Wally Wonders Why

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Bellingham City Council

COBPAC Resolving to Undermine Your Federal Vote

resolution approved There it is.  The City of Bellingham last night passed another resolution on a Federal  matter, thus continuing to assert themselves as one of our strong local Political Action Committees (PAC’s).   It’s one thing for a city council to pass resolutions regarding how they will and won’t conduct city affairs, but it is a PAC who resolves to oppose specific legislation or rulings on legislation such as the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC .  As I’ve said in the past, each person in this nation has elected representation in these Federal Issues and Bellingham City Council members are not them.   Even so, many people and groups know that the Bellingham City Council is ready, willing and able to be used as a tool for most any progressive cause.  In this case the progressive cause is beyond just the court decision and is both clearly pro-union and clearly anti-capitalism, which should read as socialism.

The basic Citizens United decision can be summarized as this:

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC on Jan. 21, 2010, is having a profound effect on the laws governing corporate political activity in nearly half the states. The court ruled that the federal government may not prohibit direct corporate and union spending on advertising for candidates’ elections.  www.ncsl.org

My personal position on this matter would have me going against this ruling which most say is conservative.   In a purest sense, I’d get behind an effort to allow only limited personal donations to campaigns and campaign advertising.  I think that would be even, fair, encourage candidates to stand on their own merit and I don’t really mind so much if that position carries a conservative or progressive label.   The problem with my position is that it is not supported by either the progressive or conservative camps.

The conservative camps seem to be rallying in favor of this ruling which would allow more wide open high dollar candidate support while the progressive camp is rallying against the “evil” corporate financial influence and holding their breath hoping that nobody notices that the ruling was aimed at unions as much as corporations.  And the progressive camp is right where the City of Bellingham has pitched their tent and is unrolling their sleeping bag.

"WHEREAS, several proposed amendments to the Constitution of the United States are being considered by the United States Congress that would allow the American people, by and through their democratically elected government, to limit the rights of corporations to unfairly influence elections.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF BELLINGHAM, WASHINGTON:

That the City Council of the City of Bellingham hereby supports amending the United States Constitution to declare that corporations are not entitled to the constitutional rights of natural persons, and further to ensure that the expenditure of corporate money to influence the electoral process is no longer a form of constitutionally protected speech and may be subject to justifiable regulation for the common good, and the City Council calls on Congress to begin the process of amending the United States Constitution"

Proposed Resolution, Bill Number 19593, City of Bellingham

I know!  Where is the progressive COBPAC’s resolve that unions not “unfairly influence elections” and where is their declaration against union expenditures or unions assuming the rights of natural persons?   If the Citizens United ruling was so amazingly wrong, why is the COBPAC resolving to be outraged against corporations, but not unions?   Well you won’t hear an anti-union argument from progressives, because the outrage against the Citizens United decision is not about the rights of groups vs. individuals it’s about progressives silencing capitalist corporations leaving only unions to unfairly influence elections.

As I said above, I’d get behind an effort to allow only personal donations to campaigns.  But I’d only get behind that effort if the effort attacked unions, especially government unions, with the same vigor that they attack corporations.  Unions don’t qualify as people anymore than corporations.

Oh, and by the way City of Bellingham, when the Citizens United ruling refers to corporations they are referring to both non-profit as well as for profit corporations and so…well since 1904 you’ve actually been a corporation.  So I think, you as a corporation,  by passing this resolution, you’ve actually violated the spirit of your own resolution against corporate influence in elections and right about now your head should be exploding from circular logic.

 

Take home points:

  1. If you are anything but a raging progressive you should be outraged at the City of Bellingham.
  2. City of Bellingham is again acting as a de facto Political Action Committee.
  3. The City of Bellingham is again acting as de facto idiots.

