Letters to the Editor

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.

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.

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