Wally Wonders Why

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2011 Election Season

Update: Instead of continuing to update this post, I’ve added a page for the 2011 Elections and will update that as my positions evolve.

As of Friday the candidate filings are closed, so they’re off and running.  The Herald has covered the filings both in the news and in their politics blog.   In turn, the Whatcom Democrats have also  covered the Herald politics blog with a layer of partisan comments from some of their officers.  On Saturday the Whatcom GOP had their first endorsement of the season, with their  endorsement of Sen. Doug Erickson’s for County Executive.

It may seem contrary to the somewhat political nature of this blog, but I really don’t find it much fun to speculate about who will file and why.  I don’t find fantasy football of any interest either.  But now that the dust has settled for the moment, I did go through a quick assessment of where I stand at this moment on some of the more important races.

UPDATE: I’ll just keep updating this post as things move along and I learn more about each candidate.

Whatcom County Executive

  • Jack Louws  – I’ve heard good things, but right now its difficult to think of a better candidate than Sen. Ericksen
  • Smile Doug Ericksen – Doug has represented us well for years in Olympia and I’m all for him now working at home to make this a better area to live.
  • Tom Anderson – Don’t know anything at this point.
  • Sad smile David Stalheim – So in the last 4-5 years he left a community development job for the city of Wenatchee, for a community development job for the city of Ashland, which he left for a job as Whatcom County Planning Director, which he left for a job with the City of Bellingham as Planning & Community Development director and shortly thereafter sues his former employer Whatcom County for problems with their planning.  Now he want’s to quit with Bellingham to become the executive of the county he is sued?  ROFLMAO, oh and no.

Whatcom County Council District 1, Position B

  1. Smile Tony Larson – I find Tony to be an independent, level headed guy who has given a lot to this community.  I see him asking all the right questions rather than just rubber stamping status quo.    I supported him before and especially after seeing him in action, I’ll do it again.
  2. Pete Kremen  – I’m not really sure why he’s running yet ????

Whatcom County Council District 2, Position B

  • Smile Sam Crawford – I like what I see of his values and he has thus far shown he is more than up to the challenges of the position he has had for more than a few years.  He’s a keeper.
  • Sad smile Christina Maginnis – Our county already throws way too much of our money towards stormwater issues and Lake Whatcom without much in the way of results.    Having a DOE water quality expert on the council seems a bit like voting to have someone beat your head against a wall.

Whatcom County Council District 3, Position B

  • Barbara Brenner – I like watching her on the council because like Tony Larson, she is always asking good questions.  I don’t get the impression from her that she has already made up her mind on things, like I do from a couple of the other council members
  • Alan Black – don’t know much yet.

Whatcom County Treasurer

  • Smile Brian Smith -  So I had a chance to meet Brian today and I can report that the good things I had heard were all true.   His qualifications to handle county finances were definitely there and he struck me as someone who would take his duty as a servant to the people of Whatcom County very seriously.
  • Sad smile Steven Oliver – Well, I haven’t met our current treasurer either, but I’ve suspected in the past, that he was playing politics while at work and I just can’t vote for someone to watch the bank accounts that I have a shady/slippery feeling about.

Whatcom County Auditor

  • J. Lynne Walker  – don’t know much about her yet.
  • Debbie Adelstein – don’t know much about her yet either

Whatcom County Sheriff

  • Steve Harris – perhaps someday he’ll have half the experience of Sherriff Elfo.
  • Bob Taylor – perhaps someday he’ll half the experience also.
  • Smile Bill Elfo – What can I say, we live in a county that borders another nation and there is a lot of potential for crimes due to our location.   He’s been the tough but fair Sheriff that we need.

Bellingham Mayor – I don’t live in Bellingham, but Bellingham is such a large part of Whatcom County that what happens there has significant effects on all of us.  If they raise taxes we pay when we shop.  The more unfriendly they make it for people to live and work in the city, the more sprawl is encouraged.

  • Sad smile Kelli Linville – She lost her 42nd district State Rep gig to Vince Buys primarily due to her over spending issues.  I haven’t heard that she has mended her ways, so I don’t see supporting her doing the same in Bellingham.  If Bellingham over spends like our state has for the last few decades, the money will be coming out or your pocket whether you live in Bellingham or not.
  • Sad smile Dan Pike – Too bad I couldn’t bold the frowny.   As I’ve brought up numerous times here in this blog, Dan Pike has such a gift for taking money away from others that he really had only two career paths, criminal or liberal leaning politician.  I’ve never heard of him passing on a chance to take from taxpayers, so there is no way in Hellingbam that I’d give him an ounce of support.
  • Clayton Petree – Ok, he rides a bike, but so does the current mayor, so no decision yet.  Much more to learn here.
  • Steve Moore – don’t know much yet.

