Saturday, June 25, 2011

Weathering a Climate of Ignorance

Too often we... enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought. - John F. Kennedy
This article caught my attention recently, and seems to have real merit in its suggestions. After all, there should be more ways than one to skin this particular cat.

It is always fascinating -and frustrating- in trying to communicate with folks who have decided that an issue is already settled, or that it can't be settled, or is a matter only of opinion, or -well, you probably get the idea of what I'm talking about. And, if you don't, you just may not be interested, at least, not yet.

From Wikipedia, the following excerpts:

• Climatology (from Greek κλίμα, klima, "region, zone"; and -λογία, -logia) is the study of climate, scientifically defined as weather conditions averaged over a period of time, and is a branch of the atmospheric sciences.

• History: The earliest person to hypothesize the concept of climate change may have been the medieval Chinese scientist Shen Kuo (1031–95). Shen Kuo theorized that climates naturally shifted over an enormous span of time, after observing petrified bamboos found underground near Yanzhou (modern day Yan'an, Shaanxi province), a dry climate area unsuitable for the growth of bamboo.
Early climate researchers include Edmund Halley, who published a map of the trade winds in 1686, after a voyage to the southern hemisphere. Benjamin Franklin, in the 18th century, was the first to map the course of the Gulf Stream for use in sending mail overseas from the United States to Europe. Francis Galton invented the term anticyclone. Helmut Landsberg led to statistical analysis being used in climatology, which led to its evolution into a physical sciences.

Now I know I'm treading on thin ice, whenever TMI happens [too much information]
And, I know that popular sound bytes are often preferred, but sometimes that is just not possible, so I'm wading into this a little deeper;

Remember the distinction about astrology and astronomy? Here's a hint; one is a theory requiring belief without proof, and the other is one of the oldest sciences, which depends upon systematic truths that are proven.

Again, those risky excerpts:

Astrology is a system of divination founded on the notion that the relative positions of celestial bodies are signs of or—more controversially among astrologers—causes of destiny, personality, human affairs, and natural events. The primary astrological bodies are the sun, moon, and planets; although astrology is commonly characterized as "reading the stars", the stars (other than the sun) actually play a minor role. The main focus is on the placement of the seven planets relative to each other and to the signs of the zodiac, though the system does allow reference to fixed stars, asteroids, comets, and various mathematical points of interest as well. As a craft, astrology is a combination of basic astronomy, numerology, and mysticism. In its modern form, it is a classic example of pseudoscience.

Astronomy is a natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects (such as stars, planets, comets, nebulae, star clusters and galaxies) and phenomena that originate outside the Earth's atmosphere (such as the cosmic background radiation). It is concerned with the evolution, physics, chemistry, meteorology, and motion of celestial objects, as well as the formation and development of the universe.

The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. - John F. Kennedy
It remains amazing to me, in this time of scientific know-how and our dependency upon it every day, that there are still those in denial of 'global warming' by any definition. But there are. And there are corporations and individuals who see this very idea as a threat to their profitability in the future, so much so that they actually pay consultants to question and undermine the actual science that we should consider valuable to us and our descendants! Imagine that if you can.

It might be interesting for folks to see the importance of The Economics and Social Benefits of NOAA Data and Products at this website.

Or, review the NCDC Frequently Asked Questions at this website to see for yourself.

The NOAA National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) is one of the world's premier centers for archiving, processing, and researching climate data. As such, NCDC fields hundreds of questions regarding the data: how it is processed, how it can be accessed, and what it means. If you have a question about NCDC, climate data, or climatology, an answer may reside in our "Frequently Asked Questions" (FAQs) below. If not, please feel free to contact us. We're adding questions to this site all the time.

• Global Climate Change Questions
• The Greenhouse Effect
• Climate Change Data
• Climate Definitions
• Briefings on Climate Change

If the information found at the above references is still insufficient to convince one that there are newly discovered truths around that we ought to know, accept and act upon, then these words are truly wasted.

