Thursday, August 1, 2013

Who Should Be Having a Tea Party?

I was pondering the fact that the current Council majority, plus the candidates for Council with similar views and political affiliations, have decided to shun constituents who don’t agree with them.

Won’t talk to us or listen to us.  Those who believe that environmental protections are important, those of us who think that planning ought to ensure that infrastructure will meet the needs of future development, are to be treated as anathema.

Don’t believe me?  Read these comments by Bill Knutzen and Ben Ellenbaas, who at least were honest about their reasons for refusing to attend a candidate forum on growth and the environment.   Despite multiple invitations and efforts to find a date without conflicts, Kathy Kershner and Michelle Luke also would not participate in the forum.

The claim that litigation against the County disqualifies people or organizations from participating in public affairs is ironic.  It’s ironic (a nicer word than “hypocritical”), for two reasons:

(1) Because the shunning only applies to those who support planning and environmental protections, not to property owners, developers, or their trade associations (such as the Building Industry Association of Whatcom County, which is holding a forum that Mssrs. Knutzen and Ellenbaas agreed to attend), all of whom sue the County and all of whom are consulted on a regular basis; and

(2) Because litigation is the consequence of the County’s decision to ignore a segment of its constituents.  My clients and I have submitted dozens of letters and hundreds of pages of supporting documentation expressing our concerns over rural planning over the past few years.  The County simply ignores them.  

We have offered to meet with the County to discuss our concerns.  We are (sometimes quite rudely) told that the County is not interested.  

Council Chair Kershner went so far as to tell the Northwest Business Club that we are “domestic terrorists” with whom the County should never negotiate.  

Beyond the sheer silliness of this, the more serious issue is the disenfranchisement of a large number of constituents.

The Boston Tea Party, as you may recall, was not about over-taxation.  It was about taxation that was dedicated to a particular corporate interest:  the British East India Company, a “too big to fail” entity that one commentator called the Monsanto or Microsoft of its era.”    The tax on tea harmed local interests while benefitting the government’s preferred for-profit entity, and that’s why the colonists revolted.

And now, guess who is being taxed – to support litigation that upholds the profit interests of developers, to pay for infrastructure needed for sprawl, to pay the salaries of County Council members who won’t speak to us – without representation?

Members of RE Sources.  Members of Futurewise.  Citizens who work to implement environmental protections and good planning, but who are told that their views and their voices are unwelcome in Whatcom County.

It’s un-American. In fact, it's downright revolting.


  1. Sounds like a tempest in a teapot to me...

    I definitely think you would be welcome aboard the tea party revolution... As Franklin commented... "We must all hang together or we will most certainly hang separately."

    1. You're entitled to your opinion, Jack, which is undoubtedly colored by the fact that you can sue the County without being labeled a "domestic terrorist."

      As noted in the article reached through the link above, if there were a real "Tea Party" revolution, it would be saying "Yes, go ahead and tax us, but don't give all the money to big corporations." I could join that revolution. Unfortunately, that's pretty much the opposite of the message of the modern so-called Tea Party.

  2. I should acknowledge the punny nature of Jack's response -- tempest "in a teapot"! Not bad.

    For fun, I put that phrase into Google Images, which is always a disturbing trip into the communal mind (why is there a picture of a kitten in a tin-foil hat?).

    One picture appears to show the proverbial frog, trying to edge its way out of heating water. Maybe that's the kind of teapot that we're in.

    But in light of an article that I just read, by a woman who was visited by the police after family members did some internet research on "pressure cookers," I should probably stop doing that sort of search. Who knows what suspicions it might raise.

    Especially coming from a "domestic terrorist."

  3. Jean, you only represent "domestic terrorists."

    What is also reprehensible about the current culture of planning in Whatcom County is the environment that they create that does everything to not make people participate. Michelle Luke allowing (actually thanking) someone that testified that drew an analogy of the Nazi's treatment of Jews to GMA actions. Who would want to show up and participate in such a cesspool called the Planning Commission?

    You will recall that when we did the county rural element, we went out to the public to directly engage them in the dialogue, answering questions, getting feedback. There hasn't been one single event like that in the past three years, except perhaps an event that Samya did for the AG parcel reconfiguration project.

