Monday, April 30, 2012

Coal: Expanding Concerns

As the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal festers in our collective consciousness and weighs heavily on our future, other communities are now becoming more concerned about the certain negative impacts it would bring to everyone along the rail and water routes needed to support it.
And that says nothing about the air we all must breathe, whether degraded by coal-fired Chinese power plants or not.

Notice that no additional 'benefits' have been forthcoming since the initial PR hype [of more jobs and associated 'free' tax revenues to local government]; only a steady stream of logical impacts that most people would not hesitate to call 'negatives' with recognized threats and unfunded costs.

Hard to imagine an official Environmental Impact Statement [EIS] is required to prove something that is already as well known and publicly accepted, isn't it?
But, since an EIS will be required, it -at least- should be as broadly drawn and detailed as possible to help convince the bureaucrats who will conduct it to reach the right choices and conclusions.

I am glad to see this debate is growing so exponentially, as others are also waking up to the unseen threats they certainly share with us.

For example, Crosscut published this recent article, by Daniel Jack Chasan.

Since Powder River Basin Coal is mined and shipped from Montana and Wyoming, readers may be interested in this article that appeared in The Outpost, the Billings, MT paper.

Locally, Whatcom Watch has published in its April issue, two additional articles by Preston Schiller, here and here.

This article addresses potential adverse health impacts of increased train traffic.

With the confusion about when public comments may be submitted to Whatcom County regarding the GPT EIS, I decided to just go ahead and submit this list of previous blogs by e-mail on 4/22/2012:

Here are the URLs for 33 Blogs concerning coal I have written from March 27, 2011 through now on HamsterTalk at
Please incorporate these into the public record as part of my comments.
Also, please contact me at if any problem is encountered in making these comments, including links to other websites, so that I may make any corrections necessary.

1. Those Thrilling Days of Yesteryear... Sunday, March 27, 2011

3. Good Mornin' America, How Are Ya? Wednesday, June 8, 2011

5. Making Tracks To Where? Friday, July 15, 2011

7. Coal Terminal: Trains & Infrastructure Saturday, July 30, 2011

9. Coal Terminal: Update on Developments Monday, August 1, 2011

10. Coal Terminal: Another Update Tuesday, August 2, 2011

11. Coal Terminal: Playing Defense Wednesday, August 3, 2011

13. Coal: A Global Perspective Thursday, September 1, 2011

14. Coal: Floyd McKay's Latest Crosscut Article Wednesday, September 28, 2011

15. Coal: Green versus Gold? Wednesday, October 19, 2011

16. Coal: The Role of Politics Wednesday, October 19, 2011

17. Coal: National Geographic Article Friday, October 21, 2011

18. Coal: NPR Weighs In With Two Articles Thursday, October 27, 2011

19. Big Coal meets Cherry Point's tiny herring Friday, October 28, 2011

20. Coal: Where Does Bellingham Really Stand? Sunday, October 30, 2011

23. Coal: Possible Good News? Thursday, November 10, 2011

25. Impacts: Coal Versus Oil Sands Thursday, November 17, 2011

26. Trains: 'Here's Mud In Your Eye'Thursday, December 15, 2011

28. Coal: Specific Actions Bellingham Must Take Sunday, January 1, 2012
29. Coal & Climate Friday, January 27, 2012
30. Constitution, Corporations & Coal Wednesday, February 22, 2012
33. Coal: Updating Public Concerns Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sunday, April 29, 2012

I (HEART) My Library!

"To pour forth benefits for the common good is divine."  
- Benjamin Franklin, founder of our first public library
I don't have the technical skill to display an actual red heart in the title, but I did buy a bumper sticker today at the annual Friends of the Library meeting at the Bellingham Public Library.

After an extended absence, I was motivated to attend this brief meeting to hear remarks by our new Mayor Kelli Linville and reconnect with some folks I used to spend time with, including members of the Library Board, of which I was a part for 5 years.

But, the main reason I went was because there is unfinished business concerning the Library that I feel responsible for helping to get done.
We still need a new Library!
And, this will take significant public process, creative ideas and reliable funding solutions to achieve.