It might almost remind of the old Bill Cosby joke, where THE LORD says to Noah, 'How long can you tread water?'
Funny, if not so sad?
Even if you aren't convinced Global Warming is real, here are 10 things you could do to fight it, just in case:

1. Recycle & buy minimally packed goods as much as possible

2. Wash cloths in cold or warm water, not hot.

3. Install low-flow shower heads to use less water.

4. Run the dishwasher only when full and don't use heat to dry dishes.

5. Replace standard light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs.

6. Plug air leaks in windows and doors to increase energy efficiency.

7. Replace old appliances with energy-efficient ones.

8. Walk, bike, carpool or use public transit whenever possible.

9. Adjust your thermostat -lower in winter, higher in summer.

10. Share these simple steps with friends & family and increase awareness!

Notice that -even if global warming doesn't exist- these steps will save you money!
Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future. - John F. Kennedy

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Bachelor's Stew; An Inspiration

Here are on the evening of Saturday, June 19 -the day before Father's Day and 2 days after my 21st Anniversary to my dear wife who is enjoying a brief vacation in SF.

As sometimes happens in Bellingham, the sun is making its first real appearance just before sundown, below the picturesque clouds.
Hey, we've learned to call that particular 'sunny break', a sunny day!
And, coupled with catching the tail end of Casino Royale and the beginning of Quantum of Solace -both James Bond flicks on TV with Daniel Craig- the atmosphere seems just right to relate a secret, shared by Bachelors everywhere. Maybe Bachelorettes, too?

The secret is Bachelor Stew, a concoction of variable recipe that combines mostly ready-made ingredients, adds a few ad hoc foods that are conveniently at hand and melds the whole into a dish that tastes truly outstanding.

What's even better is that I also concocted a great sangria - containing all kinds of nutritious fruits - to go with my supper.
Want to share my secret? It's up to you:

The stew I prepared tonight consists of the following, combined and heated slowly on stovetop:

1 can Amy's Lentil Soup [organic, from Costco]

1 can Amy's Chile -Medium [also organic from Costco]

3 slices Black Forest Smoked ham - cut into small pieces [ Costco]

1/5 Red Onion [Costco or elsewhere]

Heat & Serve without excessive fanfare -which subtracts from the spontaneous ambiance.

Sangria -made in large pitcher with abundant ice cubes:

1 bottle Old Vine Zinfandel [I like Bogle -Fred Meyers]

1 bottle diet 7-Up

1/2 orange, sliced thin

1/2 apple, sliced thin

several strawberries, sliced thin

several blackberries, sliced

1/2 lime sliced thin & squeezed.

1 small banana, sliced

anything else that comes to mind.

Stir & serve in a fruit jar or other glass.

These 2 items go very well together!

Enjoy if you dare!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Its all over, except the shouting, campaigning and voting.

"A people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power that knowledge gives." - James Madison
Promptly at 4:30 PM, the County Auditor closed the Declarations of Candidacy for our local elections, and there were a few surprises.
Now, there will certainly be all kinds of speculation about possible outcomes, despite the fact that no one really knows with absolute certainty.
But, there are degrees of certainty, some higher than others.

For example, those candidates with no opposition will likely win.
Another one is incumbents with name recognition, strong backers and money behind them are often strong favorites who enjoy distinct advantages at voting time -unless of course they have done something so egregiously bad that an unavoidable political 'BO' can be smelled.

It is a shame that the above is true, in several cases. The power of incumbency is strong, but not as strong as sheer apathy - on the part of many citizens and voters, who seem to always prefer that somebody else serves in public office.
Isn't that attitude convenient?
Whenever things don't go according to their expectations, they get to just bitch about it and be cheaply entertained as well.

Politics should not ever be considered as a mere spectator sport; it's a deadly serious business!
If you don't believe that just check out the casualties we experience every day, in terms of deaths, crimes committed, health crises, and all manner of economic sufferings and inequities.
I hate to put a damper on the party -political or otherwise- but addressing this elections situation always has to start at home.
If we can't do that here, where can we, and when?

OK, enough on that rant.
Here's a few personal choices that appeal to me, taking into account my track record for picking election winners isn't much to write home about. It seems I have this little problem of often voting with my heart, and not always with my head, and underdogs don't fare too well generally.
Reckon that's why they're called UNDER-dogs?