 

Winking smile

Vote YES on Bellingham Initiative No. 2011-01

Some say that traffic cameras are about safety and other say they are about money.  Well at least for the Guide/Telegraph Road intersection near Bellis Fair Mall it is pretty clear now that it is all about the money.   A recent study by Gibson Traffic Consultants concluded the following:

Based on the 5-years of collision data obtained from WSDOT and the City of Bellingham; the collision data does not support the introduction of red-light cameras. Per the ITE collected statistics it only has the potential to reduce at angle red-light running collisions by a less than 1 per year but increase rear ends by an average of nearly 5 per year for this particular intersection.

With no fatalities or injuries related to the at angle collisions but 30 injuries related to rear end collisions it is anticipated that the proposed red-light camera would not reduce the collision/injury potential of the intersection and potentially increase the collision/injury potential at this particular location.

In this well traveled intersection, Red-Light Cameras are expected to increase the potential for injury, yet in an effort to raise revenue for the City of Bellingham, they are installing cameras in spite of making the intersection more dangerous.    You’d think that the City of Bellingham would have done this type of  study before they contracted to install red-light cameras, but they didn’t at this intersection, nor in any of the other areas slated for automated ticketing.

Indeed, the City of Bellingham has sold the safety of those who drive in and around their city in hopes of raising money to fill a budget shortfall.   The people of Bellingham have spoken in the form of petition, yet the Bellingham City Council and Mayor Pike ignored them and entered into a financial contract with ATS.

If you live in Bellingham then I urge you to vote YES on Initiative 2011-01.

Link to more information on the study and the problems with automated ticketing in Bellingham

 

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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.

Why the Nickel?

Bellingham City Council member Seth Fleetwood is bringing forth a proposed ordinance banning plastic shopping bags.   I haven’t read the actual proposal, but here’s a quick look from The News Tribune,

… a proposed city ordinance that would force retailers to stop offering plastic shopping bags to their customers within city limits. It also would require retailers to levy a 5-cent fee for every paper bag used by a customer.

The intent is to encourage shoppers to bring their own reusable bags to carry out their purchases, not just at the grocery but at other stores, too.

“This is what people did for 10,000 years,” Fleetwood said. “They brought their bag to the market.”

I guess that it if a City Council member is bringing this up, he must feel there is a real good chance that this will be accepted by the people of Bellingham.    But why would they?   Is it that they are anti-litter/pollution, believe it is a danger to wildlife, or is it that they are pro-government intrusion into private matters?

No doubt these plastic shopping bags are a nuisance, litter and a blight on the countryside.  The last time I drove through the open country around Denver I noted how many “shopping bag” trees they had growing natively along the freeways.   It’s ugly there and its getting that way around here.  If the City of Bellingham or even Whatcom County looked at the litter and environmental damage caused by plastic shopping bags and simply banned them altogether, I’d say go for it.  I’d even blog in support of it.  A simple ban would be a simple solution that would be simple to enforce and fair and equitable in it’s effects.

But this proposed ordinance is not a simple ban on plastic bags and if you read the whole article you’ll see that it really is very complex with all kinds of exceptions and most probably an enforcement non-starter.  The nickel rather than the complexity though, is the tip off that there is so much more than simple when it comes to this proposed ordinance.

The other part of the ordinance is about behavior control.   Not only would this ordinance ban us from using plastic bags, it also demands that stores charge us a fee/fine to get us to change our behavior.  And change us not just away from plastic bags, but also away from paper bags and into reusable bags.   If this were simply about plastic bags there would be no nickel in the ordinance.   And if paper bags can also be shown to be detriment like plastic shopping bags, then why the nickel?  Why not ban paper bags also?   Yes, part of this ordinance is bags, but another part is government control.

The simple ban would leave store owners and customers as the deciders in this brave new plastic-bagless region.    Customers might choose paper bags, reusable bags, or no bags.   Stores might choose to fully charge for paper, discount paper, no paper only reusable, or even go all Costco on us and offer either a bare cart or a big ol’ mayo box.

I can’t support what I see in this ordinance because it goes beyond protecting our environment and right into more control of our day to day lives.