Two ideas are essential; prioritizing this project with public approval and finding a method that will guarantee public acceptance and support.

First, prioritizing sounds like a simple thing, but it isn't because of competing priorities and limited funding. Here's an excerpt from a past blog:
Some may remember the well-intended, but tepid exercise the City of Bellingham underwent a few years ago. It was called 'Priorities of Government' [POG]. and while most elected officials gave it lip service as 'an interesting concept', not many really wanted to seriously touch it to implement its clear implications. Believe me, I know - I was there!
Anyway, it's too bad that an absolute crisis seems absolutely needed for governments to seriously confront such intractable questions as defining what is necessary, fair and sustainable as public policy. Unfortunately -or otherwise- that is the situation we find ourself now.
Second, guaranteeing public support means going to the trouble of finding an effective method and then following it! Again, here's an excerpt from a past blog:
Some years ago the City engaged Drs. Hans and Ann-Marie Bleiker to conduct training sessions on how to achieve 'Systematic Development of Informed Consent' on major projects important to our community. The method was time-intensive, but often much more effective than the usual fumbling efforts. But, predictably, use of the Bleiker method was largely ignored, with few exceptions.  
For those who may be interested, here are 14 previous blogs I've written about the Library -including some that merely mention it- listed latest to earliest:

Library: Consolidation Via Deus Ex Machina?  Wednesday, September 9, 2009
More Library Volleys  Sunday, June 14, 2009
Library: Facts or Attacks?  Monday, May 4, 2009
A Few Belated Responses on MLK Day:  Monday, January 21, 2008
On Libraries, Hiking & A Bobcat!  Saturday, January 19, 2008
On Libraries & Football  Sunday, January 13, 2008
Library Planning Update: Citizen Input Wanted!  Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Parking Is Not Free  Monday, August 6, 2007

There is a lot of information in these blogs, but not nearly all that has been discussed and considered by the Library Board and others over the last several years.

There is also some pointed criticism noted, as well as controversial -but related- topics like the little matter of parking. But, these also serve an important opportunity to confront all stated concerns directly and answer them factually as FAQs.

While I doubt this blog -and its links- will interest everyone, some may find it a useful reference from which to launch a renewed investigation of an important vision that can transform into a reality our community will truly love.

This article appeared Saturday in the Herald.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Water: The Big Thirst

Water is H2O, hydrogen two parts, oxygen one, 
But there is also a third thing, that makes it water 
And nobody knows what it is. 
--D.H. Lawrence, "The Third Thing"
Heads up on a new book; THE BIG THIRST - The Secret Life & Turbulent Future of Water,  by Charles Fishman, published last year by Simon & Schuster.

The book is about our relationship with water; it uses live examples from different locales that share similar challenges, including Las Vegas, Atlanta, Australia, India and others. 
He points out that we are stuck with the amount of water the earth contains, and that water is free; although it often does not exist in sufficient quantity and/or quality where or when we humans may need -or want- it. 

While the impacts of population growth/demographics and climate change do exacerbate water availability challenges, still many of these can be overcome by understanding local situations and simply changing our attitudes and habits about water.
A large part of the problem is assuming that water is free, yet neglecting the costs of cleaning and distributing it which are certainly not free, especially if we aren't willing to differentiate between basic needs and wants that are wasteful. 

An example is why should we treat all water to drinking standards -even for watering the lawn or flushing toilets?
Why not recycle gray water, or use collected rainwater for these purposes? 
There are places where these practices are now being followed, both out of necessity and costs. So-called 'purple pipes' have already become essential in Las Vegas and parts of Australia, where conservation is now being considered not only smart, but critically important.
Of course, each community must decide on the changes that it needs, and how to pay for these.