Anyway, here goes, for what it's worth:
[Hope no one gets too offended, but a few might. Anyway here's my current picks]
Port of Bellingham All (Whatcom)
Commissioner District 3 Nonpartisan office (4-year term)

Jim Jorgensen [incumbent]

Michael J. Murphy

My gut tells me that its time for another change at the Port, so Murphy's my initial choice.
The last change has worked pretty well with Mike McCauley replacing longtime incumbent Doug Smith.
But Scott Walker is still there, and continues influencing Jorgenson, as well as the new Director, Charlie Sheldon, in the old ways of thinking -not all of which are bad. A better relationship with the City remains a work in progress, and is essential if the Waterfront Redevelopment and improvements to the Airport are to meet public expectations.

Whatcom County (Whatcom)
Executive Nonpartisan office (4-year term)

Jack Louws

Doug Ericksen

Tom Anderson

David Stalheim

Ah, a real horserace, with, alas, no incumbent! Stalheim's late, surprise entry really intrigues me, and he is likely my first choice, although most may consider him a distinct underdog. He is a consummate professional in the field of Planning - a major hot button in these parts! His ridiculous, contrived ouster as Director of Planning for the County means he was way too knowledgeable on the shenanigans that continue to plague us, financed by the powerful development interests that also have several elected officials under control. I believe him to have all the management tools & experience necessary to responsibly head the County government.

Tom Anderson also has the right tools and motivation to effectively manage this County's affairs competently. His main deficiency is his low profile and lack of a galvanizing organization. If he can attract the votes he deserves, he can affect the outcome of this race, but maybe not win it.

Jack Louws is qualified for this position, by training, experience and heredity. His father was the County's first Executive. Jack is a true fiscal conservative and a Christian in the finest sense of the word. I don't always agree with Jack's positions, but I do respect where he is coming from. And, he would certainly be an improvement over our last County Executive! Louws may be the ultimate favorite in this race.

Doug Erickson is my absolute least favorite candidate in this race! He is a career political opportunist with no track record worth reviewing outside of partisan political circles. If he is elected the County is in deeper trouble than with our latest Executive. If cronyism and political posturing are what you think are needed here, then you are probably going to vote for Erickson. I hope not! He was recently elected as our State Senator after multiple, undistinguished terms as our State Representative in Olympia. That's where he belongs, if anywhere. Sorry to be this negative about DUUG, but he's worked hard to deserve it.

Council District 1 Position B Nonpartisan office (4-year term)

Tony Larson [incumbent]

Pete Kremen

This was the first big surprise of these elections for me, which was covered yesterday's blog. Larson richly deserves being booted off the Council early, which the only reason I would support Pete for any other elected office. As awful as Pete has been over the past 16 years as County Executive, Larson has shown an utter disregard for issues, established protocols and reasonable respect for the public in general. He is truly a dangerous misfit in elected office. So, Pete wins and marginally improves the County Council's focus and commitment to doing things that are right for the entire populace.
Council District 2 Position B Nonpartisan office (4-year term)

Sam R. Crawford [incumbent]

Christina Maginnis

Christina is my clear choice, not despite, but because of her underdog status. She is committed to priorities that are essential to the future well-being of Whatcom County, not just things that the growth at all costs people want. Sam, the incumbent, is going for his 4th term, which is generally too long for almost anyone in my view. But, that is especially true for folks like Sam who cleverly cultivate a benign image while brazenly conniving to benefit their cronies. I'm sorry to feel this way, but I have observed Sam at fairly close range for several years ever since he was first elected in the year 2000, and come to the conclusion that he is bad news! Previous blogs have commented on his disingenuous rhetoric, which purports to support mainstream priorities, but really doesn't. That's basically dishonest, and for no other better reason renders him unsuitable for representing the public at large. Sorry Sam, but you should know by now how I -and many others- feel about your insincerity and your poorly hidden private agendas. Begone!
Council District 3 Position B Nonpartisan office (4-year term)

Barbara Brenner [incumbent]

