Letters to the Editor - Salish Current

Letters to the Editor

Salish Current welcomes letters to the editor from our readers. Letters should be submitted with the writer’s name, address and daytime phone number. Those accepted for publication will focus on issues addressed in news articles or commentaries in Salish Current and be factual. No snark or put-downs will be acceptable; general nastiness will be rejected. Letters represent the point of view of the writer. Publication by Salish Current does not represent endorsement.

Letters should not exceed 300 words and may be edited for length and clarity. Salish Current will publish letters sent to the editor at its sole discretion. Submit letters to Managing Editor Mike Sato (msato@rockisland.com), 206-229-2844.

Appreciates Land Bank story

To the Editor

Nancy DeVaux did a great job on her story about the Land Bank (“San Juan County Land Bank: What’s next?”).I’ve been frustrated by the massive amounts of misinformation circulating around about the Land Bank and how it works so seeing your piece was a relief.

I’ve been coming to San Juan Island for 50 years, to a piece of property my in-laws bought in 1945. Over the decades, I’ve seen other issues with huge misinformation but it seems out of control now. I didn’t know I would one day long for the stories the Journal did about local issues and everyone read them.

Keep up the good work!

— Claire Powers, Seattle, May 12, 2024

Water equals life

To the Editor:

Next to global warming, “forever chemicals” in our drinking water is the second biggest environmental catastrophe to ever happen (“What tighter fed PFAS mandates mean for local contaminated communities,” May 14, 2024).

The film Dark Waters appears to be a faithful retelling of the high-profile legal case against DuPont for knowingly poisoning community drinking water.

Watch the film on Netflix or read the article in The New York Times that ensured DuPont’s unethical, illegal activity saw the light of day (“The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare” (2016).

Water equals life. We’ve sure made a mess of it for future generations.

— Micki Jackson, Bellingham, May 14, 2024

Supports Paycheck Fairness Act

To the Editor:

Gender-based discrimination is extremely prevalent in the Washington state workplace. This issue is not only ubiquitous in our society, but growing and must be solved.

The wage gap is a prodigious portion of this issue. An article in The Seattle Times reports that,  according to data collected in 2021, women in Washington earn on average about 64.4% of what men make in our economy. This is a decrease from nearly 70% in 1992. This gap is even greater for women of color. The Washington State Standard reported that in 2024 our state has a wage shortfall second only to Utah. 

One reason why this inequality may exist is the constant growth of the technology sector in Washington where women hold only 20% of executive positions.

Patty Murray, our Washington state senator, proposed S.728, the Paycheck Fairness Act, in the Senate on March 9, 2023. This bill ensures that across the United States, wage discrimination on the basis of sex is further regulated and civil penalties for these violations will be increased. This act has not moved past the introductory stage. 

I encourage readers to promote this bill by contacting their legislatures and asking them to vote yes to support the hard-working women all around us.

Thank you for reading.

— Lila Horn, Spring Street School, Friday Harbor, May 2, 2024

Cooperation, not conflict, characterizes stream buffer work

To the Editor:

I am writing to express some concern regarding the recent article “Tribe, feds, state face off on stream water temperature in the Skagit,” April 24, 2024. The article skews the issue a bit and insinuates a false history when it comes to the work of tribes, agriculture and lawmakers.

Firstly, the article mentions urban development as having an impact on riparian areas, yet the author lays the blame on agriculture. To ignore the growing urbanization and heighten population densities is rather disingenuous and presents an incomplete picture.

Secondly, during the 2023 legislative session, a great amount of work went into crafting a voluntary riparian buffer program that would honor the tribes and the work of agriculture. HB 1720 was a heavily negotiated piece of legislation that came out of many stakeholder meetings between tribes, agriculture and others. The final result was a rather landmark accomplishment where farmers and tribal leaders sat side by side celebrating the collaboration and the work achieved. 

It enjoyed widespread support from various quarters, including cosponsorship from Representative Lekanoff and testimony in favor from several tribes. The real story is the unexpected collaboration of diverse interests toward a common goal, a stronger and healthier environment for us all. 

At this time, the voluntary riparian buffer program has not yet fully taken effect as the program started in March and applicants are still signing up. Many in agriculture have eagerly awaited the release of the voluntary riparian buffer program to take care of the land and provide for the habitats along the river. It is a false message to insinuate that agriculture is in opposition to a healthy environment. A sustainable agriculture and food security are dependent upon a healthy environment.

— Ben Tindall, Executive Director, Save Family Farming, Everson, May 2, 2024

Ed.: The reference regarding application and funding of a voluntary riparian buffer program is not to HB 1720 which has not passed the legislature but to the Washington State Conservation Commission’s Riparian Grant Program.

Just say no to ABC metal shredder

To the Editor:

Several weeks ago, on one of those beautiful spring evenings when the windows were open for sleep, I was awakened by the distant clashing and screeching from the Port location at the metal pile at midnight. I imagined what it will be like if the shredder goes in just mere blocks away and this noise I hear now will be magnified a thousand-fold with loading and unloading of trucks and railcars not to mention the shredding itself at all hours of the day and night. As ABC [Recycling] stated in their public appearance at the waterfront meeting it is not an 8–5 business. 

When ABC was asked where the water for the plant would come from the answer was from the utility. While this is probably quite true, it is good to review where our water for the city comes from. 

From the website, Lake Whatcom Management program, water flows into Lake Whatcom from two main sources:

  • Rainwater that falls in the Lake Whatcom watershed and flows into the lake from pipes, ditches and streams.
  • Water from the Deming Glacier on Mount Baker that flows to the Middle Fork of the Nooksack River and is periodically diverted into Lake Whatcom through a diversion and conveyance system.

Our city relies on rain and streamflow to provide water for all of us. Is this business a good use of that resource which, with our changing climate, could be at a premium?

There is nothing positive about this out-of-country business for our city and has the potential for very hazardous repercussions. Our Port can do better in making long term decisions that affect all of us.

— Christine Woodward, Bellingham, April 27, 2024

Keep an eye on proposed metal shredder

To the Editor:

I was quite interested in Meghan Fenwick’s April 9 piece about the planned rehabilitation of the Little Squalicum pier, since I walk my dogs near there almost daily. But I think a follow-up is called for regarding ABC Recycling’s proposed industrial metal shredder at the old cement plant site quite nearby. 

The roaring noise, water pollution, air pollution and heavy truck traffic created by such a shredder would surely degrade not only the Alderwood neighborhood and Bellingham Bay’s natural environment, but also the experience of anyone strolling the pier. 

I look forward to further coverage of this issue.

— Deborah WessellBellingham, April 23, 2024

Solar project will block or ruin view corridor to valley

To the Editor:

Regarding the article “Pasture or power? Solar talk on San Juan Island,” (Salish Current, April 8, 2024) the property for proposed development is the southeast corner of the San Juan Valley AG R zoning district. It has additional use restrictions to which it is subject as defined by the Heritage Plan Overlay.  

The County Planning Department and the County Council worked diligently from 1990 to 2002 to develop the Open Space and Conservation Plan (OSCP). The OSCP was further updated in 2001 to create what would be adopted as the “San Juan Valley Heritage Plan Overlay District” by Resolution 2-2002. 

The integral vision and intent for the Heritage Plan was that it “will recognize and protect visual and open space resources as EQUAL in importance to maintaining TRADITIONAL agricultural uses in this location.” The county’s present Comprehensive Plan continues to uphold the same visions, goals, and policies to preserve open space and scenic rural vistas in the San Juan Valley. 

The intent of the Heritage Plan Overlay is to equally balance the visual, scenic and traditional agricultural resources of the San Juan Valley with any proposed use. The stated 80% open space to 20% developed space is integral to achieving the intended balance. 

The applicant’s proposed use certainly does not meet that metric. Conditional use proposals must be appropriate in design, character and appearance with surrounding property uses. The fact that the proposal seeks to screen what they are building means the applicant knows that what they are building does not fit it in. Screening or no screening, the entire view corridor to the San Juan Valley will be blocked or ruined by this project. 

This fact alone places the proposal in direct conflict with the intent of the AG Resources Heritage Plan. It is incumbent on the applicant to credibly demonstrate that the project meets or exceeds all the conditions that the Heritage Plan sets forth in order to be granted a conditional use permit. The applicant’s permit request should be denied based on their inability to prove that their plan does just that.

— Royce Meyerott, San Juan Island, April 9, 2024, IslandEnvironment.info

Advocates for data-driven decision-making

To the Editor:

Matt Benoit’s piece, “A noticeable difference in Downtown Bellingham” (Salish Current, April 5), is a much appreciated update on conditions in response to the city’s fentanyl crisis since Mayor Lund issued her executive order on Feb. 20. 

Since our inception in August 2020, the Riveters Collective’s Justice System Committee has called for publicly facing data on all levels to drive public safety policy. Mayor Lund’s response to Benoit’s interview for the article underscores her “data-driven” approach to evaluating the effect of policies to address the executive order. “We’re really keen on getting a full three months’ worth of data, and then making some programmatic adjustments … and then taking a look again at six months, and figuring out if this was a good approach or not.” 

Further, Lund’s order recognizes that “affordable housing, the homelessness crisis, the lack of adequate incarceration, behavioral health and treatment support systems” are complex issues that contribute to the crisis. Lund points to establishing comprehensive planning benchmarks in moving forward with measures that include public housing, legislation, and funding to address the complexities to provide for everyone in the city’s wellbeing. We applaud measures that move toward solutions beyond public hearsay, political opinion, and mere anecdotal evidence. 

Our committee recently met with Whatcom County Council Member Jon Scanlon to reiterate our call for data-driven decision-making as County Executive Satpal [Sidhu] prepares an executive order to respond to the countywide fentanyl crisis. While admitting his tenure on the county council has been short to date, Scanlon pointed to Whatcom County Health Department’s LEAD and GRACE programs as possible data-based models for all of Whatcom County’s Justice System Projects. Publicly facing data is essential for judicious policy making and transparent accountability by electeds to their constituents.

— Debbi Anderson-Frey, Everson, April 6, 2024

What is agritourism?

To the Editor:

The title for the article on March 28 couldn’t be more accurate (“Skagit agritourism controversy is about more than weddings in barns”). While all the problems the county is dealing with regarding weddings in barns and other venues are well represented in this article, the main issue is that the county has never properly identified what agritourism is and is going to include all farms that direct market their products as agritourism facilities.

The county’s failure to properly define what agritourism is is what is at the heart of the problem. All of the surveys, public comment periods, etc., failed to even ask this question: What is agritourism?

Agritourism is NOT direct marketing your produce from your farm. And yet the county seems to think so.

According to almost every rational thinking state east of us — those that have been doing agritourism for a long, long time — the elements that define agritourism are any value-added component(s): educational; tours; nature walks; rides, trains, haywagons; petting zoos; concessions; activities; entertainment.

The two forms of direct marketing that are a problem here are farm stands and u-picks. There are hundreds of these in Skagit County that absolutely don’t qualify as agritourism. The ones I speak of are seasonal in nature and are simply a serve-yourself way to cut costs.

There are many u-picks and farm stands in the county that are agritourism. It is for this reason that the county has to take each farm on a case-by-case basis.

I have nothing against the farmers, here in the county, using the value-added, direct-marketing method known as agritourism to enhance their farm income but there are many farmers in this county who are not associated with agritourism, including myself, and don’t want to be branded as agritourism. For us this will have long reaching negative effects.

— Leslie Price, Jones Creek Farms, Sedro-Woolley, April 3, 2024

Parking minimums are public enemy number one

To the Editor:

Just read “Removing Bellingham’s parking minimums has many benefits,” and I was excited to see that there are like-minded people in this city. I consider minimum parking requirements to be public enemy number one, the single most destructive policy to any human-oriented city. When I bring this up with my peers, I am largely dismissed as being out of touch with reality. I emailed the city council about a month ago on the subject and did not receive a response, so it seems our politicians are equally disinterested. Now at least I have an article to link to while badgering my friends!

— Cameron Dohrman, Bellingham,  March 24, 2024

Tidegate article one-sided

To the Editor:

I was disappointed with the one-sided bent (language) to the article “Way cleared for repair of Skagit tidegate critical to delta protection,” [March 8, 2024]. 

The article well represented the District 12 diking perspective. More balance please, especially for an article under “Environment.” Diking and tidegates in the Skagit Delta (the former salt marsh at the mouth the Skagit River) over many decades “destroyed” historic salt marsh, converting it to farmland. Salt marsh are critical nurseries to juvenile salmon. What percentage of the historic Skagit Delta is diked, I wonder? Diked salt marsh in general is becoming less productive saltier and wetter farmland as sea level rises. This trend will only accelerate in the coming years. Is the land behind this dike better returned to salt marsh? The interplay between maintaining farmland and recovering ESA-listed salmon [is] complex. Interviews with tribal biologists could have offered a clarifying perspective and maybe illuminate why NMFS is unable to issue a decision on this application. 

— Byron Rot, former Habitat Program Manager for Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and retired Environmental Stewardship Project Manager for San Juan County, San Juan Island; March 15, 2024

Hunting fatality is a heartbreaking case

To the Editor:

Thanks to Nancy DeVaux for organizing the few factual crumbs offered up since the tragic death of a deer hunter on Chadwick Hill, Lopez Island, way back in November. Hunting can be dangerous in so many unforeseen ways, but seldom deadly; very rarely by an errant projectile killing an unseen hunter.

This was a heartbreaking open-and-shut case from the get-go. Million-to one outcome. No extenuating circumstances. No abject stupidity or mistaken targeting during a legal season on National Monument lands open to all state licensed deer hunters.

My decades of experience in northern Alaska as a meat hunter and National Park Service ranger involved in, or aware of, many unfortunate hunting accidents in the big wild tell me that once agencies investigate the site, interview people and contact next of kin (if necessary), the story is released to address the greater public interest and quell the rumors. I have also hunted deer for venison on San Juan Island for 16 years.

Deer harvesting in the San Juans is culturally, ecologically and psychologically important to a dwindling number of residents as exurban values shrink hunting opportunities and anti-hunting folks decry traditions with venison as food. Meanwhile blacktail deer without predators ravage the forest understory, meet ugly demise by roadkill, damage agricultural crops and increase insurance rates. The local populations are again growing after an unhealthy adenovirus crash a few years back. 

A full explanation of this rare and tragic event by the oddly mum agencies will improve the safety of the recreating public and perhaps prompt the Bureau of Land Management to consider the wisdom of the San Juan County Conservation Land Bank by limiting the number of hunters roaming certain preserves on a given day. 

— Steve Ulvi, San Juan Island, March 7, 2024

Proper management of hunting is essential

To the Editor:

It’s tragic that it took a fatality to direct attention to the intense hunting/shooting that occurs in and around Chadwick Hill and adjacent properties. (“Wait for information about Lopez Island hunting fatality nears an end,” March 5, 2024) My family and I have lived on the south end of Lopez for nearly 50 years. During this time we have witnessed an increasing amount of illegal shooting at night from the road below, as well as on our posted properties.

Serious questions need to be addressed. Who are these individuals? Are these local Lopez Island hunters or from elsewhere? Are they licensed at all to hunt? Certainly not one of our neighbors has provided permission to prowl our private properties to hunt deer in any season or time. Our reporting of these occurrences has received little or no reply. 

Accurately assessing and properly managing the numbers of hunters during the fall hunt within the BLM [Bureau of Land Management] conservation area and nearby properties is an absolute necessity. We now know that human lives depend on it.A stray bullet from a hunting rifle carries a great distance and there are people living here year-round and enjoying the passive recreational options of hiking, picnicking and wildlife study that are an essential part of the Lopez life.They are well within range of a misdirected rifle shot.

— Tony Angell, Lopez Island and Seattle, March 5, 2024

Column on Boldt decision was excellent

To the Editor:

Dan Raas’s column on the Boldt decision which enshrined tribal fishing rights into enforceable law was excellent. 

Mentioned in the column is a statement by a former opponent of the treaty rights decision who said, without that landmark ruling, there would be no more salmon in Western Washington rivers. I would go on to say that without the actions of Tribal Nations a lot more environmental and human rights mayhem would be happening. 

We can all be grateful indeed to the local Lummi Nation and other tribes for their stewardship of the land that we all now inhabit together. We in Whatcom County can also be grateful to folks like Dan Raas who selflessly give their time and talents to better our community. 

Thank you, Dan.

— Michael Chiavario, Bellingham, March 3, 2024

Images of spongy moth important for prevention

To the Editor:

I’m disappointed in your article about the Spongy Moth (“Giant hornet effort approaches milestone as another pest shows up,” Feb. 26, 2024). One poor photograph is all I’m given to recognize this threat? It reeks of “crying wolf” about another invasive insect but offers very little about how to prevent an invasion. 

Ed.: Your point about images is well-taken, and the story has been updated with added images of caterpillar and adult spongy moths.

Update: I just reread the article about the spongy moth. Great improvement! After the diligent work of so many to save trees in our county, it would be horrible to lose them to these critters! I appreciate the early warning and your effort to remind us that community involvement made a big difference against the hornet.

— Judy Fruhbauer, Bellingham, March 2, 2024

Look to B.C. Ferries as solution to WSF ills

To the Editor:

The state ferry system is a vital service to many of those living around the Salish Sea. Is it possible for you to reprint an article in the Feb. 20, 2024, issue of the Seattle Times titled “This is what brought our ferry system here, and what could save it”? It is well-researched and written by knowledgeable people who point out that the problem lies with incompetent management and dysfunctional governance. The article’s comparison of the performance of WSF with B.C. ferries is very revealing. Our area is vitally dependent on a broken system, and we need to face the facts if things are to improve. 

— Eric Adelberger, Friday Harbor, Feb. 20, 2024

Ed.: The article is an opinion piece we do not have permission to reprint. It is also behind a paywall which readers may be able to gain access through. The Current has published a Community Voices essay regarding mismanagement of WSF (“Washington State Ferries problem is a management problem,” Dec. 6, 2023) and an article about crewing, maintenance and funding problems faced by the system (“Where’s the ferry?” Feb. 24, 2023).

Understanding tribes

To the Editor:

I just want to complement Salish Current and Richard Walker on the article “Tribes 101: About the Native nations that share geography with Washington state,” Feb. 5, 2024

I worked for a tribe for 12 years and for the state (Ecology) for 30 years on tribal issues and relationships and often did internal and external training. The Boldt decision, treaty rights, jurisdiction, state/tribal relations, the Centennial Accord … so many interesting dimensions. Mr. Walker’s intro to these complicated issues is excellent. It’s a great entry point for anyone who wants to understand more about the tribes in and around Washington.

— Tom Laurie, Olympia, Feb. 17, 2024

Water first for tribes and fish

To the Editor:

The recent piece on water rights leaves out the fate of tribes and fish who will ultimately benefit from these proceedings. (Nooksack water rights adjudication is on track for April filing,” Feb. 14, 2024)

It is very unfortunate that these have been delayed for a variety of excuses (lack of judicial and Ecology resources, COVID), when really it’s been a lack of political will, knowing full well that the longer it is delayed the longer illegal and over-allocated water users can use the water that should be reserved for salmon and tribes. 

This fact needs to be stated in future coverage of this important issue. This isn’t just about water users; it is very much about the needs of salmon and of the tribes who are the first in line for water rights.

— Mike MacKay, Bellingham, Feb. 14, 2024

Let’s learn from history

To the Editor:

In his Community Voices column, “In Celebration of Black History Month,” Feb. 9, 2024, Dr. Damani Johnson has laid out quite clearly where we are today in our struggle for “a more perfect union.”

Reactionary forces of white nationalism are using any method they can to keep their political power over a diversifying population that is becoming more aware of their collective power. It is only the current attempt to control politics and therefore society, in the same way post-Civil War Reconstruction was derailed and Jim Crow laws destroyed chances for more, Black, voices to be heard in our politics. 

Hopefully, we, all of us, can continue to learn more of our mutual history, the proud and the shameful. Then maybe we can help bend that arc of the moral universe toward justice. 

Thank you, Damani, for this commentary and for your many years of educating us.

— Joe Deeny, Bellingham, Feb. 14, 2024

Thanks for police pursuit article

To the Editor:

I just wanted to express my appreciation for the recent article on police pursuits that Matt Benoit wrote (Expanded police pursuit authority may come up for initiative vote,” Jan. 26, 2024).

I found it informative and probing. I think it’s the most in-depth article on the police pursuit issue I’ve seen recently from local news sources (e.g., the Bellingham Herald and Cascadia Daily News). 

Thanks for the hard work. Local journalism is so important, especially these days. 

— Simon Sefzik, Ferndale, Feb. 13, 2024

PeaceHealth board needs local rep, advocate for Alzheimer’s care

To the Editor:

My husband has Alzheimer’s disease. His diagnosis is considered “early onset” because his decline began in his late 50s.

I am profoundly grateful for the invaluable resources available in our area to help dementia patients and their caregivers. The painfully protracted period from diagnosis to death from Alzheimer’s is often called “the long goodbye” — for good reason. Family and friends become strangers to their afflicted loved ones, and in a sense, vice versa. 

Last spring PeaceHealth announced it would close its outpatient palliative care (OPPC) program claiming, in part, due to lost revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic. That announcement dashed my hopes that the local OPPC program would eventually include Alzheimer’s patients.

Because of a barrage of pleas and entreaties, PeaceHealth reconsidered and said it would reinstate OPPC in a new model. My understanding is that the reinstated program will be predominantly for cancer patients, with other diseases included at some future date.

In 2020, an estimated 5.8 million Americans aged 65 years or older had Alzheimer’s disease. In 2010, the costs of treating Alzheimer’s were estimated at up to $215 billion annually. Unlike declining heart disease and cancer death rates, Alzheimer’s death rates are increasing.

Whatcom County urgently needs representation on the PeaceHealth System Governing Board. The system board includes five seats, of a total of 11, for people who live in communities where PeaceHealth has no facilities — three in California (Fairfax, Newport Beach, San Francisco), one in Denver and one in Chicago. [Ed.: Number of seats corrected Feb. 12, 2024]

If our region had a seat on the system board, I believe we’d have improved educational, awareness, and support services for people with all life-limiting or terminal diseases, including Alzheimer’s.

— Kathy Sitker, Birch Bay, Feb. 11, 2024

Grant Jones and the ‘Nooksack Method’

To the Editor:

Thank you for sharing Grant Jones’s vivid recollection of his solo encounter with a “monster fish” in Salish Sea waters near his childhood home (“The monster of the deep,” Feb. 6, 2024).

“I wanted to find out if there were still big halibut in Puget Sound,” Grant wrote, in a line that could launch a novel. The powerful spirit-partner hooked by his handline was one of many that shaped Grant’s career as a visionary landscape architect.

In 1972, the Whatcom County Park Board hired Jones & Jones, the design firm Grant had co-founded two years earlier, to write a plan to guide protection of the scenic and recreational resources of the Nooksack River. Grant and his colleagues seized the opportunity, applying concepts of landscape expression developed during his graduate studies at Harvard to the 832-square-mile watershed. 

An iconoclastic work combining natural, hydrologic and aesthetic considerations, the Nooksack River Plan pushed river planning and the “Nooksack Method” to the forefront of ecological design. Grant was proud of the plan but particularly proud of a stance the firm took. “The park board wasn’t our only client,” he said. “We felt the river itself was our client.”

Imagine this attitude of partnership, brought forward 50 years to today’s Nooksack. How differently might we view flooding risks, or the changes brought to the river by climate change? Might we bring the river forward as a party with standing into stream adjudication?

A decade ago, I asked Grant about his thoughts on climate change. “We face this global dilemma,” he said. “We know what the science is telling us, but what is the plan?”

His answer: “When we’re in touch with place and with each other, we can evolve. If we pay attention, I believe the land can teach us how to live with the current catastrophe and how to love what’s left.”

— Edward Wolf, Bellingham, Feb. 11, 2024

Salmon must be available to orcas

To the Editor:

In a recent article comparing Southern Resident to Bigg’s orcas, (“A tale of two kinds of whales,” Jan. 19, 2024) the role of noise and disturbance is wrongly ignored. Southern Residents need healthy salmon populations and the acoustic space to find them. Habitat abandonment may not be irreversible, if we are honest about what is causing it.

Orcas are acoustic animals. Resident orcas use echolocation to find and catch their prey, and a complex system of social calls to communicate with each other. Noise and disturbance make all that harder.

A recent NOAA study showed that female Southern Residents abandon hunts when vessels approach closer than 400 yards, and that all Southern Residents are less successful at foraging when boats approach closer than 1,500 yards. It’s not just the number of salmon that matter, but how available they are to the orcas.

The threats to the Southern Residents are interconnected, each worsening the other. When orcas are stressed or hungry, stored toxins are released into their bloodstream, making them more susceptible to disease. Vessel noise and disturbance make it harder for them to find and catch their prey, which makes them stressed and hungry … and so it goes.

We can’t let up on any of these threats, or look away — there’s too much at stake. There are nine calves under five years old in the population, and six are female. Whether they survive and thrive into adulthood is up to us.

Compared to Southern Residents, the range of Bigg’s orcas is wider, and they spend a smaller percentage of their total time in the lower reaches of the Salish Sea. If they were followed by vessels as pervasively as the Southern Residents have been — every day, and up to 12 hours a day throughout their core summer range — they would soon be in trouble, too.

— Donna Sandstrom, Founder/Executive Director, The Whale Trail, Seattle, Feb. 6, 2024

Whatcom County public schools: Renewal of our local levies 

To the Editor:

We are grateful to our students, families, staff and community for your ongoing support. As we enter 2024, we continue to come together, be flexible and support each other. 

On Feb. 13, school districts in Whatcom County are asking our communities to consider renewing our levies. There are three main types of levies: educational programs and operations, capital (includes technology) and transportation levies. 

Many school districts use the phrase “bonds are for building and levies are for learning.” Bonds are used to fund major construction projects. Levies are for learning, which provide funding for the day-to-day operations of our schools. K–12 education is not fully funded by the state, which is why districts rely on voter-approved levies to bridge the gap, ensuring all students have access to the resources they need to succeed. 

Every school district in Whatcom County will have at least one replacement levy on the Feb. 13 special election ballot. Please find more information about each individual levy from your school district. Though our needs may differ, all school districts depend on the support of our communities to provide high-quality education for our students. 

Levy funding supports: 

  • School staff: teachers, nurses, psychologists, counselors, behavior support teams and paraeducators, and other school staff 
  • Academic programs: Special Education, advanced learning, multilingual learners and smaller class sizes 
  • Technology: laptops and necessary tools that ensure all students have access to learning resources 
  • Enhanced school safety infrastructure including door-locking systems 
  • Student services and opportunities: athletics, arts, music, drama, clubs and after-school tutoring 

Your school district may be asking you to consider a levy for four years. Your school district will have more information about your local tax rate. 

We are grateful to live in communities that support our schools and understand the value of quality education for all students. 

Thank you for your continued support of our schools.

Whatcom County Public Schools Superintendents

  • Dr. Greg Baker, Bellingham Public Schools 
  • Dr. Christopher Granger, Blaine School District 
  • Dr. Kristi Dominguez, Ferndale Public Schools 
  • David VanderYacht, Lynden School District 
  • Dr. James Everett, Meridian School District 
  • Phil Brockman, Mount Baker School District 
  • Matt Galley, Nooksack Valley School District

Feb. 2, 2024

Support SB 6120 — to save trees and housing costs

To the Editor:

There’s potentially good legislative news for our region’s trees and forests, climate resiliency and even for new home and rental costs — but it has one more step to go that you can easily influence.

SB 6120 fixes most problems of the state’s faulty SB 6109 Wildland Urban Interface legislation from 2018. The earlier bill was in response to growing fears of wildfire disasters threatening communities within our state. It seemed like a good move at the time.

However, the earlier bill’s fuzziness resulted in proposed state ordinances and maps that labeled virtually all populated areas of the state as highly “at-risk.” It also required tree-sparse “defensible space” buffers of up to 100 feet around ALL new or remodeled structures in those at-risk areas — even though the latest wildfire science clearly does not support such tree clearings.

Tens of thousands of trees would therefore be unnecessarily removed over time, something we cannot afford in this new climate era. The earlier bill also would have significantly increased the cost of home ownership and rentals, creating greater economic inequity within our state and exasperating homelessness.