Another common sense concept is having each area agree to a basic water allocation model along these lines:
First, a certain percentage of any fresh water source needs to be retained for sustaining itself, whether a surface lake or steam, or underground aquifer supplying wells. 
Next, a certain percentage of the water is retained for free human needs; drinking water, food preparation, sanitary purposes.
For critical institutional and essential processing purposes requiring a secure supply, a percentage of treated water is provided at a price to reflect its value.
Last, the remaining water -which may vary based upon higher priorities- is provided at a price for general purposes, but only as it s available.
Doesn't that sound like a reasonable way to allocate water?

We tried to develop a system similar to that several years ago, but that effort failed to reach agreement and now languishes as expensive 'shelf art' somewhere in the bowels of our County Courthouse, where it awaits the coming of a County Executive and Council bold enough and wise enough to dust it off and complete it.

I have posted a few blogs on this very topic, but these two entries summarize it best:

9/30/07  WRIA-1: Whatcom County's Unfinished Water Business

5/23/09   WRIA-1: Wasted Resources or Important Asset?
There is also a reading group guide at the end of the book which poses some really insightful questions.
For those interested, here's a couple that seem to fit us here pretty well:

#5 Throughout The Big Thirst, Fishman returns to the idea that water is too inexpensive. At one point, he writes, "If you had to pick one thing to fix about water, one thing that would help you fix everything else - scarcity, unequal distribution, misuse, waste, skewed priorities, resistance to reuse, shortsighted exploitation of natural resources - that one thing is price. The right price changes everything else about water." [see p. 291]
Do you agree?
If water should be priced more fairly, how would you go about doing that? What would you do with the fresh revenue from more expensive water? Is there a way of increasing the price of water without hurting poor people, without increasing the price of every product that reins on water?
When you start to think like we think, you don't see water in the pipes. You see dollar signs. --Eric Berliner, IBM water manager in Burlington, Vermont

#8 Plenty of places in the U.S. have ample water resources. Is there any value in "conserving" water, or creating water awareness, in communities that have abundant water?
How would you make the case for smart water use to citizens in a community where the water supply itself isn't under any pressure?
Are there any other issues besides simple availability that ordinary people should be paying attention to?
"When I came to work here, our attitude was, "Just shut up and turn on the faucet." That was a huge mistake. We were all going to run out of water in 1995. --Patricia Mulroy, water czar of Las Vegas since 1989
Here's a Crosscut blog on this same book.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Reconveyance Decision Upcoming

Bob Simmons has posted another piece on Crosscut about an impending decision by the Whatcom County Council regarding whether over 8000 acres of steep DNR-managed timberlands upslope of the Lake Whatcom Reservoir will become designated County parklands that severely restrict future clear-cutting and its associated service-road building.

Here is the comment I posted:
This is a good idea and affordable. To mimic nature is always easier when nature is left to do the job it does. There will always be pro & con arguments, but preserving these steep slopes from clear-cutting has to be a no-brainer! Bellingham & Whatcom County are very fortunate to have such a large and pure reservoir for a drinking water supply, but until relatively recently, understanding what it takes to preserve it has been slow in coming. 1992 was the year that a joint Resolution was signed that identified known problems that need to be faced, with careful thought coupled with effective action, not just talk. Other major cities, like Seattle, Tacoma, Everett, Portland, San Francisco, Vancouver, BC, etc had long ago taken steps to ensure the safety of their water supplies, but not Bellingham -which had and has some serious catching up to do! 
The Whatcom County government has been very slow in coming to terms with its water policy, and not just concerning the Lake Whatcom Reservoir. It still lacks any meaningful storm water program that has both long term goals and funding. So, this reconveyance can represent a good start, and one that is affordable and effective in mimicking nature on the very steep slopes that need to be kept stable and green, whether one calls it a park or watershed buffer; trees and native plants do the work necessary to hold unstable soil in place. And, since soil is the major source of phosphorus, keeping it out of Lake Whatcom is important if the growing problem of algae blooms is to be curtailed. 
Bellingham, by contrast, has focused is watershed preservation efforts on acquiring land more suitable for development, using funds from surcharges on it's water sales as purveyor. Of course, this land is more expensive; it is not often just given away! The point is, that whatever watershed land is preserved -by whatever method- it all contributes to stopping inappropriate development in this stressed and sensitive watershed. Make no mistake about the fact that development -whether housing, clear-cut logging, roads, etc- is the main culprit in degrading this wonderful water supply source! To the extent the DNR reconveyance helps, its good. 
It's now time for this decision to be favorably made, since the issue has been thoroughly debated for several years, during which almost $400,000 has been already spent by the County to survey and consolidate parcels into the configuration upon which the decision now rests.