Alan Black

This is another bit of a surprise, and a welcome one at that. Black is a newcomer underdog to one of the longest serving political dilettantes on the Council. Brenner paints herself as a long suffering champion of the average citizen, but acts more like self-serving gadfly, off her meds, who constantly seeks headlines, attention to herself and befuddling her colleagues and constituents as to her rationale for voting on many, diverse issues. It is clearly way past time for BB Gun to go away and find something else to do, out of the public trough. Of course, if she did, we'd miss the entertainment value of her driving her colleagues -including Pete Kremen- to complete distraction with her antics! I'd give that up in a heartbeat. But, rather than all negatives on BB, Mr Black apparently has some very fine credentials for a job in trusted public service, which I'd personally like to have him demonstrate by being elected. AB over BB here.
Assessor Nonpartisan office (4-year term)

Keith M. Willnauer [incumbent]

No competition, nuff said. Guess he's doing an OK job.
Auditor Nonpartisan office (4-year term)

J. Lynne Walker

Debbie Adelstein

Neither candidate is an incumbent, although Adelstein has been an assistant in the office after working for Pete Kremen's office.
J Lynne is my choice, since I've worked with her since she became the Legislative Assistant to the Bellingham City Council in 2004.
Walker is a reliable and dedicated worker who can be trusted with public responsibilities. She deals with the public regularly and is always courteous and discrete, both virtues for a public servant in a high visibility job.

Sheriff Nonpartisan office (4-year term)

Bill Elfo [incumbent]

Bob Taylor

Steve Harris

Law enforcement is always a priority in government and Sheriff is an important function. Elfo is the incumbent, has legal training and has performed his job capably and professionally for about 3 terms. I know of no improprieties during this time, and am of the opinion that Sheriff's can't often be considered as interchangeable parts. Therefore, I'm inclined to support this incumbent, without questioning the qualifications or fitness for office of the other two candidates.
Treasurer Nonpartisan office (4-year term

Steven Oliver [incumbent]

Brian Smith

Despite the announced, relatively unknown competition, Oliver's doing an OK job.
City of Bellingham (Whatcom)
Mayor Nonpartisan office (4-year term)

Kelli Linville

Clayton Petree

Daniel V. Pike [incumbent]

Steve Moore

Now here's an interesting race, with two clear front-runners and two also rans.
Despite my strong support for Pike 4 years ago, this time I favor Linville, based upon her years of unusually productive service in the State Legislature representing the difficult 42nd District in northern Whatcom County. Kelli has much favorable history here and has a woman's light touch, which enables her to bring diverse views together and come up with reasonable resolutions to problems that most folks willingly accept. I like that, and I also like the numerous contacts she has developed on both sides of the political aisle throughout Washington, including our elected Federal officials. These relationships are increasingly important in these days of fiscal difficulty. I believe the Office of Mayor fits her well in this community, and wish her well.

Dan Pike, as a political newbie, has done a very credible job amid really hard budget times, and is to be commended for that. On the other hand, he's made far too many 'commitments' -or what folks thought sounded like commitments- than he has been able to deliver. His management style is forceful and sometimes ego-centric, which can invite opposition at times where it is not needed. The drastic budget cuts made during his administration have been as necessary as they were bold, but understandably have also caused pain. exacerbated somewhat by his sometimes aloof, detached behavior toward City staff. And, he has had some real difficulty in his relations with the City Council. One could chalk these impressions up to political naivete, but that may not be the entire explanation. Pike seems talkative, bright, ambitious and sometimes overly self-serving, all of which can spell trouble for politicians if they are not careful. Should Pike win again, the people will truly have spoken.

Petree has expressed some reasonable perspectives and should be given respect for running for elected office. Wouldn't be surprised if we didn't see him again sometime.

Moore is OK, but a bit of a hothead ideologue. He's been around the COC for years, mainly complaining about government at all levels. So, why does he now want to become part of it? Your guess is as good as mine.

Council Ward 1 Nonpartisan office (4-year term)

Jack Weiss [incumbent]

No competition, nuff said. Jack really cares, and he's doing a really good job!
Council Ward 3 Nonpartisan office (4-year term)

Cathy Lehman

Barry Buchanan [incumbent]

Here's another tough race, in which I'm again favoring the underdog newbie, Cathy Lehman, who's very competent and committed to two essential big issues; Growth Management and Environmental Conservation. Because these issues are so important, complicated and difficult, we need candidates who are willing and able to be advocates for them. New perspectives and ideas are always in demand, and are often evident in younger members of our community. But, Barry's done well in his one term, so if he wins reelection, that's OK too.
Council Ward 5 Nonpartisan office (4-year term)

