Friday, July 24, 2009

Port: Populist Instrument or Bete Noir?

'Bete Noir: (from the French, meaning "dark beast") is used to refer to an object or abstract idea that is particularly disliked or avoided'

A current Crosscut article on the Port of Everett inspired this blog, because of some local similarities and ironies.

This brief excerpt demonstrates the point:

Emotions circle back to the story's bete noire, the Everett Port Commission. Port districts were conceived as populist instruments to break up concentrated capital. Give the waterfront to the people not the fat cats, the argument went. Legislators passed the Port District Act in 1911 and Everett organized its port in 1918. Over the decades, however, most port districts have embraced a credo that holds sacred economic and real estate development. Historic preservation is not a statutory priority.

"Ports have a very slim mission," Commissioner Connie Niva said. "It's not quality of life but to serve as an economic engine." The Collins Building, she noted, "sits on the site where we're building a boat yard," and is not connected to Everett Maritime, the North Marina development company that filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy on May 20. Niva emphasized the port's record of environmental stewardship. "We're the cleanest and the greenest," she said.

Does it sound like Commissioner Niva might also have difficulty in understanding the concept of TBL? [Triple Bottom Line]
If so, she's certainly not by herself!
When you think about it, its not easy to accommodate a significant broadening of scope in any undertaking with a succinct mission statement and a limited budget.
Of course, it is not impossible but usually does require time - plus a change in attitude from those in charge.
That is the core problem with the Port of Bellingham.

And POB's situation may be considerably different from Everett's in several ways, including the sheer size & scope of the Waterfront Redevelopment anticipated, the relatively lesser size/budget of POB, and its partnership with the City of Bellingham -which has its own limits on funding, plus a much broader mission which does specifically and inherently include quality of life and environmental issues.
It would be simpler if the City were not so 'encumbered', but it is, as it should be.
And, because of its partnership with the City, the Port of Bellingham is also likewise 'encumbered'.

The understanding of that reality is important for whoever will assume new leadership roles at the Port.
On that score, new candidates have a clear advantage, particularly those who have also been active in our community for years.
By that criteria, John Blethen, the District 1 candidate, is clearly the best choice.
Blethen has been an amazing asset to our community for decades, as an enthusiastic volunteer and successful businessman.
His volunteerism reflects his caring for Bellingham and has gone well beyond that expected of any citizen, or two, or three.
It also reflects how in tune he is with the values of the people who have lived here, live here now, and will live here tomorrow.
That is exactly the kind of energy and long-term caring that the Port Commission needs so badly.

Mike McAuley, the District 2 candidate, has similar promise, although his tenure and volunteerism can't match Blethen's [no one does], he has a similar vision and commitment to do the right thing by this community.
McAuley's energy, progressive ideas and integrity make him well qualified to help turn the Port's attitude and management style into a better fit for what Bellingham needs in the long term.

Both Scott Walker, District 1, and Doug Smith, District 2, have done some good work at the Port, in fact both shared responsibility for initiating the Waterfront Redevelopment Project that has become the centerpiece of effort and attention here.
But, this is a long-term effort, a relay and not a sprint, which requires teamwork over many years.

After 18 and 16 years, respectively, these incumbents have already run their legs of the race, and it is time for them to pass the baton to fresher teammates.
They have elected not to do this willingly, but to leave that decision to will of the voters, which is OK, but also reinforces the impression that they are stuck on old ideas and the advantage of incumbency.

But, I hope citizens will understand that this election is really about the citizens themselves, and their offspring and the very future of Bellingham as a place that not only provides economic development (jobs) but also the other two legs of that 3-legged stool that defines TBL [Triple Bottom Line]; quality of life and environment.

Those last two legs are important enough to be clearly stated, not just implied.
Especially in a true partnership with a vital City whose sole motivation in partnering was to maintain -and enhance- that vitality!
That is, if we are to consider our Port as more of a populist instrument than a bete noir....

More on Healthcare: Knowledge as Truth

All progress has resulted from people who took unpopular positions.
- Adlai E. Stevenson

A little knowledge that acts is worth infinitely more than much knowledge that is idle. - KAHLIL GIBRAN


The healthcare debate continues as it should until the best possible combination of attributes have been incorporated into a bill that can be approved by both legislative bodies, and is worthy of signing by the President.

But, now that so much information, some of it conflicting and some of it misinformation, is out there wouldn't it be nice to able to easily verify its accuracy?

Here's an authoritative website that seems pretty unbiased regarding the current healthcare rhetoric which I found useful.

There are also two new NYT editorials on healthcare, by David Brooks and Paul Krugman, which most folks will find interesting.

Have you noticed how the ad campaigns -pro and con- have picked up in intensity?
Maybe the '' website can help sort out who's spinning what, and at least zero in on the range of reasonable estimates that are used.

The concept of what constitutes knowledge, and its proper application to real situations has been a constant theme of this blog, because it has been main interest of mine all of my life.

With that in mind, this Wikipedia website goes into some detail in describing knowledge.

This phrase has been closest to mine: 'The definition of knowledge is a matter of on-going debate among philosophers in the field of epistemology. The classical definition, described but not ultimately endorsed by Plato[1], has it that in order for there to be knowledge at least three criteria must be fulfilled; that in order to count as knowledge, a statement must be justified, true, and believed.'

Of course, there are other definitions, qualifications and interpretations of what knowledge means, especially those which prefer to emphasize beliefs, as opposed to provable facts.
That debate will never end, nor should it, but true knowledge ought to be communicable, capable of appealing to reason and provable to others.

As one of our Founding Fathers put it:
"A popular Government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives." - James Madison

Society, community, family are all conserving institutions. They try to maintain stability, and to prevent, or at least to slow down, change. But the organization of the post-capitalist society of organizations is a destabilizer. Because its function is to put knowledge to work -- on tools, processes, and products; on work; on knowledge itself -- it must be organized for constant change. - PETER F. DRUCKER

If you don't read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. - MARK TWAIN