Whatcom Million Trees Project and advocacy partner Restoring Earth Connection worked tirelessly for months to build public and policymaker awareness of these issues (including here in the Salish Current in November). Our intense campaign built the foundation that has now led to SB 6120.

This new and better bill will be voted on in the Senate sometime before Feb 15. Then it will move to the House.

We need your support NOW to push this bill to the finish line — for the trees and for increased wildfire resiliency that’s truly effective. Please send a brief email TODAY to your state senator that says you support SB 6120. Here’s a two-click form to do that easily. Thanks!

— Michael Feerer, Executive Director, WMTP, Bellingham, Feb. 2, 2024

Vote ‘Yes’ on school levies

To the Editor:

My husband and I moved to Bellingham from Anchorage, Alaska, in 2012, to be near our son and his family. I quickly became an enthusiastic volunteer in my granddaughter’s classrooms at Geneva Elementary. I continue to volunteer in the community in support of education, the arts and the library. As a former superintendent and longtime educator, I know firsthand how important the successful passage of the two renewal levies is in order for our students to be able to learn successfully in well-managed and safe schools.

I enthusiastically support the operations and technology renewal levies on the Feb. 13 ballot for the Bellingham School District. All of our students and staff are direct beneficiaries in the classrooms, in using technology services and equipment, enhanced opportunities in music and the arts  and needed support services. Please join me in voting to approve these levies to allow our schools and the district to continue to provide an excellent education to all children in Bellingham.

We must invest in our future— our students are depending on our YES votes!

— Carol Comeau, Bellingham, Jan. 31, 2024

PeaceHealth board needs local representative

To the Editor:

How many readers know that Whatcom County has no representation on the PeaceHealth Medical System Governing Board? 

How many know that health services decisions that affect you, your family, your neighbors, your doctors, and our only hospital are made by people who do not live in our community?

PeaceHealth has medical facilities in Washington, Oregon, and Alaska. St. Joseph Hospital is the sole hospital for over 230,100 people in Whatcom County. 

How can PeaceHealth justify the fact that we have no representation on the System Governing Board? Five of the seats are filled by three people from California, one from Denver, and one from Chicago. What are we, chopped liver?

When PeaceHealth administrators in Vancouver, Washington, announced last May it was shutting down outpatient palliative care (OPPC) and other services, a letter-writing blitz and other protests led to corporate management’s decision to reinstate OPPC. (However, we still do not know the operational details of the reinstatement.)

This untenable lack of representation on the System Governing Board can be easily rectified — as soon as PeaceHealth management exercises its will to make it happen.

I encourage readers to contact Charles Prosper, head of PeaceHealth’s NW Network in Bellingham, to request, on behalf of the community where he works and lives, to relay our “ask” of representation to PeaceHealth’s top management in Vancouver.

— Sheri Lambert, Bellingham, Jan. 30, 2024

Green hydrogen is a scam

To the Editor:

Green hydrogen: technically it can be done  (Salish Current, Jan. 25, 2024). It is insane to use electricity to produce liquid hydrogen when that electricity is and can be used directly. Green hydrogen is a scam. Subsidies and stock gambling.

Almost all current hydrogen is and will be produced from natural gas — which is and can be used directly. Whenever a form of energy is converted to another form, a large part is wasted. Don’t trust the hype.

— Dan Senour, Anacortes, Jan. 29,  2024

Congrats on hydrogen piece

To the Editor:

Offering my congrats on the recent green hydrogen piece from Tom Banse (Salish Current, Jan. 25, 2024) — a very nice example of explaining the policy and politics but also the technology and science.

— Derek Moscato, Western Washington University, Jan. 29, 2024

More context on historical 1936 Olympics

To the Editor:

The Boys of  ’36” (PBS) is an outstanding documentary on the rowing story, not mentioned by the author [of] “‘Boys in the Boat’ and the politics of the 1936 Berlin Olympics,” whose broader coverage of 1936 Berlin fills a void. The new movie should really not be the historical standard.

— John Egbert, Bellingham, Jan. 8, 2024

Supports principled pluralism

To the Editor:

Thanks to Ron Polinder for writing “The Stewardship of the Creation.” Like Ron, I am a strong supporter of Whatcom Land Trust and very much appreciate their efforts to protect Whatcom’s wonderful natural resources.

Unlike Ron, I am not a devout Christian; indeed, I am a nonpracticing, ethnic Jew. Nevertheless, I very much appreciate his advocacy of principled pluralism. I like his ideas about respecting the perspectives of those with whom we disagree. I wish our political leaders, indeed all of us, practiced principled pluralism. 

— Eric Hirst, Bellingham, Jan. 7, 2024

We are all in this together

To the Editor:

ONE Whatcom! is a local movement that encourages and assists our diverse Whatcom County communities to get to know each other and celebrate our uniqueness. This last weekend, our Jewish friends and neighbors were threatened by email which led to the cancellation of their Shabbat services. 

We believe that all communities deserve to feel safe in Whatcom County, and we call on all Whatcom County residents to demonstrate our united commitment to the practice of peace and love. We acknowledge the pain and tension that events in the East have created. We acknowledge the historical pain for the communities involved. And we denounce threats of violence that leave our neighbors feeling unsafe to live and worship. 

Each one of us can reach out to our Jewish friends and let them know we care. We can write notes of love and support to individuals and to the synagogue, and take a stand for each other on social media. We can urge our churches and clubs to do the same. Let us take this step to be ONE Whatcom, because we are all in this together.

— Kamalla Kaur, The Chardi Kala Project, Everson, Dec. 18, 2023

Ed.: This letter is in reference to the incident “Bellingham synagogue cancels services after threatening email.” See also: “One Whatcom forms local network to counter violence and racial intolerance.”

We are the Community Water Taxi!

To the Editor:

We are the Community Water Taxi, a group of concerned island residents running an emergency interisland water taxi service within San Juan County, separate from Washington State Ferries

We help people get to medical appointments, work, court appointments and school when the interisland is disrupted. We’ve been operating the water taxi since August. Ultimately, our goal is to make this service a subsidized fare.

County residents are aware that the capacity of state ferries is stretched beyond our needs. There’s little that we can do to repair that. The state projects improvements being years away. It’s time for us to begin to determine ways that county residents can begin to take control of our transportation needs.

Providing this service has prompted us to approach county and state officials about funding a pilot program to supplement the state ferries. 

We’ll be releasing a survey in January to gather information to help us understand the effects of ferry disruptions and the needs of our community. Based on those responses, research and real on-the-water work, we hope to create a system which we can trial run in the spring. We understand that a project of this nature is laden with pitfalls, but we believe that without starting this effort, our community connections will continue to erode.

There’s no schedule currently; it’s only an emergency service when the interisland goes down. In the future, there may be supplemental service to state ferries, if we can get the funding.

Suggested donation is $40/way with consideration for those on fixed incomes and working class neighbors. Our captain is a U.S. Coast Guard captain. We are in discussions with another captain in Friday Harbor who has expressed interest in getting involved. 

Head over to our Facebook and Instagram pages for updates. If you have any questions, send us an email.

— Ed Andrews, Tom Bridge, Carey Eskridge, Justin Paulsen, and Sandy Playa; Eastsound, Dec.14, 2023

We must do more to save the Sound

To the Editor:

The “State of the Sound” report has just been released. It is prepared every two years by the Puget Sound Partnership to provide an easily understandable summary of the current conditions in Puget Sound. 

The report concludes that the Puget Sound is holding on, but its recovery remains uncertain. This mixed scorecard is concerning. Merely clinging to life with little improvement is simply not sufficient progress.

Nearly 80% of estuarine wetlands, which are critical to salmon and marine and shore birds, have been diked in the last 150 years. About 3,400 acres have been restored since 2006. While positive, when this gain is compared to projected sea level rise over the coming decades there is a serious risk that even those gains will be literally drowned out by the rising tides.

Terrestrial birds are in steady decline. The golden-crowned kinglet has declined by 60% in the western U.S. over the last 60 years. Many others are in serious decline.

Marine bird populations are also way down. The endangered marbled murrelet has been declining 5% per year since 2000. Scoters are down about 2% per year. Local marine bird surveys show significant declines in many species that winter in our local waters.

We must restore more estuarine areas, preserve the remaining old-growth and mature forests, and protect kelp and eelgrass beds which birds, fish and marine mammals depend on for survival.

We must also reduce and remove concrete bulkheads and other structures that interfere with the natural shoreline habitats needed for the forage-fish eggs and invertebrate species which are essential food sources for salmon and marine birds.

We must make a greater effort to preserve our natural shoreline habitats, and our remaining mature and old growth forests, and do much more to help the Sound to recover and to thrive.

— Robert Kaye, North Cascades Audubon Society, Blaine, Nov. 28, 2023

Serious impacts of RBT2 proposed terminal

To the Editor:

Many, many thanks for publishing Roger Emsley’s essay on the impact of RBT2 on the local environment near the terminal. (“Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project is a looming environmental disaster,” Salish Current, Nov. 20, 2023). We in the Puget Sound area of the Salish Sea often confine our concerns to the impacts of the proposed terminal on salmon and orca whales, which are serious enough, but the concerns are much broader than that, as Roger details.

Several years ago, a group of Orcas Islanders visited the migratory bird sanctuary at the mouth of the Fraser River with a professional bird watcher, and I was amazed at the profusion of wildlife thereabouts. Even saw a snowy owl and had chickadees eating seeds out of my hand. So I can appreciate the impacts of RBT2 on this ecology better than most of us south of the border who’ve never been there.

— Michael Riordan, Eastsound, Nov. 20, 2023

Did outside money influence Whatcom County elections?

To the Editor:

Groups wishing to influence elections may make unlimited independent expenditures (IEs) in support of or opposed to candidates as long as they don’t coordinate with the candidate’s campaign. 

IEs can be helpful, harmful, a waste of money or a combination of these. 

Kim Lund received over $97K (almost $6/vote) of IEs from the Washington Realtors Political Action Committee, more than she spent ($92K) or Seth [Fleetwood] spent ($72K) (although Kim’s and Seth’s final reports aren’t due until Dec. 11). 

Helpful? Hard to know since everyone takes credit for a win. Will this affect Kim’s leadership? Not if she wants to be re-elected; however, if the Realtors back enough truly affordable housing then their IEs’ negative effects on the progressive Bellingham electorate will be mitigated. 

The same PAC might be seen to have wasted over $15K in the primary to get Alicia Rule into the general election for county executive: Alicia, a sitting state representative, wasn’t in the top two. Do the Realtors still get a benefit in access to Alicia? Maybe, maybe not, since there is scant evidence that Alicia listens to the Realtors any more or less than her other constituents. 

The Realtors spent about $27K in IEs to help incumbent Ben Elenbaas’ successful effort in County Council District 5. Ben won 2:1 over Jackie Dexter and raised about three times what she raised. Money well spent? 

Something called Concerned Taxpayers of Washington State wasted almost $67K (slightly over $2/vote) on mailers and postage to help Hannah Ordos predictably lose to Jon Scanlon by 14 points. 

No one else had IEs above $1,200, as of Nov. 20. These numbers probably won’t change much: IE reports were supposed to be filed by now.

— Dan Raas, Bellingham, Nov. 20, 2023

Kelp — going, going, gone

To the Editor:

Richard Walker’s article on the conditions of our regional kelp forests and efforts underway to restore them is heartening but still short of the seriousness of this matter (“Samish Nation protects ‘breathtaking’ kelp forests, nearshore habitat,” Salish Current, Nov. 14, 2023). When Ken Balcomb and I teamed up to write and illustrate “Marine Birds and Mammals of Puget Sound” more than 40 years ago, our marine ecosystems were already in decline and being pummeled by pollution and habitat destruction and heedless exploitation of its fisheries. 

Going, going and nearly gone are those moments I enjoyed off Lopez Island prowling atop and into the thick tendrils of kelp where I might suddenly be enveloped by a school of herring. Below me, on the rocky substrate, upon which the great kelp was anchored, I could find vast communities of pinto abalone and rock scallops. Octopus occupied the crevices. They are now all gone in part because over the years vast hordes of divers, indifferent to legal limits and regulations, have scoured the surfaces clean. 

I applaud the Samish Nation for its good work and historical reverence and understanding of these nurturing systems — essential and fundamental to our lives here. I am also realistic enough to know that this commitment will require a good deal more support if it is to realize such goals. Forests of kelp are no less important to our ecological stability, health and welfare than our terrestrial forests. Like the essential beds of eel grass and intertidal estuaries, only a tiny fraction of the kelp forest is witnessed and therefore out of our immediate consciousness and appreciation. Not to acknowledge, cherish and work to sustain these critical places is ultimately catastrophic.

— Tony Angell, Seattle and Lopez Island, Nov. 19, 2023

Observations on a fire levy defeat

To the Editor:

Addressing the defeat of the fire levy on Orcas (“Orcas fire district levy defeat forces ‘austerity’ budget, Salish Current, Nov. 16, 2023) I’m a retired professional firefighter from Seattle and ex-volunteer assistant chief in a Skagit County fire district.  

Some quick observations: 

1. The levy lift was needed no doubt, hindsight being perfect. This is a common issue with fire districts. For the last 30-some years commissioners have not kept up with what they can add from the taxes without a vote; a very small percentage but it adds up. Now faced with a doubled assessment, voters reacted, regretfully but understandably. 

2. To the voters who voted “no”, I would wager that you do not volunteer with the fire district. Also, I’d wager the majority of volunteers voted “yes”, even though they also give a lot of their time and put their lives at risk. Shame.

3. This is a lesson I’ve seen repeated many times in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s in Snohomish, King and Pierce counties. Good ol’ boys commissioners, usually in their retirement years after volunteering for years just kept everything at status quo. No foresight to the growth of the district, new larger homes and the struggle to keep volunteers, with constantly increasing training requirements and increased busy lives.

Finally. Costs to just maintain one fire station have greatly increased: new safety equipment, requirements for annual equipment certification, better rescue equipment, needed more than ever with the reduction in volunteers, an issue statewide.  The list is endless. 

Be thankful for your volunteers. Support them! Imagine what you would pay to replace them with a fully manned paid fire department. 

— Jay Brand, Oak Harbor, Nov. 16, 2023

Bike paths, yes, but farmers first

To the Editor:

I believe we need to provide bike paths for the biking community and visitors. (“Multimodal trail in San Juan Valley opposed by farmers,” Salish Current, Nov. 9)  However, this should not be designed as a detriment to our farming community.  These efforts need to come first.

— Kim Howard, San Juan Island, Nov. 12, 2023

Thanks for real news (information that matters)

To the Editor:

Your report on cleanups in Anacortes is far and away the best I have seen (“Cleanups move ahead at polluted Anacortes waterfront sites,” Salish Current, Nov. 7). For that, I am donating. 

I would suggest an extension of this article to include MJB’s project and how they came to control all that landfill. It should be public property or at least under control of the port as I believe it once was?

Thanks for real news (information that matters)

— Dan Senour, Anacortes, Nov. 7, 2023.

Editor’s Note: An earlier Salish Current story (“Pollution cleaned up, Anacortes shoreline preps for development,” Jan. 31, 2023) described work on the MJB property.

Support cease-fire in Israeli-Hamas conflict

To the Editor:

We are heartbroken by the recent violence in Israel and the Gaza Occupied Palestinian Territory. We deeply mourn the loss of all lives and pray for those who have lost loved ones over the last few weeks. We unequivocally condemn Hamas’ attacks and inhumane treatment of civilians and call for their immediate release of all hostages. We also condemn the indiscriminate and violent Israeli response.

Hamas killed more than 1,300 Israelis in the Oct. 7 attack and took 200 civilian hostages into Gaza. The subsequent Israeli military attack on Gaza has killed more than 9,000 Palestinians, almost half of them children.

The Israeli government has restricted food, fuel and humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip resulting in devastating humanitarian consequences.

It is beyond sad that decades of systemic suppression of the Palestinian people have led to this latest debacle. A military solution will never be a long-standing solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The humanity of the other side must be seen.  In the long run recognition of Palestinian human rights will support Israeli human rights. Love thy neighbor. Hate and killing only return the same.

We urge Rep. Rick Larsen to support House Resolution 786 which urges President Biden to immediately call for and facilitate de-escalation and a cease-fire in Israel and occupied Palestine. On the Senate side, Sen. Durbin is requesting a cease-fire and we ask Senator Cantwell and Senator Murray to join him.

— The San Juan Islands FCNL (Friends Committee on National Legislation) Advocacy Team: Sharon Abreu, Eastsound; Kathy Cope, Friday Harbor; Linda Ellsworth, Eastsound; Tom Ewell, Clinton; Andy Hiester, Eastsound; Micki Jackson, Bellingham; Charles Janeway, Lopez Island; Bruce Radtke, Bellingham; Tom Rawson, Eastsound; Allen Stockbridge, Bellingham; Darcy Leach, Olga; Jeff Otis, Eastsound; Colleen Curtis, Bellingham; Dianne Foster, Bellingham; Susan Witter, Bellingham; Gloria Lebowitz, Bellingham; Lucy Morse, Ferndale; Paul Englesberg, Ferndale; Michael Jacobsen, Bellingham’ Elizabeth Pernotto, Bellingham; Robert Marshall, Bellingham; Ellen Howard, Bellingham; Douglas Dodd, Bellingham; Shirley Osterhaus, Bellingham; Cosette Landon, Bellingham; James Loucky, Bellingham; David Gordon, Port Townsend, Nov. 5, 2023

The right help at the right time

To the Editor:

Kudos to Aria Nguyen for the Nov. 2 article, “School districts confront mental health crisis,” Salish Current. 

While chairing the University of Washington Medicine’s Campaign for Mental Health, I learned that half of the people who will ever have a mental health or addiction problem will experience symptoms by age 14, with around three-quarters by age 24. The school-age population is where things can first start to go sideways, sometimes leading to a life of misery and disablement. It is also during this stage of life that effective intervention can make a lifelong difference. 

People really do get better with the right help at the right time. Behavioral health illnesses are common; look around at those you know, because around a third of them will experience a mental health and/or substance abuse problem at some time in their lives. Bringing access to help to where people gather, like in schools, is essential. 

The UW Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences operates the internationally recognized S.M.A.R.T. Center for aiding communities in figuring how best to deliver mental health services through schools. You can visit their website here.

— Craig Cole, Bellingham, Nov. 3, 2023

To ‘tax’ one, government must ‘tax’ all

To the Editor:

Having a reporter living on San Juan Island report only on the response of people who live on San Juan Island is a bit hard to take. We are a pretty big county with more islands than one. We all wait for the boats and have appointments and needs which draw us all off “Island.” (“Managing tourism at core of destination plan controversy” Salish Current, Oct. 29, 2023)

What is a bit uncomfortable for me is that the first I had heard about the plan to put a sticker on my car was the all-mailbox mailing to occupant. You may also notice that our commissioner is the only one without a phone listing. My only news is the Salish Current. This is not your fault but living as I do close to home, I wonder if any other person feels news is limited to the produce department at Island Market. 

I believe that to “tax” any traveler the government must “tax” all travelers. So residents are as subject to the sticker as well as tourists. You know I would share my land taxes with the off-island visitors. After all I rather like looking at my property as well as yours. Like a tourist.

— Linda Henry, Orcas Island, Oct. 30, 2023

Four unions endorse Lund

To the Editor:

Our four unions represent more than 82% of employees of the city of Bellingham. We have all endorsed Kim Lund for mayor.

This is a change. Four years ago, all of our unions endorsed the incumbent.

We have endorsed Kim Lund because, after extensive interviews with her, we concluded that her energy, intelligence and eagerness to take action is what is needed in our mayor.

First and foremost, we are public servants. We did not seek our jobs with the city simply for a paycheck. We believe in our city and want it to be the best. We want to be proud of our work. We want our work to truly make Bellingham a better place.

But this can’t happen without visionary leadership for the city and close coordination between all city departments.

Kim Lund’s vision for Bellingham is infectious. It gives us confidence that our work (and the use of your money) will be meaningful and productive.

We want the citizens to receive the best results possible, in every situation and on every issue.

With Kim Lund’s vision and management expertise, we are confident this will occur.

— Craig Frank, Bellingham Police Guild president 

— Jael Komac, President, Local 1937 – Guild of Pacific Northwest Employees
— Scott Farrell , President, Bellingham/Whatcom County Firefighters IAFF Local 106
— Jennifer Thompson, President, Teamsters Local 231

Supports Lund for mayor

To the Editor:

When I met Kim Lund, I knew that she should be the next mayor of Bellingham. 

Before this meeting, I had expected to continue supporting the incumbent.

Meeting Kim Lund changed that. 

Her deep knowledge of every segment of the Bellingham community. Her active listening skills. Her proven leadership ability. Her enthusiasm and passion to make Bellingham the best community it can be — for every resident. These qualifications are compelling and rare. Yet this only skims the surface of Lund’s character and fitness to be our mayor.

Lund’s education and work experience, in both the private sector (team leader at Intel) and as executive director of the Bellingham Public Schools Foundation, coupled with her personal strengths, have perfectly positioned her to address the challenges that currently exist in Bellingham, as well as prepare Bellingham for unknown, yet inevitable future challenges.

She listens, evaluates information, then makes rational decisions. The characteristics of a true leader.

Indecision itself is a decision. Generally, the wrong one. Indecision has no place in Lund’s universe. 

I was honored to be elected mayor of Bellingham for three consecutive terms.

I know what it takes to be a successful mayor. Lund will be remarkably successful.

Lund has the intrinsic ability to adjust and adapt to the inevitably changing circumstances of our community that are the daily fare of the mayor’s office.

I strongly and enthusiastically endorse Kim Lund for mayor of Bellingham. When she is elected, all of Bellingham will win.

— Mark Asmundson, Bellingham, Oct. 29, 2023

A compelling and timely story

To the Editor:

Aria Nguyen’s story about caregivers for those afflicted with dementia spoke to my very soul. 

Having walked this same path with my late husband, John, I know that while each caregiver’s story is unique, it is simultaneously familiar to us all. 

Yes, caregivers become medically compromised themselves as a result of the stress and heartbreak of helplessly witnessing what I referred to as John’s “slo-mo disappearing act.” 

Yes, dementia robs you of your loved one, your financial resources and your health. It can require you to end your career early to take care of a beloved family member who at the end doesn’t even remember you, as it did me. 

And, blessedly, yes — there are wonderful resources here in our county, people who know what they are doing and have the compassion and expertise to support you. That is what I am most grateful for.

Thank you for running this compelling and timely story.

— Betsy Gross, Bellingham, Oct. 28, 2023

‘Yes’ Greenways vote continues legacy

To the Editor:

I have been involved with Greenways since the first levy in 1990. The philosophy has been consistent! The levies have built natural corridors serving people, plants and animals. The levy has purchased key open space and helped build parks. It works to protect our streams and wetlands. The levy helps protect us from climate. 

Please help continue the legacy. Vote yes for Greenways on Nov. 7.

— John Blethen, Bellingham, Oct. 26, 2023

Caregiver story resonated with reader

To the Editor:

Aria Nguyen’s story on “Hidden heroes: when family members serve as caregivers” was exceptional. It resonated with me as one of those family members and undoubtedly will with many others. It also will catch the eyes of readers who may anticipate themselves in this situation down the line. 

As a former journalist, I also applaud the quality of the writing and the number of sources incorporated into the story. Aria will be a blessing to any news media lucky enough to hire her. 

— Dave Brumbaugh, Lynden, Oct. 24, 2023

Support Kim Lund for mayor

To the Editor:

We chose Bellingham as our community back in 1981 … it is the place where we raised our children, pursued our careers and now enjoy watching our grandchildren participate in all it has to offer.

It’s a place and a town we dearly love. So we were thrilled when we heard that Kim Lund had chosen to run for the position of Bellingham mayor.

We got to know Lund when she served our community as executive director of the Bellingham Schools Foundation. Her leadership took that organization to an amazing level of success with a permanently endowed following that will keep it vibrant and working for the good of our young people, their families and their academic success well into the future.

Lund is bright and dedicated, with listening and communication skills that are almost unparalleled. She is a thinker and a problem solver who examines challenges with care … collecting data, analyzing and surrounding herself with competent leaders. Then she makes decisions based carefully on the research and data she compiled.

Bellingham faces complex challenges. Lund has the ideas and the passion to tackle those. (Check out her website electkimlund.com for further details). She has met with almost all downtown businesses, done ride-alongs with our first responders and immersed herself in the issues we are facing. She is well-prepared to lead our community and leave yet another legacy. We hope you will cast your vote for Kim Lund for mayor.

— Margie and Steve Kimberley, Bellingham, Oct. 24, 2023

Supports Initiative 2’s safety net for renters

To the Editor:

I’m writing as part of our community, a community that believes every person, without exception, deserves the security and dignity of a place to call home. This belief unites us all, regardless of our race or background.

As we confront our housing challenges, let’s remember the shared values that bond us. Whether we’re Black, white, Latino, Asian or from any background, we all want a stable, affordable place to live. 

The problem is clear: our fellow Bellingham residents face homelessness, and that’s something none of us should tolerate. Most of us know someone struggling with rising rents, and this crisis is a major driver of rising homelessness. Our focus must be on solutions. We can’t afford to dwell on problems; instead, we should take positive action and be the change that “we, the people” can deliver.

In Bellingham, 68% of renting seniors are rent-burdened and are at risk of falling into homelessness. If we want to slow down the 141% increase in the number of homeless seniors, we need to act. Initiative 2 will provide a safety net for those affected by profit-driven extreme rent hikes, while still allowing for rent increases.

To all our fellow Bellingham residents, I urge you to vote yes on Initiative 2. It’s not just a smart, vital and targeted intervention into a worsening crisis; it’s about realizing our shared value that every person and family should have a place to call home.

Let’s stand united and ensure that every Bellingham resident can enjoy the security and comfort of a home. Initiative 2 is our chance to do just that. Vote yes and make a difference.

— Kerri Burnside, Bellingham, Oct. 23, 2023

Landlord supports renter protection Initiative 2

To the Editor:

As a Bellingham resident and landlord, I wholeheartedly support Initiative 2. It’s time we address the housing challenges in our community. 

Market rent in Bellingham has surged dramatically in recent years, far outpacing the increase in wages. I’ve witnessed firsthand the struggle that many residents face when their rent becomes a significant portion of their income. It’s clear that we need a change, one that ensures our neighbors can continue to afford a place to call home.

I’m in this for the long term. I recognize the value of maintaining long-term tenants. It’s a win-win situation — they have a stable, affordable place to live, and I have reliable, responsible renters. Unfortunately, not all landlords and property management companies share this perspective. Some are more interested in quick profits than the well-being of our community. I support this initiative because it protects renters after they experience the most extreme rent increases.

Initiative 2 is a crucial step in the right direction. It provides safeguards against the most egregious and extreme rent increases, ensuring that tenants aren’t priced out of their homes and don’t join the growing number of homeless on our streets. It encourages a sense of community, where tenants aren’t just seen as piggy banks but as people, and landlords work collaboratively with their tenants to build a better future for all of Bellingham.

Let’s unite as a community, landlords and tenants alike, to vote in favor of Initiative 2. It’s not just about protecting tenants; it’s about securing an affordable and inclusive Bellingham for everyone. 

— Connie Elmore, Bellingham, Oct. 23, 2023

‘Good news’ from PeaceHealth

To the Editor:

PeaceHealth, by its own ill-conceived corporate-level policy decisions, became a political issue leading up to the Nov. 7 general election.

Because I’ve criticized some of PeaceHealth’s decisions, I think it’s only fair that I give them credit for doing something right. 

I spotted a “good news” flyer on a community bulletin board. 

PeaceHealth is offering a free service for anyone who wants to attend — yes, free! On the first Wednesday of every month, a certified diabetes educator/nutritionist will host a “Drop-In for Diabetes Answers” informal gathering. Just show up to ask your questions about prediabetes, diabetes, prevention and diet. They will provide support and guidance. 

No registration is required, simply drop in at PeaceHealth Medical Group, 4545 Cordata Parkway, lower level, conference room 1, 3:30–4:30 p.m.. Call 360 752 5601 for more information. 

What makes this PeaceHealth freebie even better, is that we are heading into November, which is National Diabetes Awareness Month. 

This is an important first step for PeaceHealth in making amends and restoring trust with our community. 