 

Cat Poop Variation

In struggling to understand the whole “net” safer concept proposed by red light camera advocates I came up with the cat poop analogy which I think brings the concept down to a more base level that may be easier for some to understand.

I happen to  have a backyard that is filled with so much dog poop that it is a dangerous to walk across the lawn.    Now one day a young man named Pan Dike (no relation to Pan Peter) came knocking at my door with an offer to help me take care of my dog poop problem.  His proposal he explained, would reduce my chances of stepping in  dog poop  and at the same time provide a little income for both he and I.  Really?

Where’s the catch I asked?  And young Pan showed me a report from a study of his proven system that not only would benefit me with regards to poop, but paid him a tidy allowance of which he was willing to share.  Seeing the disbelief in my eyes, he showed me a study of 7 homes  in my neighborhood as proof that on average owners were 24.6% less likely to step in poop.  And he reminded me that it wouldn’t cost me a penny to try.  Being the greedy and gullible schmuck that I am, I bit on his poop proposal like a two for a dollar Snickers sale.

Arriving home after a long day of work I decided to slip out and enjoy my now much safer backyard.  What the heck! I looked down to see that I had stepped in poop.  What happened to my 24% reduction in dog poop that Pan Dike had been promised?  It was then that I perceived the subtle difference in odor.  I didn’t own a cat, but I had just stepped in cat poop.

I took a closer read at my con-tract as I dialed Pan’s number.  As it turns out the shyster was going throughout the neighborhood picking up dog poop just like he said he would, but he was also dumping  cat poop from his litter box cleaning service out in it’s place.

How does that make my backyard safer?  Well you see said young Pan Dike justifying his smelly deed, even though there may be just as many poop piles in your backyard, you are 24.6% less likely to hit dog poop and cat poop you see, it’s smaller and therefore less likely to be stepped in.  So even though you still have a yard filled with poop piles you are in fact 9.9% “net” safer than you were.  It’s kind of like when they install those red light cameras causing tail end accidents that are “net” safer than  the T-bone collision they used to have more of.

CoBPAC: City of Bellingham Political Action Committee

BootForget SarahPAC. Forget Rural Neighbors PAC. The City of Bellingham(COB), yes our City of Bellingham is the hottest new political action committee(PAC) north of Portland.

Sure the city may not have reported expenditures nor filed any legal paperwork. I wouldn’t expect them to either admit to being a PAC, nor fill out any paperwork. But, for intents and purposes they appear to be a political action committee.

Their recent actions on two current state issues bear positive witness to their PAC status.

The council unanimously, with Councilman Gene Knutson absent, approved a resolution opposing Eyman?s Initiative 1033′…,

Members also, in a 5-0 vote with Councilman Stan Snapp abstaining, passed a resolution urging voters to approve Referendum 71

Bellingham City Council opposes Eyman?s I-1033, backs ?everything but marriage? law

or,

The Bellingham City Council is now officially urging citizens to vote ?no? on Tim Eyman?s Initiative 1033 to limit state, county and city revenue.

KGMI: Bellingham Council Publicly Opposes I-1033, Supports R-71

There should be no doubt in our mind that when any body urges voters to approve a referendum or urges voters to vote no on an initiative they are acting politically. But does just urging others to vote one way or another qualify the COB as a real political action committee?

In our state there is volume after volume of code, so I was pretty happy that the PDC had on record this little one paragraph summary.

A political committee is any person (except a candidate or an individual dealing with his or her own resources) who expects to receive contributions or make expenditures to support or oppose a candidate or ballot measure. The disclosure law applies to most groups organized to influence an election. Political parties, political action committees (PACs), and one-issue groups that disband after a single election are all political committees.

That was definitely easier than reading volumes, and pretty clear that making “expenditures to support or oppose a candidate or ballot measure” qualifies as being a PAC. We’ve already established that the City of Bellingham is acting in support or opposition to a couple of state ballot measures, but what about the expenditure part?