I’ll add more when I have had more time to think on the mayor races and a couple of other positions.  I’ll also be  adding or adjusting the smileys and frownies as I learn more about the candidates.

Officer Camera

An article caught the other day brought to my attention once again, what a big mistake Bellingham made when it recently signed a contract to farm out a portion of local law enforcement to a private out of state company

When a Bellingham officer tried to pull a car over for a traffic violation on East Laurel Street about 8 p.m., the car took off. The officer turned on lights and sirens and began a chase…  www.bellinghamherald.com

After a couple of minutes the officer broke off the pursuit because of the increasing danger as the suspects sped through residential areas.   But while they broke off the pursuit, they didn’t stop the search for the suspects and eventually found them near their abandon car, where they also found bags of meth, crack cocaine and heroin.

Alan J. Nord, 24, was arrested on suspicion of attempting to elude police, drug possession with intent to deliver and driving with a suspended license.  www.bellinghamherald.com

feel lucky

I know what you're thinking. "Did he take six photos or only five?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself, so you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?

What a great example of why it is so valuable to have real police officers doing real police work.  I can’t help but wonder, if the original traffic violation had been observed by an Automated Ticket Machine, would Alan J. Nord be in custody at this moment and would the drugs be off the streets of Bellingham?  The obvious answer is No!

Officer Camera, no mater how sophisticated, isn’t going to hop off the light post and pursue the suspects across town until they eventually get their man.  Officer Camera is in fact going to remain seated on his light post, call ATS in Arizona and have them mail a fine out to the owner of the vehicle.  Which means that the would be captive suspect will remain free to deal his drugs and endanger the people of Bellingham.

Mayor Pike together with the Bellingham City Council made a very stupid move for a quick buck by off loading police work and your safety to automated cameras and out of state collection agencies.   There are only a couple of more weeks for Bellingham voters to sign a petition that will force the City of Bellingham to bring this situation in front of voters.  Check out the Transportation Safety Coalition’s website or visit them on Facebook for information about where to sign petitions.

For or Agin’ Coal Trains

Do I have to admire RE-Sources dedication to the envirionment even if I feel like they are lyin’ through their teeth?

According to BNSF we already have 6 coal trains per day coming through our county on their way to Point Roberts and RE-Sources says that when the SSA Gateway Terminal is opened then the coal pollution from the predicted 18 trains per day will be intolerable.

…these 15,000-ton trains will lose three percent of their load in transit or 1,780,000 short tons of coal dust spread annually from the Powder River Basin to the terminal.  RE-Sources

If the number of trains we see running through here triples then we will be seeing triple the pollution also right?  And that’s got to be really bad, right?

Well, no not exactly.  I just checked along the tracks and see no evidence of coal pollution, nothing dead or blackened.  Things were mostly green and spring like from all that I could see.  So three times no pollution to speak of  is still no pollution to speak of.  So I’m left with no alternative but to believe that it is RE-Sources and not the trains that are blowing coal dust.

However, regardless of how much I feel RE-Sources is blowing coal dust to the public regarding coal pollution, I find myself somewhat on the same side of the SSA terminal proposal.  I’m in favor of a cargo terminal at Cherry Point and I’m not opposed to it’s primary cargo being coal.  But I am opposed to this proposal because the primary customer for the coal is not within our nation, it is China.  Run a coal train right out to Cherry Point on their  way to Alaska, Oregon, California and I’ll happy wave to them as they rumble by,  but don’t ship US coal to a foreign nation.

…a lumbering BNSF coal train for you viewing

Because we live in a world currently powered primarily by fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas and oil, and because a good portion of the suppliers of crude oil are unstable and openly hostile towards our nation, I consider all US fossil fuels to be strategic reserves.  If and/or when the Middle East becomes too unstable or radioactive to supply us with oil, I for one, would like to still be sitting on a large pile of coal. Our national leaders haven’t come to this realization yet, and started addressing it with legislation, but they will. 

I’m not in favor of a coal port to China, but neither am I in favor of the RE Sources environmental political speak. 

Know when to walk away, know when to run

Disturbing WTA related article in the Herald today, WTA plans to launch online trip-planning software this spring.   Seems that a few years ago WTA purchased software for over $90,000 and signed on to an annual maintenance fee of over $15,000.   Now WTA is on the brink of launching the software package that according to the article will allow “people to type in their location and destination, and it’ll show them where to catch the bus, which ones to catch, and when.” 

routing informationI’m disturbed because what WTA says they are paying for is already available through Google.  And even though they say their new software will also feed the Google database, I wonder why they feel justified spending our taxes on a duplicate and after 3 years perhaps antiquated software?  And check out this nonsense:

After launch, the trip-planning software won’t immediately be accessible with smart phones, he said. The IT staff can write software to allow use by those phones, but the department has had staffing cuts.