— Delores Davies, Ferndale, Oct. 23, 2023

True humanitarian crises that require care, not cages

To the Editor: 

Homelessness, mental health issues and addiction are all ongoing symptoms of poverty and inequality in Whatcom County. But instead of funding true solutions, we’re asked to approve Prop 4 — the same jail tax we rejected in 2015 and 2017. This isn’t about “defunding” our jail, as some wrongly claim. Opponents are not calling for ending the 0.1% sales tax we’ve been payingsince 2004 to improve jail conditions. Despite this existing tax, Whatcom County allowed our jail to deteriorate, giving us little reason to trust that officials will use a new, higher tax wisely.

Prop 4’s weaknesses are glaring:

1. It’s too ambiguous. Voters are being asked to give Whatcom County a blank check without a clear idea of where the funds will go.

2. The proposed sales tax is regressive, burdening those with limited resources the most, from under-employed families to minimum wage earners.

3. Some staunch Prop 4 supporters are elected officials who previously failed to maintain the existing jail. This measure serves their own political interests, not the interests of Whatcom residents.

4. All revenue will exclusively fund the jail for the first 4–6 years, neglecting urgent needs like behavioral health and homelessness support.

5. A racial equity analysis is completely absent. Despite Whatcom County recognizing racism as a public health crisis in 2020, the proposal does not address the disproportionate incarceration of Black and Indigenous residents. Without a racial equityplan, these disparities will escalate.

Jails do not solve homelessness or addiction, and they do not improve public safety. If jails made us safer, the U.S. would be the safest country in the world. Harsher criminalization will only drive drug use further underground, making it harder to reach people in crisis.

For the third time, vote NO on Prop 4 so we can reach holistic solutions that genuinely benefit
our community.

— Makenzie Graham, Bellingham, Oct. 19, 2023

‘Absolutely fascinating’ story about Jeff Jewell

To the Editor:

Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed John Harris’ story on Jeff Jewell. (“Keeper of archival treasures has ‘the coolest job’” Salish Current, Oct. 16, 2023) An absolutely fascinating article. I have known Jeff for nearly 20 years and in that time never learned from him the details that John fished out and so capably penned. So thanks to John and thanks to the Salish Current and especially, thanks to Jeff Jewell.

— Dal Neitzel, Lummi Island, Oct. 18, 2023

Tanksley can ‘re-imagine public safety’ for 21st century

To the Editor:

I have known “Tank” for nearly 10 years, since he arrived in our community as assistant chief of the university police at Western Washington University. I’ve watched as he engaged directly with students and the campus community in that job. In his time as Blaine police chief, I’ve heard nothing but praise for the more transparent and inclusive approach he has brought to that department. 

His 21 years as a police officer in the tough and complex urban environment of St. Louis, Missouri, will transfer well into leadership of a sheriff’s department in a county that’s on an international border with an immigrant population that must interface with federal agencies and those immigrant communities. 

Tank got into law enforcement after he and friends were wrongfully detained by St. Louis County deputies when he was in college. It was at that point that he determined that he’d pursue a career in law enforcement. We face challenging issues regarding a potential new jail and wrap-around services to delimit the use of uniformed police and incarceration. Tank’s opponent represents continuity with the old way of doing things. I believe Tank has the personal experience and compassion to re-imagine public safety in our county in a way that’s fitting for the 21st century.

— Vernon “Damani” Johnson, Bellingham, Oct. 18, 2023

Elenbaas always there for law enforcement

To the Editor:

On that fateful day in February 2022, the day every law enforcement spouse prays will never happen, violence found us. Within a few hours I received a short text from Ben letting me know he was there for our family, whatever we needed. Whether it is a short text in our time of need or voting in support of good public safety policy in Whatcom County, Ben Elenbaas has always been there for law enforcement. His vision for a safer Whatcom County begins with creating and maintaining strong relationships with the law enforcement community. He will continue to fight for safer communities, from Bellingham to Blaine and Ferndale to Maple Falls.

But Ben and I go back before I even donned the uniform. We both grew up kicking dirt in our barn boots south of Lynden. I grew up on a dairy farm just down the road from Ben’s family. Ben’s broad knowledge as graduate of the Huxley College of the Environment [now College of the Environment] paired with his many years of lived experience as a farmer in Whatcom County is an invaluable resource.

There is no other current council member, or candidate, who can represent our large farming community the way Ben can. To further add to his résumé, Ben’s work at the refinery brings an even more diverse perspective unmatched by anyone else on the council. His dedication to promote living wage jobs is essential in this very expensive housing market. Ben is the blue-collar worker who backs the blue! A man who loves the land and learned how to care for it at Western Washington University.

Vote Ben Elenbaas.

— Tawsha Dykstra Thompson, Lynden, Oct. 17, 2023

Supports countywide vehicle fee

To the Editor:

The recent San Juan County draft Destination Management Plan proposes a charge on all (nongovernmental?) vehicles that travel within the county. While this charge would appear to be in response to short-term visitors to this county, it actually responds to much more. It has to; we’re all visitors, and all must contribute to reparations to the environment. The length of visit is irrelevant. Those who claim the moral high ground as “native” or “here longer” will themselves not live here forever.

The central issue is how we are going to meet the conflicting needs to reduce greenhouse gasses while increasing demand for electric power from resilient sources. Our segue from fossil fuels to electrical energy will reduce resilience because our demand for electrical energy is increasing while our already insufficient local renewable power capacity is not.

Our use of private vehicles as our primary means of transportation widens this gap. Renewables, the most desirable source of locally generated power, are tidal, diurnal, seasonal and/or weather-dependent, all together, are by a large margin insufficient.

We have these choices: (1) a small nuclear-powered generator (don’t hold your breath; financial feasibility is still in doubt), (2) time-of-use electric rate structure designed to flatten demand peaks, or more draconian utility measures, (3) continue the segue from fossil fuels to electric energy while maintaining our current lifestyle and see what happens, or (4) begin a shift of living habits starting with developing electric public transportation. The draft plan proposes the fourth alternative which I support.

It is axiomatic that the cost of prevention is less than the cost of remediation. A county vehicle fee is our first step in a planetwide project whose next state of dynamic equilibrium no one alive today will see.

— William Appel, Friday Harbor, Oct. 16, 2023

Elenbaas is ‘ideal for Whatcom County’

To the Editor:

I support Ben Elenbaas to be reelected to the Whatcom County Council. I have known Ben for over 10 years professionally and personally and have always been impressed by Ben’s pragmatic and down-to-earth approach. 

As a member of the Whatcom County Climate Impacts Advisory Committee I appreciate when we have representation which understands all the aspects of what it takes to pull together a comprehensive plan which will work. I think Ben’s background of his education mixed with his professional experience in the energy industry makes him an ideal candidate to represent us and help drive the right kinds of change to meet the demands of the current day. 

Ben has also always been an extremely welcoming person. When I first joined his team I remember he was the first person who unprompted came to me and made me feel at home and included. His ability to be pragmatic mixed with down-to-earth real experience and a welcoming approach makes him ideal for Whatcom County. 

— Derek Gremban, Bellingham, Oct. 13, 2023

Ordos is ‘even-handed, willing to listen’

To the Editor:

Recently, I had the privilege of spending a few hours with Hannah Ordos, candidate for county council. 

Not knowing what to expect, I was in for a pleasant surprise in meeting a middle-aged mom who had been attending county council meetings for the past few years. A graduate of Nooksack Valley High School and WWU, she was raised in Whatcom County, just west of Sumas. The Ordos go back four generations. 

She is one of us! 

Clear-eyed, bright and well-schooled, she will approach the job just right of center, even-handed, willing to listen — qualities lacking in our polarized politics. She’s running for the at-large position, meaning those candidates represent our entire county.

By contrast, candidate Jon Scanlon appears to be eager to represent only the county liberals. Further, his roots are not in our county, having moved here just five years ago. He’s a “Jonny”-come-lately. 

I’m fond of the concept of prudence. In political terms, that translates “a public measure ought to be judged by its probable long-run consequences, not merely by temporary advantage or popularity” (Russell Kirk). Hannah has that temperament, not confined to the fringe, but earnest, thoughtful, principled.

As a Salish Current subscriber from the outset, I want to declare Hannah is just the kind of public servant we need on our county council. 

— Ron Polinder, Lynden, Oct. 12, 2023

Vote Elenbaas to prevent supermajority on county council

To the Editor:

I’m Bobby Briscoe, Port Commissioner, commercial fisherman and longtime resident of District 5 — the coastal district. I’ve put pen to paper in support of Ben Elenbaas for County Council District 5. 

Political groups in Whatcom County and beyond have taken aim at Ben’s seat for all the wrong reasons. It has become clear that Ben’s opponent is running to create a supermajority by claiming his seat. Is that what the people of Whatcom County deserve? A supermajority that can push any agenda through skipping public input. A supermajority on the council serves a select few and leaves chaos in its wake. 

Ben has served in this position for four years creating security and balance in local government, something that is scarce today. He is hardworking as a farmer, a BP employee and as a council member working for the people of Whatcom County. Ben has good common sense, and it shows in his decision making. He does not take a political agenda to his nonpartisan position. Ben is well educated and brings valuable real-life experience to his representation of the people in Whatcom County. 

Join me in voting for Ben, he works hard for everyone, not just a privileged few with a political agenda.

— Bobby Briscoe, Blaine, Oct. 11, 2023

Tanksley brings varied experience to tackle problems

To the Editor:

Twenty years later we are nowhere close to where we need to be as a community in helping our homeless, mentally ill and addicted citizens build better lives, safe from harm and incarceration. These 20 years have yielded little. We have an unsafe jail that has not been maintained by the “experienced” few. We have an inordinate amount of folks incarcerated because of the three issues I mentioned above while little has been done to relieve those issues in our community. Those in charge of the criminal justice system here, such as Mr. Elfo, simply shout that we need a new bigger jail to take care of these issues. Doug Chadwick reiterates the “solutions” of the past. The citizens of Whatcom County have indicated that jailing people is not the solution.

Donnell Tanksley brings varied experience to tackle these problems. He has 20 years of experience that is more varied and includes leadership positions. He has a record of working with others. His breadth of experience is exactly what we need to solve these very complex issues. His focus on reducing and preventing crime through a proactive community-focused approach and breaking the cycle of incarceration and recidivism is essential to making our communities safer and healthier. “Homelessness and mental illness are not crimes and should not be treated as such.” On the jail issue Tanksley takes a broad approach to the problem of crowding and overbooking, citing several approaches he would take if elected.

Vote for Donnell Tanksley for Whatcom County Sherriff.

— Ronna Loerch, Everson, Oct. 7, 2023

Says Tanksley will best serve Whatcom’s needs

To the Editor:

Blaine Police Chief Donnell “Tank” Tanksley will shape law enforcement in a way that best serves Whatcom County’s 21st century community safety needs.

Many believe law enforcement’s mission is to preserve “public safety,” keeping us safe and secure in our homes, businesses and public spaces with swift law enforcement response to any who threaten it. In contrast, Tank promotes a mission of achieving “community safety” through proactive, community collaboration to address the conditions that contribute to violence and harms. This doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions.

Instead, our community-wide priority should be to align leadership and resources to address the needs of the houseless, and those who suffer behavioral health and substance use challenges. Criminalizing behaviors won’t make them go away. Law enforcement needs systemic, communal supports to reduce reliance on arrests. Bigger jails and mass incarceration haven’t made our communities safer. Jails without rehabilitative programs and reentry services to support inmates’ successful return to our community will not make us safer. There is another way. Tank’s leadership, advocacy and policies in the Sheriff’s Office will move us closer to a broader vision of community safety for all.

Much about the jail proposal embedded in Whatcom County’s Public Health, Safety, and Justice Facilities and Services proposition is undetermined: size, costs, location, timeline for construction, staffing and programs. I would hesitate to take out a home loan if any number of these figures was in question. Meanwhile, measures to ameliorate the current jail’s “inhumane” and overcrowded conditions in the next 4–6 years are not public. The Whatcom County Sheriff and his current administration held responsibility for jail maintenance and operations for the last 20 years. We can’t support the continuation of this kind of leadership. Community safety is safety for all. 

My vote is for Donnell “Tank” Tanksley for Whatcom County Sheriff.

— Debbi Anderson-Frey, Everson, Oct. 6, 2023

Trusting endorsers of Chadwick

To the Editor:

One of the best ways to evaluate candidates is to look at the people and organizations endorsing them. We may not have known the candidate for long, but we have trusted some leaders and groups for many years.

Doug Chadwick, a 29-year Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office veteran, is currently undersheriff and is running for Whatcom County sheriff. He has one of the most diverse and impressive endorsements ever. He is endorsed by the current Sheriff, Bill Elfo, and our previous two sheriffs. Longtime Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney Dave McEachran endorses Doug Chadwick. Six active or retired police chiefs in Whatcom County also support him, as do many others in law enforcement. 

Labor is a big backer of Doug Chadwick, endorsed by the Northwest Washington Central Labor Council and Teamsters Local 231/Joint Council 28. Other respected groups endorsing him are the Whatcom County Association of Realtors, the Whatcom County Farm Bureau, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 24 and the Associated General Contractors of Washington. 

Elected officials who endorse Doug Chadwick include Whatcom County Executive Jack Louws (2012-2019), Port of Bellingham Commissioner Ken Bell, three county council members and four Whatcom County mayors. 

Please join all of them and me in voting for Doug Chadwick for Whatcom County Sheriff in the Nov. 7 general election. 

— Kendra Cook, Bellingham, Oct. 6, 2023

Citing permit process as sole reason for pool project delays ‘misleading’

To the Editor:

Kathryn Wheeler’s “Design, permit delays stymie Lopez pool construction” (Salish Current, Sept. 29, 2023) was misleading.

Due to design changes, Friends of Lopez Island Pool (FLIP), did not submit their revised permit application until July 2023. To frame project delays as solely the fault of the county’s permitting process was misleading. 

At FLIP’s recent open house, strong opposition was voiced regarding toxicity of PFAS (“forever chemical”) leachingfrom the dome roof. It is now unclear if there will be another design change to avoid using roof fabric coated in durability enhancing chemicals that the EU has proposed to ban.

Our understanding is that the $750–$800k annual operational budget does not include depreciation (funding expected repair and replacement costs). We still do not know how the annual expenses will be met but at the meeting, FLIP indicated they would need to rely on the 80,000 unique visitors to Lopez to make up a significant part of their revenue. Can our small island community shoulder this additional expense and increased reliance on tourists? 

Our firehall just announced its wish for an upgraded building. Our hospital district is asking for a 55% tax increase. Our school district has a severe budgetary shortfall that is putting the schools toward a downward spiral. Lack of affordable housing is so dire businesses and organizations cannot keep a trained workforce.

Our island is grappling with accelerating climate impacts and insufficient investment capital to build resiliency. We are drawing “fossil” water from aquifers faster than they can be recharged. 

Is a pool the best use of our collective wealth or appropriate in an age of intensifying climate risks? 

The project may be privately funded, but its impacts are far reaching. To date FLIP has made some important changes based on community input, but building a pool in this current context remains questionable. 

— Chom Greacen, Sandy Bishop, and David Bill; Lopez Island, Oct. 4, 2023

Chadwick eminently more qualified

To the Editor:

Who should be your next Whatcom County Sheriff? Present Whatcom County Undersheriff Doug Chadwick or present Blaine City Police Chief Donnell Tanksley? The position of county sheriff is unique in that he/she is “your” law enforcement leader — directly. The “sheriff” is not via a bureaucratic administration (so far), as municipal and state departments are. You elect who will be your “sheriff” — directly.  

Any individual who elects to function in a public peacekeeping role, line or command, deserves our respect and gratitude — explicitly. Both Doug and Donnell deserve this. Thank you both.

However, when it comes to evaluating which of these two valued law enforcement individuals is best suited to be your next Whatcom County Sheriff, present Undersheriff Doug Chadwick is eminently more qualified. Simply his 29 impeccable years with the sheriff’s office, including being undersheriff for the past four, should be enough of a differentiating qualifier. He also has served as narcotics detective field training officer, task force officer for DEA and ATF, and many other strategic supervisory roles. Doug has been a lifelong resident of Whatcom County; knows well and has inherent empathy for the county and its residents (you), and is solely interested in continuing to do so — not simply pursuing another career objective.

Chief Tanksley is likely a sound law enforcement individual, however there’s little value for Whatcom County citizens to engage in an experiment in new leadership of the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office.

Please find the time to familiarize yourself with Undersheriff Chadwick’s impressive background. Visit votedougchadwick.com.

— Peter and Susan Werner, Blaine, Oct. 3, 2023

Supports Tanksley without reservation

To the Editor:

Chief Donnell “Tank” Tanksley has dedicated his life as a servant leader, in law enforcement and in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Army. 

I have had the good fortune to meet Chief Tank on various occasions and have been impressed with his realistic “can-do” attitude. When he is elected Whatcom County Sheriff he will forge stronger partnerships with the community and other law enforcement agencies, which will enhance public safety and respect for all constituents.

He is knowledgeable, experienced, empathetic, approachable and eminently reasonable.

I encourage Whatcom County voters to find out where Chief Tank will next speak and go listen to him. I have no doubt you’ll be convinced he’s the person to tackle the tough job as our new Whatcom County Sheriff.

I support Donnell Tanksley for Sheriff without reservation.

— Micki Jackson, Bellingham, Sept. 30, 2023

Supports ‘Tank’ Tanksley

To the Editor:

Our other choice has similar time in law enforcement but emphasizes that it is in just one place — here.

The sheriff’s office has changed little due to Bill Elfo’s long tenure. This is the time to make reforms. These should be versed in the breadth of perspective gained by work in other communities as diverse as St. Louis, Portland, Blaine and higher education settings. Tank Tanksley offers that in-depth!

This candidate is clear about the importance of behavioral health treatment as an early intervention to reduce repeat residents in the jail. He sees the same need for substance addiction treatment and will lead to help fund both. Tank will emphasize training of sheriff staff to better effect the quality of their response. In so many other ways, Tank sees room for reform that benefits criminal justice outcomes.

Let’s elect Tank Tanksley who offers so much to advance constructive change in the Sheriff’s staffing and operation!

— Tim Douglas, Bellingham, Sept. 28, 2023

Our Elsie Mae

To the Editor:

What an awesome article written by Richard Walker! (“Elephant seal Elsie Mae teaches, inspires during molting haulout,” Salish Current, Sept. 22, 2023) I am one of the cadre of  Central Puget Sound Marine Mammal Stranding Network’s elephant seal sitters. Richard did an exemplary job writing about our Elsie Mae, her plight and antics. Looking forward to reading more about our area via the Salish Current!

— Diane Christman, Anacortes, Sept. 25, 2023

Downtown situation greatly improved

To the Editor:

Thank you for the article on our downtown. (“Who will solve the problems of downtown Bellingham?” Sept. 15, 2023) 

Thankfully, the situation has GREATLY IMPROVED in the last few months! I work and shop downtown, so I am there often. Thanks to the new legislation and the efforts by volunteers and city staff and mayor, I feel much more comfortable walking in downtown. Graffiti is generally gone, alleys are cleaned, and I don’t see much threatening behavior anymore.

— Louise Bjornson, Bellingham, Sept. 16, 2023

Thanks for excellent article

To the Editor:

Thank you for your excellent article on the problems of homelessness and public drug use facing downtown Bellingham. It’s refreshing to see such thorough and multifaceted reporting on what can be a very polarizing issue. 

Aimee Day, Ferndale, Sept. 16, 2023

Supports Sweeney for school board

To the Editor:

Our schools need devoted, focused and, most importantly, reality-based people to serve on our school board. Too often, candidates bring inflammatory national politics to our school board — driving away quality educators and dividing our community. It is time for good, honest public servants to step up and take back our schools.

That’s why I am so grateful that Riley Sweeney is running for Meridian School Board. Whether on the Irene Reither Elementary PTA or working for the City of Ferndale, Riley works to create quality experiences for kids in Whatcom. He will support our extracurricular programs like arts, music and theatre and, most importantly, make sure that our schools are a welcoming place for all families. 

I’ve known Riley for many years — he’s a good man and ready to serve. His opponent is more interested in chasing national politics than supporting our teachers. The choice could not be more clear. Please join me in voting for Riley Sweeney for Meridian School Board.

— Kate Hisdal, Lynden, Sept. 15, 2023

Urges support for new jail/treatment facility

To the Editor:

I’m dismayed to find myself in opposition to many of my fellow progressives who plan to vote against the upcoming ballot measure to fund a new jail/treatment facility.

Please consider these points before making a final decision: If you haven’t already, track the county council votes to learn that the sheriff has in fact worked hard to make needed repairs to the existing building. I encourage everyone to watch the video tour of the current jail to understand how inhumane and dangerous it is. The violent nature of the crimes for which people are being detained underscores the ongoing need to sequester people who pose a real danger to our community. People cannot be forced into treatment and moreover, there is a dire shortage of behavioral health specialists trained to provide that treatment. 

Please read the Implementation Plan that describes in great detail what services will be provided to help people get their lives back on track while protecting our community (including those detained and the jail staff and volunteers). Have you participated in any of the working groups over the past several years to give input on what an improved jail facility should include, given the legal and financial constraints? The circumstances are much more complex and systemic than jail opponents would have one believe. 

To adopt a simplistic ideological position of “prisons don’t work” without offering alternatives grounded in reality, and without working to change criminal justice laws that govern our communities, leaves us all stuck in a terrible situation that in fact hurts the people we progressives want to help.  

— Frances Posel , Bellingham, Sept. 13, 2023

Fire history of San Juan Island

To the Editor:

Thanks for your article on wildfire risks (Sept. 1, 2023). As a forest ecologist who studied the fire history of the San Juans I think you did a good job covering most of the topics. If there are follow-up stories or an interest in diving deeper into the ecology of the SJI, I would be happy to contribute.

— Carson Sprenger, Orcas Island, Sept. 7, 2023


To the Editor:

Loving the good writing and growth of this whole endeavor. Thank you, Mike and Amy, for your gifts of inspiration and energy. Great articles, varied topics and well written. So glad you have so much collaboration.

— Asha Lela, Lopez Island, Sept. 3, 2023

Vote ‘yes’ on Greenways V

To the Editor:

On the November ballot, Bellingham voters have the opportunity to approve Greenways V, and continue an effort begun in 1990 to link trails, ridgetops and shoreline corridors with a continuous series of parks, forests and greenbelts. The citizen-led Greenways Advisory Committee in coordination with the City’s Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Plan (PRO Plan) has outlined priorities into the future to make this vision a reality. 

Some might urge there are more pressing priorities for the City than the development and maintenance of open space and trails. The housing crisis, soaring rents, evictio and the resulting increase in homelessness, for example. We certainly need more affordable housing, but the acquisition of land for trail corridors, parks and open space is not at the cost of affordable housing development. As the recent article “Saving Samish Crest” (Aug. 11) makes clear, our urban forests are being bought up and cleared for the construction of mansions on half-acre lots, exacerbating the housing crunch, not easing it.

Another urgent priority we need to address is climate change. The Greenways project increases climate resiliency and mitigates against climate change in various ways: the tree canopy protects the Earth from excessive heat and sequesters carbon; wetlands absorb rainwater runoff, protect against flooding, and support wildlife; walking/hiking/biking trails get people out of their cars, reducing pollution and the use of fossil fuels.

Being in nature is good for you! Vote yes to Greenways V.

— Marian Exall, Bellingham, Aug. 30, 2023

Supports County Sheriff candidate Tanksley

To the Editor:

Bellingham feels unsafe. We need Chief Donnell “Tank” Tanksley who has education in modern criminal justice and extensive experience needed to manage the Whatcom County Sheriff’s office. 

Tanksley graduated from civil and military colleges in criminal justice and has a Masters of Management degree. He spent 22 years in the military, and 19 of those years were managing personnel. He is a retired Air Force First Sergeant and also served in the U.S. Navy on active duty. 

He has 30 years of diverse law enforcement experience, with over two decades of experience in policing as a police officer, sergeant, police lieutenant and detective lieutenant in St Louis, Missouri. He then was Assistant Chief of Police/Assistant Director of Public Safety at Western Washington University here in Bellingham. He spent just under two years as Chief of Police at Portland State University and since June 2019 he has been Chief of Police in Blaine.

We need to have policies to prevent the current cycle of endless revolving door incarcerations. Tanksley can do this.

Tanksley’s opponent Chadwick’s website has zero mention of increasing support systems, and instead focuses vaguely on stopping the flow of drugs and reducing crime — old failed “War on Drugs.” The current sheriff’s department has ignored the findings of the Vera Task Force. They have not reduced incarceration. The racial imbalance is greater has worsened. We need a sheriff who will maintain a new jail not, cause a new jail to rot due to poor maintenance.

— Andi Douglass, Bellingham, Aug. 18, 2023

Turning nature into real estate

To the Editor:

Let’s heed the call to protect one of the last undeveloped scenic slopes within city limits (“Saving the Samish Crest,” Aug. 11, 2023). Little known, yet incalculably dear, Samish Crest between Lake Padden and Whatcom Creek offers expansive views of bay and shoreline, from Fairhaven to the Canadian border. Yet a sizable area of luxurious forest already lies eviscerated, to become “unique luxury homes.” 

Lower slopes attest to what can occur when nature is turned into real estate. Every tree of magnificent, forested hillside was leveled, and hydraulic health undermined, for developing the “Highlands.” The hubris of cutting everything down and starting from scratch is further evident in the recent clear-cut of urban forest at the base of Yew Street. Under grandfathered allowance, the clear-cut extends nearly to West Cemetery Creek, flouting ecologically sound current buffers. The stump of a 140-ring giant was tragic testament, until reduced to wood chips, of the many generations that will pass before people might again live with such towering marvels.

But it is never too late to work for public access to vistas and wonder. Please urge our representatives to elevate rights of nature and of future generations to decision-making about land development. Long established use by Coast Salish and Bellingham inhabitants can guide prescriptive easements to safeguard right of way. Hilltop green spaces enjoyed by youth, families, and people of modest means can also contribute to health and community wellbeing.

Myriad springs, wildlife and trails of Samish Crest attest to verdant abundance that need not become “once was.” We must be visionary regarding the politics of beauty, while pragmatic in partnering for a common good.

— James Loucky, Bellingham, Aug. 15, 2023

Palliative care is essential to Death with Dignity legislation

To the Editor:

Ted Royal, a guest essayist in another publication, sees flaws in our state’s Death with Dignity law. He summed up his concerns with, “But that doesn’t work for someone who is not of sound mind and can’t be mobile.” 

In every state that has passed medical aid in dying legislation, being of sound mind is required in all jurisdictions — the person must make a voluntary, well-considered, informed request while they are fully competent. That requirement is an important safeguard to prevent the involuntary use of the lethal substances prescribed to end one’s life.

Dr. Margaret Jacobson, a Whatcom County board-certified family medicine and hospice and palliative medicine physician, explained in these pages the importance of palliative care as it relates to aid-in-dying. 

Because PeaceHealth — and many hospital groups, religious-based or otherwise — do not participate in right-to-die services, she points out that, “those of us on the PeaceHealth system Ethics Committee, along with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, understood that if PeaceHealth opposed this legislation, they must offer impeccable, state-of-the-art end-of-life care. Palliative and hospice care were considered essential to that mission.”

That, in a nutshell, is why the closure of PeaceHealth’s outpatient palliative care services, and its refusal to address the communities it serves on the matter continues to be an ongoing ethical and moral issue.

Mr. Royal’s beloved aunt, and their entire family, could have benefitted from outpatient palliative care.

PeaceHealth, if you have plans to reinstate the program, please tell us now. If you don’t, explain why not.

— Micki Jackson, Bellingham, Aug. 12, 2023

The fox situation

To the Editor:

Well-written article about the red fox situation on San Juan Island. (“Humans urged to stay away from San Juan’s red foxes” Salish Current, Aug. 4, 2023.)

— Grace Lembo, San Juan Island, Aug. 9, 2023

Credit where it is due

To the Editor:

Reading Dr. Vernon Damani Johnson’s piece on “One Whatcom forms local network to counter violence and racial intolerance,” [Salish Current, Aug. 4, 2023], the collaboration on anti-racism reminds me of the decades of service that he has given his state and nation in steadfast leadership on this topic. I first met Dr. Johnson when he was a young faculty member at Western Washington University where I was on the board of trustees, and later bumped into him in other roles when I was a state human rights commissioner and later a member of the Bellingham Police Community Advisory Council. Some activist/leaders come and go, but Dr. Johnson has been a respected voice in leadership, scholarship and teaching for longer than many citizens have been alive.He continues to be an inspiration.

