Sunday, October 16, 2011

The First Rule of Politics

Our friends over at Latte Republic posted a video clip from yesterday’s forum on the SSA coal terminal, sponsored by the Citizens’ Alliance for Property Rights (CAPR). There wasn’t even any pretense that this forum would be a multifaceted exploration of the issue. This was all Go, Go, Go Coal Terminal!
The clip is well worth watching. Doug Ericksen is running for County Executive, and the video shows his closing statement.

Mr, Ericksen took two interesting stands in this short clip. One will have to wait for another day and another blog, and that is his position that Whatcom County needs to buy some new science in order to favor property rights. On the panel with Mr, Ericksen was Steve Neugebauer, a controversial hydrogeologist who’s making quite a name for himself in property rights circles by fighting the Department of Ecology. Are his battles successful? Should Whatcom County pour taxpayer dollars into Mr. Neugebauer’s brand of science (as Doug said, he’s not free – “We probably aren’t going to able to afford this guy, he’s making too much money suing on stuff”)? Is that really in the best interest of all of the people of the County? These are all questions that Mr. Ericksen didn’t explore in his short speech, but that require serious consideration. Another day.

Today’s topic, however, is the “first law of politics,” to quote Mr. Ericksen.
(A little background: the agency team that is working to expedite the SSA coal terminal has put out a new schedule that predicts that "scoping" for the Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, will occur in January and February, 2012. “Scoping” will determine whether the EIS will consider (1) just the impacts on the Cherry Point site itself, apparently based on the premise that coal will be airdropped to the terminal by aliens, or (2) all of the impacts caused by the project, including the impacts caused by increased coal train traffic through Bellingham.)

Mr. Ericksen said:

“On November 8th -- I’m not going to talk about the campaign today, because it’s not a campaign event -- but I can guarantee you that the decisions that are made in February are decided on November 8. There’s just no other way to explain it when it comes to what happens in the world of politics. You can show up and, the number one rule of politics, I’ll give it to you quickly, it’s much easier to elect somebody who agrees with you than to change the mind of somebody who doesn’t.”

Bear in mind that SSA hasn’t even submitted a complete permit for its project yet. It submitted a permit that was rejected as incomplete by Whatcom County’s Planning and Development Services department. Not letting the lack of a permit stop it, SSA then engaged in some, er, so-called forestry activities, building roads and filling wetlands on the site without permits. As I’ve mentioned on this blog.

So how does Doug know that he supports the project?

Because he talked to “the people who advocate for it.
To give Doug credit, he doesn’t mince words. Here’s what he said:

“That’s why I support the project, because I’ve met with the people who advocate for it and we know that it will be a good project for our region. It will be a very good project for our region, and working together we’ll get it accomplished.

I really appreciate your being here, and the key thing about it -- this is my last comment about November 8th – and the key thing about voting in November and getting the right people in place to protect your rights is that on a beautiful day like this, you can be putting up your duck blinds and not having to go a meeting, because you know that you’ll have people elected who are going to stand up and keep their word on what they said they’re gonna do.”

That’s what the man said. He and SSA, working together, will get this project through no matter what. There is no reason not to expect him to keep his word, if he’s elected in November.
I don't know how many people in Bellingham will be putting up duck blinds when that happens. If Bellingham residents don't pay attention to the County races, though, they'll be the sitting ducks.


  1. Jean,

    Just as a matter of interest: If Doug is in the wrong for supporting the project at Cherry Point before he knows what is being submitted, proposed or, whatever, and/or because the EIS is not completed, why is it not equally wrong to oppose the project before one knows what is being submitted, proposed or whatever and the EIS is completed?

  2. Well, Jack, you don't need an EIS to appreciate the disruptive nature of still more train traffic through the community.

    And only ignoring this matter in the scoping of the EIS might result in the conclusion the project wasn't detrimental.

    So, obviously, Doug will happily ram this through regardless of public opposition to its most serious impacts.

