Friday, September 9, 2011

Greenways: Shenanigans

Lord knows, I could've used a few more enjoyable days in sunny, lazy Winthrop, but as luck would have it -just like in 2006, after Mayor Mark's resignation- I committed the error of checking voicemails at home.
This time, some forewarning had been available but in my retired state of mind, I hadn't given it much thought.

The messages were not pleasant, as the messages before were also. The City Council in its wisdom -or lack of it- had precipitously decided to fore go its usual good judgement and spring to a perceived 'deal' too good to pass up. Except, it wasn't.
My last blog or two had touched upon the subject at hand; it was the decision to purchase the ENTIRE property known as Fairhaven Highlands [aka Chuckanut Ridge] for a sum of $8.23 million {US} dollars, plus closing costs & c.

The problem was not the purchase, but the price offered -which could not be covered by funds readily available, which necessitated borrowing from other funds with the pay-back somewhat in question.
In fact, a LOT in question!

The other aspect of this was the rushed agenda to quick pass the Council's decision on next Monday [September 12, 2001] without any public meeting or consideration of alternate strategies.
That seemed a little presumptuous to me, and maybe a little arrogant, too, especially since the Council had acted without consulting either the Greenways Committee or the Parks & Recreation Board, both of which generally weigh in on such matters.
Additionally, Council spurned any input from its professional Parks & Recreation Staff, that bunch charged with carrying out their dictates, or maybe that's the Mayor's dictates - its often hard to say -[especially with a Mayor who likes to bypass normal channels and procedures to get his way.
In fairness, maybe that is just NOT one of Dan Pike's 'Skill Sets'?

Anyway, it seems the Council -at least 5 of the 7- are ready to give quick cursory attention to this subject next Monday afternoon and evening at their regular committee and committee-of-the-whole meetings, after which this deal could be done and over.
How's that for government efficiency?
The problem is that urgency isn't called for in this matter, which has been controversial to say the least.
A public meeting would allow different opinions and approaches to be heard and perhaps a better solution reached.

But that would be uncomfortable, wouldn't it?
Can't have the Council -and Mayor- be uncomfortable about such matters, can we?
Hell, we can't!
They need to be uncomfortable with the decision they have apparently made!
That's called public process, something we're supposed to value in a democracy!

So, I'm planning to go home early to attend the Monday meetings and express some views, which the Council -in its wisdom- ought to hear. Now, whether this will change anything remains to be seen, but its worth a try, don't you think?

Without dragging out too much history and personal opinion, I did learn a few things about the value of public process during my 9 years as an elected Council Member.
The important thing was that -especially on critical matters- to listen to citizens' concerns!
Now, I also know that if citizens are allowed to be heard, the chances are they are more likely to accept the actions ultimately accepted by the Council, thereby enhancing the credibility & fairness of that action, and NOT weakening faith in the considered actions of elected officials.
I'm hoping such an outcome might result from the Council welcoming comments from concerned citizens at the Monday meetings.
But, I'm not getting my hopes up about it either.

There is much to benefit from a short delay before any final decision, and perhaps a public meeting to respectfully consider alternate ideas.
And, there appears to be NO downside risk to such a plan!
There is no urgency on this matter, except for what the Council imposes upon itself, or allows the Mayor to impose upon it.

Why not talk to the Bank and see if they might agree to a short delay.
Certainly, an organization willing to reduce its asking price by over $600,000 a the drop of a hat, will likely accept such a reasonable idea -particularly, if it is in the interest of due process!
Is it likely that the Bank has a better offer?
Or, any other offer, with controversy that has surrounded this particular property?
Why not ask them?
We might be surprised at their response.

I continue to have serious doubts about these negotiations, burdened as they were by early, blatant and inappropriate commitments by 4 Council Members.
Two of those folks still represent us now, and probably ought to recuse themselves from even voting on this matter; but do you think they will have the integrity or courage to do that?
I don't, but maybe I'm wrong.

But thinking along these lines just a little further, the absence of those 2 tainted votes would result in 3-2 decision in favor of the purchase, not enough to ratify the deal in question.

Of, course, a similar result might be obtained if 2 of the other 3 'yes' votes were switched on either the 2nd or third ballots taken next Monday. That likely means that Barry Buchanan, Seth Fleetwood or and Michael Lilliquist may hold the key to considering a better deal for Bellingham and its citizens!
Oh, what pressure!
Oh, how to vote now?
Oh. who will accuse me of flip-flopping?
Oh, who won't vote for me next time?
Is it time to be a hero to some folks, or a model elected official to ALL citizens?
Oh, what to do? This wasn't supposed to be so hard!

Here's a hint; do THE RIGHT THING!
Delay a week or two in search of a better deal, and one that is not likely to compromise the entire Greenways program!
If no better deal then seems possible, at least you've done your best to allow it to happen.
Give this some thought before jumping to conclusions that may become even more undesirable.