Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Greenways: Herald Article Reprise

Right“"I don't see much sense in that," said Rabbit.

"No," said Pooh humbly, "there isn't. But there was going to be when I began it.

It's just that something happened to it along the way."” - Winnie the Pooh


Today's Gristle got it right, again, in assessing the Chuckanut Ridge acquisition.
Don't have the money, no problem; just leave that little detail to those who will follow to sweat through!

Here's the Herald Article link I thought I'd reprise, and here's the same article reprinted, with my comments -and emphasis- interspersed in red at intervals:

Bellingham council sees partial Chuckanut Ridge sale as last resort


BELLINGHAM - The City Council is taking steps to clarify its strategy for covering the $8.2 million cost of the 82-acre Chuckanut Ridge purchase.

Right, after-the-fact from the action already taken!

On Monday afternoon, Sept. 26, the council finance committee met to discuss the matter and all seven council members attended. The key issue is finding a way to repay as much as $3.3 million of the purchase price that is being covered with a loan from a city parks Greenways endowment fund that is supposed to be used for maintenance, not land purchases.

If less than $3.3 Million is repaid, how will the balance be paid?

Even more importantly, how will the maintenance be paid for! Think that doesn't count? Why was it ever designated in the first place?

Attempts at verbal jujitsu seems in evidence here.

Councilman Seth Fleetwood said it was incorrect to say the council has no plan for repayment of that loan. Ultimately, Fleetwood said, the property itself serves as collateral for the loan, and some portion of it could be sold for residential development to pay the loan back, if no other revenue sources can be found.


Of course some portion could be sold; that should be Council's first option!

"Nobody hopes that this happens," Fleetwood said.

I do, and so do many others who take City fiscal matters seriously!

Mayor Dan Pike agreed.

"The ultimate fallback plan is we sell off as much of the land as we need to," Pike said.

Huh?, again!

Does ultimate fallback mean the same as last resort?

Didn't these guys figure all the deficit monies would have to be paid back?

Go ahead, kick that last resort into the dim future and hope no one is watching!

Good luck with that.

Council members agreed to consider adding language to that effect to the ordinance authorizing financing for the Chuckanut Ridge purchase. The seller is Washington Federal, the bank that obtained the property through foreclosure. The property had previously secured loans made by Horizon Bank, and Washington Federal took over those loans after regulators shut down Horizon in early 2010.

The ordinance was slated to come before the full council for a final vote late Monday, with an addition that reads, "Until paid in full, the 82 acres of real property shall serve as collateral for any unpaid balance" from the $3.3 million loan from the endowment fund.

Big deal, stating the obvious; although with this bunch, just getting that into the ordinance was a step they could take and maybe save more criticism.

How's that working out?

The council has six years to repay the money.

Who says so? Why they do, of course! You see, they, and only they, are the deciders!

Don't forget that, especially at election time.

BTW, how many of these guys will still be in office 6 years hence?

Also at the Monday committee meeting, council members appeared to be backing away from any insistence that loan repayment could not come from a new Greenways IV levy that would, if voters approve, replace the current Greenways III levy that expires at the end of 2016.

Is that really surprising?

After all, that was their first option in the thin air of Council's exhilaration after the 'buy it all now' decision was first made.

At a Sept. 22 finance committee meeting, committee members recommended that the city not rely on potential Greenways IV revenue for Chuckanut Ridge, since that reliance might turn some city voters against the future levy.

You think? Count on it!

Pike said the content of the next Greenways levy would be up to a future Greenway advisory committee and City Council, and said the current council has no business trying to dictate that levy's possible uses, years in advance.

Huh? The first part of that almost sounded kinda - right!

But, notice he left any mention of his -or a future Mayor's- role out of this statement?

And, oh sure, a future Greenway advisory committee could be just as ignored as the current one has been!

But this is the kicker: ...the current council has no business trying to dictate that levy's possible uses, years in advance.

What is he saying by analogy?

Is it that the previous Council had no business trying to dictate what the current Council has now undone?

Well, that certainly clarifies this Mayor's thinking about things, like binding commitments, duly passed ordinances, carefully considered procedures, and all the heavy lifting done by those who have set the table for this current bunch to mess with, any way they want to, doesn't it?

No wonder Pike is having troubles; he doesn't even know what he's saying from one mouth-opening to another!

But, maybe my interpretation has more to do with semantics?

Like, the reporter didn't get it just right?

I don't think so!

The reporter got it right, but Pike often seems to need the last word, just to clarify what he means to those who weren't there to hear it for themselves!.

Bye, bye Pike!

Both also said they thought it was up to the mayor to develop a financing plan for the land purchase and to bring the plan to the council for review and approval.

Shouldn't this have happened before the Council voted to buy CR?

Where's the Council's due diligence in this?

And, why are they pointing fingers in any direction except the mirror?

