Sunday, October 21, 2007

Campaign Rhetoric Versus Institutional Memory: A Litany of Concerns - Part 4

Everyone has his day and some days last longer than others.
- Winston Churchill

The activist is not the man who says the river is dirty.
The activist is the man who cleans up the river. - Ross Perot
Since this blog continues earlier blogs on the same theme, I am once again repeating the introduction:

Sometimes there are discrepancies between what candidates claim -or choose to ignore- and what a more comprehensive recollection of history reveals.

If you want to prove a point, or get elected, you choose carefully what you want to talk about.

And, you know what subjects are to be avoided!

That is the subject of today's blog.

An earlier blog listed some reasons why I have chosen to support Dan Pike as our next Mayor.

This one lists some specific reasons that make it difficult for me to support Dan McShane as Mayor.

All of these relate directly to positions he has taken -or not taken- on some important issues, while serving on the County Council.
Here is a synopsis of these concerns as related to:

4. Waterfront Redevelopment - The Mother of all Flip-Flops, or Manchurian Candidate?:

Early on, Dan McShane strongly expressed his opposition to this ambitious undertaking in multiple ways, some more directly than others.

On no other major City issue has his record been so adverse and so consistent!

• First, he was been critical of the Port of Bellingham's acquisition of the entire former G-P site, especially because of the Port's interest in converting the former G-P ASB Lagoon into a state-of-the-art 'Clean Ocean' Marina.

I don't know the origins or depth of his concerns over this idea, but since others have expressed similar concerns, suffice to say he shares those in common with them, including the so-called 'Bellingham Bay Foundation'.

Maybe his main problem is a lack of vision -on a big scale- of what our Community can become in the future?

• He has been critical of the Interlocal Agreement between the City and the Port to partner on this project to achieve multiple goals for the benefit of the entire Community.

A number of people, including me, share this concern but have expressed it differently, with positive ideas instead of negative criticisms.

But, as someone intimately involved with making the decision to approve this Interlocal, I do clearly understand why this Interlocal was needed and what it means.

It was needed to enable the Port to have sufficient confidence to go forward with the acquisition of the entire G-P property, and to give them the necessary incentive to seek a higher and better use than what it formerly was.

It means that the City and the Port will 'agree to agree' as long as that remains feasible for both parties.

It has the capability to be modified as often as may become necessary.

It allows the City to cleanup some old landfills at the same time that contaminated industrial sites are cleaned up, but assigns the Port to manage this work as part of the entire cleanup for efficiency.

It provides an opportunity to make an investment for our community's long term benefit, with the amount of that investment and its timing and disposition to be determined after careful consideration.

It provides a tangible means of turning our community's vision for redeveloping the waterfront into a reality; turning the Waterfront Futures Group's recommendations into an exciting plan for action instead of inert and unproductive shelf art.

It holds the prospect for the type of economic development that every community dreams of having; clean, living wage jobs that employ people who have or develop roots here and positively contribute to sustain us as a vibrant, progressive area.

It promises ample public access to our marine waterfront in a way that will make Bellingham Bay our 'front door' again.

It will provide for the most desirable mixed use redevelopment imagineable, allowing people to live, work. learn and play in close proximity to downtown, without necessity for single occupancy cars.

It will become a magnet for innovative, green technology; a living demonstration of what future life can become and sustain.

Those are the things I see being made possible by this Partnership between the City and Port.

Of course, we must be cautious and responsible!

That is implicit in the entire undertaking, and I am tempted to resent people even thinking otherwise.

But, that is their right if they choose to do that, and we must respect that right.

I just have a problem with unfounded criticisms, particularly the kind that has the smell of petty or self-centered politics!

Tonight I heard the phrase "the tyranny of 'or'".

That seems to fit this discussion.

Instead of using the word 'and', people of limited vision prefer to use the word 'or'.

By that method, a system of false choices is established which can severely limit progress toward big, visionary goals.

I think that limited vision is exactly what is at work with the County, and unfortunately, Dan McShane has been its spokesman.

That is a position that I still have difficulty in properly understanding, despite several attempts at getting an explanation.

• Dan McShane has, and continues to strongly oppose Whatcom County's participation in the Local Infrastructure Financing Toll [LIFT] to help self-finance waterfront redevelopment.

He has chosen to take this position despite clear County Economic Goals to contrary, which seem to be written to support exactly this type of redevelopment!

Instead, he thinks of it as 'evergreen' funding that mainly 'robs' the County's future general fund.