Practically every objection raised has now been addressed and reasonably satisfied, except of course for those permanently mired in selfish interest or extreme ideological thinking.
The recent $500,000 contribution through the Whatcom Land Trust to the Mount Baker School District certainly keeps that jurisdiction whole from future timber harvest revenue loss.
Also, scaling back expensive early plans for extensive park development results in far less new revenue demand from the County, which helps both fiscally and in terms of avoiding adverse watershed impacts.

When this DNR reconveyance proposal first publicly surfaced in the fall of 2007, I also raised several concerns, all of which have now been satisfactorily addressed. I hope the County Council -and the new Executive- will allow this idea to go forward and become the reality most residents want and have come to expect.
It will be good for the County, good for Lake Whatcom Reservoir, and it will respect all the hard work, effort and expense it has required to proceed thus far in good faith. All that is left to do is the final approval, which only the Council can decide.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Port: The Morning After

I have the feeling of a bad hangover but no recollection of having anything approaching a good time.

The spectacle of two bozos pretending to be Port Commissioners trying again to spin a mess of their own making into someone else's fault -in this case, their victim's- will likely remain with me indefinitely.

These guys need to be decommissioned!
If they had any gumption they would take that action themselves.

Dereliction of duty isn't just a matter to prove, it's a readily observable phenomenon, which the case of the Port has unfolded unmistakably over the last several years; at least from my frame of reference.

That dates back to the time the Port seemed willing to undertake a project of major importance to this entire community that had the backing and enthusiasm such ventures always seem to require, but often lack.

That priceless backing and enthusiasm has now been largely wasted -literally pissed away- by the Port's ruling junta. Mark my words, our community will suffer for it!

I can't remember a time when folks we elected to office have been so publicly disingenuous.
They sat in front of an entire room of people and made the same self-serving sounds that we've heard before, in defense of an action that is indefensible!

It's difficult to know where to begin to unravel the circular arguments and convoluted reasoning that issued from the lips of Commissars Walker and Jorgenson, except to say palpable untruths were unquestionably interwoven.

Perhaps, the most audacious statement was that Port Director Charlie Sheldon was 'terminated' because of 'dissension in the ranks'.

Unstated, was the fact that this 'dissension' was created by Commissar Walker himself, who not only sowed those seeds, but watered them, enlisted other gardeners, and then harvested their bitter fruits to poison someone he considered a potential nemesis to his reign as Chief Commissar.

Give me a break!
No one is stupid enough to believe that crap, except for the two misguided traitors of the public trust who sat there and exercised their already advanced ability to CYA.

Now, I am under no illusions that this latest amateurish jibe by the Port will just correct itself with no one else being hit in the head or swept over the side. But, it will change, because it must! And I, for one, will definitely work to make that happen; the sooner the better.

Today's Gristle again zeroed in on this subject and fired more direct hits at this already sinking derelict. Will it go down by the bow or stern? Or roll over?
More likely, just slowly take on water and disappear - except for the nice little fru-fru pennants on the top mast, that always seem to be flapping in a breeze - also of the Port's own making.

Eventually, when the pennants fray to threads, seagulls will find new perches, and join the barnacles to memorialize the wreck -to become known as Walker's Folly.

Phew-ip, phew-weee; now hear this; all voting citizens, lay down to the polls and elect a new Captain!