— Craig Cole, Bellingham, Aug. 4, 2023

Forests help streamflows in summer

To the Editor:

Ed.: The following letter was sent to The Seattle Times in response to their story “Controversial WA timber sale near Elwha River rankles conservationists, Port Angeles leaders.” The letter writer references a story published Aug. 8, 2022, in the Salish Current. 

Thank you for the extensive June 30 article on the 120-acre state timber sale close to the Elwha River. I was walking with friends late last summer at the mouth of the Elwha. The river was dry — there was no way salmon would be able to swim upstream to spawn. This is the result of climate change and faster melting snow packs.

The Salish Current recently reviewed a study of the Nooksack River in Whatcom County [“Can trees save the Nooksack River?”] that included this statement: “A 2020 study in Oregon on the long-term effects of forest harvesting on streamflows showed that streamflows in the summer were 50% lower near a 40-year-old plantation forest than near a 110-year-old one.”

This provides one more rationale, and a huge one, to retaining the forest along the Elwha. Why would any reasonable person want to push the Elwha into even more dire straits?

The problem of Clallam County being too poverty-stricken to pay for its schools is maddening. Rayonier, Weyerhaeuser — all the big timber and pulp mill companies have taken billions of dollars out of the state of Washington. They did it on the backs of the timber workers and on the taxpayers, who subsidized, through the U.S. Forest Service, the building of logging roads, which in and of themselves damaged salmon runs. It is time to hold Rayonier, in particular, responsible for funding schools in Clallam County. We’re acting like a third-world country, letting a corporation profit from our resources without fair compensation.

— Kate Bradley, Sammamish , July 31, 2023

School board reporting kudos

To the Editor:

Matt Benoit: Bravo for your school board piece! (“Impact, importance high in local school board elections,” Salish Current June 16, 2023) Appreciate your outlining current hotbed issues, specifying district director responsibilities, and especially explaining via Reykdal motives that may disqualify a person as a suitable school board candidate.

— Debbi Anderson-Frey, Everson, July 26, 2023

Fitzhugh family stories

To the Editor:

Recently I was visiting Orcas Island to stay with my cousin out at Massacre Bay. Whilst I was there we visited the Orcas Island Historic Museum in Eastsound. A fascinating museum to see. One of the things that got the most attention from myself and my cousin was to see a landowner’s map of the island, that showed a landowner by the name of Charles Fitzhugh.

The Fitzhughs are a significant part of my family history, my great-great-great-grandfather being William Frisby Fitzhugh, originally from Hagerstown Maryland, and later in Rochester, New York, one of the founders of the city along with Charles Carroll and Nathaniel Rochester. Reading the interview with Candace Wellman about the book “Man of Treacherous Charm, Edmund Clare Fitzhugh” and his origins in Virginia being one and the same family, gave me some further information. (“Who was Edmund C. Fitzhugh?” Salish Current Feb. 16, 2023)  Although I could not find any information about Charles Fitzhugh of Orcas Island landowning fame, I did find details of Mason Fitzhugh and his mother Xwelas, a possible connection to Charles yet to be found. My cousin that lives in Massacre Bay has Fitzhugh as her middle name. It is fascinating to see what an impact Edmund Clare Fitzhugh, love him or hate him, and his instrumental place in the history of the Northwest.

On another note, the family name of Wellman is one that is close to me as well, from my mother’s side of the family from Kentucky, with Wellmans/Welmans in her past, my cousin having Welman as his middle name. I would greatly appreciate any information that you might have or sources of further information with regard to Edmund Clare Fitzhugh.

— Ben Talman, Sydney, Australia, July 26, 2023

Supports Greenways, thanks city council

To the Editor:

Kudos to the Bellingham City Council for advancing a new Greenways levy to the Nov. 7 ballot. Emulating the visionary activists who spurred a previous council to place the initial Greenways levy before voters over 30 years ago, a contemporary group of citizens convinced the current council to let our community decide if we want to renew the comparatively modest Greenways property tax scheduled to expire at the end of this year. Now voters have the option to fund more open space, trails, urban forests, community gardens, parks and habitat lands. These amenities define the character of Bellingham and foster its climate resiliency. The council should be lauded for enabling voters to help define the nature of our common future.

— Steve Walker, Bellingham, July 20, 2023

What changes with ‘Rights of Nature’?

To the Editor:

We tried so hard to get Rights of Nature in San Juan County, but people recognize that if followed to the logical conclusion it has to change *everything* and at the end of the day, “economy” always wins (at least, for the people in power). Thank you for reporting on the efforts.

Our research project on Rights of Nature was fascinating. Even if that’s all we ended up accomplishing, I’m proud of that work.

— Elisabeth Robson, Lopez Island, July 10, 2023

Straight answers needed from PeaceHealth

To the Editor:

Regarding the letter about a ballot initiative to cap hospital administrators’ annual salary at $450,000, the same as the U.S. president makes: If PeaceHealth management thinks this possibility is a pipe dream, they should think again. (“Linking income inequality and hospital executive pay,” Letters, June 30, 2023)

Ever since PeaceHealth announced its cuts to various services — while lying to donors who gave over $2.25 million in seed money to launch an outpatient palliative care program by reneging on a commitment to sustaining it — community reaction has been swift and ongoing. PeaceHealth administration claimed the cuts were due to lost revenue during the pandemic. 

Charles Prosper, CEO of the NW Network, sits on the PeaceHealth community health board as a volunteer. Under IRS rules, nonprofit organizations’ 990 tax filings are public record. From 2019 to 2020, his compensation increased from around $575,000 to nearly $1 million.

Is this situation akin to “the fox guarding the hen house”? Does the governing board pay attention to community concerns? Does the local community health board pay attention, whose members, according to the website “fully partner with PeaceHealth in making and supporting decisions based on mission and values … [and] are also charged with setting policy.” 

PeaceHealth administrators apparently don’t realize they are causing harm to St. Joseph Hospital’s reputation. Their actions aren’t fair to the frontline providers. There is a relationship between the social reputation and the perceived safety of a hospital, which can affect possible future litigation. 

It is past time for PeaceHealth management to face the people they serve and give straight answers. If they don’t, healthcare consumers should file complaints with the Washington State Health Systems Quality Assurance Department. 

— Delores Davies, Ferndale, July 2, 2023

Supports Atul Deshmane

To the Editor:

It is easy for candidates to list their areas of concern: the jail, homelessness, jobs, clean water. But how many candidates can readily explain what they have accomplished in any arena?  Dig deep. Atul Deshmane is a candidate who has accomplished projects benefiting the county in many areas:

  • Broadband to Point Roberts
  • Wind energy ordinance
  • Job and environmental protection at Cherry Point
  • Secured funding for a collaborative water rights settlement
  • Challenging mass incarceration
  • Promoting local resilience through business innovation

With experience, knowledge and an optimistic view for what we can achieve together for ALL Whatcom, vote Atul for county council.

— Mary Loquvam, Campaign Manager, Bellingham, June 29, 2023

Linking income inequality and hospital executive pay

To the Editor:

Income inequality plays a role in the Bellingham minimum wage Initiative 1 which qualified for the Nov. 7 ballot, and a ballot initiative in Los Angeles to cap hospital executive pay that will be on the ballot in the City of Angels.

The Los Angeles ballot initiative caps hospital executive pay at $450,000, the same amount the U.S. president makes. The cap does not apply to medical staff who provide patient care. The measure states that hospital executive pay “is often excessive, unnecessary, and inconsistent with the mission of providing high-quality, affordable medical care for all.” 

The California Hospital Association filed suit challenging the measure, but a Los Angeles judge denied the association’s challenge.

When PeaceHealth Vancouver management cut Whatcom County’s outpatient palliative care program, they pegged the closure to lost revenue during the pandemic and also claimed outpatient palliative care was not sustainable, yet executives continued to receive sizeable compensation increases throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

University of New Mexico Hospital announced that all executives would take a 5% pay decrease, until June 30, 2024, to improve the organization’s financial picture, so they wouldn’t need to cut patient care. UNMH’s frontline medical providers will not see their pay decreased — only “chiefs, associate chiefs and executive directors.”

Minimum wage workers in Bellingham hope to get a $1.00 per hour wage increase to help keep a roof over their heads. It’s a very rare minimum wage job that offers healthcare benefits. These workers could seek a ballot initiative to cap hospital executive pay in Whatcom and Clark counties.

— Micki Jackson, Bellingham, June 26, 2023

Supports Riley Sweeney for school board

To the Editor:

As a teacher living in the Meridian School District, I know the pressures our schools face. We are asked to do more with less resources and handle bigger challenges with less support. Teachers are no strangers to tough times but we need a school board that is laser-focused on helping our kids.

That’s why I’m proud to support Riley Sweeney for Meridian School Board. He will advocate for more paraeducators in our classrooms, a critical missing piece. He will stand up for our arts, music and theatre programs to keep kids engaged in school and out of trouble. And most importantly, he will fight like heck to keep partisan politics and petty divisiveness as far away from our kids as possible. 

As the man responsible for Ferndale’s parks and recreation program, he already knows how to bring people together and create positive experiences for kids and families. As a school board member, he will bring that same collaborative energy to solving the challenges we face. He is passionate about ensuring that our schools are places where all families are welcome to learn, grow, and thrive. 

Please join me in voting for Riley Sweeney for Meridian School Board on Aug. 1 this year. 

 Fia O’ Faolain, Laurel, June 25, 2023

Be informed about school board candidates — and vote!

To the Editor:

Thank you very much for the article on the upcoming school board primaries in our region (“Impact, importance high in local school board elections” Salish Current, June 16, 2023).

Too often, this topic is neglected in public discourse, but our school boards have a role in our polity that is not less important than that of mayors and councils.

As Thomas Jefferson knew so well, democratic government is founded on an educated electorate, and that education begins in childhood. Schools play a major role in educating citizens who can read with understanding, know something of science and history and think for themselves. But as your readers surely know, differences of opinion as to what, specifically, should be funded or taught, as to the division of labor between school and home, and as to the role of the school board itself, are troubling communities throughout our country. 

In fall, the League of Women Voters of Bellingham/Whatcom County will be conducting candidate forums for all the school board races in Whatcom County. But the primaries are no less important, though fewer in number. I hope your readers in Blaine, Ferndale, Lynden and Meridian will inform themselves of their primary candidates’ views — and will vote! Information about the candidates is available in their campaign literature, on some candidates’ websites, and in the booklet that comes with our ballots.

— Minda Rae Amiran, Bellingham, June 24, 2023

What we know about diversity

To the Editor:

In the early 1970s I explained to a colleague it was abusive to tie a child’s left arm to their leg. They were determined to teach the student to use their right hand when climbing the stairs. The teacher wanted his student to be normal. Being left-handed is atypical. It is not abnormal.

Some of you have heard these stories. It took decades before the biology regarding left-handedness was accepted. Now, even if we cannot explain the science, we know it is okay.

In the last decades, a remarkable amount of research has helped us understand ourselves. I now know that, along with my ancestors from the British Isles, I also have 1% ancestry from Ghana and 2% Basque. I have learned that while I had breast cancer, I do not carry the gene. Some of you reading this have learned things about yourself or people you love.

Being left-handed was discouraged in many cultures for much of history. It was unacceptable in some of the Soviet countries, and sadly, illegal for some years in Albania.

Imagine that being left-handed had become as politicized as being gay or transgender is today? We would not be able to talk about it in our schools with our children. We would struggle to seek health care that was respectful. We would not be able to legally buy the right kind of scissors or tools. We might consider moving to another state or country to feel free.

The Bible had much to say about left- and right-handedness. The Latin word for right is dexter. Some people name their child Dexter. The Latin word for left is sinister. No one names their child Sinister. 

As we vote, we need to ask candidates what they know about diversity. Can we do the right thing? 

— Kathy Reim, Sedro-Woolley, June 20, 2023

Asking PeaceHealth to share its concerns

To the Editor:

The following letter was sent to the PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center Board of Directors and management on June 16, 2023.

Many of my friends and neighbors have been discussing the latest negative news about the loss of services once offered by PeaceHealth. One most significant one for 70s-plus friends is the palliative care service.

Please consider communicating with the community an answer to the question: “What concerns you?” We would be most appreciative to hearing from you. Decisions and actions are made which have a direct impact on many. Do we know how many? Do we know all who are impacted? For instance, we have read about Dr. Ming Lin being fired for publicly communicating his “concerns” during the pandemic. Once again, I would ask you to consider sharing your concerns and the basis for a decision and an action which must have consequences for which we may not be aware.

The Bellingham community has but one hospital. We are concerned about the influx now arriving from British Columbia and the potential that PeaceHealth St. Joseph will be overwhelmed. My request for a response from you is for the purpose of building support as well as trust in an institution we depend upon.

Thank you for considering my words.

— Carole Hanaway, Bellingham, June 16, 2023

Thanks to PeaceHealth — but shocked by palliative care shutdown

To the Editor:

My family has several reasons to be thankful to PeaceHealth St. Joe’s. Dr. James Douglas and Dr. Don McAfee are two of them.

My dad had congenital heart defects but that didn’t stop him from having a life well lived! Eventually, however, he needed two emergency heart surgeries in a matter of three weeks, which Dr. Douglas skillfully performed.

Dr. McAfee, as my dad’s cardiologist, respected his decision to avoid any future heart surgeries. My parents referred to Dr. McAfee as providing “one-man palliative care” that worked so well, that he was never admitted to the hospital for his congestive heart failure, which is very unusual.

My mom, as a caregiver, delved into the benefits of palliative care. After my dad died, she went full tilt to raise awareness about advance care planning and to encourage PeaceHealth to launch community-based palliative care.

She and many others in Whatcom County worked relentlessly to advocate for outpatient palliative care — successfully. Or so they thought.

I was shocked when she told me PeaceHealth management shut down its outpatient services on this compassionate care model effective May 26.

How can a hospital group — that claims to treat humans with patient-centric, personalized care — justify that decision? 

When our dog, Panda, was diagnosed with terminal cancer, my husband and I were fortunate that a palliative-care veterinarian was available to help us. He came right to our home. Veterinarians even send cards of comfort and support when a pet dies.

I hope for all the human patients in Whatcom County, PeaceHealth management will have a change of heart.

— Kristin Jackson, Waynesville, North Carolina, June 11, 2023

Promises made, promises broken

To the Editor:

I am trying to understand how PeaceHealth management can claim it was a mission-driven decision to cut its outpatient palliative program.  

From what I understand, PeaceHealth awarded a three-year consultancy contract to a person touted as an expert in building sustainable palliative care programs. 

Maria Gatto wrote an article in December 2022 that appeared in the Journal of the Catholic Health Association in which she wrote, “PeaceHealth’s palliative care initiative is more than just standardizing best practices … Palliative care is core to PeaceHealth’s commitment statement ‘providing quality and compassionate care, every time, every touch’. “

PeaceHealth management terminated Gatto’s contract in its second year, even though they allegedly were setting a course to develop a standardized, high-functioning program. Then five months later, they did a 180 and shut down the program.

PeaceHealth administrators must think we don’t know how to Google. 

In plain sight on their foundation website, they promised donors if they gave the necessary seed money to launch the palliative care program, they would sustain it. “This amazing success confirms the desperate need that seriously ill patients have for skilled, compassionate, holistic care and speaks to the ability of our palliative care team to grow the program as demand increases. PeaceHealth has committed to support the outpatient palliative care beyond the five-year Foundation and community investment, ensuring that holistic care for chronically and seriously ill patients will remain available here in Whatcom County for the foreseeable future….”

PeaceHealth management, please help me and others understand how your decision aligns with your mission statement.

— Kathy Sitker, Birch Bay, June 4, 2023

Importance of strong, independent journalism

To the Editor:

The Salish Current is among several local independent news sources providing thoughtful coverage and perceptive insight about northwest Washington. And Salish Current is not alone in decrying the gradual decline nationally of such coverage, especially local [“Local journalism is key for healthy communities: forum” Salish Current, March 18, 2022]. Margaret Sullivan, former media columnist for the Washington Post and author of “Ghosting the News: Local Journalism and the Crisis of American Democracy” (2020), is just one of many writers nationally emphasizing the recent decline and vital importance of strong independent journalism. 

As Sullivan’s book, the recent memoir “It. Goes. So. Fast.” (2023) by Mary Louise Kelly, cohost of NPR’s All Things Considered, also highlights the importance of independent journalism.  Chapter Eight, “We Cannot Be Intimidated,” is as powerful a justification for strong independent journalism as you are likely to find anywhere. (It can easily be read apart from the rest of the book, which is largely about juggling family and career.) 

Chapter Eight is about Kelly’s infamous interview and its brief aftermath in 2020 with then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The interview itself is chilling, but Pompeo’s next-day public statement is even more disturbing. Kelly’s reaction to Pompeo, and her broader takeaways from the experience, added to her reputation as a professional of the highest order. 

Journalism may be declining in more than a few places. But we are fortunate to have journalists like Mary Louise Kelly nationally and news sources like Salish Current locally. 

— John Whitmer, Bellingham,  June 4, 2023

Capitalism and health care make rotten bedfellows

To the Editor:

PeaceHealth is reportedly closing their outpatient palliative care program because it isn’t profitable. Donors to that program who were promised that it would be sustained must be furious.

Health care and profit are simply not compatible. Like ALL human services, including education, the programs should not depend on their capacity to make money as though that is the reason for having them. Capitalism and health care make rotten bedfellows.

The reason for having the palliative care program is to serve the community, plain and simple. An outpatient palliative care program helps people with no hope of recovery to be in their own homes. It also helps family members and other caregivers to manage the challenging experience of accompanying a close relative or friend as they move toward their death in peace at home, in a manner of their own choosing.

I urge all donors to PeaceHealth to cancel their donations to let PeaceHealth know that they can’t renege on promises they made to sustain the out-patient palliative care program. Palliative care, both outpatient and inpatient, is essential health care. PeaceHealth needs to step up and acknowledge that fact.

— Lucy Morse, Ferndale, June 3, 2023

PeaceHealth’s decision is cruel and short-sighted

To the Editor:

I write to protest PeaceHealth’s closure of its palliative care unit. In January 2023, I was diagnosed with congestive heart disease, a terminal condition. My cardiologist ordered three procedures (paid for by insurance) to confirm the diagnosis. In our follow-up appointment, he suggested I consider a robotic surgery. When I resisted this idea, he arranged for me to meet with the hospital’s palliative care team. I hadn’t realized this would be available to me, and I jumped at the opportunity. When I moved to Bellingham in 2003, I became a hospice volunteer, providing massage for patients for seven years. Accompanying patients as they left this life had been deeply meaningful to me, and  I was thrilled that now I might become a patient, myself.

In March 2023 I began to meet individually with my palliative care team, an MD, an RN and a social worker, to get acquainted and decide how they might help me. Each was compassionate and knowledgeable about how we would work together to support my quality of life. 

I was thrilled to have this opportunity — to imagine that my end-of-life experience might be tolerable, possibly even joyful. My health insurance approved my participation, and began to pay for my palliative appointments. Then in mid-May my palliative RN sadly broke the news that the outpatient palliative care program was to shut down as too costly.

The palliative team closure is a big loss for me, but an even greater one for patients in palliative care longer than I: How to switch their care focus from the quality of their life to its perhaps unwanted prolongation? And how will I manage my suffering if I linger in this life?

 I join with the many others expressing their dismay at PeaceHealth’s cruel and short-sighted decision. I hope it will be reconsidered.

— Edwina Norton, Bellingham, June 2, 2023

Living on islands

To the Editor:

I admired the article about the insane prices that our local shops and restaurants are paying here on San Juan Island. It was well written and researched and I enjoyed reading it!

I have spent half of my life on San Juan Island now, but I moved from the East Coast where I lived on islands, too, and I am experiencing an ominous sense of déjà vu ….

Looking forward to reading more ….

— Marie Z. Johansen, Friday Harbor, May 31, 2023

Disheartened by end of palliative care model

To the Editor:

I was disheartened to read Dr. Margaret Jacobson’s letter in the May 19 issue of the Salish Current describing the end of the palliative care model in Whatcom County. This model was developed as a promise to the residents of Whatcom County because PeaceHealth declined to offer patients the “right to die” option that was voted by the residents of Washington state in 2008. The initial seed money was donated by local philanthropists and the agreement was that PeaceHealth would carry the program forward. As Dr. Jacobson states, it was a “promise” to the donors as well as to our community.

I wonder why, when budget cuts need to be discussed, so often programs to help the vulnerable of us are the ones that are eliminated. Palliative care is not an expensive service compared to, say, open heart surgery. Its benefits are immeasurable for patients and their families at the end of life. Perhaps PeaceHealth could start saving money instead by removing the huge billboards around Bellingham promoting their services.

As we all know, the United States is the only industrialized country in the in the world without a medical system for all, whether employed or unemployed, whether rich or poor. For more than 30 years, bills have been presented to Congress for universal healthcare, sometimes called Medicare for All.

On May 17 of this year, three Congressional representatives introduced once again the Medicare for All Act. In the House, more than half of the Democratic Caucus is co-sponsoring it. Rick Larson is not among those. I hope I live long enough to see the passage of this commonsense and humane approach to healthcare.

PeaceHealth, please re-think your priorities and maintain the community’s palliative care program.

— Kristin Barber, Bellingham, May 30, 2023

Waiting to be ‘seen’ by PeaceHealth

To the Editor:

Most readers of the Salish Current are aware of PeaceHealth’s campaign, “We See You.”

In the context of recent medical services cuts, our community is flummoxed by this message because we believe PeaceHealth management does not “see” us.  A chorus of voices has raised concerns about the slashing of St. Joe’s outpatient palliative care program. Countless others have similar concerns but are too ill or too vulnerable to muster the energy to add their voices. 

I have contacted numerous PeaceHealth administrators about the cuts, ranging from the system-wide CEO and Chief Medical Officer in Vancouver (Clark County) to the Director of Community Health and Chief Development Officer (CDO) in Bellingham.

Only one PeaceHealth employee responded — the CDO at the local foundation, stating, “There is a whole team of us who are working to find a solution that meets the community’s needs, supports the donor community, and maintains the strong reputation of our foundation. More to come!”

Before PeaceHealth launched its “We See You” campaign, those responsible for its creation should have conducted focus groups to determine its potential value. Everyone I’ve asked has a negative impression of the campaign.

PeaceHealth’s “We See You” campaign is imitative, perhaps even a violation of advertising regulations. The Kelowna General Hospital Foundation used the slogan very effectively long before PeaceHealth appropriated it. It’s probably a good thing our Canadian neighbors are so friendly, eh?

We are waiting to be “seen” — and waiting for mission-driven, ethical solutions to the palliative care cuts.

— Micki Jackson, Bellingham, May 30, 2023

Questions and answers on justice system projects and a new jail

To the Editor:

During the May 24 Town Hall Listening Session, the County will present potential projects to improve our justice system, including building a new jail. I’ve answered three questions they ask: 

My concerns about proposed projects:

  • Proposing a bigger jail means we’re not seriously considering an overhaul to our justice system
  • The County will prioritize building a new jail instead of providing services that help people dealing with addiction and behavioral health issues
  • The Implementation Plan project list doesn’t include oversight to ensure funding will be directed to service and diversion programs
  • A jail ballot measure will try to do too much at once instead of breaking this large project down into manageable bits to ensure success
  • With a focus on building a new jail, the SAC did not fully demonstrate to the public the injustices of our justice system when we allow people to be incarcerated for extended periods of time awaiting trial or competency assessments
  • The County will not provide an opportunity for the public to comment on draft ballot measure language

Projects I believe will make the biggest difference:

  • Increase capacity of effective existing programs to divert people from incarceration
  • Bolster re-entry support services
  • Ensure ongoing efforts to maintain and expand supporting housing programs
  • Continue making changes in court systems
  • Expedite access to competency restoration services
  • Develop a data dashboard to share data within criminal legal system organizations
  • Collect data to measure progress

Important considerations for County Council:

  • Draft a ballot measure that proves you’re dedicated to improving our local justice system – prioritize services, then build a new jail
  • Follow other successful programs throughout our country instead of starting from scratch
  • Provide acute behavioral health services within the jail and provide ongoing support in an outside setting
  • Provide transparency around funding and any justice system failures and successes

— Krystal RodriguezBellingham, May 22, 2023

Emotional and mental health addressed in palliative care

To the Editor:

I have been a cancer patient at the St. Joseph Peace Health Cancer center since the summer of 2021 when I was diagnosed with stage three esophageal gastric junction cancer. With the exception of surgery at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle, I have received all of my treatment in Bellingham including radiation, chemotherapy and immunotherapy. I am extremely grateful for the extraordinary care I have experienced.

BUT besides medical treatment, I’ve discovered there is another side to cancer which is equally important: a patient’s emotional and mental health. Without support in this area it is difficult, if not impossible, for a patient to successfully manage the side effects of various medical interventions. Currently I attend a weekly women’s support group which has been a tremendous source of comfort. In addition I’ve been referred by my medical oncologist to the outpatient palliative care program, and I’ve met with Dr. Angela Caffrey.

Therefore, I was devastated to recently learn the palliative care program will now only be available to patients admitted to the hospital. My end-of-life goal is to die in my home with the support of palliative and hospice care if possible. 

The PeaceHealth Statement of Values says, “We provide medical, spiritual and emotional support to those who are dying. Palliative care… is critical in the care of the dying. We are committed to providing a full range of palliative care services.”  PeaceHealth’s Bryan Stewart said that the health care provider couldn’t justify continuing the program given the high cost of palliative care. 

It is my opinion that palliative care can actually reduce costs by addressing a patient’s spiritual and emotional needs in addition to medical ones. I sincerely hope a process will be instituted to reconsider this cost-driven decision and that the full range of palliative care services will be reinstated. Such a decision would be in accordance with both the hospital’s mission statement and values.

— Linda Morrow, Bellingham, May 22, 2023

PeaceHealth: Withhold donations, revoke tax exemption

To the Editor:

If I had given a donation to PeaceHealth recently I would be livid that outpatient palliative care is going to be discontinued. Perhaps the only way PeaceHealth management might be persuaded to reverse its decision to put outpatient palliative care on the chopping block is for fundraising to slow to a trickle.

Conversations are rampant that major donors are considering suing PeaceHealth for misrepresenting their intentions when they asked prospective donors to provide over $2 million in seed money to launch the palliative program, with the promise that it would be sustained.

Contact PeaceHealth’s Foundation and let them know you will not donate to them in the future unless outpatient palliative care is restored to full service. 

Another possibility for management to change its decision is for PeaceHealth to lose its tax-exempt status. 

Dr. Rod Hochman, the chief executive of Providence Medical Group, told an industry publication in 2021 that ” ‘nonprofit health care’ “is a misnomer.” He went on to say: it is tax-exempt healthcare. It still makes profits.

Perhaps, PeaceHealth could donate the old St. Luke’s hospital which was truly a community hospital as a homeless shelter if they won’t pay property taxes. It’s been sitting empty and deteriorating for years 

Contact Mayor Seth Fleetwood and the city council and all the candidates running for mayor, and demand they end PeaceHealth’s tax-exempt status.

— Sheri Lambert, Bellingham, May 22, 2023

PeaceHealth: Invite community to open forum discussions

To the Editor:

PeaceHealth management in Vancouver is well-known for making decisions that run counter to the common good.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, a St. Joseph Hospital emergency department physician voiced concerns about inadequate personal protective equipment and the need for better triaging of ER patients to avoid infections. What did PeaceHealth do? They fired him.

PeaceHealth’s decision to cut outpatient palliative care services is the latest example that they are tone-deaf to the communities it serves. They claim cuts are necessary because of lost revenue during the pandemic. It is true that hospital revenues throughout the U.S. decreased. 

However, relief of suffering for seriously ill patients should be PeaceHealth’s north star. Slashing the outpatient palliative care program illustrates the lack of insight into the heart and soul of our community. It was community members who provided generous and vital seed money to launch the program, which is considered essential to quality healthcare.

Palliative programs show outcome improvements across the spectrum — better patient experience scores, lower 30-day readmission rates, fewer ER visits, shorter ICU stays, decreased hospital mortality and less cost per Medicare beneficiary. These measures are all part of how hospitals get ranked and paid. On that basis alone, how can PeaceHealth justify its decision?

