Wally Wonders Why

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Bellingham

Right Size Jail

What is the right size jail for Whatcom County?

We need bigger prisons in general, not because we are going to lock up more people for petty crimes, but because about 20 years ago we as a society decided that on your 3rd strike you were out for at least 25 years to life. And in the couple of decades since that time our prison populations have doubled and not surprisingly violent crimes across the country have dropped nearly 50%. This all makes sense, keep the repeat offenders off the streets and the streets are free from the crimes committed by repeat offenders.

The price for this 3 strike policy is building and running prisons to house these 3 strikers for 25 years to life from the date of their 3rd strike conviction. I’ve read that the average age of 3 strikers is in their mid-30′s so even those locked up at the start of the program back in the early 90′s haven’t reached the 25 year mark, let alone our average life expectancy which if I remember correctly is about 75-plus. Prison population will not plateau until the inmates start being released or dying at the same rate they are being handed their 3 strikes sentence. Doing the math says that this plateau will be somewhere around 2025, which is the average between 2018 if everyone received minimum sentence and 2033 if everyone received life.

For the safety of the rest of us, we need to plan for this continued growth in prison population so that we have the means to house violent criminals for the duration of their sentence without overloading the prisons and forcing judges to release people who should be locked up. Too many times lately I have seen that the authorities are hunting for someone who is known to be violent and dangerous, only to find out that they were in jail and just recently released. We are currently right in the middle of one of those cases here in Whatcom County.


A few years ago he was booked on multiple accounts including assault, last week he was picked up and jailed on a Dept of Correction violation, then yesterday he kidnaps someone at gun point, and today police are looking for him. How safe are we? How is law enforcement supposed to protect and serve when violent criminals are on a catch and release program?

What is the right size jail for Whatcom County? I say take the high estimate and add 25% capacity to it for good measure. That’s the kind of jail that I think is the right size jail. In order to maximize safety, we need to keep criminals off the street to the full legal extent of the law and to do that we need a big a*s right size jail, right now!

Bellingham “Alarmist” Herald

oil spill There is a  is a vessel in Bellingham being fitted to contain and clean up huge oil spills in Arctic waters, but right now it is sitting in Bellingham Bay with spill containment booms surrounding it.   And leave it to the Bellingham Herald to support the Bellingham alarmist attitude with their own front page alarmist billing.  

Really, what kind of image comes to mind when you read there headline “Oil-containment barge under construction in Bellingham spills oil”  I know when I read it, my immediate thought was of how much oil was filling that containment barge and how much of it was spilling.   I’m sure a lot of people were thinking about the Deep Horizon Spill as well as a few in Bellingham that were thinking about coal..ya know oil and coal are both carbon based.  I was also thinking about how yucky and stinky it might be if the forecast of super hot weather turned out to be accurate. 

Whatever your initial thought, I think the headline made it sound pretty bad, so it was a little surprising to learn that this headline is over 3 quarts of oil that they supposedly spilled over the course of the last 3 weeks or so?  Okay now, that really is alarmist…3 quarts!

Three spills, each releasing about one quart of oil into Whatcom Waterway, came from leaks in pressurized hydraulic systems on July 24, and Aug. 4 and 6.

Bellingham Herald

I’m not suggesting that it’s a good thing to spill a quart, or even three quarts, of oil into Bellingham Bay but let’s keep this in perspective.   The way I see this big picture is that this is only 3 quarts and the sooner this ship is on station in the Arctic, the better the odds are that it will be there to clean up a lot more than 3 quarts of oil should it be called to a spill.   So why hassle them over 3 quarts?  Well the State Department of Ecology had an answer,

"They’re a quart at a time, but every time there’s a spill there’s more environmental damage," Ecology spokeswoman Katie Skipper said.

Bellingham Herald

Wow!  Every time there is a quart spill there’s more environmental damage,  Wow again, where do we draw the line on how little of a spill is too little of a spill and how little of a spill does it take to call this harassment rather than enforcement?  I wonder if anyone in the Dept of Ecology realizes that oil occurs naturally in our oceans and in fact about half the oil in the oceans come from naturally occurring sources.  This is one of my favorites, it is a great historical description of naturally occurring crude oil along the West coast.