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Port's Reality Distortion Field

What's the difference between the Port of Bellingham and the Boy Scouts?
Answer: The Boy Scouts have adult supervision.
All the brightwork polish in the world won't put a shine on our Port's activities these days, until the current corrosive scheming and salty talk is harnessed to a more positive effect.
What could restore some Port lustre is the simple return to basics, like teamwork, self-discipline and a renewed focus on the goals that count to this community; think waterfront redevelopment and the prudent generation of jobs and commerce that belong on or near the waters of Bellingham's rusty front door.

Since the Port's appalling Commissioner's meeting two weeks ago, I've given some thought to what happened - as was observed by about 100 concerned citizens. It wasn't pretty or necessary, but instead, silly and counterproductive
The questions remain; why did it happen and what can be done about it now?

Several written accounts have been published since the talk of summarily dismissing the Port's Director surfaced, all of them faithful to accurate reporting of what was seen and heard.
John Stark's Herald reports are referenced here.
Tim Johnson's Cascadia Weekly articles are here, and here.
John Servais' blogs on Northwest Citizen start here.
An online petition in support of Charlie Sheldon is here. [I've signed it]

But, explaining why this unusual dustup happened should be the real story, particularly if similar missteps are to be avoided in the future.
My assessment of the Port of Bellingham is that it has an excellent 90-person staff, of which about 10% are considered 'senior'. A little top-heavy, but with the range of operations involved likely appropriate.
Since at least the mid-nineties, the Port has seemed to function pretty well, with a possible exception or two better known by closer observers.
So, with these points in mind, what has changed that might account for this recent kerfluffle?

Three things mainly come to mind:

• The Port's 2004 commitment to waterfront cleanup & redevelopment, in partnership with the City of Bellingham

• The resignation of former Executive Director, Jim Darling in 2009 and subsequent hiring of Charlie Shelton 19 months ago

• The recent election of Commissioner Mike McAuley to replace former long term Commissioner Doug Smith

Now, my point: the only 'reason' given for the quick, forced termination of current Executive Director Sheldon was the excessively vague rationale of 'the Port wanting to go in another direction'. Not a new direction necessarily,mind you, just another one.

Now, what in hell does that mean?
Was there a real 'cause' for this sacking, other than the two older Commissioner's wishes?
What was the great hurry?
Why was Sheldon hired in the first place?
More importantly, how is this situation going to be resolved?

Here's my attempt to answer these questions:

'Another' direction really seems to mean the old direction, most familiar and comfortable to most of the current Port players who were used to dealing with one another predictably and not wading into waters more than ankle deep. That has now changed and some of the older players don't like it. Each of the three changes listed above likely plays a key part in the current situation.

First, undertaking the ambitious waterfront redevelopment envisaged took the Port into much deeper waters than it was accustomed to or equipped for. That has been evident since 2004, when the partnership agreement with the City was first formalized, with difficulty. At the time, there were many details yet to be investigated for which information was needed, and even more importantly - jointly developed in full collaboration with the City.

That collaboration has not been easy, and still seems to lack the mutual trust & respect necessary to bring this admittedly audacious project into accepted reality. Instead, it has repeatedly lapsed into bouts of bickering that do not engender public confidence in the Port's ability -or willingness- to work with the City in a true, bilateral sense of cooperation.
I am not pointing fingers here, just pointing out what has been a very public display of disagreement in matters important, even essential, to eventual success.

During the time in which the Port decided to undertake this very ambitious project, it had the benefit of fairly stable and predictable leadership. Former Port Director Darling was an experienced and competent leader, always supported by at least two, and often all three Commissioners who supported him strongly and were satisfied with things the way they were.
That comfort zone began to change in earnest during 2003/4, when the G-P property was acquired and the Waterfront Redevelopment effort begun, with the Port's main interest being the alchemy of turning the former G-P waste treatment pond [ASB] into a world class marina -perhaps the last one likely to be permitted anywhere along the West Coast. That was the first attraction and hoped-for cash cow for supporting whatever else came to fruition.

Also, about that time, Commissioner Jorgenson was first elected and welcomed by Commissioners Walker and Smith, the two old sea dogs who had been in place for years, and along with Director Darling, mainly controlled Port activities and its culture.
I know first-hand that Jorgenson's comfort level was severely challenged when he was faced with agreeing to taking on the huge Redevelopment effort that the two senior Commissioners and Director favored, but he did accept their assurances and agree himself as well.