"It’s on our to-do list," he said.

How much is this going to cost?  Another $90,000 and 3 years?  I just took that image on my smartphone.  Google is already to do your trip planning by foot, bike, car or transit and on PC, Mac, Android, Windows Mobile, or IPhone.  Google doesn’t need us to pay an IT staff to write software, they just need WTA to provide them routing information.

The way I see it, WTA needs to spend money uploading it’s database and that’s it.  Nothing else!  Know when to walk away and know when to run.

Wasting taxpayer money is one service I’d like to see WTA cut.

But Upon Probable Cause

Profiling is as American as apple pie and football played with a brown pointy ball.  Profiling has its basis both in common sense and our Constitution’s 4th Amendment.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The 4th Amendment should protect us from our government acting upon us without probable cause.  It does not ensure that there will be no intrusion into our personal space, just no unreasonable intrusion, nor intrusion without probable cause.   Generally, a judge must be convinced by law enforcement that they have probable cause to search a person or their effects before they conduct the search.  And to do so they develop a suspect profile that blends probability and facts.

For instance if a child is abducted a profile of the abductor immediately starts to compile;

  • a witness might see a red truck speeding away
  • statistics may suggest family members as likely suspects

That’s a quick profile of a suspect in a crime that has occurred.  And is doesn’t have to be about a crime that has already occurred.  Let’s say you were sitting in traffic and overheard the person in the red truck next to you talking on the phone about abducting a person.  The profile would be the same: red truck and family member.  Through this profile, the police have now have probable cause to stop red trucks near the incident and to search and question family members who either own or have access to a red truck.  That’s common sense and that’s how profiling work.  Without profiling what would police do, stop everyone?  question everyone? search everyone?  I know that sounds silly, but out of fear that’s exactly what we have going on in our airport everyday.  Allowing the police to profile the suspect helps protect the rest of us from unreasonable searches.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is stopping, questioning and searching everyone who wishes to board a flight and that is a huge intrusion into our rights because there is no probable cause for the vast majority of travelers.  I think most of us  of us would agree that these blanket intrusions were more reasonable and warranted immediately following 9/11 because the scope of the situation was not known.  Now we have a better handle on the scope through profiling, yet the TSA is still searching and questioning everyone.

profilingTake a look at this photo montage.  All but one of the photos is of someone who has committed an act of terrorism or is accused with evidence of committing acts of terrorism, yet all would be screened equally at your local airport.  Is that reasonable or unreasonable?   How does probable cause come into play for these suspects?  Certainly there is more to probable cause than skin color and I’d never suggest that skin color be used as a key factor in profiling a suspect.  We could though consider age, culture, destination, affiliations, ethnic origin, family ties, associations, skin color, even religion and many other factors when creating a profile of a terrorist.

I have no doubt that agencies such as the FBI, CIA, or NSA have been creating terrorist profiles since well before 9/11 and I think it is long past the time that the TSA should have started using them.  All airline travelers are not suspects and it doesn’t make us any more safe to treat us all as suspects.  How many 7 year old, blonde, white kids have committed acts of terror?  Any?  Yet the suspect above has his kid’s toothpaste in a 1 quart zip lock and his shoes off when he goes to Sea World.   How many 50 year old white guys have blown themselves up on an airline?  Any?  None come to mind.   Yet, last week I went through a full body scan.  Why?    What was the probable cause?  What was the reason?

It’s time we quit wasting time and money indiscriminately searching everyone out of some false sense of equality or political correctness.  The longer we allow this to go on, the more numb we grow to the pain of losing our liberty.  How long will it be until we are considered subjects rather than citizens?  We need to more deeply scrutinize those for which we have probable cause and for the rest of us it’s time to return us our 4th Amendment rights. 

It’s time we  returned to profiling and common sense to protect our people.

Update: I woke up this morning to see a Facebook post that Dusty Gulleson had shared via one of his friends.  The TSA is another government agency that was started with good intentions, but has since run amok.  How would your  child react to this? 

Red Light Cameras in Bellingham

red lightThe news in town is that the City of Bellingham just voted unanimously to install Red Light Cameras.  Well, actually it looks like in a work session on the police budget, they voted unanimously to “include revenues and expenditures from the cameras in the 2011 budget” but one would assume that in order to derive revenue from cameras that they must first install them.