I know someone will want to argue that a city resolution is just a piece of paper and hardly qualifies as an expenditure, but I’d argue back that city resources were expended on many levels that surround the resolution put forth by CoBPAC. Check out this little thrown together list

  • People and businesses in the Bellingham pay money in taxes and fees
  • The city of Bellingham maintains a treasury
  • Salaried people are hired to do city business
  • Paid Council members spend time discussing potential resolutions
  • Press releases are issued and or interviews are done with radio and news.
  • Forums are held in public facilities
  • Forums are recorded for later repeated broadcasts
  • Paid City personnel process necessary paperwork

All that is part of the process involved in a city resolution. Now again, someone will argue that it is only a little bitty portion of all of that and it doesn’t really amount to an expenditure. I’ve read enough of the Herald political blog to know that if I were to have a PAC of my own, someone would be wondering who paid for the stapler on my desk, the desk, and the staple there in. Anything and everything has a value when it comes to PAC’s and your opposition will always point the value out to you and/or the PDC. Value matters.

In fact let’s say there was a WallyPAC and for sake of argument I was concerned with the outcome of I-1033. At the time of this blog post I haven’t weighed in on this issue, not that it really matters because the rules apply the same regardless of position on any particular candidate or ballot measure. But we at WallyPAC have laid out a plan very similar to the CobPAC. Here’s our plan:

  • First we are going to hire a few people to go out and solicit funding from local people and businesses. We, unlike the city, will merely ask rather than demand under penalty of law.
  • We’ll open a bank account to keep our WallyPAC funds
  • We retain an attorney.
  • Then we’ll hire a small part time staff to organize our meetings and meeting places, etc.
  • All of us on the board are gainfully employed, but feel our long hours should be at least somewhat compensated, so we take a small salary for our time spent meeting and discussing issues important to WallyPAC and those who have donated their money.
  • We expect to agree on a position on I-1033, but feel a focus group or public forum should be held to solidify our position, so we reserve a room at a public hall.
  • Next our staff organizes interviews and issues statements regarding WallyPAC position and our upcoming forum
  • We hold a brief public forum which is recorded for playback on BTV10
  • More payed staff time is spent processing papers, paying bills and for sure a stack of PDC paperwork.
  • We then issue our statement on I-1033 and make sure we are prominantly placed on the Heralds front page.

So what would it cost WallyPAC to compete with CoBPAC on an issue? WallyPAC hasn’t funded an exploratory committee yet, so I’ll just have to throw a few numbers up against the screen and see what sticks.

  • Hire doorbellers for a day ~ $300
  • bank accounts shouldn’t cost
  • retain an attorney???? $500
  • small part time staff? gotta’ be a few hundred there
  • collect a salary? I’m humble so I’ll call it just another few hundred
  • rent a public room – $150 to rent a room off the library, but I’m sure city hall is a bit more steep
  • a little more staff time for another hundred dollars or so
  • BTV10 videographer and a few paid spots? I’d guess, but I don’t want to insult anyone.
  • well, buying space on front page of the Herald will be costly. You see Wally’s emails aren’t even acknowledged by anyone at the Herald so I will assume that WallyPAC will have to pay dearly.

What the dollars add up to is not really the point.

My first point is that WallyPAC may have to pay more for a particular item, but the value is the same. If someone gave WallyPAC a front page Herald spot, someone would be looking at the value of the spot, not what I did or didn’t pay.

The second point is that if WallyPAC mimicked what the City of Bellingham and the Bellingham City Council just did regarding I-1033 and Ref-71, we would without any doubt, be designated a political action committee. So why isn’t the City of Bellingham?

If even half people of Bellingham pooled their resources to act in support or opposition to a candidate or ballot measure they’d qualify as a political action committee. Wait isn’t that what just happened? The people of Bellingham voted in a council that is competing with individual voters on state issues.

So again, why isn’t the City of Bellingham a political action committee?

It is.

CoBPAC, undermining your vote on state issues since at least earlier this week or maybe last August during the Sanctuary City project. Oh no that was undermining your federal vote.

CoBPAC doing what they want no matter whose vote they step on.

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