    And clearly this group, Citizens’ Alliance for Property Rights, is less interested in the rights of myriad property owners seeking the quiet enjoyment of their property, than the alleged right of a single property owner to disaffect them.

  3. g.h. pretty much hit the nail on the head.

    In addition, I think that it's reasonable to question a pledge to support this enormous, controversial project when that pledge is based on meeting with "the people who advocate for it." The people who advocate for the project have said that they will meet the highest environmental standards. That statement has already been proven untrue at Cherry Point.

  4. Mr Petree...

    It is painfully obvious from the nature of the conversation at the CAPR event that Senator Ericksen and the bulk of the attendees that the EIS is just a formality and that in their minds the facility is already a done deal.

    That is very troubling indeed.

  5. ApexNerd,

    Read the Kirsch/Melious comments above in the context of your comment.

    In their minds, opposition is automatic and the EIS is just a formality.

    Frankly, the entire discussion, pro and con, has its troubling aspects. It seems to me a reasoned discussion between the sides, without the assumptions and name calling, might bring everyone closer together on the issues with areas of common ground discovered and areas where agreement is unlikely discussed respectfully.

  6. Jean: I think your blog spot and comments are brilliant! You keep us informed with excellent information.

    Our voting household just received two mailers today from Gateway Pacific Terminal, as I'm sure may other voter type households have.

    PS I'm still trying to figure out why our photos were carefully taken during the City Club meeting a few months ago. Will they be used in some way by the project proponents?
    I would suggest tearing out the pre-stamped postcard on the mailer, not filling in the info to 'keep us informed', and instead writing 'Go Away' across the back, then mailing the postcard back to Gateway at their expense.

  7. Great idea, Anonymous. Just wrote "Go Away" on mine and mailed it. Nice!

  8. "In their minds, opposition is automatic and the EIS is just a formality."

    Hardly, Jack. I expect, given the prospective manipulation of the scoping process, the EIS will just be a travesty.

  9. I haven't received my mailer yet, but my friends and colleagues were all abuzz -- about how expensive it was to create and mail, and about what a coincidence it was that the mailer was timed, not in connection with any project event, but just before ballots are mailed.

    "Go Away" is a great message.

    My next blog post will reply to Jack in greater detail. The short answer is: now that you mention it, Jack, yes. It is looking like this EIS will be nothing more than a formality.

    One reason: If Doug is elected, and he thinks that it's a formality, he will be able to help make it so.

    A forum for everyone to come together and discuss the issues respectfully: Western Washington University's Fraser Hall, Room 4, Wednesday, October 26, 5-7:00. "Cherry Point: Bellingham and Beyond."!/event.php?eid=163220887102765

  10. Jean,

    I would contend with you regarding the ability of any official to have as much influence on an EIS as you seem to think possible but then I think back to the EIS done for the last County Comprehensive Plan and remember what an utter sham that was.

    As I have mentioned before, there may be things that divide us all but it is also important to find the things that have the potential to bring us together. I think this is one of those things. I would think SSA, the affected communities and all elected officials of whatever stripe could agree it is vital any EIS performed on the project be above reproach. I think even g.h. could swallow hard and agree with me on that.

  11. Oh Jack, you do give me a chuckle:

    "I think back to the EIS done for the last County Comprehensive Plan and remember what an utter sham that was.

    As I have mentioned before, there may be things that divide us all but it is also important to find the things that have the potential to bring us together."

    That's an interesting approach to "bringing us together" -- inserting your revisionist history about past events into every argument, in order to keep pounding on those involved. Walking the walk ought to go hand in hand with talking the talk.

  12. Seems to me that the assumption the upcoming EIS being a contrived is doing the same thing Melious.

  13. Jack is paid to write what he does; who knows what he really thinks?
    Both proponents and opponents would like to decide what gets included in the EIS and what weighting is assigned. That's healthy, but what is not healthy is for corners to be cut, scoping to be unduly limited, important facts to be conveniently ignored, significant mitigations not included, and decisions made based solely on someone's political agenda.