Pike agreed, suggesting that the matter was becoming a political issue. [Yeah! It's always been a political issue!] He faces a re-election challenge from former state legislator Kelli Linville.

"I think what I would like to do is come back (with financing ideas) some time after the election is over," Pike said. "Everything will be calmer."

Think so? Why? Because we'll have a new Mayor, with better 'skill sets'?

That's one way things will be calmer for you!

Your unwise grandstanding about buying CR wasn't about trying to gain a political advantage?

Can't have it both ways, Pike!

He also took the opportunity to defend both the land purchase and the price. Many city residents had been urging public purchase of the wooded site for years, and the bank's asking price was a fraction of what previous owners had been quoting, Pike said.

True, but that fractional price was still much more [$3.5 Million] than the City could afford to keep, without spinning back a chunk of it!

Previous owners were concocting a virtual pyramid scheme that had to fail, unless the full 739 dwelling units were actually built and sold.

[Maybe the Twilight Zoning that a previous Council and Administration allowed, largely contributed to the current situation? You bet it did! Maybe THAT Council should not have had a binding impact on the current Council & Administration, either! So why didn't Pike and THIS Council simply ignore the grossly excessive zoning? You know, what goes around, comes around -at least according to Pike's reasoning!]

Also, a little bird told me that it was the City's Finance Director who took it upon himself to ask the Bank to consider reducing the price by 5 to 7%, which was the approximate property devaluation that occurred over the past year, since the first appraisal was done.

The Bank immediately responded to this request and lowered its asking price by 7.5%, or about $700 Thousand.

Now, that ain't exactly chump change, but even that reduction left a price of $8.23 Million that the Council chomped on like a hungry trout to a fly!

Not much time to have a repayment plan developed, was it?

If the city failed to move quickly, Washington Federal could have chosen to auction off the property, leaving the city to try to negotiate a deal with a less motivated seller, he said.

There may still need to be an auction!

How else will the $3.5 Million be ultimately repaid?

"This is just an example of 'No good deed goes unpunished,'" Pike said.

Exactly what good deed was that?

You were just doing your job, right?

Instead of moving toward some kind of firm commitment to a specific strategy for loan repayment, council members agreed to collect public input on the issue, using the city's website.

That's the ultimate takeaway here; no firm commitment to a specific strategy for loan repayment! The Council ate the dessert, but left their veggies untouched and the dishes for a future Council to wash!

And what good is asking for public input, after the fact!

Heck, they even ignored public input given before-the-fact!

Council didn't even have the common decency to hold a public meeting, instead ducking into their safe little internet!

Guess maybe it's not as hot that way?

Whimps, and irresponsible ones at that!

My 2 cents.....after the fact

Reach JOHN STARK at or call 715-2274.


OK, that's off my chest, but not out of my memory!
After all the jawbone baloney about not using future Greenways dollars to repay the $3.5 Million deficit, this remarkably stupid Council is apparently locked into doing just that!
Surprise, surprise.
If selling a bit of the property itself is considered 'a last resort', what -pray tell- are the earlier resorts?
Stay tuned.
It ain't over 'til its over.....

“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. "Pooh?" he whispered.

"Yes, Piglet?"

"Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's hand. "I just wanted to be sure of you.”

A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh


“I'm not lost for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.”

A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh


Coal: Floyd McKay's Latest Crosscut Article

Here is a link to Floyd McKay's recent crosscut article on this issue.
This discusses multiple locations where coal shipment projects are being proposed.

Politics: Finding The Sweet Spot Sour?

Somewhere between the lazy liberals and the constipated conservatives, there's got to be a happier middle ground.

Today, an old acquaintance whom I seldom see, chanced upon meeting me at a local business that deals in technical toys, namely cell phones and accessories.
He recognized me from behind before I even saw him, possibly because he does follow local politics, including my wee stint in that arena.
He asked me if I missed being in politics, to which I replied 'yes, like I miss the measles'!
A little strong maybe, but what I meant was I missed being an active part of important decision-making.

With measles, one does develop a certain immunity, but with politics - not!
Once it gets in your blood, it remains there at some tangible concentration.
Somehow, this guy suggested that I was known as more of a 'radical moderate' in his thinking.
And, you know, he was right!
Actually, I was somewhat flattered by that label, because that is also how I choose to see myself.
He did pretty much nail me, for better or worse.

Of course, I did also manage to mention this blog, if he ever wanted to test his perception by things I've bothered to write and stand for, sometimes rather forcefully.

He may do that, or not; either way I do believe he actually got what I like to think is consistently aiming at whatever might be called the 'sweet spot' in deciding issues - particularly the hard ones that set lasting precedents that most folks seem to prefer over the long haul.

I thank him for that!
Recently, our local trusted City officials managed to not find anything close to a sweet spot in their less than admirable decision to pretend to be the Federal Government and purchase the property known as Chuckanut Ridge with money they do not have!

