Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Coal: After the Council Meeting - Sorta

It wasn't pretty, as is often the case in a representative democracy, but the Council muddled through it anyway - sorta. Unfortunately, the main attraction -the No Coal Train Initiative- was a big part of the muddle, which left unclear exactly what the Council intends to do until 'later', and whether the initiative backers will get their way - sorta.

But, have no fear, whatever the Council may or may not do will likely get done by its next meeting scheduled for July 23. Hopefully, by then the unlucky designated Superior Court Judge will have considered and ruled/commented on the City's motion for a Declaratory Judgement prior to anything related to so-called Proposition 2012-2 getting on the November 6 ballot to kinda, sorta, express our community's will on the matter.
At least that's -sorta- my takeaway conclusion.

I did think I heard mumbles from the Council to the effect that the City ought to consider doing a better job of communicating what has happened, and what may still happen regarding this much bigger than normal issue. I would definitely support a move in that direction, as I'm certain many others would as well. So, go ahead Council and get this done without further delay. Please!

John Stark's article in this morning's Herald summarized what he heard/understood about Council's intent regarding Prop 2.

Three Agenda Items from last night's packet may help clear up some of the confusion, but maybe not all of it:

1 - Reports given by CommunityWise Bellingham and WSDOT regarding transportation issues relating to the GPT/CoalTrain proposal

2 - A Council-generated Resolution requesting that certain potential onsite & offsite impacts associated with the Gateway Pacific Terminal [GPT be analyzed as part of the SEPA & NEPA Processes. Adds to Council's previous letter requests to Whatcom County Planning & Development Services, dated 5/24/2011 and 5/15/2012.
NOTE: Additional items will be considered for inclusion to this Resolution. Official Scoping is to begin this month.

3 - A Resolution related to Initiative 2012-2, The Bellingham Community Bill of Rights for which the City is seeking a Judicial Review to determine whether the initiative bill is beyond the scope of initiative power before deciding upon one of five options, four of which would result in the matter being on the ballot in some form. Council informally and unanimously -without waiving options- expressed the likelihood of Option 4 being chosen; meaning the issue will be deferred to voters, providing the Superior Court doesn't rule against it. 
You tell me what that means; prefer to defer, but not if illegal? Sounds like it to me. Remember, the Council had at least one Executive Session on this, but they can't tell you about it - until they can!

That pretty much covers what transpired last night regarding this issue between the hours of 7 PM and 11:30 PM, with these additional comments:

* 48 people either signed up to speak at the 15-minute Public Comment Period, or were recognized to speak. The comment period was extended after a delay of 1 hour & 17 minutes to cover a scheduled Public Hearing, which thinned the packed crowd somewhat.

* Of the 48, 9 dropped out or passed, 5 spoke on subjects other than GPT, 34 spoke about GPT/Prop 2 with 32 for and 2 against.

* The Council discussed and considered matters related to GPT on its own for about 15 minutes before moving on to other business.

Bottom line: Council's attention has been gotten and they want to do something constructive, whether forced or left on their own, but will be predictably squeamish about breaking any serious laws or incurring unknown costs in fighting lawsuits considered expensive and un-winnable  - as they should.

As with any report that tries to mix facts with opinion, errors may occur. Maybe I've gotten some things wrong, but certainly not intentionally. Please correct me if you think so.
Democracy can be a spectator sport only up to a point!

Whoops, this just in; a coal train from PRB, enroute to BC derailed near Pasco at 6:30 AM.