    Without a doubt, there can be a better plan for Cherry Point; just remember the famous Deloitte & Touche Report commissioned by the Port several years ago- which has been deliberately ignored.

    Whatcom County is not so desperate that we have to accept any proposal that gets made without seriously questioning the long term harms that may accompany it! Let's get this one right to the best of our -collective- ability!

  14. John,

    Your comment combines ignorance and slander.

    Ignorance because you have not one iota of any fact to support the idea that I am paid to participate in blogs.

    I'm used to people saying nasty things about me out of ignorance but, of more importance, your comment is slanderous because you imply I would write things I do not believe to be true in return for money.

    The Deloitte & Touche Report doesn't have anything particularly negative or positive to say about the issue of the facility suggested by SSA. I continue to believe, along with Clayton, who brought the point up in his mayoral campaign, that the EIS should examine the impacts of a container port operated in conjunction with a multi-modal facility (thousands of trucks would be taken off the road as a result).

  15. Actually, Jack, if you really think about it, John's ignorance is pretty obvious.

    Really, who would pay for what you write?

  16. Gentlemen! Jack, I've said that you're a paid consultant before without you getting all testy. g.h., that's not very nice. I do think that there have been times when Jack has been paid for what he writes. Maybe not this time, but some times.

    Now, Anonymous -- may I call you by your first name? (If it were your last name, I'd address you as Ms.or Mr. Anonymous.) I don't mind the expression of straightforward opinions on the blog, even when that expression is somewhat blunt.

    I do object to rudeness, though, and calling people by their last name is at best rude. At worst, it sounds threatening. So please don't.

    Your substantive point is that I shouldn't call the EIS "a contrived." With respect, I don't view the upcoming EIS as a sacred cow that cannot be discussed except in reverent terms.

    As John Watts said, I hope that the community agrees that the EIS must be performed to the best of our collective ability. Who is the "community" that should be performing to the best of our collective ability? I do have some thoughts on that, for the next blog.

  17. Jean,

    thanks for the remarks.

    I have not responded to your comments (and you have been wrong in the past in assuming I was being paid for one thing or another) re: paid consultant before nor would I have responded to Mr. Watts' comments had he let it go at that. You are a paid consultant and John was paid to make political decisions. I know you well enough to believe you would not take on a consulting and/or law work for someone or some project you believed was in the wrong.

    What I took offense at, as you know, was John's pretty direct implication that my opinion would change based on a payment being made.

    I'm generally pretty thick skinned. Once you've been told to check your mail becaause you are a potential target for the Unabomber, not too much of a verbal nature is a problem but John got to me there because he questioned my integrity.

    As to g.h., I thought his comment was pretty funny.

  18. Well then, while we're on the topic:

    I'm not paid one red cent for the work I do on Whatcom County issues. Every hour is volunteered or, in the legal realm, pro bono.

    So yes, I guess that does show that I believe in it.

  19. Jack, I'm glad you took my comment in the humorous vein intended.

    I know people pay you for what you write.

  20. Hey, I happen to know and can can attest Jack Petree is a confounding pain in the neck, whether paid or unpaid. His hours of community service in pursuit of iconoclasm are without match.

    If only hospitals poked so many veins without promise of compensation...

  21. It's amusing to me that some here think it's a bad thing that people will pay Jack to think and will pay for what he writes, while most here have such limited appeal that they have to do it for free.

  22. Because the value of words surely is determined by how much somebody is paid to write them. Advertising copywriters are, after all, the most important authors of all!

  23. "Advertising copywriters are, after all, the most important authors of all!"

    That's an interesting assertion, but I doubt that it's true, in terms of the amount they're paid. Bestselling authors undoubtedly do much better. In the nonfiction category, conservative authors do better than left-of-center authors.

  24. Actually, in terms of dollars per word, ad copywriters are the best paid writers on the planet by far.

    A 30 second ad has, at most, 100 words in it.

    Even Rush Limbaugh doesn't get paid the per-word-rate of an ad copywriter.

    Let the synaptic misfires continue.