Terry Bornemann [incumbent]

No competition, nuff said. Guess he's doing an OK job, though four terms ought to be the limit.
Council Ward At Large Nonpartisan office (2-year term)

Seth Fleetwood [incumbent]

Larry Farr

Yet another interesting race in which I'm liking the challenger, Farr, who has served the City well in appointed positions, including the former Traffic Commission. Larry has previously run -unsuccessfully- for office, which tells me he's more than a political opportunist. Seth is OK too, but seems now to be mostly biding his time on the City Council after two terms on the more contentious County Council. Of course, his candidacy for Mayor four years ago in a crowded field, may well have helped Dan Pike to victory.
"The people have the right, the indisputable, unalienable, indeafeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean the chracter and conduct of their rulers." - John Adams

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Elections: Our Own Local Laugh-in

With one day remaining to file for office, have you seen the latest filings?

You can decide to laugh or cry over the weird turn of events that now has Pete Kremen running for County Council against Tony Larson!

Then, help us decide what in heck is going on here, please!

More to follow, maybe...
1:15 AM June 10:

OK, I couldn't resist a couple of educated guesses about why Pete might have acted as he has so far:

• Could it be that strong competition from Jack Louws may have triggered his 'hypertension'? Pete doesn't like working too hard on anything, much less against credible rivals. Also, Doug Ericksen's entry probably further exacerbated this problem.

• Larson likely irritated him in questioning the wisdom of the Reconveyance scheme; an idea Pete would like to consider his legacy.

• This Council -including Larson- has been a real problem for Pete and the County Administration. Just too many strange, individual agendas motivated by fixed ideas, cronyism, ignorance and arrogance.

• Pete probably could use a few more years under the County's health plan due to his personal health issues, as well as the State's retirement system -which is based on years of service- at least until he reaches the age of 62 to 65.

• County politics is the only 'job' he knows, so it is hard for him to walk away from the public attention and the public dole so suddenly/

You think local politics might have hit a new low here in Whatcom County?
I do.
But that's just my opinion.

As bad a representative as Tony Larson has been -and shows promise to become- it's really hard to stomach Pete in office again, although his presence on this Council may actually help it do its job more competently.

Wouldn't it be fun to be a fly on the wall in certain places?
But, maybe the public, know how to use a fly swatter!

Time will tell I suppose; besides, there's another whole left day to file for office...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Good Mornin' America, How Are Ya?

Old Willie Nelson's familiar words occurred to me about 4AM this AM when a [relatively quiet] train tootled its way through the Ham. I wondered briefly if it had a name, like 'The City of New Orleans' or someplace else. Most likely it had no name, like most trains; just efficient, impersonal numbers. That would seem to fit better with the style -or lack of it- of BNSF Railroad, now owned & operated by Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway, in Omaha, NE, or wherever it wants to be.
Hey, how about 'The City of Omaha?

I actually like the kindly, smiling Mr Buffet, who seems to epitomize competency, caring and good business sense. Just the kind of investment steward that is desired, actually preferred, for retirement security and growth. And, at my age, I can't afford too many gambles, at least of the financial type.
But, you know, such things aren't that simple now. Maybe they never were, but certainly not now.

Railroads helped build this nation and secure business opportunities, jobs and critical supplies so necessary for growth.
In return, they were rewarded handsomely, by large land grants, relatively few restrictions and the resulting success that was bound to follow. And that was good, essentially, but maybe not as good as it might have been had the foresight for future needs been built into the equation; like providing reliable, efficient transportation for people along established routes - like, well, in Europe.

Over time, railroads have become more like necessary evils, not very responsive to anything other than their own short term wishes and profitability. That seems evidenced by the current push to create more rail traffic by hauling steam coal from huge deposits in Montana & Wyoming to a suitable export terminal somewhere on the US West Coast.
Where, do you imagine might this facility be located?
Are any of the several major seaports eligible? Strangely, it would seem not! From south to north, San Diego, Los Angeles/Long Beach, San Francisco/Oakland, Portland, Longview, Seattle/Tacoma, Everett all were not selected for this purpose, for various reasons related to ownership of RR rights of way, excessive distance/cost of shipping, lack of space, or simply not wanted by the port in question.
Why do you imagine that might be?
Not to worry, that explanation isn't really necessary, because all those places/ports have been rejected by the erstwhile proponents, in favor of Cherry Point in northern Whatcom County -a place crying out for development?