I also just read in The News Tribune that the “The council’s No. 1 goal is public safety” in this matter and in a  King5.com article Bellingham City Councilman Michael Lilliquist is quoted in a  as saying “We are doing this for safety reasons only,”

Hmmm.  It is important not to miss the part about  the decision being made during a budget meeting in spite of  the city’s insistence that this is a safety concern.    The fact that it was decided in a budget meeting though,  goes hand in hand it seems with the goal of American Traffic Solutions who is apparently the camera supplier.  Here’s a glimpse at their mission statement,

Our mission is to deliver the most effective technology and services that reduce operating costs or generate revenue to pay for its use.

Had the goal of public safety been a prime concern to the City of Bellingham, I would have expected to read of all the safety improvements that were needed at these intersections.  Instead I’m reading far too much about generating revenue.

I won’t say that intersections with Red Light Cameras won’t be more safe.  I’m sure there will be a reduction in traffic through those intersections by drivers who will find alternate routes rather than risk a ticket.   Who knows what things will be like on the now more trafficked alternate routes?  Will there be a net improvement in public safety?  Are Red Light Cameras really the best way to improve intersection safety?

In a brief on Intersection Safety Issues the Federal Highway Administration provided this summary of Engineering Countermeasures to Reduce Red-Light Running.

Improve Signal Visibility/ Conspicuity Increase the Likelihood for Stopping
  • Signal for Each Approach
    Through Lane
  • Install Backplates
  • Modify Placement of Signal
    Heads
  • Increase Size of Signal Displays
  • Install Programmable Signal/
    Visors or Louvers
  • Install LED Signal Lenses
  • Install Signal Ahead Signs
  • Install Transverse Rumble
    Strips
  • Install Activated Advance
    Warning Flashers
  • Improve Pavement Surface
    Condition
Remove Reasons for Intentional Violations Eliminate the Need to Stop
  • Adjust Yellow Change
    Interval
  • Provide or Adjust All-Red
    Clearance Interval
  • Adjust Signal Cycle Length
  • Provide Dilemma Zone
    Protection
  • Coordinate Signal
    Operation
  • Remove Unwarranted
    Signals
  • Construct a Roundabout

Now, I don’t know if all or even any of the above listed items are in place on the target intersections, but I can see that Red Light Cameras are not on the immediate list of things the Federal Highway Administration recommends to improve safety at intersections.   If safety is truly  the prime concern then it would seem obvious that many of the recommended measures would have been tried by now and a move to red light cameras is a last ditch effort.  Oh, or is it that the city can’t fund the actual needed improvements and revenue from the cameras will be used to fund recognized safety improvements?  Well no, remember the money goes into the police budget and not into the public works budget.  If these improvements are recognized ways to improve public safety and Red Light Camera are not on the list, then why the cameras?  Well we’ve already answered that question.  The camera’s are not about safety, they are about money.

I’ve had friends mention the “fact” that intersections will become more safe as the few worst violators  lose their licenses or have their insurance rates driven up so high they can’t afford to drive.  And I put the little quoty things around “fact” because referring to something as a fact, is usually restricted to things that are true. which in this case it is not.   State law tells us how Red LIght Camera tickets are to be handled.

(2) Infractions detected through the use of automated traffic safety cameras are not part of the registered owner’s driving record under RCW 46.52.101 and 46.52.120. Additionally, infractions generated by the use of automated traffic safety cameras under this section shall be processed in the same manner as parking infractions, including for the purposes of RCW 3.50.100, 35.20.220, 46.16.216, and 46.20.270(3). However, the amount of the fine issued for an infraction generated through the use of an automated traffic safety camera shall not exceed the amount of a fine issued for other parking infractions within the jurisdiction.

A police officer actually on site writing a ticket for a red light runner put’s that ticket on their driving record eventually leading to them losing their driving privileges, while an automated camera ticket is merely a glorified parking ticket aimed at bringing in revenue?   And they’ve even stretched the envelope for the amount of a down town parking ticket.  It won’t be 10 bucks as per usual, they plan on charging $124+ because the courts have allowed them to get away with it.

So what I see overall is that safety is just being used as an excuse to bring in more revenue for the city.   I wish someone at the City of Bellingham had the spheres to just say this is all about money.   While we are waiting for that to never happen I’m  reminded of an Irish saying,

Tax his tractor, tax his mule; tell him, taxing is the rule.
Tax his oil, tax his gas, tax his notes, tax his cash
Tax him good and let him know, that after taxes, he has no dough.
If he hollers, tax him more; tax him till he’s good and sore.
Tax his coffin, tax his grave, tax his sod in which he’s laid.
Put these words upon his tomb, “Taxes drove him to his doom.”
Once he’s gone, we won’t relax. We’ll still collect inheritance tax.

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