So does Pete Kremen, but we've come to expect that kind of non-visionary thinking from him.

What is this attitude about, really?

Wasn't the concept of tax-increment financing explained well enough?

After all, our State Representative, Kelli Linville, worked very hard to get this legislation passed, with Bellingham the first City in line to benefit from it!

Both the City and the Port saw the obvious advantages of LIFT and were very glad it became available as a new funding option, but one that only happens as redevelopment actually occurs!

No redevelopment, no LIFT, means nothing is lost if nothing is gained.

But McShane and the County choose to see it only as potentially lost revenue!

What's with that?

Don't they want to see Waterfront Redevelopment happen?

Or, are they so cynical that they would rather just receive a future windfall than invest in making it happen?

Can't they see what a huge REGIONAL advantage a redeveloped Waterfront would be?

I won't repeat my earlier blog on this subject now, except to say it is consistent with what I'm saying now.

Limited vision!

Maybe some other reasons are at work, like some kind of a lose-lose competition, or maybe the County's long simmering animosity toward the Port.

All I know is we've got to get above that kind of thinking.
Or, non-thinking!

• Dan McShane has actively promoted the the agenda of the Bellingham Bay Foundation, to oppose and undermine waterfront redevelopment efforts by the Port of Bellingham the City of Bellingham, seemingly, by whatever means possible.

Conservation Northwest actually housed the BBF, which became the public face of some clever, but deceptive activities disguised as popular 'issues'.

One of these was the so-called 'Healthy Bay Initiative' which actually attracted enough signatures to get on the ballot, but was thrown out -when challenged- as illegal.

Now, why would otherwise sensible folks spend the time and effort on such an exercise?

Why try so hard to deceive unsuspecting, but caring citizens?

And, why would the BBF, with it's hired hand 'Director', try so hard to influence popular opinion to actually undermine the Waterfront Redevelopment effort?

Whose interest is served by that?

That will remain a mystery to me, but also a testament to the futility of common sense when it comes to things considered 'political'.

Again, Dan McShane actively supported this attempted clever, but ill-fated initiative.

And, he hasn't yet explained why?

Did he think that attitude would help him get elected mayor?

Since the BBF debacle, Dan McShane has 'reassessed' his position, but speaks of it only when he has no other choice.

Now, that I can understand!

The 'Healthy Bay' 'initiative' had a disagreeable odor to it, despite the cachet suggested by its title.

But, that 'initiative' just did not square with the public's expectation of realizing the wonderful vision of redeveloping the waterfront in way that is productive and benefits the community.

What were McShane and his supporters thinking?

I do not envy his present discomfort on this issue!

But, I'm not convinced he would act any differently than he has, if he were to become Mayor.

As mayor, he could do real damage to our Waterfront Redevelopment efforts in ways that he couldn't before!

That is a prospect that I would like to avoid.

A 'Manchurian Candidate' with a pre-programmed agenda is not what I want in a Mayor!

And, I believe many others feel the same way!

Why would anyone want to throw away this opportunity of a lifetime?

What community wouldn't enthusiastically support it?

I can't think of one.

And, if I could, I wouldn't want to live there!
Dan Pike has legitimate concerns about the Waterfront Redevelopment too.

But, unlike the other Dan, he wants to see this ambitious undertaking actually succeed!

There will be challenges, but these are primarily financial in nature.

There is no question that environmental and social matters will be greatly improved.

I have confidence that these can be reasonably resolved, with the risks and rewards shared equitably between the City, Port and those who will be attracted as anchor tenants and developers.

Of course, this is a very big challenge with risks.

But its also a big opportunity!

Just think about the alternative.

If there was ever an opportunity for positive, open, visionary and responsible leadership for the City of Bellingham, it is now!

I think Dan Pike fits that role much better than Dan McShane.

I would like to look back to this moment in time 20 years from now, and see a Bellingham Waterfront District that citizens are understandably proud of!

One that serves as an inviting front door to our City.

One that continues to set the standard for what a 'Green' sustainable Neighborhood can be.

One that provides the jobs, business opportunities, learning venues, living space and recreational enjoyment that are now envisioned.

It makes a difference who you vote for as Mayor!

Please think of this election season as more than just 'politics as usual'!

That's a game that everyone loses.

Instead, think of our future, and which Mayor is more likely to get where we want to go.
To build may have to be the slow and laborious task of years.
To destroy can be the thoughtless act of a single day. - Winston Churchill

No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism. - Winston Churchill