Some may be crying out in favor of it, but most seem to be shedding real tears at the prospect of the enormous blot envisioned to be created by forcing an undesirable facility, with its attendant invasive side effects, into our community.
I certainly hope this blitzkrieg proposal does not succeed, despite the nice Mr Buffett and all the local political rhetoric that panders to the prospect of 'free' new taxes, plus several dozen new jobs to swell the coffers and clout of a few union bosses.
Does that seem like a fair trade to you?
Is the kindly Mr Buffett likely to care?

Somehow, it all just seems a little too opportunistic to me, what with using all that inherited set of entitlements bestowed by our well-meaning government 150 years or so ago.
And, the timing is also suspect; trying to take advantage of economic hard times; almost reminds of the evil villain tying Miss Lizzie to the tracks...
But, enough of this; why not actually name this/these proposed train/s? After all, they're all part of the same dysfunctional family. Any suggestions? Keep it clean!
How about the City/Cities of [fill in the blank], China?
Sorry, but Willie Nelson might give up singing this song with those lyrics.

The trip I just completed furnished some interesting information regarding coal companies, trains & terminals, so I'll share some of it:
The two shipping terminals in the Hampton Roads/Norfolk, VA area have been there for quite a while. Sufficient trackage and marshaling areas are already in place to allow loading of large ships -colliers- on the waterfronts of Norfolk and Newport News.
Coal from West Virginia, Kentucky and western Virginia is hauled by C&O and other railway carriers to these facilities in long, unit trains. Dockside loading facilities are enormous, but easily accommodated in a large seaport area like Hampton Roads.

Here's a picture of the Norfolk coal loading facility taken at a distance from a boat. One ship is being loaded in the picture, but more can be handled at one time depending upon stockpile available.

The Newport News facility is several miles away across Hampton Roads, up the James River.

One concern noted is the fact that several empty colliers seem always at anchor off Lynnhaven -just east of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel- awaiting their turn to travel via the Thimble Shoals Channel into Hampton Roads. This photo taken from a VA Beach park shows such vessels lying at anchor offshore.

On that day, 10 ships lay at anchor, down from the more usual 20 or so, according to local people. Note that Thimble Shoals Channel is the primary access route to/from Hampton Roads for major vessels; probably about 1000 yards wide and 50 feet deep. It is also used by US Navy vessels, cruise ships and other seafaring vessels.

I wonder what is visualized at Cherry Point regarding the queuing up of vessels awaiting loading? Our local waters do not have the space for many multiple anchorages of very large vessels, although crude oil vessels do anchor near Anacortes and sometimes further north. Channels are also constricted and the danger of spills, ballast dumping, crowding and collisions seem relatively high. Competition from fishing and pleasure craft is another real concern, since the San Juan & Gulf Islands are prime locations sought out by boaters for there beauty and serenity -a not inconsequential reason for the popularity of our area!

Further west, I had the opportunity to talk with a person from eastern Montana who is very familiar with both the Powder River Basin mining area and railroad operations, in particular the BNSF Railroad.
Coal deposits in Montana are larger than those in Wyoming, and coal mining companies are typically indiscriminate about what they sell or to whom.
They are also typically very secretive about plans and reluctant to spend money for necessary or desirable track improvements. Often, they will front a local sponsor as project advocate to take advantage of local knowledge and shield themselves from direct scrutiny.
Once a new loading facility is built, they will ship whatever product{s} they can sell on an interchangeable basis, despite any stated purposes. It seems established rules allow this type of activity.
The picture painted of coal mining companies is not pretty; they are international opportunists, pure and simple, with no conscience of unintended consequences.
If their immediate goals cannot be readily achieved by a specific proposal, they will shift to another. They also wield powerful lobbying clout which they use often.

The BNSF also operates opportunistically. The potential Mr Buffett saw in acquiring his controlling interest is unused capacity, plus desirable track routes.