Pedro Fages, a Spanish explorer and military commander of the Monterey Presidio, in his report to the Viceroy of New Spain recorded the use of tar and oil by the natives near Mission San Luis Obispo. Fages’ account, written in 1775, mentions natives using tar for water- proofing baskets and pitchers and for caulking small boats. Fages also noted ” … pools of bitumen bubbling out of the ground” near the mouth of the Santa Clara River. In 1776, Spanish missionary Pedro Font recorded that “… much tar which the sea throws up is found on the shores, sticking to the stones and dry, little balls of tar are also found. Perhaps there are springs of it which flow out into the sea.” In 1793, during the travels of English explorer James Cook, his navigator, George Vancouver, recorded in his journal that they had anchored off of Goleta. Vancouver reported that the sea was “… covered with a thick, slimy substance, which, when separated or disturbed by any little agitation, became very luminous, whilst the slightest breeze, that came principally from onshore, brought with it a very strong scent of burning tar.” He continued that “… the sea had the appearance of dissolved tar floating on its surface, which covered the ocean in all directions within the limits of our view.”  www.mms.gov

So again…3 quarts?  If that is a crime then watch out on these upcoming hot sunny days because you never know how soon it will be until your kids, slathered with sunscreen, are slapped with a cease and desist order by our State Department of Ecology when they go wading in Bellingham Bay?

Sunscreens are a great way to prevent some of these harms, but unless you pick the right sunscreen it might be doing more harm than good, exposing you to even more health concerns while contaminating fish and water.

justlivegreener.com

If you think that I am crazy or that I am just being alarmist, think about the thousands of people with just a little dab of sunscreen and remember what the Department of Ecology spokesperson said, “every time there’s a spill there’s more environmental damage.” 

Cut our Losses; Abandon the Gateway Pacific Terminal

It is about time we just cut our losses and abandon the fight for a Coal Port at Cherry Point.  In my opinion we have reached a point where there are so many reasons not to have the Gateway Pacific Terminal/SSA Marine Port, that continuing the fight, which is really fight between coal fired conglomerates and the Sierra Club, will only create a big lose lose situation regardless of who wins the fight.

Reasons not to have the Gateway Pacific Terminal/SSA Marine Port.

  • Our coal reserve is of strategic importance.
  • Coal is a raw material that we should be using to create value added items for export so the import/export balance shifts in the right direction for US companies
  • Exporting coal helps China to produce goods for us to import which shifts the import/export balance in the wrong direction.
  • Additional shipping terminal, whether coal or not coal will have an additional negative impact on the environment.  How much or how little will be mitigated doesn’t change the fact that there will be some negative impact.
  • Health risks due to the transport and storage of coal in Whatcom County and beyond.
  • Coal trains are a visually ugly blight on the look and feel of Bellingham.
  • Coal trains will add to much noise to the local environment
  • Taxpayers will be stuck with the financial impact of transportation upgrades due all aspects of the port.
  • Cancer rates in Whatcom will go up.
  • Long wait times at rail crossings will adversely effect business.
  • Continued advancement of corporate greed and rule over the American people
  • Wetlands destroyed/not fully mitigated
  • Wildlife suffering
  • Global warming/Global climate change due to coal burning
  • etc.
  • etc.
  • etc.

Whether you agree with the reasons or not,  they are still positions that are held by some in the community so even if they might not be legal or real to you or I, they are fit for the argument because they are real to those who believe them.  This is especially so in the court of public opinion, which is currently where the coal port battle is being waged.  This is not to say that there aren’t good arguments for the Coal Port such as jobs, tax revenue, and just plain standing up for property rights.  After all, in America if someone owns property and they are using it in a legal manner, then they have the right to do so.  However in America you also have the legal right to step off a curb into the crosswalk  when the Walk signal appears, but doing so in front of a red-light running MAC truck is still stupid.  You can make a stand for what is right, but the game always ends the same way, MAC truck 1 – Pedestrian 0

The Sierra Club is that red-light running MAC truck with a no coal goal and they don’t seem to care what laws are broken and who is run over as long as the coal is left in the ground.  And like the MAC truck, it seems the Sierra club doesn’t lose.

Sierra Club: Coal Victories Across the Nation!

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 U.S. 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 am firmly opposed to this Coal Port 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.

I’m not opposed though to burning fossil fuels of all types, however I’d be stupid, as would anyone, to turn a blind eye to the Sierra Club’s record in opposition to coal and other fossil fuels.   Given their record who would bet against them?  Perhaps someone with a lot of money?  Maybe, but even money won’t guarantee a Coal Port when Sierra Club, with plenty of financial and government support, has been placing even more emphasis on coal over the last few years.Sierra Club annual notes

But what if the unimaginable happens and Coal Port proponents do manage to squeak out a victory?  Well it would have come at a large financial cost to Whatcom County and Bellingham.   The battles would have also created a much stronger, more motivated, more cohesive green socialist group in the Bellingham area and in spite of the Coal Port being built, the anti-coal groups will likely have used anti-coal sentiments to help pass things like the Bellingham Community Bill of Rights and more stringent land use regulations.  We’d have a coal port, but also a much more greatly divide social climate and a much more unfriendly business environment.

There isn’t a win anywhere in the future so it is time to take a hard pragmatic look at the lose-lose situation and cut our losses.   Time to have the County Council just say no to the port and all the expenses involved with the battle.