So, there should be no doubt that this Marina dream was the carrot that enticed the Port into its current briar patch. Carrying semi-apt analogies just a bit further, the moment the Port agreed to partner with the City on the much larger project, was also the time it touched the tar baby of real public process, something it had only dabbled its toes in before.

Predictably, the Port's difficulties in dealing with both the City and concerned citizens led to agitation to begin changing the Port toward -shall we say- a more customer friendly culture. Unused to heated public political challenges, the Commissioners struggled to maintain control while the essential partnership with the City also struggled in fits and starts, due largely to a clash of cultures and emerging fiscal realities. Such things are never easy, and the cumulative mutual bruising began to erode the positive momentum initially generated. As time passed, none of this spectacle was helping the project go forward, especially with the enthusiasm of shared public visions.

In late 2006, Mayor Mark Asmundson - a dynamic advocate for the Port partnership - resigned and was replaced by former Mayor Tim Douglas, who served admirably until 2008, when Dan Pike was elected Mayor with ideas of his own. More turbulence ensued as Pike tried unsuccessfully to get things back on the track originally intended - albeit with some different tweaks that lacked traction.

Then, in mid 2009, Jim Darling - after NOAA's decision to relocate its facilities to Oregon instead of Bellingham - resigned as Executive Director, leaving something of a leadership vacuum at the Port. In the interim, while a 17-month search for a new Director was being conducted, slow progress continued, limited both by ongoing disagreements between Port & City, plus the new priorities of an unhealthy economy.

In late 2010, two significant changes occurred; Charlie Sheldon was named new Port Director by unanimous consent of all three current Commissioners, Walker, McAuley and Jorgenson. [Mike McAuley was elected Commissioner to replace Smith, beginning in 2010]
Over the next 18 months, those changes would come to be perceived as disruptions to the usual scheme of things at the Port, particularly the burden of dealing with the Redevelopment effort.

Charlie Shelton, despite his excellent credentials in Seattle, wasn't from around here and unsurprisingly had a somewhat different perspective and operating style than prior Directors. Perhaps, he simply didn't replace his rubber boots with the rubber stamps that the Commissioners preferred? I don't know. But, I also don't know what job description he was given or what rules he was supposed to follow. Those things do seem a bit unspoken -and maybe even uncharted- to me regarding the Port.
Good ol' boys do seem to expect newcomers to just intuit how things are done, sometimes without much explanation. Had you noticed? Maybe Charlie's instincts weren't up to this task, whether a reasonable expectation or not. More important, any Director worth his salt wouldn't likely agree to simply become an obedient yes-man, to part-time politicos, would they?

Anyway, the introduction of a new Commissioner about the time a new Port Director was hired might have triggered a barely perceptible tipping of balance in the Port Commission's unseen mechanisms.
Faced with not only a new Director - chosen unanimously by the Commission- and a new, independent minded Commissioner, elected to bring more public accountability to it, apparently grew into displeasure for at least one of the old Commissioners [Walker], who much preferred his former tacit understandings with familiar colleagues. Remember, Walker has been there since 1991 -even before Jim Darling had been hired- so not only was he used to getting his way, but he was invested in certain prized outcomes, such as the conversion of the ASB into a Marina.

By contrast, Jorgenson is a relative newcomer [only 9 years as Commissioner] who got used to going along and getting along with his two senior Commissioners, as well as former Director Darling, whose stamp was on nearly every Port activity. Also, longer term observers will remember the complaint by Jorgenson's predecessor, Ginny Benton, that she resented Port 'decisions being made in the men's room'. What does that tell you? Think Jorgenson was treated any differently?