The BNSF Railroad route from eastern Montana essentially parallels US Highway #2, which was used to build/maintain it.
The maximum grade railroads can negotiate is about 2%, one third of what highways can design for.
Marias Pass [5575 feet elevation] in Glacier National Park is the highest elevation BNSF crosses along this route. Extra engines are needed routinely for this service.
One can follow this route through a series of towns and crossings, including East & West Glacier MT, Whitefish MT, Libby MT, Bonner's Ferry ID, Sand Point ID, Spokane WA, Wenatchee WA to Everett WA.
From there, BNSF can go north or south, but for the moment prefers north through Bellingham to the proposed terminal at Cherry Point.

You know, just like the Olympic Pipe Line, the BNSF Railroad traverses many communities, all of which will be impacted by higher levels of train traffic. That is a point that should not be lost of us; this is not just about us!
That is why severely limiting the EIS scope is not a good idea; impacts will be felt other places too, but with the big difference that a huge, hungry terminal may be in OUR back yard.
What about the unsuspecting people all along this route who will not be notified that their lives are about to change in ways they don't expect, and can do little to mitigate? You know, little things like waiting 10 to 15 minutes or more at a crossing that used to be no problem.
Annoying and maybe dangerous things will happen all across the Highway #2 corridor, but most won't even know about it until too late to matter. Sorry, but that ain't OK.
Good mornin' America, how are ya? indeed.

One final comment about those 'Robber Baron' folks who aren't happy with the Mayor of Bellingham and his recent 'come to Jesus' moment; he's finally realized -in the brilliant light of election season- the overwhelming wishes of his constituency!
Those disappointed by this turn of events will need to come up with better arguments than 'we need to wait for the EIS' before expressing opinions.
Get serious!
No competent party ever goes into a negotiation without having a clear idea of what the desired outcome could/should be.
The same is true here, and thank goodness the community has made its voice heard early in this process.
To wait for 'others' to perform the EIS without our clear concerns and desired outcomes is lunacy of the first order.
And, it is stupid and self-serving to suggest otherwise. That's simply imposing some personal will upon the community, which doesn't fit too well with a real democracy.
The Mayor gets credit for hearing the public's concerns; but that was only possible if he actually listened.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Coal Terminal: Mayor's Listening Session

For those interested, here is a summary of the brief remarks I gave earlier at tonight's meeting:

Two broad points pertain, which touch on several of the elements of EIS impact categories listed for reference on the screen.

First, this proposal should NOT be framed as either JOBS or QUALITY OF LIFE.
It is a much more complex decision than that simplistic characterization.

As Ben Franklin actually put it; 'Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.'

[I substituted the words prosperity for safety, and environment for liberty.
But, essentially the same point is made]

Second, SAFETY is the real issue, just like it was 12 years ago, with the Olympic Pipe Line disaster.

Then, people spoke, and government listened, despite the City of Bellingham's lack of specific 'jurisdiction'.
Many necessary changes were effected afterwards -in Federal, State and Local laws and regulations.

Unfortunately, the OPL disaster had to actually happen before concerned citizens were heard.

The Coal Terminal proposal carries with it the distinct possibility -maybe even the probability- that a similar disaster could occur.
That makes this EIS drafting time critical to the prevention of future catastrophes, whether a cataclysmic single event, or a series of cumulatively harmful events, either of which will be impossible to mitigate after-the-fact -like Bhopal.

Aspects of SAFETY which ought to be carefully considered include these:

• SAFETY for humans and wildlife along the rail lines, at crossings and/or near habitats and sensitive areas

• SAFETY of our precious waters from shipping traffic [Note that the 2 coal terminals in Norfolk and Newport News, VA require thousands of acres for marshaling and loading operations, plus deep water anchorages for between 10 and 20 large coal carrying ships.

• SAFETY of investments in both public and private properties near the routes in question

• SAFETY of public expectations in waterfront redevelopment visioning, plans and potential job-producing development

• SAFETY of our shared, global environs from multiple, unnecessary degradations and depletion of natural resources

At a minimum, a comprehensive and careful proposal that addresses these legitimate concerns needs to be submitted by the proponents, outlining those mitigation modifications reasonably required.
Not until this type of proposal is available for additional public review and comment, should any go/no go decision for action be made.

After all, the principles of triple bottom line need to be respected and followed as is reasonably possible.
Trust does require verification!