    The county planning commission, council and staff need to get out and engage all kinds of voices in the process. Instead, what we get are folks that only talk to those that they agree with. That is not how community is built - it is divisive politics D.C. style, and that is what is being practiced from the conservatives at the county council and planning commission these days.

    No wonder why we go to court. They actually read and listen to our arguments, and then apply the law. Priceless.

  4. Jean,

    Calling you a "domestic terrorist" is silly. I hadn't heard that one but, if you report it as true I assume it is and reject the characterization.

    As I've commented before, I do think you are a little thin skinned. I got over that when one of my editors passed on information regarding the handling of packages because, it appeared, I was a potential target for the Uni-bomber...

    After some of the things that have been said about me in recent years were I to be called a "domestic terrorist" I would think, "Finally they're beginning to like me a little more." Hyperbole is just that. You should recognize it in many of the statements David and yourself make in order to accentuate a point and you should not take it so seriously when others spout off.

  5. David,

    Cesspool? I rest my case regarding hyperbole.

  6. Sure, hyperbole, who cares, except that it shows a closed mind. Which is not a good thing in an elected official.

    But it appears that the local candidates are merely emulating the entirely dysfunctional Republican House of Representatives. The House Republican Conference sent its members back to their district with a playbook on how to ensure that they only participate in "public forums" that are staged and limited to their supporters, who will spout predetermined views. Tim Egan's column in the New York Times today is worth reading:

    One of the comments noted: "Democrats find this offensive. Republicans find it clever."

    That pretty much sums up the Bellingham Herald comments on the conservative candidates' decision not to participate in the Growth and Environment forum, unfortunately.

  7. I will grant that my use of the word "cesspool" when referring to the Planning Commission these days does not advance the course of civil discussion that I would like to see. For that, I apologize.

    However, I still think that it is pretty much an accurate description. How else do you characterize a commission where the individuals chastise the public in open forums, where those that disagree are not provided equal opportunity to provide input and dialogue, and where the majority of their decisions are routinely overturned by the courts? The term cesspool can mean corrupt (like illegal email discussions regarding public business) or sort of a bad place. Clearly, the Planning Commission is not a welcoming place, and in my view, it is a bad place. For that, it is my definition of a cesspool. I'd love for them to prove me wrong.

  8. Jack,

    What community blog would be complete without the sage comments of Whatcom County's titular apologist for political cowardice ?

    Ben Elenbaas and Bill Knutzen are following in the shallow footsteps of Council Candidates Past; avoiding public forums in the months leading up to the elections. Profiles in Courage, for sure.

    Were you at the Northwest Business Club when Councilmember Kathy Kerschner labelled Futurewise, et al as "domestic terrorists"? Don't give me one of those Obamaesque excuses that you just heard about it. Did you--or will you--call her out on the comment? Were the shoe on the other foot, I am sure the Petree wordprocessor would be at warp speed, inundating the blogosphere with righteous indignation.

    Better yet, Jack, why don't you personally express your displeasure at this "level of discourse" in person before the Whatcom County Council? While you're at it you could also chide Gentleman Jack Swanson for his Holocaust references before the Whatcom County Planning Commission.

    Truth be told, neither of the aforementioned candidates have the guts to attend a public environmental forum. Neither did Gary Lysne or Tony Larson when they ran for Council.

    The fact that the "progressive" candidates attended the recent Tea Party Forum does not seem to register with the We The People Mob.

    Since you obviously have a lot of spare time on your hands, perhaps you could craft a stump speech or two for Bill and Ben. Be sure to include their accomplishments on the County Council and Planning Commission; important policy votes, Comp Plan Amendments sponsored, etc.

    Op Ed articles on land use and other County issues would also be helpful in communicating their message; particularly since Bill Knutzen has expressed preference for written communication over standing before the voters in a public forum.

  9. see my comments to Jean above re: the silliness of the domestic terrorist comment

  10. Jack,

    see my comments re: personally going before County Council and expressing displeasure at the level of discourse that currently prevails among some Councilmembers and Commissioners in their public statements.

    I did last month. Now it's your turn.

    I'll be keeping my eye on BTV to see if you show up.

    This could be great grist for FOX News in the fall, given the fact that the WCC has been spotlighted on MSNBC on the coal terminal issue.