Hospital-based and community-based palliative care avoids unnecessary costs. These avoided costs may not show up immediately, but it is penny-wise-and-pound-foolish for PeaceHealth to deny that the best organizations offer palliative care.

Obvious from legally mandated, publicly available 990 forms, the increased compensation that hospital executives received, during the pandemic, could cover the cost to maintain this vital service to the sick and suffering who have nowhere else to turn.

I suggest that locally, PeaceHealth invite the community to an open forum in which patients, donors, caregivers and all stakeholders be given the opportunity to express their concerns and get answers. That would be the honorable way to address the discontent that PeaceHealth’s actions created. 

— Micki Jackson, Bellingham, May 21, 2023

What AI can’t predict

To the Editor:

The AI article in Salish Current scares me (“Assistant … or replacement? AI, in real life,” May 12, 2023) — not because of what it predicts as much as what it can’t. It’s a bit like soldiers talking about the convenience of a machine gun that can shoot many bullets without needing much reloading without anticipating the impact of the machine gun in WWI. The age of reason that came to us from the XVIIIth century and guides our epistemology today is obsolete. We need complete new ways to interpret our new world before AI interprets it for us.

— Ken Pritchard, Vashon Island, May 18, 2023

Loss of a sense of safety and security

To the Editor:

When I moved to Bellingham a year ago, one of the many attractions was PeaceHealth’s outpatient palliative care program.

I have multiple sclerosis (MS), which is an unpredictable disease that manifests differently in each person. Believing there would be access to palliative care when I will need it gave me peace of mind.

I cope with significant daily chronic pain due to MS, which is typical for the disease. Like others with chronic conditions, we do our homework about what medical services are available before considering a move to a new community. We arm ourselves with that valuable information, concluding that patient-centric, specialized care for people with serious illnesses would not be arbitrarily cut — especially when there is only one hospital in the county.

I have questions: What will PeaceHealth do to keep the promise they made when they started the palliative care program? How have stakeholders (especially those who live with chronic pain) been engaged as partners in seeking solutions to restore — and sustain — this program?

Knowing that this important program will likely not be accessible to me when I need it makes me feel less safe and secure. PeaceHealth’s shortsighted decision certainly affects the sense of safety and security of many others in my new community, too.

— Van Roberts, Bellingham, May 18, 2023

PeaceHealth: Where are the good nuns?

To the Editor: 

It appears not much can embarrass or shame PeaceHealth for some of its egregious decisions that affect the communities they serve.  

Case in point: PeaceHealth recently decided to gut its outpatient palliative care program without input from major donors, patients, medical professionals, other stakeholders or the community. PeaceHealth downsized the program to the point it can no longer properly function — the palliative care team now consists of only one nurse and one social worker. 

As I understand it, major donors were promised that if they contributed seed money to get the program started, PeaceHealth would continue the program in perpetuity. Yet, it appears PeaceHealth has reneged on its commitment by slashing the palliative care program. That’s typically called a “lie.”  

Big donations often come with strings attached. One was that the recipient (PeaceHealth) would honor what they promised. 

I won’t suggest that donors try to get their money returned, but I do believe that major donors should locate enterprising legal representation to get PeaceHealth to restore its outpatient palliative care program before it is totally demolished. The program is scheduled to functionally cease on May 26.  

Further, the paid staff at St. Joseph Medical Center Foundation should be publicly advocating for full restoration of the palliative care services. They solicited donations on the premise of an ongoing palliative care program. Unless the PeaceHealth fundraising and development employees do that, how can they hold their heads high — with integrity, honesty and ethics — and come calling with their tin cups asking for future donations?  

Our community, our medical professionals, our patients — and major donors — are being short-changed. PeaceHealth should be ashamed of its corporate culture. Oh, where are the good nuns when we need them? 

— Delores Davies, Ferndale, May 13, 2023

Thank you: PeaceHealth palliative care team

To the Editor:

I want to thank some very special and dedicated healthcare professionals and staff who have been providing critical and necessary palliative care to members of our community, including myself.

PeaceHealth recently made major cuts to this program that employed specialized services for individuals with complex and challenging care needs who do not otherwise qualify for hospice. The palliative care team includes medical, nursing, pharmaceutical, spiritual and social services. 

As a consumer of these services, I am truly saddened and frustrated by PeaceHealth’s decision to terminate the care and support provided by this program. 

This team has assisted me with invaluable support related to my comfort, medical and emotional needs due to my illness. It is concerning that this local care team will no longer be here when other members of this community and I next need them. 

To all of you wonderful healthcare professionals and staff at palliative care, thank you. 

This inglorious ending to a much-needed program, without any community input or consideration, is a disgrace. This is just one more example of our broken healthcare system.

— Karen Lerner, Bellingham, May 13, 2023

At long last, solutions to water problems are near

To the Editor:

More than two decades of meetings and studies have failed to produce long-term solutions to Whatcom County’s many water problems. The official start of adjudication later this year provides a powerful incentive and rare opportunity for settlement discussions. These negotiations should, at long last, resolve many water supply/demand problems as well as habitat and water-quality problems. Because of the adverse effects of climate change on Whatcom water supply and demand, we likely have only a few years to design and implement projects and programs to deal with these problems.

The key participants, both in adjudication and settlement, are the two tribes and farmers. Lummi Nation and Nooksack Indian Tribe have the largest and most senior water rights, and farmers account for about 70% of human use of water in the summer, when stream flows are lowest.

The solution will almost surely have the tribes provide water to farmers to irrigate their crops. In return, farmers will use their land to provide additional ecosystem services, such as expanded and improved streamside buffers.

Because adjudication will determine all water rights, others must participate also. The Department of Ecology will ensure that agreements between the tribes and farmers are legal and don’t impair the water rights of others. The City of Bellingham, Public Utility District #1, other water utilities and Whatcom County must participate to ensure that enough water is available for homes and businesses.

The outcome, I believe, will be enough water to protect fish and other wildlife, to irrigate crops, and to meet basic human needs. Everyone will have to use less water than they now do because of climate change. Therefore, improving water-use efficiency, especially for outdoor uses, will be an essential component of settlements of water rights and uses. 

— Eric Hirst, Bellingham, May 5, 2023

Nooksack water concerns remain but new legislation gets support

To the Editor:

Whatcom’s farmers remain concerned about the long-term effects of the water rights adjudication initiated by the State later this year. It is an expensive, decades-long, legal morass that does little or nothing to resolve our natural resource challenges. Agriculture’s long-term future here is clouded by the State’s decision to apply this 19th century legal tool to 21st century management challenges.

We are unable to deter the State from this course of action. So farmers, the adaptive managers they have to be, are supportive of the legislation (House Bill 1792) signed into law last month. This legislation gained the support local governments and water users in the Nooksack Basin including Whatcom PUD, Whatcom County Government, City of Bellingham, Ag Water Board, Lummi Nation and the Nooksack Tribe.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Joe Timmons (D-42nd District), prescribes certain timelines, and creates a public input process to enable review and input into the adjudication claim form produced by the state Department of Ecology and used by water right holders when filing claims. This puts some helpful sideboards on the immediate effects of the adjudication and buys us some time to look at more holistic solutions to our resource management challenges.

The Legislature also provided financial support for Whatcom County and the Watershed Management Board (WMB) to look beyond the narrow scope of the adjudication and develop long term projects and policies that ensure we can have healthy fish habitat and viable agriculture for decades to come.

We thank Rep. Timmons and all our local legislators for their help on this. And to the Whatcom PUD for bringing all major water users together to support the bill and the budget. Our hope is that the WMB grasps this opportunity and looks beyond adjudication to a better future for us all. 

— Henry Bierlink, Lynden, May 5, 2023

Help, don’t harm, the unhoused

To the Editor:

I’m writing because of the latest ordinance of the city of Bellingham amending Bellingham Municipal code chapter 10.08 regarding the use of controlled substances in public places.

I believe this will harm people because it targets the unhoused. There is nowhere for them to get treatment, and living on the street is rough and uncomfortable and many people turn to illicit substances for comfort. 

As we know by now, addiction is a disease, not a moral failing. Unhoused people do not have a home to use their drugs privately and, when they try to make a private space in the woods, they are swept away and moved along instead of being provided with basic sanitation services such as needle collection bins, trash cans and public toilets. Having a safe space to use, test and inject drugs in a sanitary manner until they can be housed and treated is what we should do instead of this. 

The problem is not drugs and trash, it’s lack of services, income-based and affordable housing, and an inpatient treatment center being available. There is only one low- or no-barrier shelter in Bellingham and it’s congregate and religious and many in the unhoused community will not use a congregate shelter for one reason or another.

Criminalizing this behavior simply makes it even harder to get to a place where they can get sober, housed or employed. It adds one more thing to their record that they will have to explain and for which they will likely face discrimination.

Sarahbeth Bede, Riveters Collective VP, Bellingham, April 23, 2023

Stories motivate people to action

To the Editor:

I was pleased to read Helene Fellows’ story, “Donating a kidney is a life-affirming experience” (Community Voices; March 24, 2023). She’s right. Stories are what motivate people to take action. 

I had the pleasure of virtually meeting kidney donor, Shekinah Pepper, a U.S. Army veteran, who dedicated eight years to military service.

Pepper’s story is inspiring. I am sharing it with his permission. In 2016, Pepper heard a work colleague wanted to donate her kidney to her husband but was not a match.

He was struck by their burden, even though he had never met his co-worker’s husband, who spent 10 hours a day connected to a dialysis machine. “The story was eating at me,” Pepper said. 

He reasoned, “I lived with the willingness to give my life for freedom. Here, all I had to give was my kidney. I had taken an oath to serve and I saw donating my kidney was another path to service.”

Pepper said he considered the costs of managing kidney disease, too. Over 90,000 people are on the U.S. transplant waiting list, but less than 20,000 kidneys, from living and deceased donors, become available each year.

Hemodialysis care costs the Medicare system an average of $90,000 per patient annually in the U.S.

“That’s 1% of the national GDP,” Pepper said. “If we could get these folks off the waiting list, we could wipe out a huge cost. We, the public, can fix this. We can take control and make an impact.”

Pepper said, “I remember the pledge I made when I signed up as a soldier. There is no greater investment than in other people. And I would rather give my life to do the right thing than survive doing the wrong thing.”

Fellows and Pepper are living examples of doing the right thing — selflessly in service to others.

Micki Jackson, Bellingham, April 12, 2023

Shining a light on kidney health

To the Editor:

What a breath of fresh air. In reading “Donating a kidney is a life-affirming experience” (Community Voices, March 24, 2023), I was reminded there are good people all around us, who do selfless acts that go unnoticed that are inspirational. 

We often don’t learn of those positive stories because many of us simmer in a stew of bad news from the time we wake up in the morning to the moment our heads hit the pillow each night. 

I’m glad our community is shining much-needed light on the importance of kidney health because, in doing so, we are learning more about diabetes and high blood pressure, which are the top causes leading to chronic kidney failure.  

Our county public health department must take a more proactive leadership role in diabetes awareness because that disease is a growing public health crisis. In 1994, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) diabetes program declared that diabetes had reached epidemic proportions and should be considered a major public health problem. Yes, 1994! In December 2022, the CDC warned of a 700% surge in diabetes in young Americans under the age of 20 in the coming decades. 

Helene Fellows is right — a personal story is what motivates people to take action. We need more stories like hers. 

Obviously, she is genuine in her offer to help people understand the intricacies, and the gratification, of living kidney donation since she gave readers the option of contacting her directly. Thank you, Salish Current, for publishing her commentary. 

— Delores Davies, Ferndale, March 26, 2023

Oil spill considerations

To the Editor:

We are concerned about the oil spill occurring on the Swinomish Reservation. Public and worker safety is paramount as is the protection of our environment. Thankfully, no one was injured.   

 This spill, while it may not be considered large through an environmental lens, signals a larger infrastructure issue as this is happening more and more frequently across the country. Our top priority should be evaluating the maintenance of our infrastructure while hauling hazardous materials and continuing to wean away from fossil fuels and preserving our native lands.

—Tom Wooten, Chairman, Samish Indian Nation, March 16, 2023

Calls for investing in peace

To the Editor:

Our nation’s budget should reflect the concerns of its citizens. We believe peacebuilding and reconciliation programs represent an important means to facilitate nonviolent conflict resolution. These programs effectively create cultures of peace by bringing together adversarial groups in safe spaces to address divisions and work toward common goals.

Investing in peace not only saves human suffering, but also saves U.S. taxpayer dollars. The Institute for Economics and Peace, in fact, has concluded that every dollar invested in peacebuilding “carries a potential $16 reduction in the cost of armed conflict.” Peacebuilding programs work, they save lives and they are cost-effective. Unfortunately, U.S. support for this work has been persistently underfunded. In fact, our country spends 200 times more on war than on peacebuilding. We must do better!

We urge Rep. Rick Larsen to strongly advocate for an increase in peacebuilding funding at the House Appropriations SFOPs Subcommittee Member Day Hearing on March 8 as well as at ongoing budgetary talks. Specifically, we urge the following appropriations be included for FY24:

+  $40 million to Reconciliation Programs

+  $66 million to the Complex Crises Fund

+  $25 million to Atrocities Prevention Programs

Each of these programs provide critical tools to meet today’s challenges and facilitate the development of a framework toward sustainable peace. 

As U.S. citizens, we are truly alarmed by the recent dramatic growth of violence around the world. More needs to be done in a preventative sense, for all of our sakes. We sincerely hope Rep. Larsen will push for these requests to make a positive difference in our world.

The San Juan Islands Advocacy Team is a group of concerned citizens from the 2nd Congressional District of Washington working with the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) to lobby Congress for a sane and nonviolent foreign policy.

— The San Juan Islands Advocacy Team: Andy Hiester, Eastsound; Charles Janeway, Lopez Island; Tom Rawson, Eastsound; Linda Ellsworth, Eastsound; Micki Jackson, Bellingham; Allen Stockbridge, Bellingham; Colleen Curtis, Bellingham; Tom Ewell, Clinton; Jerry Graville, Lopez Island; Iris Graville, Lopez Island; Kathy Cope, San Juan Island; March 5, 2023

Chance at former Lovrić’s to link ferry terminal to Tommy Thompson Trail

To the Editor:

This seems like an opportune time for the City of Anacortes to negotiate with the new owners of the former Lovric’s Shipyard for a right-of-way through or around or over the shipyard to continue the waterfront trail that now begins at the beach below the WSF parking lot and could connect to the Tommy Thompson Trail in downtown Anacortes that leads to the refineries.

Louise Dustrude, Friday Harbor, March 3, 2023

Public health advisory board needs medical professionals and consumers

To the Editor:

Whatcom County’s recent public health advisory board fiasco could possibly have been avoided if our health board was not solely comprised of elected Whatcom County Council members. Tensions were raised, and tempers flared, between council members and staff in the recent refusal to include vaccine opponents on the health advisory board. 

Our Whatcom County Health Department Board should be more representative of our community — politicians (unless they have experience in the medical/health field) do not have the expertise to be the sole arbiters to oversee matters related to public health. 

We need some health board members who are not elected officials. We need medical professionals including an epidemiologist, medical ethicists, community health workers, public health workers with master’s degrees and higher or the equivalent in public health, hospital employees, physicians, registered nurses, dentists and others with health care knowledge. 

Additionally, the board should include consumers of public health who have self-identified as having faced significant health inequities with public health programs. Because Whatcom County includes tribal lands, the board of health should include a tribal representative selected by the American Indian Health Commission. 

According to RCW 70.05.030, “A local board of health comprised solely of elected officials may retain this composition if the local health jurisdiction had a public health advisory committee or board with its own bylaws established on January 1, 2021.” 

However, other Washington counties have reconfigured their health boards recently to make them more diverse and stronger than they’ve ever been. Whatcom County should do the same. 

Health and Community Services director Erika Lautenbach and Whatcom County executive Satpal Sidhu, who was instrumental in her hiring, should take the lead on reconfiguring our health board to be in line with what other Washington state counties have done — represent core values of excellence, participation, respect, leadership, science and innovation. 

— Sheri Lambert, Bellingham, Feb. 27, 2023

Riding the ferries

To the Editor:

I’m 67+ years old and was riding on ferries from the first month I was born. The joy and peace it brings to me happens nowhere else. Thank you so much.

Suzanne Magnuson, Bellingham, Feb. 27, 2023

Support Traffic Safety for All bill

To the Editor:

The Riveters Collective Justice System Committee believes that everyone deserves a safe community, regardless of where they live, the color of their skin or their income. We can have that without excessive punishment, excessive policing, our rights rolled back or fear mongering.

Recently passed state laws reform police standards and drug policy work. Fewer Washingtonians lose their lives to police violence or get cycled through the criminal legal system over substance use. These are causes for celebration, not a return to failed policies.

Decades of research show tough-on-crime approaches fail to keep people safe, and further criminalize communities. Our current punitive traffic enforcement methods impact people of color and low-income families the hardest, hitting many with financial burden for low-risk issues. None of this improves safety on the roads, the real issue.

Traffic Safety for All (HB 1513) creates a grant program to help drivers address vehicle equipment problems and prevents officers from making stops for low-level issues, such as broken tail lights or expired tabs. The bill will lead to fewer interactions between the public and law enforcement, which disproportionately impact people of color, who, more often than white drivers, are stopped and subjected to traffic fees.

Low-risk traffic stops are ineffective at preventing traffic accidents or fighting crime, and have escalated to violent encounters that put drivers and law enforcement at high risk of injury or death. Expired tabs aren’t the cause of deadly traffic accidents. Time wasted enforcing them has public safety consequences and places people in a poverty trap.

HB 1513, the Traffic Safety for All bill, offers drivers a path toward addressing car repairs in a way that doesn’t cause financial burden or trap them in the criminal legal system. 

We endorse passage of HB 1513 to support equity and public safety. 

Riveters Collective Justice System Committee: Karla Ward, Kim Ninnemann, Debbi Anderson Frey, Berdi Safford, Jess Lantz, Krystal Rodriguez (Chair)

Port noise should not be ‘take it or leave it’

To the Editor:

Port of Bellingham Commissioners joined residents Wednesday to discuss nighttime noise coming from the Port’s Shipping Terminal (“Port promises to dampen loading noise in wake of complaints,” Salish Current, Jan. 26, 2023). During a four-day hot spell recently, residents’ sleep was disrupted due to sounds of scraping metal until the early morning hours. 

A full house of neighbors gathered at the Squalicum Boat House to hear answers from the Port representatives, but little information was provided. A metal recycling ship was being loaded as part of an effort to revitalize the terminal as a source of economic development. The Port representatives doggedly stated that this was a mandate of the state constitution. Note: The constitution only requires a Port to exist near a city, and “economic development” is law where it is their “purpose” (RCW 53.08.245).

The Port representatives stated that up to five to seven ships will be loaded per year, but mitigation efforts such as sound-blocking metal container walls will be attempted. The neighborhood appreciates these efforts and is excited for the return of union jobs, which had been nonexistent since the GP plant closed 20 years ago.

Residents were troubled by the underlying message from the Port representatives, which seemed to be “take it or leave it.” We were told that if we did not accept the noise and dust, our property taxes would go up and the Port would not be able to meet its “constitutional” mandate (see above). 

If seven ships a year are loaded, that will be almost one month a year during which residents will be subjected to continuous metal scraping until 3 a.m. This is wholly different than the airport or trains. Nightly lost sleep for thousands of Bellingham families have not just an economic cost but a physical and social one. I hope the Port keeps this in mind when reviewing future clients and renewing current ones.

— Scott Jones, South Hill Neighborhood President, Bellingham, Jan. 27, 2023

In response: Guemes is ‘red-headed stepchild’

To the Editor:

In response to Dyvon Havens’ Jan. 9, 2023, letter to the editor: 

Sorry to say but we are the “red-headed stepchild.” No public entity would want to relieve Skagit County of its commitment to Guemes Island. It is a money loser to date. Island County commissioners and State of Washington legislators would be skinned alive to take us on … just saying.

— Art Thomson, Guemes Island, Jan. 18, 2023

Proposal for orca rights needs more detailed work

To the Editor:

These are all good arguments for the taking of action by the body that has the power to do so [“Following local cities, Jefferson County proclaims rights for orcas,” Peninsula Daily News, Jan. 18, 2023]. While the right of the Southern Resident killer whale (SRKW) to exist is a commendable sentiment, it stops there, making those who express it think they’ve done something. They haven’t. Nor would the declaration sought if made by our county council actually do anything. I suggest that the expenditure of precious political capital be restricted to those expressions that lead to action.

In the case of humans, we have specific laws, not general statements, concerning our needs: housing, food, clothing, health, education and much more, but none simply say “exist.” If the council has the power to help the SRKW, it should be given the specifics delineating what or approximately what is sought in an ordinance (remember the Jet Ski experience). 

The work that goes into creating a viable proposal is complex, and includes science, politics and economics. I think that the council is right; a group, a committee (with the benefit of county staff including the prosecutor’s office), would be a useful body to generate such a proposal.

— Bill Appel, Friday Harbor, Jan. 19, 2023

Discovering snowy owls is a memorable adventure

To the Editor:

Among the largest of all owls, the snowy can occasionally be encountered along the edges of the Salish Sea [“Artist’s Corner: Rise Above 2020” by Eve McCauley-Chomiak, Salish Current, Jan. 19, 2023]. Our region is a favored wintering destination for the species. These are typically birds that have fledged the previous spring from their ground nests in the Arctic. Conditions there were such that they have moved southward seeking sustenance from our fields that are abundant in the gophers and voles that they relish. These first-year birds are innocent and oblivious to the dangers of human activity so they are hardly reclusive. Perched on a drift log or fence post, they stand out as a flash of white, gleaming against the bleak flood plain. Discovering a snowy owl can be a memorable adventure whether sight-seeing or encountering them for the artistic inspiration that their mystery, beauty and spirit conveys.

Should you see any owl along roadside while driving the flood plain, it is best to remain in your automobile for good viewing and protocol. Should you get out, the bird will likely be disturbed and fly off — not good for either the viewer and in particular the bird which might abandon a meal and also need to conserve energy.

— Tony Angell, author of “The House of Owls”; Seattle, Jan. 19, 2023

Island living on Guemes

To the Editor:

Just read my first Salish Current and appreciate the breadth of coverage. I live on Guemes Island and often fantasize about Guemes becoming part of San Juan County, where governmental support for island living seems higher than in Skagit County.

— Dyvon Havens, Guemes Island, Jan. 9, 2023

Address the needs of the nondrivers, too

To the Editor:

This is for folks who know the value of examining systems — in order to remedy the inequities revealed. 

When it comes to daily transportation, we hear mostly about driving: weather-related driving conditions or too many people wanting to drive to the same place at the same time — creating a traffic jam. Examples of this car-centric framing are many and are easily overlooked because they are so commonplace.

The presence of this driving-only focus in the absence of any other perspective implies that the only way anyone gets around is in a personal vehicle.

Meanwhile there are local people who don’t drive or don’t have access to a car and still need to get to work or medical care or shopping or the park.

Thanks to leadership from disability and senior advocacy groups, the state legislature is now looking at who is included in the nondriver population and analyzing their transportation options for “access to economic opportunity, recreation, education, and other aspects of community life.”

Preliminary data presented to the Joint Transportation Committee indicates that some of the people who aren’t driving have a disability that prevents them from driving. Others are aging out of driving. For most, it’s cost-prohibitive to own and maintain a vehicle due to all other costs of living. 

It’s time to shake off the perspective that everyone drives. We need to bring forward the needs of nondrivers. Better understanding can lead to transportation systems that work for all. 

Let’s look for the variety of life experiences in our communities so that we can apply systemic solutions for safe and robust transportation options for everyone. 

— Therese Kelliher, Bellingham, Jan. 4, 2023

Remembering Ken Balcomb

To the Editor:

Forty plus years ago I met and worked with Ken Balcomb as we combined our interests and talents to produce “Marine Birds and Mammals of Puget Sound” (Puget Sound Books, 1982). The endeavor was a good deal more than research and illustration for me as it provided an opportunity to join Ken in the field on numerous occasions and benefit from his singular knowledge and keen insights on orcas in particular, and the delicate and complex ecosystem of this singular marine system. Moreover, he was someone who always possessed a desire for adventure and discovery as we prowled about in his boat to visit remote islets and vulnerable habitats.

It was a pleasure to be a part of and witness to his good will, generosity and commitment to restoring and sustaining our natural heritage here in the Salish Sea. It was something that informed and inspired and remains with me to this day. Thank you, my friend, there’s much to carry on in tribute to your memory.

—Tony Angell, Seattle and Lopez Island, Dec. 16, 2022

Assistance League of Bellingham brings Christmas cheer

To the Editor:

Our Care Center Support is one of our most heart-warming programs. This year, 120 residents from care centers in Whatcom County who have no family or friend support were identified by their activities directors to receive Christmas gifts. Requests for clothing, footware, music, art supplies and books are among the items that will fill their gift bags. Not a sleigh but autos filled with Christmas cheer will find their way to brighten the spirits of the residents of the local care centers in time for Christmas Day!

We are incredibly grateful for the generosity and goodwill of the Lynden Pieceable Quilters who donated over 100 beautiful and creative lap quilts. How rewarding it will be for the resident to run their hands over their quilt and feel not only its warmth but imagine the story it tells. The impact of these quilts cannot be measured in dollars — it can be measured in love.

We thank all our supporters. Funding for this program is made possible by fundraising, donations and revenue from our Thrift and Gift Shop. What we earn in Whatcom County stays in Whatcom County. Happy holidays to all.

— Helen Moran, Bellingham, Dec. 14, 2022

Art can inspire awareness of the environment

To the Editor:

I teach art in the public schools on Orcas Island. I believe incorporating some of the ideas I found in your article (“Does environmental education change behavior?” Dec. 2, 2022) with art projects is another way to inspire students to become more aware of the environment. I look forward to learning more from subscribing.

Brook Meinhardt, Orcas Island, Dec. 3, 2022

Credit Washington’s long commitment to environmental education

To the Editor:

The article (“Does environmental education change behavior?” Salish Current, Dec. 2, 2022) exploring the effects of environmental education on public attitudes and decision making in our region doesn’t fully explore or credit the long history of Washington’s long commitment to understanding and stewarding our natural heritage. Likewise there is a body of curricula for K–12 students that explores the subtle threats and enduring impacts of air, water and soil pollutants, and the responsibilities of using energy wisely, recycling and sustaining our renewable resources that was employed in classrooms here in Washington more than half a century ago. 

Credit should be given to the vision and commitment of our past educators who, in the face of some cultural denial and resistance, included these subject areas in their instructional programs K–12. Evaluation of these efforts determined that not only content was mastered but skills as well — skills necessary for confronting and solving the environmental challenges. Furthermore, follow-up research, sponsored by the Pew Trust, determined that students that apply their subject content of science, language arts and history outside of the classroom in the real world achieve greater learning success. 

By the way, in the l990s, the State Board of Education made it a requirement to include elements of environmental education in all subject areas taught in Washington. It’s hopeful that this requirement has been sustained and enhanced, as our future depends on it.

—Tony Angell, Seattle, Dec. 3, 2022

Editor’s note: As noted in the article, Washington’s K–12 environmental education requirements and resources are collected under its Environmental and Sustainability Literacy Plan.

Building B.C. ferries

To the Editor:

Note [the] recent article in Victoria’s Times Colonist, Nov. 24, 2022: “B.C. Ferries Seeks Shipyards to Build up to Four Vessels“. Ferries would be diesel/electric. They are open to British Columbian, national and international shipyards. Six recent ferries were built by Netherlands-based Damen Shipyards in Romania.

—Nancy McCoy, Lopez Island, Dec. 1, 2022

Fraser River series provides new perspectives

To the Editor:

Your recent series on the Fraser River makes for outstanding reading. Eric Scigliano provided some fresh yet contextualized perspectives on the Fraser watershed that deserve our attention, especially as they pertain to the larger ecology of Cascadia and the river’s environmental, economic, and community stakeholders. These new perspectives help us to understand the Fraser as a geographic force but also as an inevitable point of focus for the political and ecological decisions that will guide our region in the coming decades.