I really like Jim Jorgenson, and have respected him since he became a Port Commissioner 9 years ago - right in the midst of the decision to take on the G-P and Waterfront Redevelopment with the City as partner. Jim is a reasonable person with the overall welfare of the community at heart, so I don't view him as a schemer, intent on getting his way on things; no, he's much more of a peacemaker, as even his colleagues see him. But Jim has his comfort zone, too. He's known Walker as a colleague over nine years now, while McAuley remains mainly a newcomer with an independent streak. Could that be a key in understanding Walker's success in convincing Jorgenson to support a quick jettisoning of Sheldon? That is very possible, especially when coupled with a few expressions of discontent from 'senior' staff members, with the apparent complicity of the Port's hired legal counsel.

But, Jorgenson takes his job seriously and I know he has been impressed by the unusual outpouring of public support for Sheldon, so maybe, just maybe, he'll change his mind. I would be surprised if he decided to compound the problem by again ratifying it, but that's his call. I do think Jim recognizes the Port's public reputation is now on the line, and this in turn might also impact the Port's ability to recruit other quality candidates for the Director position. Who would seriously entertain the idea of working here amid such arbitrary and fractious intrigues?
I hope Charlie Sheldon will agree to return as Director, providing a contract offer with assurance of continued support is offered. I have it on pretty good authority that Sheldon would favorably consider returning to the job for which he was hired, if good faith is demonstrated by at least a majority of the Port Commission. That's two Commissioners, folks.
Let's hope that happens.

So, back to the questions asked above;
Not a new direction necessarily, just another one. Now, what in hell does that mean?
My view is as described above; the dynamics of Port leadership changed and some folks didn't like that their influence was diminished. Couple that with a new Director eager to learn about other opportunities, options and opinions and understand how this might appear as a threat to the status quo.

Was there a real 'cause' for this sacking, other than the two older Commissioner's wishes?
Probably not. That's why all the stammering, embarrassment, hearsay and hiding behind assumed executive session privileges. Because the Port Director is hired by and reports to the Commission, he is likely considered an at-will employee, meaning he serves at their pleasure and can be fired without cause. In that vein, any discussion of the ASB being used for any purpose other a Marina could have contributed to the dissatisfaction by a Commissioner; because the ASB was seen as an absolute sacred cow, despite any inconvenient facts relating to its ultimate viability! Any dissatisfied Commissioner only needs to persuade one other Commissioner to take the action of firing its subordinate, without needing what most of us outsiders might agree represents a just cause. They could do it, so they did.

What was the great hurry?
It was largely manufactured as a fait accompli, closely following the tragic and fatal fire at the Port's boathouse facility, and during the time several senior staff were away. Was this a railroad job designed to satisfy Commissioner Walker and his recruited accomplice[s]? It sure looks like it to me.

Why was Sheldon hired in the first place?
Simply because he had the qualifications, made himself available, responded to Port recruiting efforts, and filled the Port's needs for an experienced Director better than the other candidates. It is ironic that two of the three Commissioners which voted to hired him are now the ones willing to fire him without any clear reason other than they wanted to go in another direction! You've got to be kidding! What were they thinking then? Now what are they likely to do?

More importantly, how is this situation going to be resolved?
That is the critical question that may be determined at tomorrow's Port meeting.
I hope Charlie Sheldon will agree to return to duty, but the hasty action already taken and the adverse publicity from it may mitigate against such a decision.
If Sheldon doesn't return, the Port will likely need yet another interim Director, before going to the expense of another costly recruiting exercise. Then what? Another repeated fiasco?

Long term, the solution belongs to us voters. Be careful who you elect!
Scott Walker ought to be encouraged to resign, but that might be a more difficult course to steer, since he's already been around over 20 years.
Rob Fix, the CFO and possible new interim Port Director, has been around only three years and seems to lack essential qualifications for this office.

I hope citizens will again show up at the Port Commission meeting tomorrow at 3 PM to again show tangible support for retaining Charlie Sheldon as the Port's Executive Director.
This Commission desperately needs unmistakable public encouragement to get its affairs in order.
Let's give them that encouragement, especially Commissioner Jorgenson, who is usually, a very reasonable man who really cares about our community and the important role the Port of Bellingham plays in it.