartial host and convenor?  

Micki Jackson



While I respect and enjoy the journalism of the entire staff of Cascadia Daily News, I had the good fortune of working with Frank Catalano for an article and appreciated his expertise.

During his career with Cascadia, he brought to print the lifeblood of Bellingham’s businesses with their unique offerings under “Places & Things” as well as featuring opportunities for us to appreciate the value of living here.  

Rightly so, Cascadia has earned the reputation of providing excellent local news coverage. Catalano's contribution to that mission will be missed.  

Helen Moran



Worried about industrial noise and pollution? ABC Recycling (a Canadian company operating a scrap metal storage and shipping operation in Fairhaven) recently bought 20 acres of property next to Leigh Cement and plans to build a scrap metal storage and shredding plant on Marine Drive. That will increase the industrial noise, dust, fumes, etc. from Cliffside Drive down to at least Seaview Avenue, including Locust Beach and Squalicum Beach, not to mention industrial trucks running from Marine Drive all the way to Fairhaven cruise terminal.

Please give your opinion at the next Whatcom County Council meeting planned for Sept. 16 at 6 p.m.

ABC will need various county permits before they can proceed. Let's not allow a Canadian corporation to export its dirty work to our residential neighborhoods.

Robert Koch



Zetta Bracher, former chair of Whatcom Democrats, passed away on Aug. 13.

In the 1990s, Zetta and Paul de Armond engineered the takeover by inclusive Whatcom Democrats that reached out to Lummi Nation, and environmental and human rights activists to make the party what it is today. 

I last saw Zetta at Paul de Armond’s shortly before he died in 2013. What Paul offered to the Whatcom Democrats in the 1990s was his research that showed Zetta how an outreach to progressive non-members to run for Democrat precinct committee officers could capture the Whatcom Democrats board. Their success changed Whatcom politics forever.

Jay Taber



I'm glad to see concerns about fireworks and wildfires being linked.  Every year there are numerous huge fireworks displays all around the South Bay area of Lake Whatcom near where we now have a lightning-generated wildfire still burning after days of rain.  

Many rockets are shot out over the water; but this year especially, many were happening near shoreline trees and vegetation as well as from points along the Hertz Trail.  

It is just pure luck we have not had more serious incidents like the present that are bringing expensive aerial and ground firefighting services from as far away as southern and eastern Washington counties.

On July 4, South Bay had already not seen anything but a small hourlong light rain since early April.  Some of these conflagrations are purported to be licensed displays that rattle vets, pets and the neighborhood late into the night.  

At other spots around the lake, it seems much less care is taken for equally proliferate displays. And they usually start happening ahead of — and after — the holiday.  A lot of people like blowing their wads of cash into the night sky, but if they want to experience the thrill of rockets bursting in the air they should go to Bellingham or Seattle.

As for the tribes, maybe they need to consider other sources of income rather than things that go boom and threaten the trees and lands they revere. I would much rather buy and hang Native art than blow up my cash for nonsense.  

Michael Waite



Whatcom County jail, trading a one-time capital cost, (a one-and-done cost), for an ongoing operational cost that grows and grows. It could be a bad choice. Where is the analysis?

I have been reading about the new approach to a new jail. It appears to me to be creating a plan without a rigorous look at all the choices, including the costs over time. We are told the best choice is building a jail separate from the central courthouse in Ferndale and ferrying the jailed back and forth from Ferndale to the courthouse. I have not seen the data on the ferrying costs — the personnel costs, the vehicle costs, along with an analysis of the risks of transportation of dangerous individuals. These costs should also include the travel costs for other county staff (public defenders, nurses, etc.) traveling to Ferndale as well.

I hear that there is not enough room at the courthouse, yet a Google map view shows me ... oodles of room in a zone with no height limit.

I believe we need those costs, and the underlying assumptions in order to vote on the jail, otherwise we could be making the wrong decision.

Craig MacConnell



As much as I'm game for a good game of “old man yelling at clouds” (I certainly fit the demographic), this strikes me as punching down. And generally, I prefer satire to punch up.

Yes, you can look at this phenomenon of very boxy-looking apartment buildings as a horrible indignity inflicted on your aesthetic senses by greedy developers with no taste. Or you could see it as the apparently only way that somewhat affordable housing can be produced in our current market and regulatory environment and get a bit more curious as to why. 

The latter would be more in keeping with the indispensable mission of local journalism and might inspire quality content on zoning, parking requirements, NIMBY-ism (and its historical roots in exclusionary desires to keep the riff-raff out), the relative cost/strain on public infrastructure for different kinds of development and who ends up subsidizing whom. (Hint: Those of us in single-family, low-density neighborhoods are grandfathered into a pretty sweet deal.)

The Hammer describes apartment complexes as “sprawling” — funny that because despite whatever valid criticism you might apply to their aesthetics when it comes to sprawl, that's really more a matter of endless cookie-cutter subdivisions and parking-forward commercial strips.

Andreas Macke

Silver Beach

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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