—Derek Moscato, Western Washington University, Bellingham, Nov. 23, 2022

Reduce use of physical force and deadly force

To the Editor:

Last week, we called on law enforcement agencies in Blaine, Everson, Ferndale, Lynden, Sumas and Whatcom County to adopt the Model Use of Force Policy published by the Attorney General’s Office in July. We believe every law enforcement agency in the state should adopt the model policy, or something more restrictive, because it will:

• Reduce the amount and nature of physical force used
• Limit the use of deadly force and save lives
• Provide consistency across the state so community members can expect the same quality of policing everywhere in the state
• Be used by the Criminal Justice Training Commission as a statewide training standard for recruits and incumbents.

We also reminded agencies of the Dec. 1, 2022, deadline to submit proof they’ve complied with the new use of force and de-escalation tactics law (RCW 10.120.020). We hope that each agency adopts the model policy, or something more restrictive, which will reduce liabilities and, we believe, protect residents in our county.

— Krystal Rodriguez, Chair, Riveters Collective Justice System Committee, Bellingham, Nov. 17, 2022

Cybersecurity grant funds support many programs

To the Editor:

Thank you for the excellent coverage of regional cybersecurity threats in article by Matt Benoit. (“Vigilance! Security against cyberthreat is a 24/7 need” Oct. 28, 2022.) Whatcom Community College (WCC) was pleased to be invited to provide input to this article. 

There is one clarification we wanted to make regarding the amount of funding WCC has received in cybersecurity grants ($34 million since 2012). Not all of these grant funds—received from the National Science Foundation, National Security Agency (NSA) and Microsoft Philanthropies—directly supported WCC’s Computer Information Systems and Cybersecurity educational programs. A good deal of the funds directly supported other goals and objectives focused on the national efforts and responsibilities of our two centers hosted at WCC: the National Training and Education Center (NCyTE) funded by the NSF, and the CAE Candidates National Center funded by the NSA. 

In the early days of WCC’s cyber grant awards, most of the funding benefitted WCC’s cybersecurity-related educational programs including new and online curriculum development, development of the Bachelor of Applied Science in Cybersecurity degree program, and the purchase of equipment to update classrooms and labs for currency. In parallel, as WCC’s capacity grew, our responsibilities expanded to help support regional and national efforts to address the significant workforce shortage in this field—now projected at over 700,000 nationwide. Our efforts in recent years have focused on mentoring other colleges and universities in improving their cybersecurity programs and achieving the Center of Academic Excellence (CAE) designation from the NSA, as well as the development of new curricular resources and providing and supporting professional development opportunities for faculty. 

All of the $34 million in grant dollars received by WCC for cybersecurity initiatives have benefitted WCC in some form as they contribute to the college’s infrastructure (e.g., business processes and capabilities) and resources that WCC faculty and students benefit from, but not all are applied directly to the college.

Janice Walker, Senior Personnel/Special Projects Director, Cybersecurity Grants National Training and Education Center, Whatcom Community College, Nov. 1, 2022

Ramel is excellent partner for local elected officials

To the Editor:

Rep. Alex Ramel is a great collaborator and maintains an open line of communication about how work being done in Olympia affects us here in Whatcom County. He is an excellent partner for local elected officials to have at the state level.

Alex understands that housing costs are a major driver of the rising cost of living, so he has worked to support missing middle housing and community land trusts. With Alex’s support the legislature invested $439 million for building affordable homes and removed the excise taxes for construction of affordable housing.

As a member of the finance committee one of his top priorities has been to rebalance our state’s tax code. Alex has helped the legislature take important steps in that direction by cosponsoring the Working Families Tax Credit and changing the B&O tax thresholds to support the smallest businesses, and those just getting started.

Alex listens to his constituents and always looks for opportunities to find common ground. Join me in supporting Alex Ramel for re-election.  I look forward to continuing to work with Alex on the most important issues facing our community.

—Todd Donovan, Bellingham, Oct. 30, 2022

[Editor’s note: Todd Donovan is a Whatcom County Council member.]

Universal child care more imaginative than Prop 5

To the Editor:

A recent letter writer suggested the promoters of the so-called healthy kids’ property tax levy suffer from a “lack of imagination” in their approach to the dearth of quality child care facilities in Whatcom County. I concur with that opinion.  

Why didn’t these Proposition 5 activists consider the fact that the United States provided universal child care during World War II, instead of thinking so provincially, with an illiberal and narrow viewpoint? During WWII mothers entered the workforce out of necessity because the men were sent off to war. If our country could provide universal child care over 70 years ago, why did our local Prop 5 proponents design an aspirational ballot initiative that falls so far short? 

One of the crown jewels of the Child Service Centers in WWII was set up by an employer, the Kaiser Company, at its shipyards in Portland, Oregon. Designed and scaled to children’s needs, Kaiser offered child care 24 hours a day (to accommodate night-shift workers), a highly trained staff, a curriculum planned by leading early childhood experts and even a cooked-food service for weary parents picking up their children after an arduous shift. 

It strikes me that Proposition 5 could be described as elitist and, if passed, will result in even more societal division in our county because it relies on property taxes. I read the entire Prop 5 ordinance and I believe it telegraphs assumptions that low-income parents are not capable of providing quality care to their children. 

I did extensive searches and I cannot find a single jurisdiction in the United States that has implemented a property tax levy to pay for child care for children from 0-5 years. 

Read the entire ordinance before you cast your vote. It is so vague, full of far-reaching promises that cannot possibly be met. Vote NO for this 10-year tax levy. Our kids deserve a better plan.

—Delores Davies, Ferndale, Oct. 26, 2022

Ramel is an honest, hard-working and truthful person

To the Editor:

State Rep. Alex Ramel deserves our vote for re-election. During his time in the legislature Alex has continuously stood up for working families and healthy communities. He was a leader in developing our State Energy Strategy which will lower pollution, lower costs for working families and lead the way to energy independence, local resilience and good jobs.

With housing as one of the biggest issues facing our community, Alex was a leader in the legislature and supported the investment of $439 million for building affordable homes and the elimination of excise taxes for construction of affordable housing.

What I value most about Alex is that he is an honest, hard-working and truthful person. He cares about individuals and is always ready to listen to your story. As part of the 40th legislative team, he is an integral part of getting legislation passed.

Alex holds the position of Deputy Whip of the House Democrats and has a long list of endorsements from leaders across our region and at the local level. We are fortunate to have a leader like Alex in Olympia representing us. If you value honesty and integrity, please join me in supporting him this election.

—Judith Akins, Bellingham, Oct. 25, 2022

Details matter in Lopez community pool plan

To the Editor:

I read with interest “Lopez pool plan is making waves”—twice (Salish Current, Oct. 21, 2022).

A community pool on Lopez Island is, in and of itself, a sweet idea. But details matter. 

We asked FLIP to consider the impacts of an $8 million pool on our small rural community, specifically asking for design, long-term operational costs, water and energy use in a time of great climate stress, and who will ultimately shoulder the associated costs. We have received little data. Instead, our assumptions are based on other local pools. 

In San Juan County, local wage earners receive some of the lowest incomes in the state. If indeed 11% of the population is in support of the pool (as stated by FLIP in 2009), how will approximately 300 members support up to $450,000 annual maintenance plus fund reserves, property taxes, scholarships…? The article quotes FLIP as having a five-year “sustainable” operational plan. What happens years six and beyond? Will voters decide that property taxes should be levied to support the pool? What about the impacts on working folk who already face ever higher property tax bills? 

Given a 92% swim test failure rate of school-age children, I wonder why the response was to build an $8 million pool? Why not a seasonal open-air pool coupled with an indoor water therapy room? Or purchase of wet suits and set about exploring the Salish Sea. Imagine children learning about the local sea and nearshore whilst learning to swim. 

We still await answers from FLIP. 

For the record, the seven signers of the letter to the FLIP Board in the article are of equal standing: David Bill, Chom Greacen, Sheila Metcalf, Henning Sehmsdorf, Elizabeth Simpson, Faith Van DePutte and myself.

—Sandy Bishop, Lopez Island, Oct. 24, 2022

Making early childhood support available to all

To the Editor:

As a retired educator who worked in the Bellingham School District for most of my career, I have met many incredible students and families. 

One family stands out—a mother with four young children ages 1–8, who was fleeing domestic violence—living in their car on the north side of town. Mom was working so hard to get back on her feet, but needed a little bit of help. Family liaison staff was able to secure housing, which allowed the older boys to enroll in school, and mom quickly found work. Soon, the younger boys enrolled in pre-K. Without that early intervention, those boys would have been far behind their peers and struggled through school just to catch up.

I’m glad to share that all four children are doing extremely well in school to this day (the oldest is now in high school). Mom was able to save enough money to buy her own home and the boys are thriving thanks to her deep love and commitment and the support of many from the community who have loved and cared for them. These boys now have a very promising future ahead of them and will undoubtedly be huge contributors to our community.

By many measures, this family could have had a different path but they were fortunate enough to meet the right people who could help. Many in our community have not been so fortunate and have tragically slipped through the cracks. Proposition 5 will put an end to this by making access to early childhood support intentional and available to all children in our community.

As a community, we can do better, and that’s why I am asking you to vote YES for Whatcom kids, Prop 5.

—Steve Clarke, Mount Vernon, Oct. 21, 2022

Rands endorsed by judicial colleagues, left and right

To the Editor:

In the Whatcom County judicial race, I recommend voting for Jonathan Rands. Having known Jonathan for over 20 years, I know he would be a fair judge, as he has an exceptional understanding of the law and judicial system and has served as a judge pro tem for other judges in the county. He is highly regarded by his colleagues—as is evident by the overwhelming number of judges and attorneys who have endorsed his candidacy.

In addition, he has been endorsed by groups of engaged voters on both sides of the aisle: the Whatcom County Republicans, the 42nd District Democrats and hundreds of community members of varying views. He is the recommended candidate in the Progressive Voters Guide and received the endorsement of the Cascadia Daily News. When left and right can agree on the same candidate, that speaks volumes to the impartiality needed for judicial work. At times, judges can create a judiciary that is activist in nature, but I see none of that in Jonathan. He works for the best outcome. His interest in a community court to solve problems and connect people with the resources they need to succeed is testimony to his nature of helping citizens, rather than sentencing them to jail.

I am proud to know him and call him a friend. I urge you to cast your vote for Jonathan Rands for judge.

—Nancy Hudson, Bellingham, Oct. 18, 2022

On the myth of economic mobility

To the Editor: 

Mauri Ingram’s “Economic mobility starts at birth” (Community Voices, Oct. 12) describes how a long-ago economic reality slowly—and largely unnoticed—morphed into myth. As she says, “The American story of economic mobility has persisted: Show up, work hard and enjoy the middle-class fruits of your labor. That used to be true. And now it isn’t.” 

Alas, it’s now largely a myth. As Ingram points out so well, without the considerable social capital some are born into—but many are not—showing up and working hard are far from sufficient to develop and to make the most of one’s talents and for society to benefit from those talents. 

It has been quipped that we all make three choices that largely determine the course of our life: Where we are born, when we are born, and who our parents are. Showing up and working hard are important—but be sure to make those three choices wisely. Hey, I did. Is it fair that my tax dollars support those who didn’t? 

— John Whitmer, Bellingham, Oct. 17, 2022

Shewmake is the climate champion we need

To the Editor:

We talk so much about “new normals.” 

Are heat waves, wildfire smoke and flooding really locked in as some of them? Climate change is real, man-made and worth addressing, and everyone needs to be included in our transition to a green economy. 

During her time in the state House, Rep. Sharon Shewmake has been the climate champion we need, sponsoring bills and supporting policy that is good for our environment and for people. This past session, Sharon wrote and championed a bill, HB1988, that will create more green jobs and develop new technology by providing eligible companies with tax deferrals. She also wrote and passed HB1814, allowing everyone to benefit from solar power through “community solar” projects, not just the wealthy. 

Sharon has always been a climate advocate; her first bill to receive a vote required utilities to break down their electricity mix on bills so consumers know where their power is coming from.

I’m in my mid-20s. On most days, the climate crisis seems overwhelming, but it gives me hope to know that we have someone in the legislature who advocates for practical, economic solutions. 

—Cole Harvey, Bellingham, Oct. 15, 2022

Vote ‘Yes!’ for San Juan library levy

To the Editor:

We love libraries … especially ours here on the island. It has ably served our needs but for the past number of years reality has hit: it’s limping, old, in need of repair, small and cramped, and goodness knows needs to be replaced. 

How has it impacted our household? The Tech Tuesday “class” has come to the rescue countless times when we fumble with our computers. Staff have found the books, new and old, that we requested for our reading and learning pleasure, it has the DVDs of the myriad films we have missed over the years, and hosted speakers presenting an array of very interesting and intriguing issues. We both have made presentations and to full, as in overflow, houses; for not just ours but for all the others the library brings.

Any increase in our property tax is far outweighed by the positive impact on us and what a new library and its extraordinary staff bring to our community. We urge you to go into the website for the library to learn more … about our/your library, and the levy: www.sjlib.org.

 Please join us in voting “Yes!” for the library levy. Our thanks!

 — Gay Graham and Ron Hanson, San Juan Island, Oct. 15, 2022

Alex Ramel is one of the stars

To the Editor:

It is the time before the election when I begin to search out the candidates whose stands reflect my own, and Alex’s line up with my values.

The issues I feel strongly about include sensible and responsible gun ownership, reformed sales requirements and background checks. Also crucially important is the environment we are leaving to our children and grandchildren. We no longer have the luxury of kicking the can down the road. 

We need strong leadership at every level of our government who will act NOW, and Alex will bring this in spades!!! He also has strong relationships with the other legislators in our district which empowers communication to move better responses to our issues, not to mention that he is a member of leadership as the deputy whip for the House Democrats. 

Bottom line is Alex has brought my voice to the legislature and I want to see him continue in that role. I am very proud of the membership of our Democratic team. Alex is one of the stars!! 

— Naomi Bunis, Bellingham, Oct. 12, 2022

Clark Point beach walking restored on Guemes Island

To the Editor:

After two years of community organizing and litigation, the Friends of Guemes Island Shorelines (FOGIS) is pleased to announce that the long-standing islander custom of beach walking has been restored on Clark Point. (“Keep walking, or keep off? Guemes beach-walking pushes question of private property versus public access” Salish Current, Jan. 27, 2022)

The landowner who had been obstructing walkers below the ordinary high-water mark has now sold his property to new owners. The new owners immediately and graciously agreed to respect this island practice and custom. After submitting this written agreement with the new owners to the court, FOGIS filed to dismiss our lawsuit in Skagit County Superior Court and it is now resolved.

We would like to thank Brendan Donckers, our terrific attorney, and his law firm, Breskin Johnson and Townsend PLLC. They provided us great legal work and showed great commitment to seeing this cause through all the judicial twists and turns.

Starting from a small circle of impacted neighbors, FOGIS has grown to over 350 members who, with generous financial support, made this effort possible. Thanks to all our contributors and supporters on and off the island. Thanks to all the artists, writers, keepers of the books and membership lists, many Zoom attendees, and Board members. Thanks to all the Guemians who submitted evidence through testimony of this island practice which goes back over a century. You have helped pass on an island legacy to the next generation.

FOGIS intends to compile the legal documents and islander testimonies for archival purposes and storage at the island library. We have put together the legal arguments and the case law around this issue of public access to tidelands. This will be a valuable resource should the issue arise again.

We will stay organized and active to make sure that beach-walking will be preserved for future generations. Keep on walkin’!

— Pete Knutson, Chair, Friends of Guemes Island Shorelines, Oct. 12, 2022

Favors Rands for integrity — and animal love

To the Editor:

We had the pleasure of meeting Jonathan Rands a number of years ago at a fundraiser benefitting the animals of Whatcom County. As a defense attorney, he is known for having integrity, a strong work ethic and being committed to the rule of law. Over the years, we have also come to know Jonathan as a fellow animal lover who supports a number of local, nonprofit organizations throughout this community. He has chosen to invest his extra time and resources by sponsoring and attending many fundraising events for pet rescue organizations, wildlife charities and other animal-related causes. 

More than a decade after that first meeting as a result of our mutual love and compassion for animals, we are proud to say we will be voting for Jonathan Rands for Whatcom County District Court Judge. Not only because he is qualified for the position, but also because his family shares their home in Ferndale with rescued puggle Max, a former stray cat named Maverick and a small flock of chickens.

— Jennifer and Jason Sonker, Bellingham, Oct. 8, 2022

Checking your drug death figures

To the Editor:

I enjoyed reading Mike Sato’s story on “From the Editor’s Desk: Fact-checking the House candidates” and appreciated the citations for where the facts were checked, but check your figures when discussing drug deaths per 100,000. It’s 81.4 per 100,000 drug deaths or 0.0814%. Still very high just below a tenth of a percent.

Thanks for the good reporting

— Mary LeDonne, Bellingham, Oct. 8, 2022

Student views on ferry service nixed by county council

To the Editor:

The Ferry Advisory Committee met with the San Juan County Council in Friday Harbor on Thursday to discuss the ferry service in the county. The Spring Street School pupils from Orcas and Lopez had prepared a joint statement from their perspective of the effect of the ferry service for them because the students from those islands were unable to attend school because of the ferry service. Their teacher sent a message to the council who was told the night before the meeting of the council that the council would not take any public comments.

My concern is that the students had prepared their statement jointly and were turned away without any consideration except for the brief note from the council. I don’t find this considerate of time and exercise spent on behalf of the students. Nor do I think it was encouraging of people who will become voters and I would hope good citizens.

— Linda Henry, Eastsound, Oct. 6, 2022

Proposition 5 meets specific needs

To the Editor:

I’m voting for Proposition 5, the Healthy Children’s Initiative, because it will provide early learning and child care programs throughout the county that meet the specific and unique needs of children and families. 

The Healthy Children’s Fund won’t provide a one-size-fits-all solution to the child care shortage, because Whatcom County isn’t a one-size-fits-all county. Whatcom County has a beautiful and diverse population and each family wants something specific for their children. And they should be able to make the choice that works for them.

Early learning and child care programs vary in the types offered, including options to enroll siblings together in full-day care in a center, infant care in a safe and nurturing home-based program, part-time preschool, options for parents who want to stay home full-time with their children, care that provides transportation to/from a developmental preschool, and that’s just to name a few! We need to make sure children and families have access to the high-quality options they can choose from, not the first and only program to have an opening. 

Because there is a focus on quality, affordability, accessibility and recruiting/retaining great early childhood educators, Prop. 5 will make sure families have options that feel supportive and welcoming in all areas of the county, with a variety of program models, run by high-quality providers. 

The teachers who cared for my babies were kind, nurturing and exactly who I needed to help me navigate my new life as a mother. I want that for any of the 10,000 young children in Whatcom County that want early learning opportunities.

Meredith Hayes, Bellingham, Oct. 3, 2022

Fund child care with employer payroll tax

To the Editor:

Whatcom County, like much of the nation, lacks sufficient quality child care and educational opportunities for children from birth to age 5.

The Healthy Children’s Fund, Proposition 5, is a property tax levy on the November ballot. Proposition 5 has not been adequately explained to voters. Who allocates the tax funds? Will funds go to for-profit entities? Only non-profit? Will religious-based child care organizations receive funds? Who provides oversight? What are the plans to assess quality? Who assesses quality? How often will assessments be given to the public? 

There is broad public support for early childhood education and child care programs, but to what extent is this a public or private responsibility? 

One rationale for Proposition 5 is that it would enable parents to more easily and confidently participate in the labor force. The child care crisis is weighing on labor force participation, particularly among mothers. When it comes to paying into a functional child care system, businesses are freeloaders. One option is lawmakers should consider a small employer child care payroll tax, that is not passed on to employees.

Businesses pay property taxes at the state and local level, but businesses do not contribute a cent of dedicated funding to child care. Or, short of levying an additional tax on businesses, why not permanently allocate a portion of business property taxes to child care?

Early child care programs serve academic and socioemotional ends, too. No business is free from needing high-quality child care systems, both now and in the future.

A payroll tax as an option for funding child care has the inherent advantage of strong fiscal sustainability since this type of funding has access to a consistent and reliable source of income.

I acknowledge the need for quality child care, but I will be voting NO on Proposition 5. I suggest the promoters of this scheme go back to their drawing boards.

Delores Davies, Ferndale, Oct. 3, 2022

Child care discussion needs more imagination

To the Editor:

Our conversations related to child care and early education suffer from a lack of imagination. What we’ve been doing since women entered the labor force in great numbers in the 1960s is not working.

We devalue our children’s needs by insinuating their daily care collides with market work outside the home.

Pew Research found that 79% of Americans reject that women should return to what has been viewed as their traditional role. Yet when asked what is best for young children, only 16% of adults said having a mother who works full time is “the ideal situation.” Among full-time working moms, only 22% said that a full-time working mom is ideal.

Pew Research also found that among millennials, a majority of men would be willing to be stay-at-home dads if the societal stigma associated with that choice was mitigated.

I had a conversation about child care needs with Lady Bird Johnson in the mid-1980s. She said a paradigm shift was warranted — why weren’t parents challenging assumptions that their opportunities would suffer if they interrupted participation in the workforce at least until their child started school?

Lady Bird said we needed to design workplace systems that fully engage families in their children’s care. While admitting it would take time to accomplish, she maintained it was possible to create such conditions. If we indisputably value the well-being of our children, our culture wouldn’t consider time out for caregiving as a black hole on a résumé or a detriment to the economy. 

By failing to honestly address our social weaknesses, our country accumulates more of them. Our nation’s children are our greatest asset — our precious treasure. We must ensure that as working parents juggle their many responsibilities, we support them with workplace policies that let them stay home, or at least work part-time, in their child’s formative years with no harm to their future success in the workforce. 

That concept is absent in the Proposition 5 conversation.

Micki Jackson, Bellingham, Oct. 1, 2022

Shewmake is a clear contrast from Sefzik

To the Editor:

Do you expect your elected representatives to be knowledgeable, experienced, effective, trustworthy? I know I do. I also expect it of candidates for public office.

recent City Club forum for the 42nd Legislative District featured state senate candidates Sharon Shewmake (currently our state representative) and Simon Sefzik (appointed earlier this year by the Whatcom County Council to complete the term of late Sen. Doug Ericksen).

What a contrast. As an interim candidate before the county council, Sefzik had appeared moderate, reasonable and well-mannered. As a general election candidate, he was in attack mode from the outset — yet mysteriously evasive when asked his position on protecting women’s reproductive rights.

Shewmake, on the other hand, was straightforward, composed, impressively in command of and focused on local and state issues, clearly committed to public service and her constituents. When she tells us she will protect our civil and reproductive rights, we can believe her.

Fact-checking of that forum by the Salish Current showed Shewmake to be truthful, and Sefzik to shade the truth as often as not.

During four years in the state House, Sharon Shewmake has delivered for us, big time: lowering taxes on home sales for most homes, funding flood recovery and local schools, helping eliminate the B&O tax for small businesses, passing the Working Families Tax Rebate and supporting a capital gains tax on the super-wealthy that goes to schools.

We already know and trust Sharon. Now we need her in the Washington State Senate!

Myra Ramos, Lummi Island, Sept. 30, 2022

Shewmake serves 42nd District best

To the Editor:

The KGMI candidate debate on Sept. 27 made clear to me that Sharon Shewmake is by far the best person to serve the 42nd District in the Washington State Senate. 

I found Sharon’s performance in the debate straightforward, knowledgeable and courteous. For example, I was impressed by her clear explanation of the factors driving inflation in Washington State and which of those can be effectively addressed by the Washington State Senate. This indicates to me that Sharon has the analytical capability to grasp complex issues and the political experience to focus on what can be realistically achieved by the organization in which she serves.

In contrast, I found Simon Sefzik’s debate performance to be light in content and arrogant in tone. He talked in generalities about his own ideas and used most of his time during the debate to attack Sharon’s record in the Washington State Legislature. Throughout the debate, Simon’s consistent reference to Sharon as “Sharon Shewmake” instead of speaking to her directly by saying “you” or “your” sounded petty and condescending. It made it apparent to me that Simon does not have the temperament of a team player; whether that team is as simple as two people presenting a debate on KGMI, or the many teams that he would be called on to serve on as a state senator.

We need a senator in Olympia who has a clear, in-depth understanding of issues facing Whatcom County and the ability to work effectively with constituents here in Whatcom County and colleagues in Olympia to move us all ahead.

Salish Current readers, please vote for Sharon Shewmake for Washington State Senate.

Myra Harmer, Bellingham, Sept. 29, 2022

Speak up for climate action

To the Editor:

I strongly urge community members to watch and provide input to the City of Bellingham’s upcoming third-in-the-series of town hall meetings this coming Monday, Sept. 19, at 6:30 p.m. This meeting, Community Voices on Funding Priorities, focuses on the city’s budget priorities.

Why should you attend? Because this is your opportunity to urge the city to prioritize funding climate action!

Climate activists already know that time is of the essence in implementing the multitude of climate justice measures that will transition us to a carbon-zero future. Future generations and life on Earth depend on it. But now there is an additional reason: the recent passage of Congress’ IRA Act, which primarily funds the transition to renewable energy in America. 

Soon, cities, counties and states will line up to bid for funding made available through this legislation. The city will undoubtedly also do so. Currently the city’s official climate staff is only one person. They would be in a much better position to successfully bid for climate-related funding if their budget reflected climate action as a priority. A current staff of one is not much of an advertisement for that.

The city needs to hear that YOUR funding priority is climate justice! and that you strongly recommend the city’s budget shows their commitment to expanding their climate staff and their climate change efforts.

Community members are invited to participate via Zoom as well as watch via live stream and BTV. Go here for details on how to join the meeting and sign up to speak.

If you can’t make the meeting, you can still voice your support in these ways:
• by mail (210 Lottie Street, Bellingham, WA 98225)
• online
• by telephone (360-778-8200)

— Betsy Gross, Climate Activist and Community Member, Bellingham, Sept. 16, 2022

Good work!

To the Editor:

Enjoyed DeVaux’s article explaining the San Juan Islands National Monument designation. (“San Juan Islands National Monument: where’s the plan?”) Keep up the good work.

— Lee Sturdivant, San Juan Island, Sept. 10, 2022

Sefzik’s ‘big fat check’ was scholarship money

To the Editor:

In fact-checking the fact checker [“From the Editor’s Desk: Fact-checking state Senate candidates,” Sept. 2, 2022], Simon Sefzik did get $3,500 from the NRA Foundation for a college scholarship in 2017 (date on the check) when he was still a Ferndale High School student. 

But he personally did not receive a “big fat check” — this may be splitting hairs, but the $3,500 scholarship money went directly to Patrick Henry College.

— Micki Jackson, Bellingham, Sept. 2, 2022

Council vote not appropriate

To the Editor:

The photo caption to your story “Court rules: San Juan County to vote on charter amendments,” (Salish Current, Aug. 18) says:

“… in the public session that followed, council members voted unanimously not to advance four charter amendments proposed by the charter review commission.”

I must point out that the San Juan County Council has no authority to vote on charter amendments submitted to them by the San Juan County Charter Review Commission. Their role in this process is purely ceremonial: The charter review commission submits its proposed charter amendments to the county council which is then obligated to forward them to the county auditor, as is, in a timely fashion. The council does not get to decide whether or not to forward the charter amendments, so no vote, either up or down, is appropriate or legal.

The council did receive bad advice from the county prosecuting attorney, but they still had no right to hold those amendments back from the ballot. And they intentionally ran out the clock so there would be no public input on this. They also failed to include on the agenda for their Aug. 2 meeting that they were going to be taking that vote.

I think it’s important that people understand this because, apparently, the San Juan County Council does not yet understand it.

— Sharon Abreu, former Charter Review Commissioner, Orcas Island, Aug. 19, 2022

Ramel is environmental champion fighting for big solutions

To the Editor:

As the climate crisis becomes ever more present in our lives, we need to fight for solutions at all levels of society. State Rep. Alex Ramel has long been doing just that, and for the past three years he’s taken his skills to Olympia.

Alex was instrumental in helping develop our State Energy Strategy, which will reduce pollution, lower costs for working families, put tens of thousands of people to work at good paying jobs, and help us move toward energy independence. 

During the past two sessions, Alex has helped implement important parts of that strategy, including clean building, green hydrogen, and electric vehicle charging infrastructure. He knows there is much more to do, and he will be at the forefront of this effort at the state level.

In addition, Alex worked to more than quadruple funding for community solar incentives in 2022. He also developed and championed legislation to massively expand building energy efficiency standards.

In Alex’s leadership position as deputy whip for the House Democrats, he brings his knowledge, coalition-building skills, and the voices of the district to the decision making table. Ballots are due by Aug. 2.