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. 

What is the Scariest thing about the Northwest Avenue Bike Lane Project?

carlaneWe all know that the City of Bellingham is considering doing away with parking in favor of bike lanes along portions of Northwest Avenue.  Whenever I hear about projects I think dollar signs and that is pretty scary since much of the money for these Bellingham projects comes from sources other than the Bellingham.  Sources like taxes you pay to the County, State and Federal government whether you live in Bellingham or not.

Yes, the same Federal Government that is running a deficit, is digging an even deeper hole funding do good projects in Bellingham and to be fair also in every other city, county, and state in our nation.    Anyone driven through the new roundabout in Blaine?  Well give it a whirl and as you’re going round and round about think about the $13.2 million that was added to the Federal Deficit.  Oh, and if you go round more than once think about the other 119 roundabouts round our state that the WSDOT is so full of pride about.  I’ve not investigated the cost and funding of every roundabout.  However to better orient yourself to the magnitude of the issue, consider that $13.2 million x 120 = $1.6 billion which is a lot of added deficit so that we can drive round in circles.

Nickel & Diming is a simple and time proven concept and it is hard at work growing our national debt.    Our nation’s debt isn’t from one big ticket item, it’s from millions of little projects.   In Bellingham they have adopted a Six Year Transportation Improvement Project which from the looks of it is just a list of many of those millions of little Nickel & Dime projects.

Here’s the funding resources for Bellingham’s Transportation Improvement Project:

    1. City Street: Public Works Street Fund comprised of motor vehicle gas tax and 42.5% of
      the total sales tax collected by the City of Bellingham.
    2. Real Estate Excise Tax (REET): Comprised of 1/2 of 1% of the total real estate revenue
      for a given year. REET funding is divided into first ¼ and second ¼ and can be used for limited types of transportation projects.
    3. Federal: Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Authority, or U.S.
      Department of Transportation administered grant funding programs.
    4. Federal American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA): One-time federal
      economic stimulus funding provided for transportation projects.
    5. Federal Highway Bridge Program (HBP): Provides federal funds for structural repair
      or replacement. Project oversight at the State level by the Bridge Replacement Advisory Committee (BRAC).
    6. Federal Surface Transportation Program (STP): Provides federal funds to maintain
      and expand eligible arterial street systems.
    7. Federal Surface Transportation Program Enhancements (STP-E): Provides federal
      funds to enhance facilities for alternative transportation modes on eligible street systems.
    8. State: State administered grant funding programs or State educational institutions such as Western Washington University (WWU), Whatcom Community College (WCC), and Bellingham Technical College (BTC).
    9. WSDOT: Washington State Department of Transportation biennium budget – State
      Funding administered through WSDOT.
    10. Washington Transportation Improvement Board (TIB): State grant funding for
      arterials, sidewalks, and safety measures.
    11. Private & Other (Partnerships): Transportation Impact Fees, Whatcom County,
      Whatcom Transportation Authority, private business investment, private mitigation, etc.

    That’s eleven sources of funding.   I got bored reading the word “Federal” over and over, but I think I found 1 or 2 that were Bellinghamish sources.  The rest of the list shows the way that Bellingham transportation projects add more burden to our already broken state budget and pile on more and more to our nation’s deficit problem.  It is scary how many of these projects are out there in cities around our nation just waiting for city officials to pull the trigger on some matching federal funds and push local overspending right up to our nations suffering bottom line.

    As if this situation isn’t scary enough as it is repeated around our nation, it’s even scarier here in Bellingham because amongst the whoopla over whether or not to trade parking for bicycle lanes on Northwest Avenue, the Bellingham City Council is considering allowing Dan Pike’s personally appointed Transportation Commission the power to implement these changes in an unprecedented fashion.

    The City Council on Monday, Dec. 13, will consider approving a resolution that:

    - Asks staff to conduct a community meeting as soon as possible to discuss how to install the bike lanes.

    - Asks staff to install them along the Northwest Avenue-Elm Street-Dupont Street corridor as soon as possible.

    - Authorizes the advisory Transportation Commission to make decisions of this sort in the future, with the council having 45 days after the commission decision to reject or change it.

    Read more: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2010/12/13/1460400/bellingham-council-to-consider.html#ixzz189PMPsQ8

    Really?  They are going to allow an appointed Transportation Commission to implement programs like this without prior Council approval?  Why exactly is there a Bellingham City Council again?

    And there it was, the scariest thing about the Northwest Avenue Bike Lane Project is not the loss of parking, nor just the piling on of debt.  The scariest thing is that we could be stuck with the bill when Mayor Dan Pike’s  commission pulls the trigger on any of these Bellingham Projects. 

    Bellinghamsters are big on Buy Local, when are they going to start the Pay Local campaign?

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