Yes, that's what I said - money they did not actually have to spend, $3.5 Million of it!

They did it because of silly politics and that undeniable urge to become heroes - cheaply, without earning it.
Remember that old E F Hutton Ad; 'We make money the old-fashioned way - we EARN It'!

Lord knows, I've done my best to argue, advise, cajole & reason with our current City Council and current Mayor on this matter, but I have failed - and miserably.
What they can't see themselves, all the king's horses won't lead them to understand, much less do.
That is truly too bad, not just for them, but for every citizen who expects consistent, good & fair decision-making from their elected officials.
So, what else can I do?

Roundly castigate these bums as incompetent laggards?

Continue to request better accountability?

Try to inform people of the unacceptable gap between what has happened and what should have?

Lower my expectations?

Actively campaign for replacing those officials who are so unlucky as to have political opponents?

Actively seek candidates to compete against those with no opposition?

If you think the answer to all the above is 'yes', you'd be correct!

So, let's get started.
  • Pike as Mayor has been a major disappointment who has promised, or seemed to promise, way too many things that he has not been able to deliver. Apparently being Mayor is not one of his 'skill sets'. Imagine a guy who has just waded through almost 4 years of fiscal austerity - including threatening to veto a minimal, routine 1% property tax increase - then sticking the public [us] with an unfunded Greenways purchase of about $3.5 Million - equivalent to a 17% property tax increase! Of course, there are several other beefs that I have with Pike, like the damage he has done to the City's relationships with Whatcom County, the Port of Bellingham, State of Washington, various businesses, etc. Plus, the loss of several very qualified City Department Heads & all their institutional memory and incurring the costs of recruiting replacements; the lack of tangible progress on preserving the Lake Whatcom Reservoir, the gross lack of rapport with valuable City employees, etc. One or two other things, he argues a lot, always seeming to need the last word. And, he likes to be seen leading the parade - never mind there isn't one. Ever noticed that? These things are not merely matters of smarts, but of attitude & judgement - traits that are not readily discernible at first glance, especially with relative newcomers! Is there any wonder that I am strongly supporting Linville, because I know she can do a much better job on all these fronts!
  • Buchanan hasn't impressed me much either, despite his rather ordinary credentials. He seems sleepy & doesn't do much to attract sincere plaudits; but maybe that's more of a strategy to keep a low profile and stay off the radar, except when the urge to pander becomes overwhelming? Its often a winning formula around here; not to create controversy, even when it might be the right thing to do. His opponent, Cathy Lehman, is the real thing, and deserves a chance to demonstrate it. Her work ethic, energy, knowledge of important issues, true caring and effective pursuit of key endorsements and voters, earn her my unqualified support, and I hope, yours!
  • Fleetwood, unfortunately, has turned out to be essentially, a nebbish-like cipher. Despite good credentials and visibility in the community, he very often fails to develop positions that are well-defined or compelling. Worse, he seems to suffer from a lack of self-confidence, backbone & energy, but an overabundance of a sense of elite entitlement - a bad combination for anyone seeking to earn the public trust. His opponent, Larry Farr, is a straight shooter, has the ability and served this community in a number of volunteer capacities, though none elective, so far. [pun intended] From observing his years serving with the Transportation Commission and its predecessors, it is obvious he can do the job well and is deserving of public support, including mine.
  • Two Council Members, Knutson & Weiss, have no opponents and will skate through the elections for another term. That's particularly too bad for Knutson, who relies on simple populism way to often; you know always against raising the money to pay for all the stuff he votes for, that kind of thing - Chuckanut Ridge is only the latest example. Also, his tendency to say one thing and do another is off-putting, as is his periodic grandstanding, at which he has clear ability. And, as one of the 4 co-conspirators who almost killed Greenways back in 2005/06, he participated in an illegal connivance that he finally owned up to - 3 years later - when most folks who might have known had forgotten. Knutson should have excused himself from even voting on the CR purchase! [as should have Bornemann, who never confessed] Think about it; with two recusals, the CR vote would have been 3 to 2, not enough for passage.
  • Two years hence, the positions occupied by Bornemann, Lilliquist, Fleetwood [only if reelected] & Snapp [probably not running again] will need to be filled again. The first two need opponents if they run, as does Fleetwood if he's still there. And, also time for a new face in Ward 4. That makes four good candidates are needed. Anyone game?
That's about it from here for now, but stay tuned for a little reprise to Tuesday's Herald story on the decision made Monday night to 'kick the can down the road' on actually paying for their purchase of the entire, discounted pricey CR property.

Cool, leave the $3.5 Million mess for others to clean up later; and maybe the stupid public won't even notice!

Is it any wonder this country got so deep in debt?
Hey, you know this crap has to start somewhere; this is just an example at the local level - Bellingham, the City of subdued something. Accountability?

On that cheery note, as Bugs Bunny used to say, that's all folks....