Timothy Manns, Mount Vernon, July 24, 2022

Ramel excellent partner with local government

To the Editor:

Rep. Alex Ramel is an excellent partner with the local government. He stays in communication with local elected officials regarding state-level decisions during the legislative session and is always willing to take our perspectives back to the decision making table in Olympia.

He has been a leader in protecting our environment for years, and now as a state representative Alex has been a key contributor in developing our State Energy Strategy as we make progress on dealing with our urgent climate crisis. At the local level the policies put in place will lower pollution and costs for working families, while also providing good prevailing wage jobs in the renewable energy sector.

We also know that housing costs are a major reason for the rising cost of living. Alex has worked especially hard to increase construction of multifamily housing and missing middle housing, and to support organizations that increase homeownership like community land trusts. 

Alex has the sole endorsement from a range of local and state organizations including the IAFF Bellingham/Whatcom Co. Fire Fighters Local 106, Washington Education Association, the Washington State Nurses Association, Washington Conservation Voters and the Teamsters Joint Local 28.

I look forward to continuing to work with Alex as a member of the legislature. Join me in supporting Alex Ramel for re-election. 

— Barry Buchanan, Bellingham, July 20, 2022

Negative ads and mailers deserve fact-checking

To the Editor:

My least favorite thing about elections are the negative ads and mailers. It’s hard to know what’s true and what’s not. I got one last week about Sharon Shewmake that sounded off and so I looked up all the bills they referenced. As best as I can tell, the bill she voted for, SB5998, lowers rather than raises taxes on most people. 

Yes, Sharon voted to lower taxes. If you sell your home, odds are you will now pay less thanks to Sharon. If your house is really expensive (over $1.5 million), you’ll pay slightly more in taxes. That’s the truth. You can look it up yourself. [Dept. of Revenue]

My point is, don’t believe what you read. If it’s paid for by corporate PACs, double-check. They aren’t honest. They don’t want honest politicians to win.

— McKenna Kelly, Arlington, July 19, 2022

Requests clarity in endorsement fact-check

To the Editor:

I’m writing regarding “From the Editor’s Desk: Fact-checking the candidates” from July 15. As a librarian and educator, I’ve spent the last several years on the front lines of the battle against misinformation, so I appreciate your staff taking the time to fact-check candidates’ statements in the 42nd legislative district forums.

However, I do feel the need to address the fact check of state representative candidate Richard May’s statement about receiving all of the environmental endorsements in this election. The Salish Current issued a correction to clarify that Mr. May did not actually receive the endorsement of Washington Conservation Voters because they don’t endorse primary candidates, but a glance at WCV’s website shows that they have endorsed dozens of candidates already. Three of these candidates are in Whatcom County — one of them has two opponents, and another is facing a fellow Democrat. Additionally, the paragraph regarding Mr. May’s endorsements still lists WCV as one of the organizations that have endorsed him.

I’m sure there are readers who will dismiss my concerns on the grounds of mere semantics, but being that I’ve read a not insubstantial number of papers over the last decade, I would counter that clarity is important in order to ensure that meaning is understood. The way the correction was issued is confusing. Confusion feeds misinformation. The last thing any of us want to do is to feed that particular beast.

— Stephanie Allen, Bellingham, July 18, 2022

[Editor’s Note: Salish Current policy is to leave original news copy as published and make any and all corrections separately in a timely manner. The original article was published on July 15 after which we learned of the miscommunication between candidate May and WCV, and WCV not endorsing House candidates in the 42nd. On July 19, we issued the update: Washington Conservation Voters has not endorsed 42nd District House candidates but allowed May to include its name on his campaign brochure because of a communication error.” On July 20, both WCV and candidate Joe Timmons notified us that WCV had made an endorsement of Timmons. That fact may be an item for an update to the campaign but not an additional correction to the original news story of July 15.

Don’t be fooled by falsehoods and innuendo

To the Editor:

In some quarters Simon Sefzik’s interim appointment to the state Senate after the death of Sen. Ericksen is being called a “political favor” to Rep. Sharon Shewmake, who is a contender for that Senate seat in this year’s election. This sounds to me like a not-so-subtle attempt to undermine Shewmake’s reputation.

I was in the audience when the county council picked Sefzik, and that’s not how it looked to me. The county Republicans provided three candidates to choose among. Tawsha Thompson had even less political experience than young Sefzik. Ben Elenbaas refused to relinquish his county council position if he were appointed to the Senate, stubbornly insisting he could do both jobs at the same time. Given the candidates’ responses to a common questionnaire, the council made the reasonable choice for a temporary caretaker till the current election.

Voters, don’t be fooled. Beware of candidates who use falsehoods and innuendo as campaign tactics. The only reason to do so is because they don’t believe the truth will work in their favor. 

Rep. Shewmake doesn’t need any “favors.” She’s running on her own very effective legislative track record. Check the facts before you vote.

— Nancy Ging, Bellingham, July 17, 2022

Cast vote for Jonathan Rands for judge

To the Editor:

Most voters don’t know who to vote for when it comes to judges. But we all know that there are certain qualities we expect in our judges — integrity, legal experience and accomplishment, fairness, and a good balance of both compassion and accountability. In short, we have a right to expect that our judges be the best the legal profession has to offer.

I have had the opportunity to meet with all three candidates for District Court judge this year and have found Jonathan Rands is head and shoulders above his opponents. For 20 years, Jonathan has been representing ordinary folks in our county’s District Court, and in my view, he understands the challenges of making our communities safer and healthier places to live and work. Jonathan has shown a willingness to be an innovative leader and someone who listens to the many different voices in our county. We need his depth of experience and his integrity. 

Jonathan is the only candidate in this race who has earned the endorsement of both parties. We need more judges who understand that the core of an equitable justice system comes from our Constitution and the Rule of Law. Jonathan Rands, in my opinion, will be a judge who will ensure due process and will protect our Constitutional rights in the courtroom. 

I urge you to cast your vote for Jonathan Rands for Judge.

— Dan Robbins, past Bellingham Port Commissioner, Bellingham, July 15, 2022

Extinguish gun violence from our culture

To the Editor:

Once again, another community is devastated by a shooter massacring innocent people. Mass shootings are nearing an all-time high of two daily in our country. Death by guns is now the leading cause of death among American children.

In 2018, there were about as many guns as people in our country. We must reduce gun violence through enacting effective regulation of gun sales. Offer incentives such as gun buy-back programs. Ban military style weapons. Require background checks, safe storage, red flag laws.

Raise the age to purchase guns to 25. Require training. Require a permit, to be renewed annually. Teachers have to submit to a background check annually to teach. Why shouldn’t gun purchasers be required to do the same? 

Sadly, as an educator, more than one of my students has committed suicide. Access to an unsecured gun at home was a factor. Brain research tells us that the frontal lobe of the adolescent brain, which regulates impulsivity, is not fully developed until age 25. 

Our constitution grants the right to “bear arms” and references “a well-regulated militia.” It is high time we defined what these terms mean in 2022, not 1791. I demand action from our legislators to extinguish gun violence from our culture. If we do not, you, your family, or your friends may be next.

— Nancy Kelley Sheng, Bellingham, July 11, 2022

Ramel stands up to big oil and gas

To the Editor:

Big oil and gas are targeting Alex, because he has the courage to stand up to them, while protecting our environment and communities with leading climate legislation. Alex knows that corporations can’t buy your vote, and he has confidence that voters will again make your voices heard louder than corporate money influence in our local elections.

In addition to standing strong for the climate, Alex has supported measures to make our communities safer by passing gun violence prevention bills. Gun violence is out of control in our country right now, and Alex supported the passage of three important gun laws here in Washington this past legislative session. The limitation on high-capacity magazines, a restriction on untraceable “ghost guns” and the law that prevents open carry of guns at public meetings like school boards. This is why Alex is the only candidate in the race who has been endorsed by the Alliance for Gun Responsibility.

To address the ferry service crisis, Alex helped pass $350 million for workforce training and retention that is badly needed to get the ferry system back on track. He also helped fund four new hybrid-electric ferries to replace the aging fleet that is currently struggling to keep up.

Alex listens to his constituents and always looks for opportunities to find common ground. He is already in a leadership position, as deputy whip of the Democratic caucus, let’s keep that important representation we have there with Alex at the table.

Please join me in voting to send Alex back to Olympia to fight for our communities best interests. The primary election ballot deadline is August 2nd.

— Michael Karp, Bellingham, July 11, 2022

In support of Alex Ramel

To the Editor:

I have lived in Whatcom County for almost 20 years and am in FULL support of 40th Legislative District State Representative Alex Ramel for reelection. 

Alex has the courage to stand up to big corporate polluters. He has shown this throughout his three years in the state legislature by championing climate legislation that is making our state a leader in green energy and climate-friendly energy policy. Alex is an environmental champion and has proven this in his limited time in the legislature. 

He was a prime sponsor of HB1287, to coordinate mapping and planning for electric-vehicle charging stations and electricity supply. Alex worked to more than quadruple the budget for community solar incentives in 2022. He developed and championed legislation to massively expand building energy efficiency standards, while he also pushed efforts to increase affordability of homes built using the state’s multifamily tax exemption 

Alex has the support of prominent environmental organizations, such as the Washington Conservation Voters and Sierra Club. While also gaining endorsements from a range of labor unions including healthcare workers, teachers, state employees and the Washington State Labor Council.

Big corporate polluters are backing Alex’s opponent in this race, because they know Alex has the strength to stand up to them. We know Alex is fighting climate change and pushing for smart policies that make our communities healthier and that lower costs for working families. 

Alex knows how to build bridges between those of us concerned about the climate crisis and workers in energy sectors, who will be part of our states’ just transition away from fossil fuels.

I ask you to join me in voting for Alex Ramel this summer on the Aug. 2 primary ballot.

— Suneeta Lara Eisenberg, Bellingham, July 5, 2022 

Who is a mass shooter?

To the Editor:

Regarding your item on gun violence and protocols after shootings and threats, (“Schools assess safety protocols after shootings, threats” Salish Current, June 17, 2022) I offer this article, “Two Professors Found What Creates a Mass Shooter. Will Politicians Pay Attention?” (Politico Magazine, May 27, 2022.)

Thanks for presenting the information on gun violence.

— Gene Derig, Anacortes, June 17, 2022

In support of Lighthouse Mission expansion

To the Editor:

I support the expansion of the Lighthouse Mission building on Holly and F Street. While I am well aware of the concerns raised by those who live close to the Mission, I think those concerns are born more from NIMBY sentiments than by the risk of any increased risk of open drug use or theft. Those are already issues in the Lettered Streets and I doubt that expansion of the Mission building will significantly increase those problems.

However, as we probably would all agree, homelessness in our community is a significant and growing issue, one that in all probability will continue to increase. The city must support increasing the available beds for the homeless as well as to prepare for future increases in that population. The Mission property has been in use for this purpose for many years and is well positioned to continue in that role.

Most importantly, the Lighthouse Mission has an ongoing rehabilitation program that has an admirable record of helping people free themselves from their addictions and maintain a drug-free status. While the percentage of homeless that they are able to successfully engage in their rehabilitation program may be relatively small, the effect is to reduce the number of homeless.

To my knowledge, there are no other proposals currently under consideration that provide shelter for an equivalent number of homeless and certainly none that combine low-barrier shelter with an ongoing rehabilitation program. The Lighthouse Mission fills an important need in our community and deserves everyone’s support.

— John Dunne, Bellingham, June 17, 2022

Sefzik should not take the credit

To the Editor:

“My grandfather once told me that there were two kinds of people; those who do the work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the first group; there was much less competition.” — Indira Gandhi quoting Mahatma Gandhi

State Sen. Sefzik took credit for the $7.5 million in flood relief funding in his mailer and on Facebook referring to Senate Bill 5693. He voted against SB5693.

Since he voted against the bill funding flood relief it is deceptive for him to take credit for it. Rep. Sharon Shewmake and Rep. Alicia Rule both voted for the final version of this bill. Sharon and Alicia also led the way on securing flood relief funding in early January prior to Sefzik’s appointment. Sharon and Alicia also showed up in the Sumas area to assist flood victims.

The bill supported by Sharon Shewmake and Alicia Rule included:

  • $20 million in statewide programs to support small businesses recovering from natural disasters
  • Another bill to support farmers and ranchers recovering from natural disasters
  • $2 million from the capital budget to buy frequently flooded properties in Whatcom County, as well as making targeted investments around the community
  • $2 million to repair and prepare schools in the Nooksack Valley School District
  • $14 million to elevate Slater Road to eliminate road closures from flooding, equal to the estimated cost of a proposal provided by the Lummi Nation in 2020
  • $2 million to replace Whatcom County Fire District 8’s Station 34 which serves Marietta and Lummi Peninsula and whose response can be critical during floods
  • A “down payment” of $500,000 for local planning and an additional $250,000 to support international planning

I request that Sen. Seftzik stop gaslighting his constituents. If he supported flood relief he should have voted for it and not simply taken credit for Sharon’s and Alicia’s hard work for our Sumas-area residents.

Andronetta Douglass, Bellingham, June 15, 2022

Some thoughts on the gun violence most recently witnessed in Uvalde, Texas

To the Editor:

In the wake of the brutal torture-murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till while visiting his uncle in Mississippi in 1955, his mother insisted his body be returned to their hometown, Chicago, for a decent funeral. She further insisted upon an open casket so the mourners could see his swollen, unrecognizable face. [Editor’s Note, below*] Emmett Till’s mother’s raw courage in doing that is credited with reigniting the civil rights movement. 

Along with photos of the happy faces of the children mowed down in Uvalde by the assault weapon wielded by that 18-year-old, perhaps — with the consent of their parents — pictures should be shared of those corpses so mutilated it was hard to make positive identifications of many of them. Those cowardly Republicans who oppose bans on the sale of assault weapons should be compelled to view the consequences of being shot with assault weapons designed for military use. Maybe then, some Republican senators and governors might develop the backbone to stand up to the N.R.A.

Note also that, even as Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott repeated that these shootings are not gun problems but rather mental health issues, just the month prior he cut $211,000,000 earmarked for mental health resources from his state budget. He also proclaimed the need for more law enforcement. We have now learned the police waited over an hour before entering the school despite desperate 911 calls from trapped students. 

Imagine if, rather than a shooter, there had been a fire in that classroom: would firefighters on the scene have waited an hour to rescue trapped children? Fortunately, firefighters seem to be made of sterner stuff than armed police officers wearing bullet proof vests who too frequently seem more concerned with protecting their own lives rather than the lives of those they are supposed “to serve and protect.”

[*Editor’s Note — reader discretion advised: The letter writer provided a link to photos of Emmett Till’s open casket, one photo of which is linked here.]

Thomas Goetzl, Bellingham; May 28, 2022

Disappointed about decision to increase Lopez Island vacation rental permits

To the Editor:

We were among many Lopezians disappointed on May 17 when the San Juan County Council raised the number of vacation rental (VR) permits for Lopez Island to 135, almost 60% higher than recommended by the county’s own planning commission. The decision fell to council member Jamie Stephens because of a prior agreement in which each council member selects the number for their district (“San Juans adopt island-by-island rental cap,” Salish Current, May 18, 2022).

By charging visitors hundreds of dollars a night, VR business owners outcompete people seeking to live and work here full time. This contributes to a housing crisis reflected in extreme challenges in filling vacancies at the school, clinic and local businesses. VRs gobble up homes on the market and drive up prices. Six VR properties were sold in 2021 with a median price above $1 million. Stephens knew the facts: In 2020-2021, the number of property purchases with VR permits on Lopez was 240% of the previous 2 years, with over 90% of these ending up in the hands of people outside our community. Now over 80% of the active and compliant VR permits on Lopez are registered to out-of-county addresses and half of the buyers of Lopez VR property in 2020-2021 were corporations.

In justifying raising caps, Stephens made crucial alterations to the draft ordinance. The draft stated, “Some 240 individuals from Lopez submitted a separate petition to the planning commission and the county Council to limit short-term vacation rental permits.” Jamie struck the words “Some 240”. 

He also struck references to the negative impacts from VRs cited by Lopez residents. And he struck text that referenced VR impacts on our overwhelmed ferry system.

The housing crisis is complicated, but increasing VR permits is hard to undo and makes a bad problem worse.

More at http://tiny.cc/LopezVR and “Town Hall” on www.Lopezrocks.org.

— Chom and Chris Greacen, Lopez Island; May 22, 2022

Local solution needed for waste disposal

To the Editor:

San Juan Country Parks recently announced that the Town of Friday Harbor Waste Facility will be closing this month. The announcement couches this in terms of “Leave No Trace” ethics for visitors to our islands. No alternative waste facility is available on San Juan Island.

As an avid backpacker, hiker and kayaker, I understand leave-no-trace ethics, and I understand how this might apply to vacationers, but what about residents, especially those that live in their RVs because they cannot afford to own or rent a home on San Juan Island? The cost of bringing an RV to the mainland and back on the ferry for the sole purpose of dumping waste tanks is prohibitive. 

I am also concerned that residents or visitors may choose to dump their tanks onto public or private lands, given the lack of options on San Juan Island. This is both an environmental problem as well as a potential public health issue. How do we expect uninformed vacationing RVs with full waste tanks will deal with them?

I am disappointed with the Town and the County’s approach to this problem: let the mainland handle it. We need a local solution.

— Thomas Reynolds, Friday Harbor; May 17, 2022

Parking fees ‘an assault on poor and ordinary citizens’

The the Editor:

I just read Matt Benoit’s article on parking fees in Bellingham and the proposed solutions for collecting fees (“New parking rules on as Bellingham struggles with enforcement,” Salish Current, April 28, 2022).

The paid parking in Bellingham is an assault on poor and ordinary citizens. The meters that require apps on smart phones to pay surely discriminate against less fortunate citizens without these apps and maybe even the ability to understand the directions.

There must be a better way to generate revenue for city projects.

Once again ordinary citizens are footing the bill for the benefit of wealthier people with interest in Bellingham’s development.

This area is becoming an elitist enclave and the long-time residents are suffering.

Why not have the wealthiest people and business interests who benefit from services in Bellingham pay fees? The projects developers initiate create the need for more parking and [they] are profiting from their business activities.

The conditions I witness in Bellingham are global issues as the common good is being financialized worldwide.

Why aren’t those who are benefiting from the amenities and attraction Bellingham offers being paid by those benefiting from these, and or the very wealthy becoming willing to share their resources with a community that includes all of us?

My property taxes have risen so much and I understand some residents are moving away because they can’t afford to live here anymore.

Where is the community discussion around these issues?

City government could create citizens’ working groups to investigate these issues thereby utilizing truly democratic methods that encourage ordinary citizens to become active in civic affairs.

Again, parking meter issues may seem trivial but they represent larger more pervasive conditions that are a very real threat to democracy and the common good for all.

— Marcia Leister, Bellingham; April 29, 2022

Whatcom residents can help in the global refugee crisis

To the Editor:

How can ordinary people help in the global refugee crisis? 

Sponsor Circles is a new program launched by the U.S. State Department and partner organizations as an emergency response to the large number of recently evacuated Afghan families still waiting at U.S. miliary bases in the Middle East for resettlement to the United States. 

Through the program, groups of five individuals can form certified Sponsor Circles and are then matched with a newcomer family. This means welcoming/orienting the parents and children to the community and providing them with initial housing and integration services. There is also a similar Ukrainian sponsorship program, “Welcome.US,” launching on April 25, 2022.

A group of five local women—with the support of the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship and guidance from Sponsor Circles—has applied to resettle an Afghan family. 

There were many logistical steps including extensive training, completion of a detailed resettlement plan and raising the preliminary $2,275 per newcomer (all funds going directly to the family). We initiated this effort because of our commitment to the first Unitarian Universalist principle honoring the inherent worth and dignity of every person. We also believe that our community is made stronger through collective responses to humanitarian needs and support for our U.S. immigrant heritage.

Whatcom residents can respond to this global need immediately. You can support traditional resettlement groups such as World Relief through your monetary donations or support this particular Sponsor Circle by contacting me at ann.v.stevenson@gmail.com. Our greatest needs are housing possibilities for a family of four or five and employment possibilities.

— Ann Stevenson, Bellingham; April 28, 2022

Real consequences when local reporting disappears

To the Editor:

Apropos the upcoming forum on (the need for) local journalism, (“Forum set on vital need of local journalism for strong democracy,” Salish Current, Feb. 18) I’d like to share a section of a letter I wrote to your guest Margaret Sullivan after reading her book “Ghosting the News: Local Journalism and the Crisis of American Democracy” a year and a half ago:

“I read your book with keen interest as I share your concerns about the very real consequences that follow from the disappearance of reporting at the local level. It is understood that when the media cease reporting on the doings of local government, local officials tend to become (more) corrupt. Here is just one notable example of such egregious corruption: City of Bell scandal.

It is further known that as such corruption increases, notice is taken by bond rating agencies and the costs of borrowing for local bonds (be they for schools, roads, or whatever) increase. When local governments are therefore required to promise a higher interest rate to sell their bonds, that very real economic burden inevitably falls upon local taxpayers. Either their local taxes must rise or they must make due with fewer amenities. 

Ah, what to do? My thought (not entirely original, I am sure) is that local taxpayers should be persuaded to pay an increased tax (property or other) in order to subsidize a local paper which would be charged with reporting on the spending activities of the local governments (city and county councils, school boards, water boards, etc.).”

— Tom Goetzl, Emeritus Professor of Law, Bellingham; Feb. 19, 2022

Heeding the words of The Nooksack Plan

To the Editor:

Kudos to Salish Current and to reporter Clifford Heberden for the excellent profile of the “Nooksack Basin’s complex challenge” (Salish Current, Feb. 17). This piece capably covers most of the important considerations and many of the key perspectives that must be faced and resolved in this century of changing climate and conflicting claims on the Nooksack’s gifts of water and fish.

Nearly 50 years ago, the Whatcom County Park Board commissioned Seattle-based landscape architects Jones & Jones to develop a “recreation plan” for the Nooksack River. With remarkable prescience, the firm’s founder Grant R. Jones wrote in transmitting The Nooksack Plan to the county in May 1973:

“The Nooksack is the key to the maintenance of the quality of life in Whatcom County, and no capital investment along the river’s edge can long be justified without control over the lands which contribute resources and energy to it. The ecosystem will need servicing and the watershed(s) sustaining any project area will have to be managed as a whole, including lands in the National Forest.”

Here we are in 2022, and we would do well to heed these words of The Nooksack Plan as our community gropes toward integrative solutions for the Nooksack Basin.

Ted Wolf, Bellingham; Feb. 19, 2022

Note of appreciation

To the Editor:

Thanks so much for sending [Salish Current reporter intern] Chris O’Neill my way. I think he did an excellent job on the article (“Moving from tragedy to hope — with clay,” Salish Current, Feb. 16, 2022). I really appreciate your mentoring of fresh journalists in our community and deeply honored to be a subject of his inquiry and writing. 

Chris Moench, Bellingham; Feb. 18, 2022

Two daily-news town needs opinion columns and reader feedback

To the Editor:

I agree with Ted Wolf that when the Bellingham Herald let opinion columns and reader feedback wither on the vine, they shut down a valuable community forum for exchanging ideas. (“Bellingham to be a two-newspaper town again — in a brave, new information world,” Salish Current, Jan. 21, 2022)

The Herald wounded its credibility when they stopped routinely publishing letters to the editor (LTEs). Newspapers generally accept the principle of accountability by admitting mistakes and correcting them promptly. Most publish criticism of their news efforts in the form of LTEs. By not publishing LTEs or regular opinion columns submitted by readers, trust is compromised.

My hope is that with a two-newspaper town, both papers— Cascadia Daily News and the Herald — will seek truth, report it and be willing to be accountable by cementing their trust with robust LTEs, opinion columns and other reader feedback.

— Micki Jackson, Bellingham; Jan. 25, 2022

Bellingham Weekly was once part of the local news scene

To the Editor:

Regarding newspapers in Bellingham: (“Bellingham to be a two-newspaper town again — in a brave, new information world,” Salish Current, Jan. 21, 2022). The [BellinghamHerald briefly had competition in 1971 or ’72 in the form of a weekly. The editor was a former employee of the Herald, and the venture was financed by Ken Keller in Blaine. Its offices were in the Blaine Journal. The reason I know about it is that I worked in the production department of the Blaine paper. Due to lack of revenue, Keller closed down the Bellingham Weekly.

— Jack Strauss, Bellingham; Jan. 25, 2022

The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy

To the Editor:

The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “The time is always right, to do what is right.” On this, nearly all of us agree. Where we tend to drift apart is what we think is “right.” It should be no surprise that what most concerns the League of Women Voters (LWV) is the right to vote since that is the cornerstone of our democracy. In the U.S. over the past 233 years, we have seen more access to voting for more of our citizens. But it has been a tough road with many potholes.

The members of the LWV recognize that the source of our power, compassion, conviction, brilliance and resilience as a country lies not only in our representative democracy but also in the diversity of our citizens. From our earliest days, wave after wave of immigrants have faced discrimination.

People of color can’t blend in unless we define who we are as the sum of our parts and embrace the diversity that makes our society rich. Some don’t recognize the benefit for themselves and others of doing what’s right and inviting the diversity on which we thrive. While it would be ideal if we could trust everyone to do right, we have a long tradition of creating laws that reflect that rightness. It is essential that on this Martin Luther King Jr. Day we guarantee the right and access to vote to all through the Freedom to Vote Act (S.2747) and restore and strengthen aspects of the bipartisan Voting Rights Act of 1965 through the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA).

Dr. King said, “No one is free until we are all free.” On this MLK Day it is important that we all commit to working for our own freedom by committing to work toward freedom for all— the freedom for all to participate in our democracy, to cast their vote alongside others in their community, and to provide their voice for how we can all live better and enjoy the riches that come with an engaged, diverse society.

— Joy Monjure, Everson; Jan. 13, 2022
President, League of Women Voters, Bellingham/Whatcom County

State, citizen groups win first round in lawsuit against Navy

To the Editor:

I was stunned when a federal magistrate compared the Navy’s official behavior to a drunk who “uses a lamppost for support, not illumination” in his Report and Recommendation filed Dec. 10. (State of Washington v United States Department of the Navy ) Then again, anyone who reads the five years’ worth of painstaking documentation that supported the lawsuit might have felt the same outrage. The Navy’s longtime habit of dismissing the substantive and well-informed concerns not only from individuals but also municipalities, federal and state agencies, and Tribes, has been called out by Judge Creatura. I hope politicians are listening. (“Community Voices / The loudest jets in the quietest park: How Growlers invaded the Olympics,” Salish Current, Nov. 4, 2021)

While this win is only the first round in court because the magistrate’s report must now go before a judge who will make the final ruling, it’s a testament to the power of ordinary people to come together in common cause and observe, document and take action against wrongdoing by a federal agency. It’s also proof of the power of citizens to initiate and sustain difficult community conversations, endure occasional harassment, and not give up, even though results can take years.

The magistrate found that the Navy violated the nation’s most basic environmental and procedural laws by (1) failing to adequately examine El Centro Naval Air Station in California as an alternative to Whidbey Island for its fleet of noisy, often low-flying Growlers; (2) failing to assess how Growler training is impacting children’s learning at nearby schools; (3) severely underreporting Growler fuel usage and greenhouse gas emissions; and (4) failing to properly assess impacts on bird species. 

What’s next is an appeals process with the ultimate outcome that the Navy could be forced to revisit these issues via another Environmental Impact Statement that examines alternatives it previously dismissed. What’s reassuring to me is the reaffirmation that nobody, not even the Navy, is above the law.

— Karen Sullivan, Port Townsend; Dec. 15, 2021

Island turkeys: weigh consequences before introducing foreign species

To the Editor: 

Your informative piece on turkeys (“Talking turkey in the San Juans: strutting the line between welcome wildlife and pest,” Salish Current, Dec. 10, 2021) provided both history of their introduction and current status. The case for turkeys remains unsettled however.

I would argue that the jury is still out on what long-term impacts these introduced birds have on native species. As we know, natural history is replete with examples of animals being introduced to islands with one intention (goats on San Clemente Island in California and the mongoose in Hawaii for example) and the results were to the detriment of many of the native species. I suggest that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife have a thoughtful and comprehensive consideration of the consequences of introducing any animal that has not historically occupied an area, particularly an island. In the case of the introduced turkey, it seems to have been a move to satisfy the interests of the hunting community rather than sustaining the proper balance of the native ecosystem that never hosted these birds.

— Tony Angell, Seattle and Lopez Island, Dec. 10, 2021

More on FCCs and affordable housing

To the Editor:

Thank you for covering the FCC issue (“Housing and growth issues surround Skagit County consideration of ‘fully contained community’ proposal,” Salish Current, Nov. 18, 2021). I would like to clarify that my suggestions about how growth might be handled without an FCC were meant in the context of the growth happening in the cities and not in the rural countryside. The issue of affordable housing tends to revolve around large apartment complexes. In fact, this is what the developers propose for the FCCs in their original submittal: 8- to 10-story apartment buildings for affordable housing in the FCCs. The developers assert that an FCC is necessary for affordable housing because often there is public resistance to large apartment buildings in residential neighborhoods in cities and towns. I was responding to this concern. Smaller minimum lot sizes (such as recently created in Anacortes and LaConner) as well as small-scale, multi-family buildings (duplexes, triplexes, etc.) are ways to expand the possibilities for lower cost in-fill housing in cities and towns without disturbing the residential nature of our cities and towns. I hope this clarifies my comments. Thanks again for bringing this issue to your readership.

— Margery Hite, Bow, Nov. 26, 2021

Saving an irreplaceable food source and an economic driver

To the Editor:

Thanks to Jacqueline Allison for her coverage of the salmon vigil. (“Vigil calls for more urgency to save endangered salmon, orcas,” Salish Current, Nov. 22, 2021This issue will only go away when the fish go away … or when we recognize that it’s okay to update 100-year-old technology for the sake of saving an irreplaceable food source. 

Just an aside, one aspect that has seen virtually no coverage is just how important the salmon are as a food source and economic driver to the West and the world. While reporters and pols are nodding to the loss of culture and food to tribal folks — and orcas — they’re missing an even larger more general loss to the entire world. It’s a stunning outcome to ponder.

Regardless, thanks for the coverage.

— Dean Ferguson, Lewiston, Idaho, Nov. 23, 2021

Fully contained communities — FCCs — no longer allowed in King County

To the editor:

Thank you for covering a developer’s proposal to amend the Skagit County Comprehensive plan to include Fully Contained Communities (FCCs) on Skagit rural lands. This is an important issue for all of us, and I appreciate the work and balanced approach that went into this article. (“Housing and growth issues surround Skagit County consideration of ‘fully contained community’ proposal” Salish Current, Nov. 19, 2021)

One correction, however. King County does NOT allow FCCs as is stated. King County tried FCCs in the past — and some of those large developments still exist, but King County no longer allows new ones to be built. U-181 of King County’s plan states: “Except for existing Fully Contained Community designations, no new Fully Contained Communities shall be approved in King County.” U-181 can be easy to miss, but it is in Chapter 2 “Urban Communities,” section I “Urban Communities,” of the 2016 King County Comprehensive Plan, most recently updated on July 24, 2020. The King County Comp Plan, including U-181, can be found in the link provided in the article. 

This may seem like a minor detail, but it is important as we in Skagit County consider whether or not FCCs, and the changes they will bring to our rural landscape, are a wise course of action. Only a small handful of Washington state counties have amended their growth management policies to allow FCCs, and of those, both Snohomish and King reversed course and have since banned them again. That choice, after having experimented with FCCs, seems significant.

I look forward to reading more about the FCC issue in Skagit County in Salish Current as this story develops.

— Beverly Faxon, Burlington, Nov. 20, 2021

Loving the Tesla experience

To the Editor:

William Dietrich’s recent article about his Tesla (Community Voices / Electric vehicles and the Tesla experienceSalish Current, Nov. 4, 2021) caught my eye, as I also bought one this past summer — and, coincidentally, it is the same make and color as his. He accurately describes my experience as a Tesla owner, although his article is more factual and data-referenced than my largely emotional relationship with my car. 

I was motivated to buy my Tesla both to do my part to lower my carbon footprint AND give myself a novel experience, and the Tesla does not disappoint. Almost nothing about both the purchasing and the driving experience is similar to cars I’ve purchased and owned in the past. All my other cars came with owner’s manuals, but I did not use them much. Not true with this car! I printed out the owner’s manual and keep it in the car, as I routinely need to look up information about something or other that I don’t understand, when I am driving. 

Dietrich accurately describes Teslas as computers on wheels. This car has every bell and whistle imaginable. There’s something for everyone. For example, my 13-year-old granddaughter quickly found the app that makes car-fart sounds, and my son-in-law loved how fast it accelerates from zero to 60. 

One thing I did not expect but which, in the end, I truly enjoy, is that owning a Tesla has raised the bar for car ownership for me. So much about driving it is unique and different, committing the owner to a new learning curve. Overall it’s fun, gratifying to drive because it doesn’t use fossil fuels (at least directly) and it’s a novel learning challenge!

— Betsy Gross, Bellingham, Nov. 9, 2021

Supports Russ Whidbee for Bellingham City Council

To the Editor:

We need a forthright voice for workers on our city council. An accountant such as Russ Whidbee internalizes the servant leadership ideal. That, coupled with the fiduciary responsibility to oversee and steward the best of Bellingham is what citizens need.

As an accountant, he will understand the nuances of the funding issues the council is regularly presented with. These issues don’t always get fully illuminated by city staff. With his unique skill set, he will know what questions to ask.

For instance, a surplus in a year that concessions were extracted from workers is wrong. We need the honest and hard-working employees of the city to be treated fairly.

Please — cast your vote for Russ Whidbee for the at-large city council position.

— Jael Komac, Ferndale, Oct. 23, 2021

Supports Kristina Michele Martens for Bellingham City Council

To the Editor:

I’m excited to vote for Kristina Michele Martens this year. She brings a fresh dose of optimism, experience and genuine stick-to-itiveness to every project she takes on. I have no doubt that she’ll work tirelessly for positive change in our community 

I’ve gotten to speak with Kristina on several policy issues facing Bellingham, and every time I’m impressed by her data-driven solutions that clearly consider all parties involved. Her path from restaurant worker to real estate agent to community activist gives her the unique ability to connect to historically underrepresented groups in our community and bring their vital voices into the political process. 

If my vote isn’t enough to convince you, take a look at the well-loved Bellingham organizations that support her. Unlike her opponent, Kristina is recommended by the Washington Progressive Voters Guide because of her strong desire to take smart, concrete action on affordable housing, climate change and racial equity. She is endorsed by the Whatcom Democrats, Lummi Nation, Planned Parenthood, Sierra Club, several local labor unions, the Riveters Collective and many more. 

These groups have deep connections to every aspect of our Bellingham community and only endorse the candidates they trust to run our city. As a small business owner in Bellingham I trust these groups and fully support their endorsement of Kristina.

— Natalie Ransom, Bellingham, Oct. 22, 2021

Supports Russ Whidbee for Bellingham City Council

To the Editor:

Russ Whidbee has 40 years of experience serving the community of Bellingham. Russ also happens to be a financial advisor. I believe the experience Russ would bring to the at-large position would be a great asset to the city council and the City of Bellingham, especially as we start endeavors to address alternate police responses and staffing issues. Russ has worked with programs such as Salt on the Street and the Kulshan Community Land Trust, giving him experience working with members of our community who are struggling. 

These are tough times and we need people who are ready to roll up their sleeves and do the job. Russ has been boots-on-the-ground and he knows what changes need to be made. He’s been working within the system for many years and now it’s time that we give him the opportunity to help steer the system. We need serious people, people who have had a commitment to our community working to help the most vulnerable among us. 

— Barbara Plaskett, Bellingham, Oct. 22, 2021

Supports Russ Whidbee for Bellingham City Council

To the Editor:

This is a letter in support of Russ Whidbee for the Bellingham City Council At-Large seat. His is the voice of a candidate who can hit the ground running due to demonstrated experience over the last 40 years. No need for Russ Whidbee to learn Bellingham’s political “lay of the land,” to learn how the city operates or to learn who does what so he can go directly to the one in charge to get things done. And he himself has gotten things done through his work on many boards, nonprofits and academic committees. The 42nd Legislative District Democrats, among many other organizations, have noted this and consequently endorsed his candidacy. 

These are just a few highlights of his 40-year career: Russ Whidbee worked successfully to have the Western Washington University (WWU) Foundation divest from South Africa. And he and his fellow students at WWU formed the basis of what was to become curbside recycling in Bellingham. And he worked behind the scenes with many of our police chiefs, advising them on Black experience with the police such as DWB (driving while Black), while actively defusing many encounters. And he has raised significant funding for the Kulshan Community Land Trust. And he was instrumental in founding the Birchwood Food Desert Fighters. And he has literally saved lives of the homeless while working with Salt on the Street Ministries. Furthermore, he is the only candidate with a degree in accounting and decades of financial and fiduciary experience that will prove useful when the council pours over the city’s budget. These are the reasons for which I support Russ Whidbee for city council. 

 — Dick Conoboy, Bellingham. Oct. 13, 2021

(Editor’s note: Due to missed communications, Mr. Whidbee was not interviewed for the article, “Election 2021: City, county candidates vary on police reform needs, approaches” Salish Current, Oct. 7, 2021) and subsequently was invited to submit a letter to the editor. Mr. Conoboy has responded accordingly.)

Public sector may be better solution than private for rural broadband internet

To the Editor:

The article by Ralph Schwartz (“Election 2021: Candidates vie to drive the engine of Whatcom County’s economic development” Salish Current, Oct. 8, 2021)on the candidates for the Bellingham port commission was well-written, complete and even-handed.The Bellingham port commission, as he mentions, is perhaps the least understood and appreciated of local public institutions, making his article especially valuable. 

Commenting here on just one issue mentioned in his fine article: Should expansion of broadband internet in the county be largely left to the private-sector or is the public-sector, i.e., the PUD, a better option?

Ken Bell, supporting the private sector, claims, “Affordability would come with competition.” Perhaps so, but private-sector competition rather than public-sector management doesn’t always result in greater affordability. When the private sector faces competition from public-sector offerings, greater affordability for the consumer, rather than greater profitability for the provider, often results. Some things are best done by the private sector, some not — the trick (if it can be called that) is deciding which is which. 

Ken Bell further supports mandates so private-internet carriers will be encouraged (required?) to serve remote, less lucrative areas of the county. That’s not an unreasonable position, but in my opinion when mandates are needed to encourage the private sector to do anything, it’s an indication that perhaps the public sector is the better option. 

That said, all can agree on one thing: high-speed, broadband internet is badly needed in many areas of Whatcom County. And irrespective of who does it, it must be done and done soon.

— John Whitmer, Bellingham, Oct. 9, 2021

Vaccinated in restaurants, still exposed to unvaccinated 12-and-under children

To the Editor:

I agree 100% that we should be supporting local businesses that are helping the community by assuring their employees and customers are vaccinated. I also encourage you to ask those establishments what their policies are regarding children under 12. If those who can’t be vaccinated are served, you might as well not check anyone’s vaccination status. I have been very disappointed on a couple of occasions when families with unmasked children under the age of 12 have been seated next to my table.

— Susan Wright, Bellingham, Sept. 10, 2021

San Juan County exemplifies state’s vaccination strategy

To the Editor:

Perusing the latest data on COVID infection and vaccination rates provided in Salish Current, San Juan County has the lowest infection rate in the state at 13% and the highest vaccination rate in the state at 77%. Cause and effect or just a coincidence?

— Gene Helfman, Lopez Island, Sept. 4, 2021

Guemes water strategies are instructive for all

To the Editor:

The Elisa Claassen article regarding the fresh water challenges on Guemes Island (“Water supply on Guemes: an island paradise faces challenges,” July 27, 2021) was indeed a timely and insightful piece. Its historical content combined with the contemporary realities is a powerful reminder of what we need to heed and plan for in our use of life-sustaining natural resources. Climate change is of course the stark reminder of the limits in what the earth can absorb or provide to our benefit. As the residents of Guemes Island face their environmental challenges, their adaptations and strategies for action will surely be instructive to us wherever we live. In this case, the island provides wisdom for the mainland.

— Tony Angell, Seattle and Lopez Island, Aug. 2, 2021

Salish Current makes for good Sunday reading

To the Editor:

The Salish Current does an EXCELLENT job of covering local issues and sharing content about regional issues that is published on other news sites. I don’t get the dead-tree edition of any Sunday newspaper anymore, so I’ve come to spend some time on Sundays with your weekly emails instead. Very, very informative. Your weekly emails are concise yet packed with lots of great content. Thank you, Salish Current!

 Kathy Sheehan, Bellingham, July 25, 2021

‘Water Watchers’ series details groundwater status on Lummi Island

To the Editor:

San Juan Islands’ fresh-water supply sustainability is in question” is an excellent article. I look forward to learning more about this important subject. We have been writing for the past seven months a “Water Watchers” series about Lummi Island dealing with the same situation the San Juans are.

— Mike Skehan, Lummi Island, July 24, 2021

Let others know our mail-in voting works well and support Senate Bill 1, For the People Act of 2021

To the Editor:

It’s voting time again here in Whatcom County and throughout our state. This time it is the primary election when we vote among candidates where there are more than two people running for positions in our towns and county. It is my right and responsibility to read the voters’ guide, to meet as many candidates as possible and to vote and return my ballot.

My vote should have as much (but no more) power than anyone else’s. Having met our county auditor, visited her office, observed neighbors working to confirm and validate my vote and being an authorized volunteer observer, I am confident of the honesty and reliability of our system.

But I am part of this large nation and I have lived in and voted in six states: NY, NJ, ND, IA, NM and WA. I have children and grandchildren voting in IA, KS, TX, CO, MT, CA and WA and I want them all to experience elections as well run as ours.

Join me in calling your friends and family around the country to let them know about our mail-in voting and how well it works. Ask them to call their senators to urge them to vote for Senate Bill 1, For the People Act of 2021, that would guarantee the right of qualified people to vote everywhere. 

We have weakened the voting rights law that we formerly had. There is organized scattershot legislation to making it more difficult to vote. Eligible voters throughout our land need to be welcomed as we are here. Vote. Defend democracy.

— Alyce Werkema, Lynden, July 23, 2021

Willows Inn reaches out to patrons

The following message shared with Salish Current for publication was received by a past patron of The Willows Inn on Lummi Island, responding to the New York Times article of April 27, 2021, “The Island Is Idyllic. As a Workplace, It’s Toxic.” Salish Current ran a community commentary about The Willows Inn on May 20, 2021, “Trouble in paradise: Lummi Islanders react to a national expose of its famous restaurant“.

“We are so saddened by the stories from our former staff that were published by the NYT last week. It has been extremely difficult to hear these accusations and read these comments from people that we worked with so closely for years. In the past several days we have put all our time and energy into supporting our current team and our families. 

“We recognize that the culture of our workplace in the past has caused people undue stress both emotionally and physically. 

“The restaurant industry for too long has created a culture that applies an extreme amount of pressure on everyone involved to create perfection from a chaotic environment. The hours are too long, the margins are too thin and the accepted norms of behavior are too extreme. 

“While we want to defend ourselves from what we feel like is a biased mischaracterization of our team and our sourcing practices, it is much more important for us to take accountability for the past and create a better future. 

“One point that must be clarified further is that no one on our team has ever reported sexual harassment or misconduct in the workplace to our management team. The stories from this article about those behaviors are absolutely devastating and can never be tolerated. 

“In recent years we have made intentional efforts to improve our hiring practices, provide HR support for our team and maintain a supportive and creative environment. We have adapted our schedules to give employees shorter work days, more time off and better wages. 

“In addition, we will be bringing an HR representative in house to help support our team and provide them an outlet for any issues. We also plan to provide further education and training for our management team in the areas of leadership, inclusion and diversity. Moving forward we will also create a paid internship program with free housing to help create better opportunities for a wider range of backgrounds in our kitchen. This work must continue and must be the priority for all of us.

“The Willows Inn and the industry as a whole needs to rally in support of the amazing individuals that create memorable experiences every night for guests around the world. No one from any level of experience or department should be treated with anything but the utmost respect for their dedication to hospitality. 

“It is our mission to move forward with the intentional gratitude and graciousness that will make our families, colleagues and community proud.”

— The Willows Inn, Lummi Island, May 4, 2021

To the Editor:

I was pleased to see the article on improving internet access in the county [“Internet connectivity has improved in Whatcom County, but many gaps remain”]. It is unfortunate that the improvement plan does not include the 14-mile stretch of Mosquito Lake Road — many families with school-age kids, many work-from-home types.

Also, the only real hope in the next few years is the Starlink internet satellite constellation, which is now available here on a limited basis but should have 100% coverage soon. Starlink is a very serious competitor to all other ISPs. I suggest that the author of your article investigate and report, since many residents out here in the bush have put down $ deposits and are waiting for hook up. Speeds up to 300mb down, revolutionary.

— Carl Franz, East Whatcom County, Feb. 26, 2021

How will visionary leadership work?

To the Editor:

Al Bergstein calls for visionary leadership in the Partnership bureaucracy and I wonder how that works [Community Voices / Thoughts on the Puget Sound Partnership and recovering Puget Sound].

I, too, have attended quite a few meetings over the years and he captures my observations and feelings well. I also would stress that the people involved seem dedicated and quite passionate and capable but many of the solutions seem beyond their job descriptions and organization capacities. And I have long been frustrated by the lack of simple and meaningful instructions for, and calls to action from, the millions of folks who live around the area.

Certainly some of the people I have seen have/had visionary leadership but it gets ground down as the slow wheels turn. I recall a few years ago when the Leadership Council issued a statement that riparian buffers be required to meet the Federal NOAA standards — which are quite strict — yet that has not always happened in practice because of our stresses on voluntary actions. 

— Pete Haase, Skagit County, Feb. 19, 2021

Follow up wanted on Lopez School funding

To the Editor:

Thank you very much, Hayley Day, for your excellent article about the funding shortfall facing San Juan Islands schools.

Do you have any idea why this problem has not seemed to be a priority for any of our state representatives? I read their newsletters and press releases and none of them ever even mentions it. And yet the school on Lopez is probably the single largest employer and the heart of the community. I find that curious.

Also, some of us on Lopez wonder about how the fundraising effort in 2020 to replace tax revenues with direct donations to the school went? I would love to know the rough percentage of those asked who gave, some idea of how successful that was.

Again, thank you very much for writing this article. This is a very serious issue that needs much more attention.

— Jane Ward, Lopez Island, Jan. 26, 2021

[Editor’s Note: According to School board member Chris Greacen,“We’ve been very happy with our 40th District reps, especially Alex Ramel, who went out of his way to organize a meeting with committee members in Education, Budget and Appropriations for us. No solution yet, but we’re aware this is a long-haul process.”

The Lopez Island School District reports that the District has received 222 donations totaling $69,120.21 to date.] 

McClatchy journalist thanks

To the Editor:

Kudos to the founders and writers at Salish Current for their ongoing coverage of Northwest Washington and beyond, including recent follow up on Whatcom County oil train derailment in December. As a longtime McClatchy/Gannett journalist, I thank Mike Sato for writing about unionizing efforts in McClatchy newsrooms in the Pacific Northwest.

— John Dodge, Olympia, Jan. 18, 2021

Declaiming the big lie

To the Editor:

If you are going to continue as a legitimate news organization, you must learn to self regulate. And while Ms. Sefzik is entitled to her opinion, the continuance of the big lie about the 2020 election needs to be identified as just that [ref. Community Voices / Democracy in AmericaSalish Current, Jan. 15, 2021].

A big lie that is not based in any fact. The big lie is a technique that was coined by Adolf Hitler, when he dictated his 1925 book Mein Kampf, about the use of a lie so “colossal” that no one would believe that someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.” Her statement should have been labeled as not factually based and is in fact a big lie. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from responsibility for one’s words. The big lie, along with four years of lies have led us to this point. A seditious attack on our Capitol in an attempt to overthrow a lawfully elected President.

I understand your attempt to try to report on all sides of an issue. But giving legitimate voice to known falsehoods does not advance the cause of good reporting or the desire to reunite a divided Country. Continuing to legitimize the big lie only helps divide us more.

I am disappointed you did not at a minimum disclaim the big lie.

— Steve James, Bellingham, Jan. 15, 2021

Restore the original vision for the San Juan Islands National Monument

To the Editor:

President Obama’s 2013 proclamation of San Juan Islands National Monument specified that decisions be made in consultation with a locally constituted MAC (Management Advisory Committee) [Vulnerable lands — and creatures — of San Juan Islands National Monument await management detailsSalish Current, Dec. 4, 2020].

 Stakeholder consultation, public review and comment, and sign-off by the governor for consistency with state laws and policies are also required by the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA). Under FLPMA, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) adopted a plan in 1990 for Iceberg Point and Point Colville on Lopez Island, which now comprise about three-fourths of the total area of the monument. 

The 1990 plan designated these coastal lands Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), focused on habitat conservation, and permitted recreation only to the extent that it does not degrade protected plant communities. As a matter of law, the 1990 ACEC plan is in force until a new FLPMA plan is adopted that supersedes it. 

A FLPMA planning process for the monument as a whole began in 2015, but the Trump Administration shifted its vision from protecting public lands to exploiting them for business. BLM began promoting tourism in the monument, and made recreation the focus of the draft Resource Management Plan that was finally opened to public comment in November 2018. Meanwhile the Trump Administration also suspended meetings of the MAC, so that local representatives were unable to participate officially in the process. The MAC did not meet again until August 2020.

Fortunately, Gov. Inslee exercised the authority accorded to him by FLPMA and sent the 2018 draft plan back to BLM for revision to accommodate state policies and Tribal concerns. BLM director William Perry Pendley, whose appointment by President Trump in July 2019 was ruled unlawful in federal court, has presided over the revision process, which is not yet complete. 

As things now stand, a revised plan is evolving somewhere in the BLM bureaucracy, but the 1990 ACEC plan is still in effect on Lopez, and general federal land and wildlife management laws such as the 1910 Antiquities Act and 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act apply to the Monument as a whole regardless. BLM does not need a new plan to protect Monument lands or wildlife.

The situation may change under a Biden-appointed BLM director, but islanders must be ready to apply political pressure through our (largely friendly) Congressional delegation to ensure that our situation with the Monument is not overlooked in 2021.

— Russel Barsh, Director of KWIAHTLopez Island, Dec. 18, 2020

Some history about San Juan conservation areas

To the Editor:

Many folks I know have weighed in on how important these unusually pristine areas are to the health and diversity of the San Juan Island ecosystem. (“Vulnerable lands — and creatures — of San Juan Islands National Monument await management details,” Salish Current, Dec. 4, 2020).

Concerns and recommendations, based on many years of experiences on and study of these areas, were registered early on when information was requested. Sadly, delays in implementing these strategies are consistent with the gross indifference the Trump administration has paid in general to our environmental heritage throughout its tenure. We must enact these recommendations and strategies for use and stewardship.

The expression of public concern for the protection of the cultural history and ecological integrity of the San Juans is of long standing. I recall 40 years ago next year being part of and listening to a very concerned public registering their hopes and expectations for many of these properties as they were to be transferred from the Bureau of Land Management [BLM] to the state. Charles Odegaard was the director of Washington State Parks at the time, and its board was seeking to develop a plan for the future uses of properties being transferred from BLM to Washington state. Of particular focus were properties at Point Colville and Iceberg Point.

One of the proposals for these properties involved opening them up for car camping. Present at this hearing were Bill Holm and David Munsell, both of whom had a first-hand and keen appreciation of the importance of these locations to First Nations peoples of Puget Sound. Their testimony made it very clear that any proposed camping use would be a serious threat to protecting, preserving and researching this singular history on Lopez Island. Other arguments were presented regarding the ecological integrity that would be threatened under such a development plan.

From that day, one moment in particular remains in my memory. Someone from the audience who clearly considered these properties as an opportunity for investment in further development along the lines of the state park plan spoke up rather emphatically. He stated that keeping these locations as natural areas and assuming that the public would explore and somehow benefit from them was naive and that the best use of them would be realized through development.

Jim Whittaker, the first American to reach the summit of Mt. Everest, was a State Parks Board member and responded directly by saying that he had some very first-hand knowledge of what the infinite lessons are that one can learn from experiences in nature. And that was that — Colville and Iceberg Points reached their current status through such early endeavors. So let’s get on with preserving this unique heritage.

— Tony Angell, Seattle and Lopez Island, Dec. 11, 2020

A call for caution when holiday socializing as COVID-19’s third wave hits

To the Editor:

Yogi Berra said, “It’s like déjà vu all over again!” As we head into this particularly uncertain holiday season, our country is in a third wave of SARS-CoV-2 infections. In Western Washington, though better than many places, we’re seeing rates that are surpassing case highs seen in the spring. 

From my career caring for chronic kidney disease patients, I know that COVID-19 poses serious challenges for them. We now know that non-elderly adults with no underlying medical conditions can develop acute kidney injury and a sudden loss of kidney function when infected with COVID-19. Kidney injury carries a high mortality rate, although with proper treatment, including dialysis in severe cases, it can be reversed. If we collectively increased our efforts to keep the virus at bay, we can help save lives and avoid a fourth and fifth wave.

COVID-19 is increasing across every age group, currently most frequently in people over the age of 80 and those between 20 and 29.

It is so important that we rethink our traditional holiday plans. Public health and medical professionals are encouraging Washingtonians to voluntarily comply with masking and social distancing directives and gather only with those they live with.

It’s not likely we’ll go “cold turkey” on socialization, but please consider everyone’s health and well-being as you find new, safe ways to celebrate the 2020 holidays. 

This is a societal challenge of our times.

— William E. Lombard, MD, Bellingham, Nov. 16, 2020

Lack of mandated authority hinders water allocation process

To the Editor:

I agree with Eric Hirst’s assessment of the water rights issue about the Nooksack Basin’s waters (Salish Current, Oct. 9, 2020, “Whose water is it in Whatcom County? / Community Voices”).

I was directly involved with the so-called WRIA-1 (Water Resource Inventory Area) process which sought an agreed-to stakeholders’ assessment of seasonal water availability, needs and allocations to avoid the lengthy adjudication process (which was pursued in the Yakima Basin for over 25 years). That process was a testament to the political heat around water rights, which the WRIA process — initiated by Ecology —sought to avoid. 

After four years, the Whatcom stakeholders failed to agree on basic principles, a waste of time and millions in county funds.

A big problem was that Ecology has little mandated authority, responds to political pressure and must rely upon voluntary agreement by the parties involved, all of whom have strong self interests. It has been painful to see these efforts fail, although many facts were established that can certainly be used as informed, impartial guidelines. 

What any countywide process needs now is a clear incentive to settle the matter fairly, and with due regard to senior water rights. Because of Washington state’s strange organization regarding various special districts, some strong incentive is required to bring the parties to settle. Perhaps, careful, selective use of adjudication could help bring agreement closer to reality. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking ….

— John B. Watts, Bellingham, Nov. 9, 2020

Thoughts on the past, present and future of domestic aluminum production

To the Editor:

Your article “Intalco’s closure brings pain for now — what may the future bring” (Salish Current, Oct. 30, 2020) prompts me to offer a few comments from my perspective as a chemical engineer and Bellingham City Council member for nine years.

In general, the aluminum industry’s costs are one-third each for raw materials, electricity and labor.

At one time 11 smelters operated in the state of Washington, largely because of cheap Columbia River hydroelectricity from the Bonneville Power Administration.

As raw materials — like bauxite — were depleted in the U.S., foreign supply supplanted it and so did labor costs associated with the global economy.

These factors, along with economics of scale, have contributed to the demise of U.S. production, notwithstanding the strategic importance of aluminum. I can’t think of immediate solutions for this without a U.S.-government mandate to preserve local production capacity. 

Another thought is to emphasize state and/or national recycling, since this alone saves 95% of energy costs.

— John B. Watts, Bellingham, Nov. 9, 2020

Our policy: Salish Current welcomes letters to the editor from our readers. Letters should be sent with the writer’s name, address and daytime phone number. Those accepted for publication will focus on issues addressed in news articles or commentaries in Salish Current and be factual. No snark or put-downs will be acceptable; general nastiness will be rejected. Letters should not exceed 300 words and may be edited for length and clarity. Salish Current will publish letters sent to the editor at its sole discretion. Letters represent the point of view of the writer. Publication by Salish Current does not represent endorsement.


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